The refreshed 2017 Nissan GT-R modernizes the previously no-frills supercar with a gorgeous interior, but changes beyond that are harder to identify — and the price jump is considerable.
Versus the competiton:
The GT-R's Premium trim aims to be a touring version of the 565-horsepower coupe, which unfortunately remains high-strung and annoyingly loud, unlike more refined sports cars from Mercedes-Benz and Porsche.
Nissan says the 2017 GT-R’s updates are the most significant ones since the coupe’s U.S. introduction as a 2009 model. The list of what’s new is certainly not short, touching on nearly every system, front to back, including a newly styled exterior and interior, structural enhancements, new features and 20 more horsepower than last year. Compare the 2016’s specs with the 2017’s here.
While blazingly fast, the Nissan GT-R has never been a particularly refined or richly appointed supercar. That didn’t faze us when the car was $77,840 in 2009, but now that a GT-R costs well over $100,000, a much more deserving interior and refined drivability are needed to match competitors like the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT and Porsche 911 Carrera 4S; compare the GT-R with those sports cars here. For the 2017 model, Nissan focused on refinement and drivability through sound suppression and tuning.
The new GT-R is powered by 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6, making 467 lb-ft of torque. I spent a few days driving a bright orange 2017 Nissan GT-R Premium around the streets of Chicago and its surrounding highways to see if the refresh has transformed the GT-R from beast to beauty. We also measured zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration times in the now-565-hp, all-wheel-drive coupe.
Exterior & Styling
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The Nissan GT-R is more striking than ever, taking rear styling inspiration from the top-performance 2016 GT-R NISMO version and mashing it together with Nissan’s new styling direction up front, including a larger grille and a redesigned hood and front bumper. It’s a subtle change, but once you add the $1,000 Blaze Metallic premium paint, you’ve got a track-focused NISMO-inspired head-turner that attracts attention at stoplights, gas stations, grocery stores and especially Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wis., where we performed acceleration testing. The color even garnered praise from the play-by-play announcer over the track speakers.
Beyond looks, Nissan says, the GT-R’s NISMO styling and body enhancements are functional to improve cooling, reduce drag, increase downforce and boost chassis rigidity. Structural enhancements around the A-pillars have increased front-end rigidity in an effort to improve turn-in response. Reinforcements at the trunk improve rear stiffness to balance the chassis.
How It Drives
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Over the past few years Nissan has added active noise cancellation, as well as a little sound insulation here and there. The 2017 adds an acoustic windshield and more sound insulation. The 2017 Nissan GT-R isn’t suddenly transformed into a kitty cat, however; the car’s interior is ridiculously loud at highway speeds. There’s enough raucous road noise at 70 mph to make conversing difficult. On top of that, an hour of constant drumming from the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 summer tires is exhausting. The other tire option is a Dunlop all-season that’s included in a no-cost Cold Weather Package, which also mixes the coolant-to-water ratio for colder temps. Nissan recommends switching to all-season or winter tires when driving in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
On the highway, the new Nissan GT-R grabs every rut and grooved surface, pulling the car any way but straight. One particularly scary moment happened when the road surface changed in a construction zone and the car darted toward the concrete barrier (no shoulder) giving me uncomfortably little time to pull the steering wheel back to center. Driving this car on the highway is a high-strung experience. And here’s the thing: You don’t have to live with that kind of noisy, erratic behavior in other sports cars. A Porsche 911 Carrera S can drive nearly as docilely as a family sedan, and while the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT has a firm ride, it’s pleasant at highway speeds.
A selectable Comfort driving mode gives the GT-R a lighter side, with smooth ride quality compared with its Normal and R modes. Nissan refined the ride for 2017 with a new shock valve housing and increased shock mounting rigidity. Ride quality is similar to the outgoing car and very much remains a finer point of the GT-R enjoyed by Cars.com editors since the car’s inception. Unfortunately, road noise and poor tracking overshadow the refined ride.
Off the highway, Nissan’s sound-abatement efforts are most evident in the quieted mechanical noises from the transmission and all-wheel-drive system; they used to whine, clash and bark at low speeds. Transmission tuning itself is significantly improved in city driving, with smoother shifting and fewer clunks when the six-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission changes gears.
One new feature makes noise instead of suppresses it: For 2017, the Nissan GT-R electronically augments engine noise and sends it through the interior speakers to make the engine sound more engine-y. Nissan calls it Active Sound Enhancement, and it’s one of the more seamless examples out there (the practice is becoming downright common). The Nissan GT-R has such wonderful-sounding exhaust, though, that it’s a pity to mask it with an electronically augmented version. The car alters the volume depending on each driving mode’s aggressiveness and how judicious you are with the accelerator. I wish you could turn it off like the system in the Lexus RC series.
Driving modes make a big difference in the GT-R’s personality. When the adjustable-firmness suspension is hunkered down in R Mode, the suspension is tight and the car handles on- and off-ramps with a sense of, “Is that all you have?” The handling capabilities of this car are best experienced on a dedicated circuit, as it’s frightening how quickly and effortlessly the car goes around bends. I couldn’t feel the GT-R approach its limits in that situation because I honestly think I was just so far from them.
