Story by: Davin Patton
Origonal Source NAGTROC.ORG 2000 Miles of Discovery Thread
The Alpha-9 GT-R roared to life with a strong, purposeful, growl. The engine maintained its high 2,000 rpm cold start before quickly settling down closer to 1,000 rpms. So far, nothing seemed different about the car. I moved the transmission selector to reverse and backed us out. I then slid the gear selector down into drive and we were off. Finally on our way to California.
At about 10mph I switched to manual mode. It wasn’t far to the highway. Already, I was noticing that the car was reacting to everything on a seemingly flat road. It was hard to gauge just how rough the road was, so at that point I couldn’t tell if it was the JRZ coilovers or the road that was making the ride so far from perfect. From a mechanical perspective, the car felt fine though, so we continued on our way. It wasn’t long before it was time to get on the highway, and I took us to the on-ramp and looked downrange to spot the merge point.
Under full throttle, near redline, any turbo car with enough boost pressure will go fast. I was sure the Alpha-9 GT-R would be no exception but I wouldn’t give it the chance. Not so soon. Instead, I wanted to test its drivability and flexibility.
Ordinarily, upgrading turbos to larger sizes causes an engine to have to work harder before positive boost can be made- in the process causing low end performance and overall response to suffer. AMS said the throttle response of this car, despite the upgrades, was like stock. Given just how obscenely fast a factory GT-R responds to throttle commands, that was a big claim. So I wanted to see for myself what “like stock” meant. I wanted to immediately expose its flaws so that me and this Alpha-9 GT-R could be on very clear terms from the start of our relationship.
And so, getting on the highway, I applied one third throttle to see how the car would get on under partial throttle from low rpms.
Things didn’t go quite as I’d expected. The initial pickup was, to my surprise, just as forceful as any other stock turbo GT-R. By the time the car started to register positive boost the acceleration started to pickup with much more authority than a factory GT-R would manage. I let off the throttle, already fully merged onto the highway.
Still being critical of what I was observing, I tested the partial throttle acceleration again, not sure if somehow the car got a favorable start. But if anything, it seemed to accelerate better than stock pre-boost. What I was seeing didn’t seem to make sense. I started to think about the physics behind it and how that could be possible. Maybe it was the different camshaft profile being used in the car? That was the only work done to the engine. Or maybe it was the cold weather? I wasn’t sure. Either way, low end acceleration and throttle response felt at least as good as stock. With that out of the way, I looked down the road and cross checked the GT-R’s internal navigation system. Close to a thousand miles remained as we settled into our cruising pace, bound for Denver.
As the miles piled up, I started to get slowly acclimated to the Alpha-9 GT-R. I quickly learned that the power in this car was always available. Not sometimes available, not often available, but always available. It didn’t seem to matter what rpm I was at, what gear we were in or how fast we were going. Passing cars on the highway was just a non-issue. From 2,000 rpms in sixth, multiple cars could be passed before the Alpha-9 even got into its powerband. Once the speeds picked up though, even in sixth gear, the pull would become immense. The speedometer would start getting numbers added to it at an alarming pace. It definitely wasn’t a recipe for staying out of trouble.
For most of the day we kept to within 10mph of the speed limit or traffic, whichever seemed better. As one would imagine, that was no issue at all for the car. The car seemed perfectly happy to do that although massive acceleration always remained less than a second away.
After an hour or so the traffic, which had always been flowing well, started to clear out. With a bit of road to ourselves and great visibility, I decided it was time to see what this car was really about, and gauge the full power of this Alpha-9 setup. So from just under 50mph, I downshifted and planted my foot on the floor.
Immediately the car leapt up and shoved me into the seat. For the first half second the car almost seemed… startled. I could almost feel the transmission handling the sudden onslaught of torque. It seemed like the chassis was suddenly under massive pressure, from the inside. Strangely, it didn’t wince, it just seemed to lighten up and buckle down. It delivered all of the power to the ground without delay, and with apparent ease. It was as if I were asking half throttle from a factory GT-R. There was no movement in any direction other than the one I’d elected to point us in, and the car simply shot forward in the direction we were headed.
