Tech Tips: Nissan GT-R

By Alan Cesar
Sep 17, 2019 | Nissan, GT-R | Posted in Data & Communication | From the April 2013 issue | Never miss an article

[Editor's Note: Most first-year GT-Rs can be had for around $50,000 in 2019. While not yet cheap, it's still a lot of car for what you get.]

We asked some experts how to get the most out of Nissan's halo sports car, the GT-R. Here's what they had to say.

Nathan Cicio, TopSpeed Motorsports

Overall these are extremely durable and capable cars. A little tweaking will get you a dedicated, 550-wheel horsepower track car. 

Two huge catalytic converters right off the down pipes really limit exhaust flow. Removing these doesn’t improve peak numbers, but it does affect the meat of the powerband. You can pick up as much as 50 horsepower at the wheels at 6000 rpm and still retain the factory rear section. This change plus an exhaust midsection and a decent tune—using either a COBB AccessPort or an EcuTek—adds an easy 80 horsepower at the wheels with a good sound and no drone. 

The 2009s have a different transmission and software, and they can break if you really abuse them. These got a bad rap for high replacement costs when these issues came up after the car’s initial release, but it’s a misconception. You can drop the transmission and rebuild it with stronger clutches for around $5000. That’s not an unreasonable repair in a $70,000 car.

There are some issues with the high-pressure seals in all cars up to 2011, but it’s not something you can check for when you’re buying a used car. There are no warning signs: One day it’s driving, and another it’s not. If a high-pressure seal goes bad, it won’t even go into gear. Again, this calls for dropping the transmission for a rebuild.

GT-Rs were completely revamped for 2012. The interior is much nicer and better finished. The transmission is far superior. Its suspension is stiffer and the brakes are better. If you drive a 2011 right after a 2012, you’ll see that it’s very much like driving an older-style car, even though aesthetically not much changed. 

There are different routes for suspension setup depending on what you want to do with it. The advantage of the GT-R is that it does everything well. You can do the Texas Mile, take it on road courses, go to car shows—everyone loves to see them lowered on a sharp set of wheels—or just take a road trip to California. The factory shocks are very capable and can handle aftermarket springs or coil-over sleeves without trouble. 

With a top-tier, complete coil-over kit, the GT-R will ride better than stock. JRZ Suspension pretty much owns the GT-R market for complete coil-overs, but KW Automotive also makes a good kit. Budget around $5000 and you’re in the right territory.

Rethink the way you do springs on heavy cars. A lot of shops are over-springing GT-Rs merely because they’re heavy. Springs that are too stiff will give it snap understeer and oversteer traits and make the ride feel like crap. 

The OEM run-flat tires—whether Dunlops or Bridgestones—aren’t the best choice. They have a hard sidewall, are noisy, and only last around 15,000 miles. The Michelin Pilot Super Sport is a popular switch. The car rides better, has more grip, and they last around twice as long—but they’re not run-flats. We recommend going to a 285mm on the front and a 295mm on the rear.

Tyson Timperley, Speedconcepts

The GT-R is an amazing car, and you don’t have to do anything at all for it to be an absolute monster—but a little tuning goes a long way. With a Cobb downpipe and Y pipe, HKS filters and an AccessPort for tuning, we could get an easy 700 crank horsepower on a modest race gas map. 

Add an auxiliary trans cooler if you’re seeing track use or if you drive it hard at all. Greddy’s off-the-shelf cooler has a built-in thermostat and prebent lines. It’s not super difficult to install on a 2009, but it can be harder on the newer ones with fog lights. Make sure you use a high-quality fluid like Dodson’s. It’s not cheap, but it’s very good stuff.

The stock tire fitment is staggered, with a 255mm tire up front and a 285mm in the rear. The front wheels can accept a 285mm wide tire without any problems, and going to a square setup like this will make the car a little easier to rotate and drift. 

With the right wheel offset, you can fit a 295mm tire on the front, but any more than that, and you’ll need fender flares. The rears can fit as much as you’d want, and some owners have gone as wide as 375mm using a 21-inch wheel.

On our One Lap car, we used 335/30R20 tires on 20x12-inch wheels, but the rear was a little too grippy, and the car pushed even with our Stillen rear anti-roll bar set on full stiff. 

KW Suspension’s height-adjustable sleeve kit is a solid solution; we came in second place at the 2012 Tire Rack One Lap of America using those on the stock adjustable dampers. It’s not bouncy and it’s great on the highway, but it could probably be a bit stiffer still for track use.


TopSpeed Motorsports


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View comments on the GRM forums
Jordan Rimpela
Jordan Rimpela GRM+ Memberand Digital Editor
9/17/19 8:15 a.m.

When you consider that a new Lexus RC 350 F Sport starts at $50k, and the BMW X2 M35i we tested came in at $55k, the first year GT-Rs don't seem so expensive, especially for what you get. 

bumpsteer New Reader
9/17/19 9:51 a.m.

Every time I start considering an "underrated" performance car whose price is on the decline, inevitably an article comes out regarding how it's a performance bargain, and then prices stagnate or start creeping back up due to interest.


"Why the 996 is the performance deal of the century!"

"Pulsar GTiR: the budget GT-R we never got in the US, now cleared for import."

"10 reasons why the C4 Corvette shouldn't be overlooked."

"Miata is always the answer."

Maybe some "secret" performance car bargains are best kept on the down low. Dang journalists always ruining my budget plans! wink Sheesh!


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