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Are the GT-R's days already numbered?

Nissan's GT-R supercar is this year's car, but its days may already be numbered, says John LeBlanc.

  • The image of cars in a showroom

RENO, Nevada – Nissan’s new GT-R supercar is this year’s Audi R8 – the car that will dominate enthusiasts, dreams and auto writers words in 2008.

Although it doesn’t go on sale until July, I can already sense some frothing, so let’s get straight to the numbers: 480 hp and 430 lb.-ft. of torque from an all-new hand-built 3.8 L twin-turbo V6.

Performance-wise, it goes 0-to-96 km/h in a claimed 3.5 sec blast and boasts a top speed of 312 km/h, with a 100-to-0 km/h stopping distance of 36.9 metres — better than any European supercar and officially the best braking number of any car in Japanese tests.

For gearheads, it turned in a lap time of 7 minutes, 38 seconds around Germany’s famed Nürburgring Nordschleife, one of the fastest times achieved by a production-spec vehicle — ever.

There’s a reason why GT-R’s nickname is Godzilla — it’s a monster, both on the road and on a track like here at Fernley-Reno Raceway.

If you and your abacus haven’t already figured it out, those numbers not only blow the doors off the much-heralded $139,900 R8, but also the all-wheel-drive GT-R’s performance bogey: Porsche’s $158,300 911 Turbo.

And it gets better. The GT-R’s pièce de resistance is its outrageous bang-for-the-buck pricing: $81,900, which will include an 11-speaker customized Bose Audio system, standard navigation and Z-rated performance tires.

Trouble is, we first saw the car as a concept in 2001. And, oh my, how seven years have changed the landscape for performance cars. Especially cars like the GT-R that have hundreds of horsepower on call, and on full boil with both turbos blowing will consume fuel at a rate of about 20 L/100 km.

Unfortunately for fans of these performance monsters, the question is, how much longer will cars like the GT-R be around? Even though it ducks the gas-guzzler tax and is considered an ultra low emissions vehicle, will tougher government fuel regulations and the public’s concern for the environment ultimately snuff out supercars like the GT-R like candles on a birthday cake?

Nissan’s supercar joins the growing roster of rides that enforce the idea that driving enthusiasts are living in the golden age of high performance, and not just for folks with Swiss bank accounts. The Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette, and the forthcoming Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro also bring unheralded levels of performance for people who have incomes less than six figures.

So if government regulations or social pressures don’t kill off the GT-R and its kind beforehand, what form could Nissan’s supercar take when its redesign arrives around 2014?

Nissan won’t say. In fact, like most automakers, it really doesn’t know.

But the future of any new car in development now depends on its ability to produce fewer CO2 emissions and suck less fuel.

Welcome to the new reality, kids.

So instead of making engines bigger and more powerful supercars, expect future supercars to be lighter and smaller.

You only have to look at current supercar specials like the Porsche 911 GT2 or Lamborghini Gallardo Superleggera (“superlight” in Italian). These cars use lightweight materials to gain some performance back with better power-to-weight ratios.

So maybe the next GT-R won’t have nearly 500 hp like the current one. But imagine a GT-R designed from scratch with these efficiency objectives in mind — a car that’s smaller, lighter, yet posts the same type of performance numbers using only half the fuel.

If that’s not your cup of supercar tea, better get these performance monsters like the 2009 Nissan GT-R now, while you can.

John LeBlanc’s Crank column appears Wednesdays on wheels.ca

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