Then full boost came in and the factory boost pressure gauge went past its maximum reading of 20psi.
The exhaust pitch went race-car-like as the car screamed forward. That the acceleration was much, much, harder than stock goes without saying. It’s difficult to put into words just how hard the Alpha-9 GT-R pulls. Strangely, there was no drama to it. There was no wheelspin. No flashing lights. Nothing other than a boost gauge reading at its maximum. Then the car got to the top of it’s powerband…
When you floor the accelerator pedal in an ordinary GT-R, two things happen: First, the car throws you back in your seat as the engine doles out a massive amount of immediate torque. Then the car accelerates forward and, once you hit the meat of the powerband, the speedometer starts picking up large numbers. One event always seems to happen after the other though: the car throws you back then big numbers get added to the speed gauge. While it accelerates, you’re still pinned to the seat, but it’s not like the initial pull. As the speeds climb, particularly after 100mph, the force of acceleration becomes sane. But that second part, the accumulation of speed, the calculator like summation of numbers on the speed dial, continues.
The Alpha-9 GT-R is completely different. There’s no conservative flat area on the top of the Alpha-9’s powerband. Once I got near the top of the powerband, the car didn’t relent. It continued its pull. As we went beyond the stock 7,000rpm redline, the GR6 didn’t interrupt the acceleration. The shift change near 7,500rpm was forceful enough to notice but the torque delivery went uninterrupted and the banshee like pull simply started all over again. At the top of the next gear, the car’s acceleration again didn’t relent. It didn’t stabilize like a normal GT-R would. It refused to give the speedometer some time to do it’s thing. It just kept pulling. The speedometer seemed to just be playing catch up, throwing one number after another to add to its count. It’s a fundamentally different sort of acceleration than a normal GT-R. A normal GT-R feels civilized. In a normal GT-R, the acceleration abates while the glass speedometer rises. By comparison, this was rabid. The acceleration just didnt want to let up.
I suppose this is all a reflection of the fact that the Alpha-9 GT-R’s powerband doesn’t really flatten, but when I was strapped into it, the impact of that on-paper difference was massive. Especially given the high output of the motor. It makes you want to hang on to the accelerator for every last second, to get every ounce of power out before pulling the upshift paddle. Then it seamlessly starts all over again.
There’s no real drama to be had from the experience. I was ready for severe wheelspin. I was ready for the car to start to slide on the cold highway. I was ready for something- anything- but instead I got nothing. The GR6 simply distributed the power and the car slammed forward. There was no drama whatsoever in the way it performed its duty. The chassis didn’t seem overwhelmed by what was happening. It was nothing short of astonishing. I didn’t want to believe what had just happened.
So I did it again.
The lack of drama was confusing. It’s difficult to describe the mix of such rapid acceleration with such controllability. The whole time the car was completely stable. There didn’t even seem to be much wind noise as we jumped out into the triple digits. In a typical GT-R like fashion, the loudest noises were from the engine and transmission. The All Season Dunlop 7010s were quiet on the cold Illinois highways, despite being asked to handle much more torque than they would ordinarily be asked to handle.
While all of this was going on, the suspension was doing its job in keeping the chassis under control. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about the idea of doing a road trip with a JRZ-equipped GT-R. I’d heard the talk – that a car on JRZ built coilovers won’t ride as hard as the numbers suggested and that you can’t compare them to other, allegedly lesser setups. But I also knew that some JRZ owners with track oriented setups felt that their track rates were too stiff for the street. These coilovers were JRZ’s Street/Track oriented Silent Editions, with 750lb front and 600lb rear spring rates. For our trip, they weren’t set to full soft and we seemed to have been let go with them somewhere midway in their settings.
To my relief-and surprise- the car was actually feeling very comfortable. Whenever we hit irregular surfacing on the highway, I could definitely feel the car react, but it never felt unsettled. It was a muted sort of reaction. It was almost as if the suspension was translating what the surface was like, while at the same time muting it to a manageable amount so it never felt ‘too much’. On I-80, the mix of stability and compliance was odd and ran entirely against what I expected: At one point we ran into a particularly rough section of highway, one that made me want to cringe, but it wasn’t called for. I could have definitely felt the fact that the road was broken, much more so than a stock setup- so it definitely felt stiffer feeling, but the car soaked it up without any harsh impacts.