Flipping the driving and stability control to R Mode triggers “R Mode Start” launch control. Acceleration using launch control will put a smile on the face of even the gruffest automatic-transmission detractor. (The Nissan GT-R is only available as an automatic, and even though that’s becoming the norm, it’s received criticism since its inception for not having a manual transmission.) Once the accelerator and brake are pressed together, the engine revs to 4,000 rpm; releasing the brake then launches the GT-R with great ferocity.
Our acceleration testing using launch control put quick times on the board: zero-to-60 mph in 3.3 seconds and an 11.3-second quarter-mile at 121.7 mph. Without launch control, the Nissan GT-R is a bore from a standing start. There’s significant acceleration lag, and the car takes a fair amount of time to get going before the turbos wind up and kick it in the rear. The Nissan GT-R was more than a full second slower hitting 60 mph (4.5 seconds) and a second slower hitting the quarter-mile (12.3 seconds at 120.3 mph) without the race-start feature. Launch control is the way to go.
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The meatiest change is the interior’s all-new look. It’s a much-needed restyling considering the pedestrian, outdated appearance of the 2016 GT-R’s cabin, especially compared with newcomers like the AMG GT and the always-stylish Porsche 911. A single hide of Nappa leather stretches across the dashboard to create a very well-made, luxurious look. Add the $4,000 Premium Interior Package to get the most out of the interior, with hand-stitched highlights and colored, fully leather front seats replacing standard black leather seats with synthetic suede inserts. The Nissan GT-R’s new interior is a classy place to be with the optional upholstery package.
A few outdated carryover parts remain, such as the digital instrument cluster display, and the climate controls appear to be borrowed from a Nissan Maxima, with slightly nicer-feeling control knobs for the dual automatic climate control.
Those seats, though, are my biggest pain. Literally. For the life of me, I couldn’t get comfortable in these contraptions, which Nissan claims to have redesigned to provide more comfort. Instead I felt like I was sitting up against a softball. (I’m 6 feet tall and 170 pounds.) There’s no lumbar or bolster adjustment, so you either fit or you don’t. I felt like I was sitting on top of the GT-R’s seat rather than being hugged by it, like I do in the seats of comparable sports cars.
Ergonomics & Electronics
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An all-new, massive 8-inch multimedia screen is a highlight of the interior redesign, with easy-to-read graphics and intuitive control of media players and radio sources. Nissan has been slow to roll out Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration on its mainstream cars; it was available only on the 2017 Maxima at the time of publishing — not the 2017 Nissan GT-R. The features aren’t completely pervasive yet, but the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and 911 are ahead of the curve, offering CarPlay but not Android Auto.
The rest of the media and climate controls are simplified, reducing the number of buttons and switches from 27 to 11. Presets and sound sources are now handled via the touchscreen. A center controller on the carbon-fiber center console provides redundant control of the media system, which is odd because those features are perfectly reachable on the touchscreen. I didn’t feel it necessary to use the controller.
Cargo & Storage
The 8.8 cubic feet of cargo space is actually quite usable — nearly double what’s available in the 911’s 5.1-cubic-foot front trunk. We easily fit two medium-sized golf bags in the GT-R’s trunk. Both cars’ backseats can be used for storage, but only the 911’s backrests fold flat to provide a flat surface. The Nissan GT-R’s are fixed, and both the leather and the high center console would be vulnerable to damage from some types of cargo.
Large, netted door pockets in the cabin hold a wallet or phone, though the space where the media controller lies could be put to much better use as a phone holder rather than housing an unnecessary dial.
Low-volume sports cars like the Nissan GT-R aren’t often crash-tested, so crashworthiness ratings aren’t available. Nissan says the GT-R’s increased structural rigidity aids with occupant protection. Otherwise, there are front, side-impact and side curtain airbags, but no advanced safety tech like forward collision warning with automatic braking, blind spot monitoring or lane departure warning — features available on the AMG GT. See all the GT-R’s standard safety features here.
Value in Its Class
The GT-R’s performance capabilities remain a big draw even at the $116,880 price tag of our test car. The car starts at $111,685, and our tester was augmented by a $4,000 Premium Interior Package, $1,000 paint and $295 floormats with the “GT-R” logo. The optional lavish interior is a big plus but requires big money, and even then it doesn’t give you quite the comprehensive luxury experience provided by the Mercedes or Porsche.
The Nissan GT-R could benefit from even more everyday driving refinement considering the company it keeps at its as-tested price. The AMG GT starts at $112,125 and a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S at $111,350. Those may have less power than the GT-R, but they’re 373 pounds and 648 pounds lighter, respectively, keeping their performance close.
The GT-R gained 82 pounds this year and now weighs 3,933 pounds, which tips the scale in the wrong direction. The 2017 refresh isn’t a radical overhaul to the driving experience, and it’s going to take a complete ground-up redesign for the Nissan GT-R to make that next big step.