What Does This Button Do?

By Joe Bruzek  on June 29, 2011

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Below the 2012 Nissan GT-R’s climate controls sit three important toggle switches that unleash the 530-horsepower coupe’s full potential. From left to right, the second and third are easy enough to decipher: An image of a shock absorber sits above the suspension switch, and a spinning tire identifies the toggle for stability and traction systems, though that tire symbol isn't the standard ESC Off symbol, either.
 
The first switch is a little more cryptic. There’s a differential housing with tires and what looks like an electrical schematic protruding from the rear end. What’s more confusing is the toggle’s lower “Save” mode opposite the fun-looking “R” mode that all the toggles have.
 
First impressions may lead you to believe the button controls the power split of the front and rear differentials — a common feature on all-wheel-drive performance cars — but that would be incorrect.

At the mercy of the button is the GT-R’s dual-clutch transmission. The fancy six-speed-automatic is at the rear of the car for optimum weight distribution, further explaining the image choice. Using the toggle switch tailors the transmission’s shifting patterns, engine rev limiter, top speed and power delivery for different driving conditions, in both automatic and paddle-shift manual modes. Long-distance, snowy and slippery conditions are best left to Safe mode, while track performance is handled by R mode. A Normal mode takes care of all the in-betweens. 
 
Using this switch is key to activating the GT-R’s “R mode start function,” more commonly known as launch control. When you want to use launch control, switching on the transmission’s R Mode feels less like entering a specialized transmission setting and more like arming a missile. Riding a missile is a suitable illustration for what R Mode start feels like, as the all-wheel-drive GT-R launches at 4,000 rpm from a standing start up to 60 mph in about 3 seconds.

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Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.  Email Joe


Nissan What Does This Button Do