The scenes while we drove, even in Iowa and Nebraska, were far from the boring nothingness that was promised. For one thing, the highway wasn’t perfectly straight, it rolled gently with the land. Houses became more and more intermittent until finally they were separated by dozens of acres at a time. Then my surroundings became low cut farmland. I once saw a scene that looked exactly like the Windows XP desktop- rolling green hills under a blue sky. Then I saw it again. And again. To my surprise, I saw this perfect scene repeatedly, at times complete with a single house on a hill. If I looked hard enough, I thought I would see people going about their daily lives in their houses and on their farms. I wondered what life was like there as we headed westward, chasing the setting sun into the late evening.
Chuck and I took turns driving, each of us going through a tank of gas at a time. By my math, we were easily getting above 18mpg on the open road, despite spending so much time playing around with the car. It would have been easy for us to exceed 20mpg if we so chose.
It told us the temperature had dropped to near freezing. The GT-R is a funny machine. Inside it, you’re completely isolated from the elements. It’s so comfortable and the climate control system is so efficient, that it could be 120 degrees or -20 degrees outside and it would all feel the same inside. In fact, the climate control system in the car is perhaps one of the GT-R’s most impressive bits. No matter what the temperature is outside it always feels like there’s an excess of power available to make it whatever temperature you want it to be inside. It never, ever seems like its struggling. With the climate control set on the high 70s we continued our way westward. Our GT-R tracked I-80 while the climate control maintained an extremely comfortable temperature and the Bose sound system provided excellent satellite music.
Before I knew it, we’d knocked out close to half of the day’s drive and we were only 6 hours into it. The sun had set and it was getting quite cold outside. Luckily I was somewhat prepared for EVAs whenever we stopped, but on getting back into the car I was happy to have the GT-R’s heated seats. By this point in the trip, I’d realized the car was really a super GT-R of sorts. Everything the factory GT-R is, this car is, and more. It takes the factory GT-R experience, in all ways, and intensifies it. It was extremely comfortable- both in ride and in full amenities- and it was very strong. It took some time to get accustomed to the feeling of the suspension and transmission, but somewhere along the way they had gotten into my heart. After a while, it started to feel like it was a normal car. But then we got one of our last fill ups, and with Chuck behind the wheel, we did something new.
Early in the on-ramp, Chuck stood on the accelerator pedal. Unlike prior occasions, this time he stayed on it.
I’d spent the day in the car by this point, and had driven several hundred miles myself, but the experience hadn’t changed any. If anything, being a passenger amplified it. As the car rocketed across the Colorado asphalt, things very far away seemed like they were going to get a lot closer, and quickly. As a passenger, it’s almost a scary kind of acceleration because you know that by the time you get to those objects you’ll be going much, much faster than you want to be. He lifted before taking the on-ramp, which the car didn’t blink at, despite the cold temperatures. Coming out of the bend Chuck resumed wide open throttle. It must have only been for some seconds but a lot of thoughts went through my mind during that time. Once he lifted, our speed was well in excess of 170 miles per hour. It is truly shocking to see just how many numbers an Alpha-9 car can add onto your speed- and just how fast and how easily it can do it.
The night continued on. It had been a long day and I was starting to feel it. Thinking I might have more driving ahead, I debated the value of getting some sleep. At first I didnt want to, I wanted to be alert. Eventually, the comfortable seats and the suspiciously smooth ride of the JRZ suspension got the best of me though. At just after two in the morning, I started to doze off. I couldn’t believe just how comfortable the car was. When I awoke, less than an hour later, we were in Denver, and after a shorter burst of sleep, we’d stopped by a friend of Chuck’s, where we made our first stop of the trip.
Finally, we had made it to Denver.
Back home, the sun was rising over the Caribbean. But for me, thousands of miles away at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, it was time to sleep. And after my first day of experiencing an Alpha-9 GT-R, I slept well.