Nissan enters supercar territory

  • 15-Jul-2008 11:26 EDT

Nissan’s new supercar wears innovative chip-resistant paint that benefits from hand-sanding. This Ultimate Silver hue aims to duplicate the shine of a chrome finish.

Nissan's GT-R supercar is a treasure trove of technical details, which include a modified all-wheel-drive version of the company’s Front Midship sports car platform and a new 473 hp (353 kW) twin-turbo 3.8-liter VR38 V-6 that is derived from Nissan’s acclaimed VQ engine family.

While Nissan boasts an abundant use of aluminum and carbon fiber composite material in the GT-R, the car’s curb weight of 1740 kg (3836 lb) tests the upper limits of the sports car genre and risks the car being branded as a boulevard cruiser in the category of the Jaguar XK.  One XK-like feature is a pop-up hood for pedestrian protection in the event of a collision.

Carbon fiber is used for the radiator support, where it minimizes the mass ahead of the front axle for good weight centralization.  However, the other carbon fiber parts are aerodynamic undertrays that do not weigh much when  made of conventional plastic and which, as the lowest unsprung parts of the car, offer little opportunity to lower the GT-R’s center of gravity.

Nissan points to an innovative use of vacuum die-cast aluminum in the rear bulkhead behind the passenger compartment, the front strut towers, and the doors. Alcoa makes these parts in Germany for the GT-R using a vacuum casting process that permits the casting wall thickness to be as narrow as 2.3 mm (0.09 in) rather than the 4 mm (0.16 in) minimum in conventional die casting, according to Nissan.

The body shell is conventional steel, but Nissan finishes it with a new paint process that is meant to reduce the number of chips from road damage.  As seen previously with the Lexus LS600h, the GT-R enjoys a layer of hand-sanded color coat in the paint process to minimize orange peel, plus two layers of clear coat to help reject stone chips.  An exclusive new color is “Ultimate Silver,” which gives the GT-R an almost chrome-like appearance.

In addition to helping GT-R drivers to be visible with advanced paint, Nissan also wants to help them see with new “super wide beam” headlights that the company says surpass conventional headlights by actively responding to steering input.  They use three additional “sub-reflectors” to help spread the beam over a wider area onto the road shoulder.

The car features double wishbone front suspension with multilink rear, using aluminum wishbones and links for reduced weight.  Bilstein DampTronic electronically adjustable shock absorbers adapt to conditions using one of three driver-selectable settings for guidance.  The normal mode balances ride and handling requirements by actively adjusting the shock settings, while the comfort mode shifts the bias toward improved ride quality and the R mode exerts maximum damping force to restrain body movement. 

Nissan acknowledged that the Porsche 911 Turbo was the company’s benchmark in developing the GT-R: since the Porsche uses the same shocks, they were selected over competitors such as Delphi’s MagneRide adjustable shock technology.

The brakes are Brembos, with six-piston front calipers and four-piston rears.  The discs are 380 mm (15 in) front and rear, but at 34 mm (1.3 in) the fronts are thicker than the 30 mm (1.2 in) rear rotors.  Twenty-inch wheels are provided by Rays Company Ltd., with both Dunlop and Bridgestone providing the high-performance run-flat tires.

The VR38 engine employs a pair of IHI Corp. turbochargers to produce 353 kW (473 hp) at 6,400 rpm and 588 N•m (434 lb-ft) of torque at 3200 rpm.  Of particular note is the aluminum engine block with only sprayed plasma coatings on the cylinder bores in place of the usual iron liners for improved heat dissipation and a weight savings of about 3 kg (6.6 lb).

The dual-clutch six-speed transmission features Borg-Warner six-plate clutches and has paddle shifting for quick gearchanges, allowing both hands to remain on the steering wheel. The drivetrain features a carbon fiber main driveshaft and halfshafts for reduced rotating mass while powering all four wheels.

The GT-R is available in Japan and the U.S. on a first-come, first-served basis at certified Nissan Dealers.  

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