Despite our bedtime prayers, vehicle performance has not increased in proportion to Moore's law, which postulates that the performance of integrated circuits approximately doubles every 18 months. It is, however, in large part due to the exponential increases in computing power that vehicles are significantly safer, faster, and more powerful than they were a decade ago--all while producing fewer harmful emissions. Processing power is supplanting the expensive hardware required for big power and, more to the point, big speed.
No car better exemplifies this shift than the $70,475 Nissan GT-R, a fire-breathing, all-conquering machine as fast for its sensors and processors as for its big, turbocharged (and electronically controlled) 480 horsepower.
A second shift is this: The GT-R--one of the quickest, fastest, most capable, and, arguably, desirable cars in the world--shares a showroom and engineers with the $13,335 Versa. Speed is being pried from the grip of big money. Viva la revolución!
Purists with hineys sore from both the spanking the GT-R just handed their half-million-dollar supercar and the extraction of the latter's monthly payment may balk at the GT-R's appearance, but we say they're wrong. And we'd still want one even if it were shaped like a vole's colon. The wind tunnel says the GT-R's deliberate shape is nearly as slippery as the Teflon Toyota Prius's, and unlike many so-called supercars, it generates meaningful downforce at both ends.
Few Japanese cars in history can be called loin stirring, even if many elicit a pounding heart. This is partly because the Japanese aesthetic celebrates a different kind of sensuality, and we're biased toward a Western definition that values proportions and body lines not far divorced from corseted waists and comely hips. The GT-R exists as a focused instrument of velocity. That's good enough--we'll take form after function.
Surely when the GT-R's numbers and driving impressions hit the wires, appropriate translations of Oh, s*** were muttered in boardrooms from Stuttgart to Maranello and Detroit to Munich. Alternatives to the GT-R fight an uphill battle. In a remarkably broad price range, the Nissan offers a virtuosity-to-dollar ratio that's tough to beat. Some cars on this list do other things better: make you look rich, smell fancy, be expensive, flash fine pedigree papers, etc. Only one of them, the BMW M3, costs less, but it, frankly, isn't even in the same stratosphere. The rest cost a little or - usually - a lot more and put up a better fight before seeing firsthand, after lap one or lap eight, how many LEDs ring the GT-R's taillights.