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Motor Trend: 2013 Nissan GT-R Black Edition vs. 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S
2013 Nissan GT-R Black Edition vs. 2012 Porsche 911 Turbo S Comparison - Motor Trend
To some folks, a Nissan versus Porsche comparison test makes about as much sense as Snooki versus the Virgin Mary. But look closer, as these two cars are weirdly similar. Both are powered by 3.8-liter six-cylinder engines force-fed by two turbochargers that make the cars sound like industrial-strength hair dryers. Each is technically a four-seater, but those back benches are only good for punishing misbehaving children. Both are AWD, and both sport rapid-fire dual-clutch transmissions. And they are fast. Incredibly, mind-bendingly, tire-destroyingly, reason-defyingly fast. How fast, you ask? Well, the previous iteration of each car ranks as the third (2010 Porsche Turbo with PDK) and fourth (2012 Nissan GT-R) fastest accelerating production cars we've ever tested, and Motor Trend has been testing cars since 1949. And, don't you know it, these two are quicker.
The dragstrip king is the Porsche, which laid down a time of 10.9 seconds through the quarter mile at 127.4 mph. The "slower" GT-R did the deed in 11.1 seconds at 124.8 mph. Historically, that makes these two the -- surprise! -- third- and fourth-quickest cars we've ever tested. The almighty Veyron is still the champ (again, surprise!) with a silly time of 10.4 seconds at 139.9 mph, and the 691-hp Lamborghini Aventador is in second place with a time of 10.6 seconds at a blistering 133.9 mph.
Even though it's been out for a couple of years, we never felt a pressing need to test the Turbo S. Why? Because the "regular" Porsche Turbo got through the traps in 11 seconds flat at 125.5 mph. The 2012 GT-R not only won our epic 11-car drag race last fall, but did it in 11.2 seconds at 121.8 mph. Things get even more interesting -- to my mind, at any rate -- when we start talking 0-60 times. The 2010 Turbo is tied with the Aventador at 2.8 seconds to 60 mph, with only the Veyron's time of 2.6 seconds being faster. Meanwhile, the 2012 GT-R managed to hit 60 mph in 2.9 seconds. Well, friends, the 2013 GT-R has shaved off a tenth, hitting 60 in 2.8 seconds and landing it in a three-way tie for third all-time best with the Lambo and the Turbo. Are you sitting down? The Turbo S needs only 2.7 seconds to pop off 60 mph, meaning that, as far as production vehicles go, only the Veyron (and we'll assume the Veyron Super Sport) are any quicker.
But don't go crowning the Porsche king of this comparison just yet. The new GT-R danced around our figure eight in 23 seconds flat, the third-best time we've recorded. The only quicker vehicles we know of are the Porsche GT2 (22.9 seconds) and the unbelievably athletic Corvette Z06 with the Z07 package wearing throwaway 80-treadwear and Cup tires (22.8 seconds). Not bad for a 3887-pound sumo, eh? The Turbo S is right there, with a time of 23.2 seconds.
So what's different? In the case of the Turbo S, power is up over the normal Turbo: 530 hp versus 500 flat. Torque is up even more, rising from 480 lb-ft to 516 lb-ft. Essentially, that's it for the Porsche, though a lot of the features standard on the Turbo S are options on the $23,000-cheaper Turbo, like PDK and torque-vectoring. For 2013, the Nissan GT-R also gets a power bump: 545 hp replaces the 2012's 530, and torque is likewise up by 15, rising from 448 lb-ft to 463. Godzilla's suspension has been revised, along with the transmission. This particular car -- our new long-termer! -- is the Black Edition, which comes complete with 20-inch forged Rays wheels, a carbon-fiber spoiler, exceptional Recaro thrones, and some contrasting interior trim. The GT-R will set your financial planner's hair on fire with a list price of $107,600, while the Porsche will induce laughter in everyone to whom you show the Monroney, because as-tested this bright-yellow banana of a 911 stickers for $178,525. That's including $540 for the yellow seatbelts, a must-have option, says I.
Our admittedly envious task, then, was to determine which of these two AWD, twin-turbo freaks of automotive nature is the best. All the while keeping in mind the slightly less important secondary goal of ascertaining whether the Porsche's nearly $71,000 price bump is worth it. We set out on a glorious mid-March day to solve this puzzle on Southern California's glorious Highway 33 and, along the way, had one of the best times in recent memory. On an ideal back road, there are few vehicles that can keep up with Godzilla. The Porsche Turbo S is one of them. (So is our supercharged long-term CTS-V Sport Wagon, which we brought along as a support and camera car.) These are the types of cars where you routinely look down and see speeds like 114 mph. They're both so rapid it's almost stupid.
