In a year when Americans are buying small cars (well, those who are buying cars at all are buying small), fuel-efficiency is the top concern on car buyers' minds. Even luxury car buyers are cutting back on extravagant options and horsepower. That's why it may come as a surprise that the most honored car of the year is a brutal, vicious beast of a machine that beats winding roads into submission and leaves many of the world's fastest cars staring meekly at its taillights. It doesn't give a damn about fuel-efficiency...but it is a surprising value, if an $80,000 car can be called a value. Sure, it's a lot of money - but the car leaves some million-dollar supercars gasping for breath.
The car they call Godzilla - the 2009 Nissan GT-R - just threw another coveted award in its trunk. It's Motor Trend's 2009 Car of the Year.
Motor Trend writes that this year's field was "more imposing than Jamaica's Olympic track team," boasting everything from the tiny-but-masterfully-designed Honda Fit to the Hyundai Genesis - basically a Lexus with a $20,000 cash-back rebate. But the Nissan beat them all because, "In the kingdom of supercars, the GT-R positively belongs. Be it comparing 0-to-60 sprints, quarter-mile times, 60-to-0 braking, or lateral acceleration, the GT-R is one of the world's best. Don't believe us? Its cornea-melting 0-to-60 run of 3.3 seconds is quicker than that of the BMW M6, the Porsche 911 GT2, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP-560, and the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren. It even manages to run door to door with the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and the Corvette ZR1." Its quarter-mile time nearly bests them all, and its 60-0 stopping distance broke records (a few magazines measured it in double digits), all while carrying the lowest MSRP of the bunch.
The GT-R is a technological wonder. The engine of each GT-R is built in a hermetically-sealed laboratory by hand, at a constant temperature, to ensure that parts don't microscopically expand or contract during fitting, robbing the engine of minute amounts of compression. Each GT-R is said to have a slightly different horsepower rating because of the hand-built engine. The car can measure its own lateral G-forces and display them on the nav screen. And, Motor Trend writes, it does this all with "A comfortable, leather-adorned cabin that accommodates four passengers. A trunk that swallows two golf bags. A PlayStation-inspired multifunction display. A nav system, 9.3-GB hard drive, and Bluetooth."
MT concludes, "No other 2009 contender crushes our criteria like the GT-R."
Autoblog agrees, saying "It would have been more difficult for MT to justify picking something other than the GT-R for this honor, and we can't think of any reason to disagree with their choice."
They're not the first auto press rag to arrive at that conclusion. Automobile Magazine named Godzilla its Car of the Year just last week. They write, "Even in the so-called Comfort mode, it rides like a New York City subway car, shuddering over bumps and clattering from station to station. The engine sounds like a demonically possessed household appliance. The car weighs a ton - nearly two tons, actually - and understeers accordingly. The video-game vibe is so pervasive that a conventional manual transmission isn't even offered. And you know what? We're still naming the Nissan GT-R Automobile Magazine's 2009 Automobile of the year."
The car "scores a big, fat zero in terms of cachet, and it doesn't earn many points for sophistication and grace," Automobile writes, but "What we love about the GT-R is that it refuses to compromise where it really matters. It's not pretty. It's not comfy. It's not trying to make friends and influence people. It's not out to change the world. It exists for one reason and one reason only-to kick holy ass. And kick ass it does. You don't have to like it. You just have to stay the hell out of its way."
Popular Science honored the car in its "Best of What's New" awards as well, calling it "A 21st-century supercar, at a $120,000 discount"
The GT-R, of course, doesn't care about any of these awards. The only honor it cares about is its record as the fastest production car ever to lap the world's most demanding test track - even if Porsche accused Nissan of cheating to get the time. Of course, GM claims to have beaten the time in a Corvette ZR1 - but the General admits the Corvette had some equipment not found in showroom models.
Besides, the ZR1 is the high-performance edition of the Corvette. The high-performance edition of Nissan's beast, the GT-R Spec V, won't hit the market until January.
That's right. This is the base-model car. There's a real performance version coming later. This is apparently the prologue. That should send a shudder through the ranks of performance cars everywhere.
But we don't recommend you try to repeat the record-breaking lap if you ever get behind Godzilla's three-spoke wheel yourself. You see...the car keeps track of everything you do in it. The thing has a mind of its own.