2008 Porsche 911 Turbo v/s 2008 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 v/s 2009 Nissan GT-R

, Posted by Sports Cars Fans at 6:09 AM

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

Every once in a while, a car comes along with so much hype that not only does it capture the attention of car enthusiasts everywhere, it creates a frenzy among publications all over the world vying to be the first to drive it, test it and compare it with others. The Nissan GT-R is one such car. As usual, R&T was at the front of the line to drive, test and compare the U.S.-spec version of this very special car against its biggest rivals, the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and Porsche 911 Turbo.

Regular readers of this publication no doubt remember seeing our first drive of the GT-R four months ago, when we evaluated a Japanese-spec version in Germany. There, we got a good idea of what the car was all about, but not the entire picture. We knew that the GT-R's performance would place it among the most elite 2+2s in the world...still, nothing prepared us for what was in store when Feature Editor Mike Monticello, R&T Specials Editor Andrew Bornhop and I took the first U.S.-spec GT-R along with the Corvette Z06 and 911 Turbo to the California countryside. We took on some of the trickiest mountain roads in the state and the challenging Buttonwillow Raceway (where former Nissan factory driver Steve Millen joined us). Here we discovered that not only did the GT-R measure up to the hype, it sliced it to pieces with a samurai sword.

2008 Porsche 911 Turbo

Points: 380.7
Lap Times: 2:02.1

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT
It's easy to see why people feel that there is no substitute for a Porsche after driving the 911 Turbo. This car seems to have it all, incredible performance, a high level of comfort, meticulous German engineering and the aura that comes from having a rich racing heritage. But it takes more than past laurels to win an R&T comparison test, and the 911 Turbo, which has won a share of them, found itself in the middle of a dogfight this time.
ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT
That Nissan engineers used the 911 Turbo as their benchmark is no secret. At every GT-R event we've attended, a Porsche 911 Turbo was always lurking in the background, presumably used by Nissan engineers as a target vehicle. They equaled the Porsche's 480-bhp 3.6-liter flat-6's output. This allows the 3710-lb. 911 Turbo to run to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds, good enough to match the Corvette and GT-R, but not enough to beat them. The race to the quarter-mile mark is virtually a dead heat, with both the 911 Turbo and Corvette getting the job done in 11.7 sec., and the GT-R coming home a hair-width behind.

"The 911 Turbo pulls like a proverbial freight train when on boost, but there is a slight bit of lag when compared with the GT-R's engine, best described as a gradual ramp-up power, as though the 911 has larger turbos than the GT-R," Bornhop said.

In the handling department, we came away somewhat disappointed with our silver Porsche. One would expect that with all-wheel drive, the 911 Turbo would gobble up sweepers and mid-speed corners, but it understeered significantly entering tight turns and oversteered through the faster stuff. Some of us felt that the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires might be a factor, while others pointed to the softly sprung suspension. Whatever the reason, the Porsche simply wasn't as sharp as the GT-R on winding mountain roads or at the racetrack.

"There's no denying that the 911 Turbo has a surprising lack of grip, despite awd. It predominantly understeered, seriously chewing up the front tires, and was quite tail-happy when trying to put the power down exiting corners," Monticello remarked.

The 911 Turbo did shine on the open highway. Its interior was easily the most luxurious of the three, with comfortable and supportive front seats and lots of leather. The Porsche ranked high in the category of "the car I would most like to drive across the country." On the negative side, there was excessive road noise at highway speed, and the small buttons for the radio/navigation/climate control made operation difficult while driving.

The 911 Turbo's price tag of $135,470 immediately puts it at a disadvantage in this test...the reality is that's the price one pays to drive, and be seen driving, Zuffenhausen's best. But when it comes to just the numbers, Japan's new super coupe has caught and surpassed the German thunder car, meaning that now, when you say Porsche, there is a substitute.

2008 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

Points: 384.2
Lap Times: 2:02.2

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

In terms of best bang for the buck, the Chevrolet Corvette has long been the king of the hill. And with the high-performance Z06, it ruled the valleys, shores and flatlands as well. But has the time come for America's sports car to give up its throne?

No doubt, the Corvette's credentials are impressive: Producing 505 naturally aspirated bhp and 470 lb.-ft. of torque from its 7.0-liter V-8, the svelte Chevy packed the strongest punch of the group, while being the lightest on its feet, tipping the scales at a lean 3350 lb. It kept pace with the others to 60 mph, and then managed to set the fastest trap speed at the quarter-mile mark (123.7 mph), besting the 911 Turbo by 2.5 mph and the GT-R by 7.2. This just goes to show that although the Corvette couldn't get off the line as quickly as its awd competitors, once it got going, nothing here could touch it.

"I'll take a normally aspirated engine over a turbo any day, at least when it's this good. The Z06's engine has crazy power all the time, at any rpm, in any gear. And the sounds...come on, it's an American V-8, need I say more? It's the kind of power you can truly call 'neck-snapping,'" Monticello said.

