Why you shouldn’t buy a 2012 Nissan GT-R

I will not buy a Nissan GT-R.

Headed for the hot LZ of a Nissan showroom, even an unlimited supply of funds, I’d roll out in a 2012 Nissan Versa.

I have my reasons.

A Story: The 2012 Nissan GT-R was mostly idling through a municipal park in first gear. This is what it feels like to throttle your fighter jet back to the edge of aerodynamic stall; any slower and you risk falling out of the sky. This is no way to treat one of the world’s most affordable supercars. An $89,350 Nissan being called “affordable” may seem absurd, but what I felt from behind the wheel was a purposeful machine with a 530 hp twin-turbo V6 and a 196 mph top speed. I was doing about 19, tops.

Finally joining a public road, I’d had enough. Down went the acclerator pedal, up went the RPM, and some milliseconds later came the boost. Ah, the boost. Twin turbochargers are indeed so lovely. That’s the cleaned up version of my utterance, which was something like “Holy $#%@!”

The ferocity of the GT-R is astounding. The vents in the hood look like the fangs of a snake for a good reason, the 2012 Nissan GT-R has bite. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, with a rear transaxle (that only clunks and bumps a little) and all-wheel drive to put the wickedness down to the pavement. Hot damn, is the GT-R impressive. It is also $90,000. And it’s just one car.

red 2012 Nissan GT-R parked on a street

A car that is occasionally terrifying enough when it’s 72 and sunny, forget it in the schphincter-clenching conditions of winter. Also, the GT-R is so damn good that most everyone who clambers aboard will run out of talent far quicker than the GT-R exhausts its supply of tricks. Most of you would get cocky and hurt yourselves. Many auto journalists already have with cars like this.

So that’s why I’d get a Versa, instead.

three images of the 2012 Nissan Versa

It returns better fuel economy. LOTS better fuel economy, like 30 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. It’s impressively spacious, with a back seat capable of holding two fully-grown North American Automotive Bufoons without causing factional conflict. It rides and drives okay. There are no clanks from its CVT (eat that, GT-R). It’s also inexpensive. When you see the interior, you’ll understand that I mean cheap.

Still, I felt far more at home making the 1.6 liter four cylinder moan and the 185/65 tires on 15″ wheels scream. I wasn’t afraid I was going to get a hard physics lesson at my own hand. By the way, those are the smallest tires I’ve seen on a car in a long time. In the old days, you’d find that size under 3,200 lb European station wagons and on four cylinder Fox-body Mustangs. Now, it helps the sub-2,500 pound Versa cling to the road. That’s a lot of tire for a car that doesn’t weigh too much. Not that the suspension is set up to do anything with it, even with the potential for amusement that a good front-strut, rear torsion-beam layout can deliver. What it all adds up to, though, is a car that’s tough to hurt yourself with. There’s 107 hp and most will have a CVT, not the stuff of dynamic dreams. That’s good, you won’t even bother trying to get in trouble with the Versa, and there’s not enough power to really do anything with, anyway.

2012 Nissan GT-R parked behind 2012 Nissan Versa Sedan

The entire Versa sedan is all-new for 2012, and so what if the plastics make the Interior Fondling Society recoil in horror? Just like the benign chassis, you can live with it all day, every day, for years. Most importantly, the Versa doesn’t consume all of your 90 grand. Instead, you’ve still got roughly 75K to play with. If you really cheap out, you’ll only spend $10,990 without sacrificing air conditioning or a stereo. The change in your pocket will be enough to buy a used race car of one sort or another, with a trailer and a truck to haul it all. It’s a simpler solution to just drive the GT-R to the track, race it, and then go home, you say? Good luck with that. It’ll be a long walk when Mr. Leadfoot buries his car in your right rear quarter panel, busting up your race car and daily driver at the same time. It’s not that you’re going to be able to afford a car that’s as technologically advanced or refined as the 2012 GT-R for track duty, but if you’re serious about actually getting out there and competing, the GT-R is probably not the right car, anyway.

Only you can answer if it’s smart to purchase a single thing for $90,000 that will sorta do what you want to do, or a collection of things suited to the task for the same amount of money. Playing Rat Fink on the road will surely favor the dynamic capabilities of the GT-R, though the Versa can tickle your “slow car fast” pleasure center rather than making you a menacing missile with too much car and not enough skill.

Your choice.

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