Skip to main content

2017 Nissan GT-R Premium Review

They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but what about giving them a second chance?

I did not have high expectations for the 2017 Nissan GT-R Premium. Broadly praised though “Godzilla” may be, my last encounter with the supercar left me thoroughly underwhelmed.

In 2014, when offered seat time in Nissan’s highest performance model, I all but kissed the feet of the individuals responsible. This was one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world – it was difficult to contain my enthusiasm. After five minutes behind the wheel, however, my tune had changed. Indeed, the GT-R was tremendously quick – or so said the speedometer – but it was even more so artificial. The steering, sound, traction control, and all-wheel drive system did not combine for a thrilling drive, but rather a disconnected one. “Oh well,” I thought. “The GT-R just isn’t designed to be exciting.”

It is now one of the final model years for the R35 generation GT-R. Introduced to the U.S. market in 2009, the Japanese supercar will soon get a complete overhaul. So before writing off this generation, I asked Nissan for a reunion with my once-hero (and boy am I glad I did).

Fresh Figure

It wasn’t just the lack of engagement that turned me off the GT-R in 2014; its blocky, bloated figure lacked artistry. How then can a mere facelift completely change the car’s overall aesthetic?

2017 Nissan GT-R Premium
Image used with permission by copyright holder

At the front, Nissan implanted a new grille with V-motion styling and improved airflow. The odd bumps that sat beneath the headlights of last year’s car have been replaced with additional air inlets, and the chin has been re-sculpted. Moving over and around the car’s body, a 30-percent stiffer hood improves high-speed wind deflection, 20-inch forged-aluminum wheels look incredible, and a remodeled C-pillar helps manage airflow. With elements borrowed from the track-focused Nismo edition, Nissan updated the rear diffuser and lower rear fascia (but kept the four massive exhaust tips).

These tweaks sound minor, but they do wonders to give the aged supercar fresh appeal. More importantly, the new styling cues are just as creative as they are functional. I won’t hasten to call the 2017 GT-R beautiful, but it’s no longer an alien hunk of metal. Delicate massaging of Godzilla’s tall, broad silhouette, and in my case, a stunning red paint job, upgrade its look to “cool.”

Inner Beauty

Convincing critics that Nissan’s amendments to the GT-R’s exterior transform its curb appeal is far more difficult than persuading them of the car’s interior majesty. When it was priced at $70,000, no one cared that cabin materials were chintzy, but as pricing exceeded the $100K mark, extra screens, toggle buttons, and performance data lost its novelty. For 2017, Nissan has redeemed its interior design with high quality leather, vibrant colors, and premium trims.

2017 Nissan GT-R Premium
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I can’t imagine how many cows were harmed in the making of the updated GT-R’s interior, but their sacrifice was not in vain. Everything front occupants lay their hands on (and many surfaces they won’t) is swathed in supple black or ‘Rakunda Tan’ leather (part of the $4,000 Premium package). Brushed metals, carbon fiber, and textured surfaces fill out the remaining space.

Front-and-center on the GT-R’s dash is a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display that can also be controlled via buttons on the console or next to the screen. While not the most sharp or snappy infotainment system on the market, Nissan’s unit is sufficiently quick and intuitive to not detract from the high-end cabin. Below the display sits a reduced number of buttons to adjust the dual-zone climate control. Further below you’ll find a row of now-iconic toggles to manage transmission/throttle response, suspension damping, and traction control. I’ll get to what those “fun switches” do in a moment.

Complementing the refined cabin is a quiet, smooth ride and plenty of head/leg room for front passengers. Contoured sport seats are tightly bolstered – perhaps excessively so – yet they remain comfortable even on long hauls. If you aren’t a child, you simply won’t fit in the rear bucket seats – believe me, I tried squeezing several different-sized amigos back there. Just consider the additional chairs an insurance reduction tactic or extra interior storage and move on.

Where Fun Intersects Fast

At this point, I’m beginning to mentally pry nails from the GT-R’s coffin lid, but I still need to prod the supercar’s performance tuning.

2017 Nissan GT-R Premium
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Most of the go-fast updates for the 2017 GT-R focus on its 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6. Over the years, Nissan has lured more and more power from the same engine, culminating in the Nismo edition’s whopping 600 horsepower. The car I’m driving only produces 565hp and 467 pound-feet of torque, but that’s still 20hp and 4 lb-ft more than last year’s model. Countering the heft of better quality interior materials is a new titanium exhaust that’s quieter at low speeds but still bellows a merry tune at wide open throttle.

Additional tweaks include a refined six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, a five-percent stiffer unibody structure, and less punishing Bilstein dampers. Add it all up and the GT-R feels as quick as ever, with a far more confident stride.

Though it’s no longer a unique party trick, launching Godzilla never gets old. Put the powertrain, suspension, and traction control adjustments in their R modes, give the brake pedal a firm press, mash the throttle, and release the brake for one of the most addictive experiences on earth. Nearly as stimulating are roll-ons from the 3,000 rpm mark, when the GT-R sends all four wheels tearing into the tarmac as the supercar’s newly molded front fascia gulps down air. Thrust from outside the engine’s sweet spot is far less impressive, but forced induction has its limitations.

So it’s still ludicrously quick in a straight line – so what? My bone to pick was always with the GT-R’s playfulness, or lack thereof. Thankfully, Nissan appears to have yielded to the demands of a hooligan. Well, one demand: “give me some slip.” The car that has seriously been compared to a video game earned its reputation for absolute handling precision at the cost of driver manipulation. Fools could become heroes on track via the GT-R’s clever traction management and AWD systems. It was great for the fools and terrible for the talented – those who wondered if it was their skill or the car’s that produced stellar lap times.

I’m here to tell you that the 2017 Nissan GT-R is still a precision instrument; it can still slingshot around a corner like gravity is working overtime. Now, though, it will also wag its tail and slide its tidy ass on the ground if you give the right command. Feedback through the electronic steering rack is limited, but hang me over a vat of boiling liquid if it isn’t one of fastest-responding systems ever fitted to a road car. Think of moving your hands in one direction and the front wheels are already migrating. Six-piston front and four-piston rear Brembo brakes haul the vehicle down in no time, and body roll apparently doesn’t translate in Japanese. Try steam-rolled-flat cornering instead.

Our Take

Everything I remember of the GT-R being cold and calculated has been marginalized by its new sense of eagerness. Blistering performance is joined by interior refinement, a gentle ride, and thoroughly improved design for an upgraded experience. Rarely does an automaker enhance so much before putting a vehicle out to pasture, but these changes keep the car relevant. Nissan’s R35 GT-R has simply never been better.

2017 Nissan GT-R Premium Walkaround

$115,000 is a hefty sum for any performance car, and had Nissan demanded so much for the vehicle I drove three years ago, I’d be writing a very different review. In a way, the GT-R is a bargain once more, but among competition far loftier than before. Fine, I’ll say it: the Nissan GT-R is my hero again.

What are the alternatives?

The 2017 Nissan GT-R Premium’s price tag puts it in the crosshairs of cheaper cars like the base Porsche 911, Chevy Corvette Z06, and Jaguar F-Type, but also in the hunt for more expensive models like the Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT S, Acura NSX, and Porsche 911 GT3. In terms of performance, the GT-R ranks somewhere near the top of this roundup, but many would argue its challengers are easier on the eyes.

How long will it last?

Though Nissan has not officially confirmed the launch of its next generation (R36) GT-R, we can expect the new vehicle by 2020. At that time, we’re likely to see a Williams F1-derived hybrid powertrain, several aerodynamic improvements, hypercar levels of agility, and a steeper asking price.

Should you buy it?

Unlike all other vehicle segments, supercars are highly subjective purchases. The 2017 Nissan GT-R has tremendous competition, but also a prodigious list of alluring qualities. If you demand beauty or burnouts, look elsewhere. However, if you want the quickest car under $120 grand, a plush interior, and uniqueness, there is no better option.

Editors' Recommendations

Miles Branman
Miles Branman developed a passion for cars early on thanks to a neighbor’s collection of rare and exotic vehicles. What…
Get this Milwaukee tire inflator while it’s 59% off for Black Friday
Someone using a Milwaukee M18 Inflator on Van

Black Friday deals are underway, and there are a lot of great savings you can land on life-saving equipment you might not have bought otherwise. One of those deals is on the Milwaukee M18 tire inflator, which you can currently get on the cheap at Amazon. It’s one of the best Milwaukee Black Friday deals you’ll find, in fact, as it’s marked down from its regular price of $310 to a Black Friday sale price of just $139. That’s a savings of $171, which is pretty substantial even for Black Friday. Free shipping is included with a purchase.

Why You Should Buy the Milwaukee M18 Tire Inflator
Whether you are working on mastering the trail or simply want to keep your vehicles ship-shape throughout the year, a tire inflator makes a worthy investment. Milwaukee has been making electric tools for nearly 100 years, and all of that experience can be found in the Milwaukee M18 tire inflator. It delivers fast, accurate inflation and it has the portability to go anywhere with you. The high efficiency motor is rated to deliver max PSI of 150, which allows it to top-off 33-inch light truck tires in under one minute. The Milwaukee M18 tire inflator is optimized for passenger, light truck, and other medium-duty tires.

Read more
Get a Lamborghini Countach for $17 (with one big catch)
A Lego Lamborghini Countach with associated driver in front of its box.

You may have laughed at us when we asserted that Lego is worth more than gold, but now we're the ones driving Lamborghinis. Lego Lamborghinis, that is. As we combed through the nearly 300 Lego Black Friday deals, we knew we had to emphasize this one a bit more. Right now, you can get the Lego Lamborghini Countach for 15% off, bringing it down to $17. It'll make a great stocking stuffer, gift to your nephews or cousins, or a great addition to your own adult Lego collection. Just tap the button below and you'll find yourself at the page to buy it.

Why you should buy the Lego Lamborghini Countach
There are two reason why you might want to get this product. The first is the highly-renowned brand. This is a Lamborghini after all. And not just any Lamborghini, but a Lamborghini Countach, famed for being 1989's fastest car. If you know someone that's about 34 right now, this can be an awesome memento of how much you care for them or a bit of well-wishing for their speedy route to success. Sports car enthusiasts that always wanted a chance to drive the one that got away are equally good recipients.

Read more
Hyundai and Amazon team up for online car sales (and no, you can’t get your car via Prime)
Hyundai and Amazon just made it super easy to buy a new car
2024 Hyundai Ioniq 6 parked outside.

If you shop on Amazon for guitar strings, luggage, and electronics, how do you feel about buying your next car on the mega e-commerce platform? At the 2023 Los Angeles Auto Show, Amazon and Hyundai Motor Company jointly announced an online sales collaboration beginning in 2024. Other car brands come later, but Hyundai will be the first brand you can buy on Amazon.

The new strategic partnership has three facets: online vehicle sales, cloud services, and integrating Alexa in future Hyundais. Amazon will begin online sales of Hyundai models on Amazon Web Services (AWS) will be Hyundai's preferred provider of cloud services for the vehicle manufacturer's digital transformation. The two companies will work together to integrate Alexa voice response into Hyundai's driver infotainment and vehicle management system.
Find my car
Amazon's new partnership with Hyundai doesn't cut out auto dealerships. Dealers will be able to list on Amazon vehicles currently available for purchase.

Read more