Let’s start with an obvious, but necessary bit of truth: the Nissan GT-R is old. Now in its tenth year on sale, there are fewer reasons to consider our good friend Godzilla amid more modern, high-performance rivals. And consumers have figured this out, too, as Nissan sold just 331 units last year – a 38 percent decrease from the prior year. Credit where it’s due, though. The company now gives us a reason to fall in love all over again.
Run! It's Godzilla!
In an effort to rekindle some of the GT-R’s lost momentum, Nissan introduced the 50th Anniversary Edition for the 2020 model year (you guessed it, the GT-R’s 50th birthday). Filled with nostalgic cues celebrating five decades of GT-R, the 50th AE is a gift to the fans.
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Bayside Blue, For Me And You
Gone are the GT-R’s days as a sub-$100,000 performance bargain. With a price adjustment for this year, the GT-R Premium now starts at $113,540, which is steep for a car that traces its roots to 2009. That said, it makes 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque from its handbuilt 3.8-liter V6 engine. Nissan shook up the recipe by re-tuning the turbochargers and adding some suh-weet burnished exhaust tips, but otherwise, engineers left the powertrain alone.
On top of the GT-R Premium’s starting price is the 50th Anniversary Package, which costs $8,500. There are no mechanical changes, no horsepower gains, or even a weight reduction included with the 50th AE package, but it’s chock-full of special touches. That said, this is a considerable sum of money for what amounts to an appearance package. Only the most hardcore brand enthusiasts will likely find value in ticking this option box.
There are three color schemes available, though our test car wears the best of the bunch: Bayside Blue. Nissan achieves the color via a four-coat, double-heat treatment process (whatever that means), and the result is one of the prettiest colors we’ve seen on a car all year long. Complementing the blue paint is a massive white racing stripe that runs down the middle of the car and a somewhat-tacky “50th Anniversary” sticker smack in the middle of the trunk.
Beyond the gleaming blue paint, the best parts of the 50th AE package are the details. First and foremost, the 20-inch forged aluminum wheels feature paint-matching blue and look amazing. We’d go as far as to say they’re the best looking wheels Nissan has ever put on a GT-R – and bonus points for matching the blue finish on the exhaust tips. The six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes are a lovely shade of bronze, which look killer against the blue-tinted wheels. And finally, a discreet 50th AE badge sits on the back-rear portion of the car, to remind you that it’s special. Special edition cars tend to go overboard on the styling, but the GT-R 50th is a stunning example of a car that still holds its own in the looks department, even after many years.
Godzilla Or Just A Dinosaur?
In some ways, it’s hard to convey how the GT-R behaves on the road. On one hand, it can still hang with a majority of supercars, at least in terms of speed. Make no mistake, the GT-R is take-your-breath-away fast, even within the context of more modern rivals. That said, driving the car is a mostly old-school experience.
With two massive turbochargers strapped to the V6, the Nissan gathers speed ferociously, but not until around 3,500 RPM. Where other supercars have minimized turbo lag, it’s the calling card for this V6 powertrain. After indulging in the first foot-down encounter with the GT-R, the desire to utilize the car’s boost is nothing short of intoxicating. Downshift once, get the turbos to spool, and blast off.
While there’s an unmistakable charm to the lag we don’t see that often these days, the rest of the GT-R’s powertrain is hard to characterize in the same positive light. Even with its dual-clutch six-speed transmission, there are some bad manners to report, especially at low speeds. More disconcerting are the noises the gearbox produces, on occasion. Be it a downshift, or even moving off-the-line, the GT-R has a playbook of different knocks and squeaks to make you think “Oh, crap. What did I break?”
With two massive turbochargers strapped to the V6, the Nissan gathers speed ferociously.
Even with the worrisome noises and behind-the-times transmission, the rest of the GT-R’s driving character is still pleasant. With its all-wheel-drive setup and sticky Dunlop tires, there is astounding grip around corners – way more than necessary for street use. The Bilstein adjustable suspension sits right on the border of too-stiff in default mode, but switch the dampers to Comfort mode and they offer a more supple quality, much better suited for long driving stints. Finally, the fast, light steering keeps the GT-R on its toes all the time, with minimal input required to turn in either direction. A bit more heft to its feel would be welcomed, but there’s no denying that the featherweight setup sharpens the car’s reflexes. And even with it’s quick steering, the car communicates beautifully to the driver through the steering wheel, providing even more confidence to attack corners with some extra vigor.
Taken as a whole, there is still a lot to love about driving this aging supercar, like its substantial power delivery and fantastic grip levels and razor-sharp handling character. Despite its age, the GT-R will have no qualms keeping up with newer rivals, like the Porsche 911 or BMW M8, at the track. That said, if you want more advanced driving aids that make driving quickly easier, this Nissan is tougher to recommend.
Buy This, Not That
This brings us right back to why the GT-R 50th Anniversary is significant. At $122,040, it sits in a contentious price range filled with good options, including those mentioned above. Ten years after the GT-R’s debut, we can’t in good conscience recommend it as the best performance car to buy. But for genuine fans of Nissan sports cars, this is the only GT-R worth considering. The aesthetic changes accompanying the 50th AE package are thoughtful and well-executed. And although there are fewer and fewer reasons to consider a Nissan GT-R in the year 2020, this special edition adds some new life to Godzilla. Whether or not the 50th AE package is worth the extra $8,500 is up to you.
Gallery: 2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary: Review
2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary