Nissan's GT-R hit the sports-car scene last year with a tremendous bang, but not even a year after the first car was delivered, there's already controversy. Web-savvy car enthusiasts have no doubt read about the GT-R's issue with the "launch control" system. It was something I had to bring up with GT-R project chief Kazutoshi Mizuno. Over a cup of green tea, I asked for an explanation...well, he did more than that. He threw me the keys to a 2010 Nissan GT-R and said, "I'll explain as you drive."
Mizuno said that the major difference between the 2010 model GT-R and its predecessor is the launching system. ("Please don't call it launch control!" he kept reminding me.) Nissan was forced to make revisions to this technology after dozens of busted transmissions (by folks who abused the system by using it repeatedly over a short period of time). The issue became so publicized that it led to a highly viewed You Tube parody starring an evil German dictator, which at the time of this writing had 204,900 views.
Mizuno and his team claim that this device was never intended for setting fastest quarter-mile times at your local drag strip. Its main function was to efficiently pop out of slippery driving surfaces, such as snow or mud. Yeah, right. I gave him a questioning stare. He pulled out the car's original owner's manual and said, "See for yourself."
Okay, he had a point. It did state that the system was to be used only when getting out of snow or mud.
But Mizuno said that because there was so much made about the system in its current state, he has made sure there will be no controversy next year. The "leave-the-line-efficiently-out-of-slippery-surfaces control" has been reprogrammed to launch the car at 3000 rpm instead of 4500. This dramatically eases the stress on the drivetrain, allowing the driver to use it repeatedly without worrying about breaking anything. Unfortunately, it also means the end of super-quick wheel-chirping snaps off the line. Still, even with this mellower version, the car is plenty fast.
The 2009 version now comes with the same reprogrammed software as the 2010. First, we tested the 2009 model. The car's original 0-60-mph using the launching system was 3.3 seconds. We recorded 3.4 sec. with the new software. There's much less drama when releasing the brake pedal, but it doesn't take long for all four tires to hook up. Now Mizuno asked me to launch "normally" — by using only one foot. So when I was ready, I took my right foot off the brake pedal and then mashed the throttle with the same foot. Again, no real drama when leaving the line, but the result was surprising. I recorded a 3.5-sec. 0-60-mph run. This means that you really don't need to initiate the launching mode anymore, unless for some crazy reason, you really savor that extra fraction of a second. This held true for the 2010 model as well.
Other changes for the 2010 car, which comes with an MSRP of $80,790 ($83,040 for the Premium Edition), include a new color mentioned above and a new black coating on the forged alloy wheels. But for driving enthusiasts, the only difference worth noting is the leave-the-line-efficiently-out-of-slippery...oh the heck with it, the only difference worth noting is the launch control.
- 485-bhp twin-turbocharged V-6
- Retuned suspension system
- Reprogrammed launch system
- Looks the same as base 2009 GT-R
- Funky exterior styling