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Saturday Drive: 2013 Nissan GT-R

The car: 2013 Nissan GT-R

The power: 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque coming from a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-6 engine mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission with magnesium paddle shifters.

The photos: 2013 Nissan GT-R

The speed: 0-60 in a startling three seconds. Some tests have shown that number as low as 2.7 seconds.

The bragging rights: If being one of the world's fastest production cars to do 0-60 isn't enough, maybe try world's cheapest supercar.

The price: The base 2013 GT-R is $97,820. Add the four-stage Super Silver paint you see here and it's $100,820.

The details: Since the 530 horsepower on the 2012 GT-R was obviously a woefully inadequate number intended for cotton-headed ninny muggins, Nissan figured 545 had a nice ring to it for 2013. This is achieved via engine modifications like improved intake efficiency, a larger intake duct for the turbos' intercooler and better exhaust efficiency. Nissan says other changes include more refined transmission shifts and a retuned suspension.

As with previous GT-R's, the personality on this one is tunable, via a trio of buttons on the dashboard. One controls the Bilstein shocks with Normal, Comfort and "R" modes (consider the "R" mode your ticket to, well, tickets. It’s the more progressive setting for each system, and allows drivers to better push the performance envelope). Another button handles the transmission shift mapping with Normal and "R" modes; and a third dials up the stability control with Normal, "R" and Off.

Power is routed to all four wheels, though the rear-biased system can automatically vary the amount of torque channeled to the rear wheels from 100% down to 50, depending on your driving situation.

Stopping duties are handled by massive Brembo brakes; up front they have six piston calipers grabbing 15.35-inch cross-drilled rotors and in the back, four-piston calipers grab 15-inch rotors. These brakes are wrapped with 20-inch forged aluminum wheels.

All this brings the curb weight of the 2013 GT-R to the same 3,829 pounds as the 2012 model.

The drive: Raw. Despite retuning the suspension, there's almost no noticeable difference in compliance between the 2012 and the 2013 versions. It's still stiffer than Don Draper's NyQuil even in "Comfort" mode, which gets a bit tedious in daily driving. But at least the seats help as they're nicely bolstered and padded.

Around town, much of the driving experience is loud and visceral with plenty of sound coming into the cabin. Whether it's the wind noise leaking through the frameless doors, the transmission rattling about in low gear or at idle, or the sound of errant pebbles being flicked into the wheel wells, it all serves as a constant reminder that this car is not here to coddle you.

The one element that is relatively subdued is the engine itself. It never really roars, but when you start pushing it, the engine sounds like a blender trying to puree Gilbert Gottfried. Any expected internal combustion noise is dominated by the sounds of forced induction, turbine wail and air being sucked and pumped into the right places. That's not to say it doesn't sound cool, but it's a 21st-century cool better enjoyed by a crowd raised on pixelated racecars in their living room than fans of naturally aspirated power.

The GT-R's speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is outstanding and provides excellent communication to the driver. Where the driver's feel for the road can get lost is transitioning through and coming out of turns; this is largely because there's just so much darn mass moving about that something's going to get lost somewhere.

As you might expect, spirited driving with the traction control in Normal mode reveals some light feathering of the brakes. Putting the system into "R" mode is necessary for less inhibited flogging, but even then you can hit the traction control limits, which reign you in subtly. Turn everything off, and it is possible to get the rear end loose but you have to want it to happen.

Otherwise this car grips like very few machines can and to match its point-and-shoot brutal purity you'd have to spend several times the GT-R's $100,000 asking price. With more electronics than an entire arcade working to keep you moving forward, ever forward as fast as possible, the car isn't so much forgiving as it is willing to just cover up your mistakes. It's a slightly surreal yet endlessly thrilling experience to suddenly worry much less about grip and traction than you are thinking about just keeping your right foot planted.

Meanwhile, shifts with the dual-clutch transmission come yesterday, and they're smooth and well-timed in full-auto mode. For the real twisty stuff, use the paddles for manual downshifts; the boost takes just long enough to kick in that you've already lost time if you don't have the car spooled up beforehand.

The GT-R's styling adheres to the supercar principle of making no apologies for its sheer presence, which this car has in spades. The look avoids the working-class patina that binds modern Corvettes to their heritage, and also avoids the orthodontists' smugness of the Porsche 911. The GT-R's look is as raw as its drive; that 21st-century sound is paired with a 21-st century look heavy on creases, folds and angles. The brash statement made by the GTR's rear is capped off with quad tailpipes that look like they were ripped out of France's Organ of St. Sulpice.

Despite the unapologetic nature of the GT-R, it's hard to argue with the sheer value the car presents. Plenty of ink has been spent debating the merits of this car versus the aforementioned Corvette and Porsche. $100,000 can buy you a version of one of the three that will undoubtedly put a smile on your face. The difference lies in the widely varied way each car draws out said smile. Where the GT-R trumps the others is how it is the only one of the three that has nearly all of the capabilities and physicality of a high-end supercar. For better or worse.

The takeaway: The most raw way to spend $100,000 short of buying a butcher shop.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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