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2012 Nissan GT-R

New and improved is such an overworked, hackneyed phrase that many automakers abuse at will. However when it comes to describing the 2012 GT-R super coupe that’s now on sale, there really are no other words to describe what Nissan has instituted. The changes are practical, evolutionary and have been undertaken simply to improve the car’s performance characteristics and not just to undertake change for change’s sake.

The original GT-R (nicknamed Godzilla by its loyal fans) that Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn first unveiled at the 2007 Los Angeles, Calif., Auto Show was outrageous beyond words. How dare his company try to take on the world’s most powerful and exalted sports cars and claim absolute superiority. But dare it did, and the result was a vehicle that could keep up — and often surpass — Ferrari, Porsche, Lamborghini, and did so for a relative pittance.

In some quarters the purists still scoff at Nissan’s affront to tradition and good order. Meanwhile, GT-R owners with less deeper pockets, but perhaps possessing more common sense, drive secure in the knowledge that their steeds can outperform nearly any other of a select field of hyper-machines.

Upon first inspection there appears little to differentiate the 2012 edition from the previous effort. In fact though, the GT-R sports redesigned nose with larger grille openings, reshaped front and rear spoilers, a new hood with aerodynamic “fins” and brighter Light Emitting Diode (LED) running lights. The result is a bit more downforce for added stability along with less wind resistance that, among other things, helps to improve fuel economy, which is now rated at 16 mpg in the city and 23 on the highway (previously 15/21).

More to-the-point updates can be found beneath the sheetmetal, including minor suspension tweaks, improved Brembo-brand brakes with larger front rotors and a new carbon fiber brace in the engine compartment that attaches to each shock tower. Nissan claims that even the new-design 20-inch alloys (by wheel maker Rays) are now lighter and more rigid and the standard Dunlop tires are made using a new compound that extends tread life and improves ride comfort.

What really puts some weight behind the GT-R’s new-and-improved claim are the upgrades to the twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6. By adjusting (as in increasing) the boost pressure on the turbos, adjusting the valve timing and air/fuel mixture and enlarging the air intake and exhaust pipes, output to moves up to 530 horsepower and 448 pound-feet of torque, versus 485 horsepower and 434 pound feet of torque. Joining the 500-horse club is an important benchmark for the GT-R since most respectable high-performance sports cars have reached or exceeded that lofty plateau.

On the other hand, little has changed with the six-speed robotic-clutch transmission that’s located at the rear of the car — along with the transfer case for the continuously variable all-wheel-drive system — in a quest for best possible weight distribution.

Nissan claims the GT-R will now reach 60 mph from a dead stop in a startling 2.9 seconds by using the car’s launch control system that electronically controls acceleration and limits wheel spin to achieve the quickest possible velocity. Also helpful here is using gasoline with the highest available octane rating: 91 octane as a minimum; 94 octane if you can find it.

There are two versions of the GT-R available. The very-well-equipped Premium sells for $90,950 (including a $1,000 destination and prep charges). For 2012, there’s also an all-new Black Edition for an extra $5,150 that adds unique leather interior trim and painted black wheels. Note that the Black Edition can be ordered in a variety of body colors.

Despite numerous price increases over the years, the updates and performance hike should make the 2012 GT-R a top wish-list item while adding luster to its growing cachet.

For those who dare depart from the traditional power-tripping marques, the Cheshire grin is a no-charge option.