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GT-R gearbox failures remedied?

2009-02-04 06:54
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Nissan
Model GT-R
Engine 3.8l twin-turbo V6
Power 353kW @ 6 400r/min
Torque 588Nm @ 3 200 - 5 200r/min
Transmission Six-speed DCT
Zero To Hundred 3.5 seconds
Top Speed 315km/h
Nissan’s seemingly infallible GT-R supercar is set for transmission software upgrades to counter transmission issues.

Stemming from rear transaxle failures within its largest market – the US – Nissan has begun instituting a global transmission software upgrade, which recodes the launch-control protocols of the GT-R.

The issue at hand is the failure of less than one percent of US registered GT-Rs (less than 20 cars out of nearly 1 800), necessitating a rather pricey $22 000 gearbox replacement.

VDC off. No-go.

Nissan’s GT-R is a forbiddingly sophisticated performance car. Off all its astoundingly advances mechanical engineering marvels, none is more impressive – or potentially pushing the envelope too far – as the rear mounted, dual-clutch transmission.

Considering the GT-R has perhaps the most advanced all-wheel drive system around, powered along by 588Nm (a threshold thought previously beyond the realm of dual-clutch transmissions), the issue of GT-Rs dropping gearboxes is not surprising.

Nissan claims to have isolated the issue – it expressly does not refer to it as a problem – and says the running software changes are to improve driveability, not safe face.

The truth of the matter is simply that when engaging the GT-R’s much vaunted launch control feature (enabling a sub four second 0-100km/h time) by disengaging the car’s VDC, you’ve done two rather perilous things.

Firstly, you’ve voided your warrantee. Secondly, you’ve exponentially increased your exposure to breaking a gearbox.

With regards to the warrantee, and this may seem patently unbelievable, but Nissan expressly states the VDC should only be disabled to free a stuck GT-R from snow or mud. This obviously happens quite often, as GT-Rs are the apt choice to take their owners down dirt roads or go ploughing through snow…

Secondly, the launch control system predisposes the GT-R to drag-race style standing starts, which is severe on the transmission. It’s a seriously quick car with VDC is left on, disengaged though, it’s acceleration is nearly incomparable in terms of price/performance ratio.

A key question in the debate is why anybody would want to disengage a VDC system so advanced, it enhances the dynamic driving experience in almost every way, just to do some really quick quarter mile runs.

Conversely, Nissan has billed the GT-R as the ultimate performance car. As such, owners felt well within their rights to ignore the gearbox warrantee warning caveat in the owners handbook, disengage the VDC, and launch away at 4 500r/min.

Boys will be boys and some of the cars which have broken transaxles endured upwards of 100 full-bore, VDC disabled launches...


Nissan has taken the issue very seriously. All current GT-R owners will be encouraged to have their cars retrofitted with the upgraded software.

The reprogrammed launch control protocol will lower the clutch engaging threshold from its current 4 500r/min to a lower, as yet unconfirmed, engine speed.

An educated guess says between 3 000-3 500r/min, essentially lower than before with VDC off, but not as low as the 2 000r/min brake torqued threshold currently employed with VDC on.

Currently all 2010 model GT-Rs will come to market with the upgraded transmission software. Nissan dealers stateside are essentially without stock as each GT-R landing on the West Coast from Japan is being refitted.

It would seem the marrying up of performance orientated dual-clutch, all-wheel drive transmissions and 500Nm engines are now in a similar development cycle to where turbocharging was in the 1970s.

The current state of affairs will rankle Nissan no end after snubbing Porsche last year by besting the German company's products on the notorious Nurburgring.

Porsche's 911 Turbo offers both all-wheel drive and launch control; which function flawlessly. Is does not offer the package in combination with its PDK transmission though.

In essence the potential litigation exposure Nissan faced has resulted in a running change. This should make the GT-R a sharper driving tool most of the time, but not as sharp as it could have possibly been some of the time, with its VDC system disabled. Especially if your name was Toshio Suzuki.

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