The devil, then, is most definitely in the details. And, to understate it radically, we sweated them. Where to even start the nitpicking? Figuratively -- and almost, but not quite, literally -- flying over one of the finest stretches of tarmac on this green and blue globe in two of the most capable vehicles in all existence makes flaw-finding an exercise in minutiae. For lack of a better metric, let's start with tire squeal. Neither car had it. Except under hard, ABS-inducing stoppage, the TurboS would make two chirps. I think that's more a function of the relatively epic weight transfer taking place when the rear-engined rockets' carbon-ceramic binders deployed the anchor than any sort of fatal flaw. In the nose-heavy GT-R, tapping the brake pedal was more akin to the front end being screwed down into the earth. It's hard to explain the extreme feeling of control you get in the GT-R. It really was just a feeling, as the Porsche stops shorter than the Nissan -- 101 feet from 60 mph versus 105 feet.
Then there are the physical differences. "It still seems as though you're sitting too high in the Nissan. As soon as you enter a corner, the tires dig in, and you suddenly feel as if you're leaning too much, that you're sitting on top of the car, not down in it." So says my co-driver and colleague Scott Evans of the big boy GT-R.
However, the Black Edition's Recaros held me in place better than the Porsche's yellow-backed chairs. Also, because of the seemingly afterthought navigation screen in the 911, your right knee is pushed out to the left, while your right foot has to twist back sharply toward the right. The result: After 1100 miles in the Porsche, I had a bruised knee. Not so in the GT-R. One of the advantages to its being the size of a small houseboat is that your arms and feet have plenty of space to maneuver, even if you are sitting way up in the air.
The Porsche also produces a whistling sound between 70 and 82 mph. It's obviously coming from the side mirror, and, lest you think I'm exaggerating, the new 991 has moved its mirrors from the corners of the A-pillars to the doors.
Both cars drive radically well, and represent an altogether spooky-advanced plateau of capability. Says Evans of the Turbo S, "This car rewards a very, very good driver. If you know how to drive fast cars and you're not afraid of them (from experience, not ignorance), you'll love this car. For the supercar beginner, it'll be scary as hell." I don't know if I agree with "scary as hell," but go on and lift mid-corner and all doubt will be erased from your mind as to exactly what sort of car you're driving. That said, a kick of the throttle reels you back in via the grippy goodness of AWD.
As for the GT-R, Evans feels different. "This car will make a hero of anyone. Its grip on the road is nearly unbreakable. It truly shines in transitions. Where a quick or abrupt transition would get another car loose or unsettled, the GT-R never even hints at trouble." He's right. I felt so confident in the GT-R that I surprised myself. I didn't know I was capable of driving a car that quickly. I actually pulled over to process what I'd just done. And that really is the dividing line between these two hyper-megacars: confidence. The rear-biased Porsche features not only the traditional 911-esque light steering (especially as speeds rise into the triple digits), but on a few occasions, I felt the rear end attempt to swap places with the front, which made me slow it on down.
When push came to brutal shove, I didn't feel I could go as hard and as fast in the Turbo S as I felt I could go in Godzilla. The 2013 GT-R seems to wrap the road up in a bear hug. There's next to no chance it will let go. As Scott said, those left-to-right (or right-to-left) transitions defy not only reason, but also expectation. Your hands are filled with such an immense feeling of control that I'm hard-pressed to think of another car capable of annihilating a ribbon of asphalt in such a commanding way. I can come up just a few candidates: Bentley Continental Supersports, Lamborghini Aventador, McLaren MP4-12C, and Ferrari 458 Italia. In other words, the very best of the very best. And to be honest, I'm not sure any of those is better. I am truly in awe of what Nissan has accomplished with the 2013 refresh. Time to notch one more win on the GT-R's belt.
As for the 2012 Porsche Turbo S, it's excellent. But it's just not as wondrous a canyon bully as the GT-R. We spent a great deal of time trying to figure out if the extra $71,000 you'd invest in the Porsche paid for anything objectively meaningful over the Nissan's still-lofty $107,600 base price. It doesn't, and even if money were left off the table, the 2013 GT-R is the better car. Considering that the 997 is really just a refresh of the introduced-in-1998 996 platform, this final, fastest iteration is massively impressive. But can you even imagine what the 991 Turbo, let alone 991 Turbo S, will be like? When I drove the 991 Carrera S back-to-back with the still-on-sale 997 GTS, it was obvious that the new car is superior to the old one in every single way, save for maybe steering feel. I have no doubt the Turbo model -- still a year or more out -- will be an absolute monster, particularly the S version. But will it be enough of a beast to dethrone Godzilla? Especially if Nissan continues with its program of incremental updates? I can hardly wait to find out.