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

The Corvette experienced a little more difficulty keeping pace with the others when the road started to bend. Despite the excellent grip provided by the fattest tires of the group — 275/35ZR-18s front and 325/30ZR-19s rear — and its state-of-the-art yaw-control system, the Z06's rear end danced around through low- and mid-speed corners. It did well to keep up with the Porsche at the racetrack, but the Vette had difficulty staying with the 911 Turbo and GT-R through sections of Highway 155 where the road is dusty and slick. But on a clean driving surface, the Corvette demonstrated why sports cars are traditionally rear-wheel drive, posting a neck-wrenching 0.99g around the skidpad and a 70.6-mph romp through the slalom.

"Anytime you put 505 bhp to the rear wheels, it presents a challenge. But GM has done a pretty good job here. With the traction/yaw control set to Competition Driving Mode, the Z06 allows more yaw than you might expect. Grip is good, but the car does like moving around a bit. It's more difficult to drive than the others, but very satisfying when done well," Bornhop said.

Despite lacking two rear seats, the Corvette proved an exceptional tourer. It exhibited an even ride, and the seats were comfortable though lacking in lateral support. The cockpit remains relatively quiet, with the engine being the loudest element, and that's a good thing.

We all agreed that the Corvette is the best-looking of the bunch. Its low, wide stance instantly implies that it means business. And when you consider its price tag of $79,595, the Corvette Z06 is still one of the best deals on the planet...only now, it may have company.

2009 Nissan GT-R

Points: 386.6
Lap Times: 1:56.9

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

We knew coming into this test that Nissan's GT-R was good; we just didn't know how good. Our world-exclusive first test of the U.S.-spec GT-R marks a significant occasion because it's the first time anyone has driven the car with its newly revised suspension tuning, and the first time the GT-R's performance is being compared head-to-head with its rivals'.

Where the GT-R shined brightest was at the racetrack. You can see from its lap times that it handed both the Chevrolet Corvette and Porsche 911 Turbo their respective lunches, working its way around Buttonwillow's challenging Race No. 13 configuration about 5 sec. faster than the others. We were all impressed with Nissan's twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 that produces 480 bhp at 6400 rpm and 434 lb.-ft. of torque from 3200 to 5200 rpm, mated to a rear-mounted 6-speed twin-clutch gearbox. The IHI turbos, mounted to the exhaust manifolds for quick response, provide 11.8 psi of boost, helping the GT-R reach 60 mph in 3.4 sec., and get to the quarter mile in 11.8 — right there with the others despite its test weight of 3960 lb.

"The power from the GT-R's engine is phenomenal. Not because it has so much of it, but because it's delivered in such a smooth, naturally aspirated fashion. The smaller turbos of the GT-R spool up more quickly than the Porsche's, giving the effect of no lag. Its engine note, however, doesn't stir my sensibilities the way the Z06's and the 911 Turbo's do," Monticello observed.

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

The GT-R's handling was in a league by itself. The suspension felt more compliant than the Japan-spec model's, yet still provided unbelievable stability through all variety of corners. Just when you think you feel the rear end coming out, stay on the throttle and let the ATTESA E-TS awd system do its thing. It'll immediately transfer as much as 50 percent of the engine torque to the front wheels (the torque split for normal driving is 2/98), stabilizing the car without sacrificing speed. The Nissan's handling balance is so spectacular that it registered 1.01g on the skidpad and romped through the slalom at an impressive 73.4 mph, about 3 mph faster than the others (and faster than the Ferrari Enzo).

"The GT-R responds best when thrown into corners with gusto. Under braking with a bit of turn to the steering wheel, the GT-R's back end will come into play to help you tighten the corner line a bit, but never so much as to make the car unstable. Steering effort is light, and the awd system takes much of the drama out of exiting corners," Bornhop remarked.

The GT-R also performed well on the open road, though we gave the nod to the Porsche 911 Turbo in this department. That said, we could easily live with the GT-R on a daily basis. The ride is solid, it's the only one here with a conventional trunk, and the seats are comfortable. The Dunlop SP Sports get noisy at highway speed, but other than this and an occasionally clunky low-speed shift, the GT-R is a capable daily commuter.

"There's plenty of room for a big guy and a back seat that can be used by shorter folks on the occasional run to lunch. The ride is on the harsh side, even with the suspension setting switched to full comfort. The various screens of the monitor are neat, though some of the materials here could be better. But could I spend all day in the car? You bet," Monticello said.

As for the car's styling, we like it, although there are others who feel that it looks too robot-like. But the bottom line here has little to do with the car's looks and everything to do with how it performed. Simply put, the GT-R is the most potent automobile to ever come from Japan, and will surely have manufacturers in America and Europe rethinking their ways. If it weren't for the car's $69,850 asking price (an estimated $72,880 for our test car) — and the fact it wears a Nissan badge — the GT-R might well be considered the most exotic car on the planet.

ZO6 vs. GT-R vs. 997TT

1st- 2009 Nissan GT-R
2nd- 2008 Chevrolet Corvette Z06
3rd- 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo