I’ll be honest – I like the GT-R, but not to the same extent as its vast legion of die-hard fans; the type who are simply besotted by Nissan’s icon. In my head, this Japanese ‘supercar’ has always been more of a sportscar, so when Shapur asked me to drive it this month, I was, according to him, merely ‘happy’, and not as bouncing-off-the-walls crazy as I should’ve been. “Supercar slayer, tuner’s muse, Japanese precision – GODZILLAAAAA!” he screamed, in an impassioned bid to get me on board with just how iconic this car really is.
“Maybe it’s not the car; maybe it’s me,” I thought to myself, it would be foolish not to give it a go. But for the GT-R to win me over, I need to do this right. I will drive it at night when the roads are free and, hopefully, the neon glow of the city lights will enlighten me to the mystical ways of this ballistic Nissan.
The GT-R was unveiled in 2007 as the successor to the legendary Skyline GT-R that ended production in 2002. In a nod to its legacy, it uses the code ‘R35’ – a carry-forward of the last Skyline’s R34 code, even though it no longer bears the Skyline name. The car I’m going to drive is the facelifted 2017 GT-R. After nearly a decade, you’d expect Nissan to have an all-new model, but the car has been updated regularly over the years, and this one is the biggest yet, with numerous cosmetic and technical improvements. I’m looking forward to seeing it in the flesh as the handful of GT-Rs that were either brought in through the grey market or officially imported are rarely ever seen out on the road.
Meet and Greet
I reach the dealership and there it is, sitting on the delivery ramp in blood red; nice! The car now wears Nissan’s new design signature – the ‘V-motion’ grille – in a matte finish. The grille opening itself is now larger to aid cooling, and though this does increase drag, the car has other tweaks to its shape to retain its 0.26 drag coefficient. The hood has been reinforced for better high-speed stability, and now features more pronounced lines, though the twin air intake nostrils are still there. The front bumper is new with a more prominent chin spoiler that really makes the car look more aggressive. The side sills are pushed out to aid airflow and at the rear, next to the massive exhausts, are functional air vents. Of course, this is a GT-R, so the hallmark four-ring tail-lights are there to send chills down the spines of everyone it overtakes.
Overall the car seems wider, lower and meaner. Which begs the question – how am I going to get it off that ramp? A lengthy exercise involving a few planks and flattened cardboard boxes later, it still couldn’t escape scraping its chin. Mumbai’s roads aren’t going to be kind to it. Finally onto the road now. I sit inside for a while to take it all in. The interiors are new and a big leap over the original, 2007 car. The dash top and door pads are covered with double-stitched leather, there’s a carbon-fibre treatment on the transmission tunnel, and a larger touchscreen infotainment system with a new jog dial controller. And in true Japanese, techie-obsessed fashion, the touchscreen displays not just music and navigation screens, but also various real-time performance readouts like oil pressure, boost, various G-force numbers, throttle position and tons more. The interiors, though, do have some decidedly old-feeling bits, like reflector-covered bulbs in the doors and a simple Micra-like key fob. The overall layout and styling does show its age, but on the contrary, if retro’s your thing, then it actually looks very cool.
It’s still only dusk, the roads are still crowded and I’m thanking the GT-R’s tall seating position and good all-round visibility (by sportscar standards, of course). My path is littered with speed breakers and potholes, but I manage to get through unscathed. Not bad; I expected the worst. Then again, this is no SUV, so every speed breaker has to be crossed diagonally it if you want to spare the underside. I finally break away from the grind and head off into the city. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission swaps cogs smoothly and you can barely notice a shift; see, this isn’t an edgy, high-strung supercar at all! But it isn’t always quick to shift and I find myself reaching for the paddles, which have now moved from the steering column to behind the wheel. The suspension, is not as bone-jarring like most supercars but it does rumble over uneven surfaces, setting the dampers to ‘Comfort’ mode does alleviate this to an extent.
Everywhere I go heads turn, people scream, wave, smile, take pictures, and even get off their bikes to get a better shot when I stop at the lights. For better or worse, quite a few kids scream “Ferrari! Ferrari!” And that’s exactly why Nissan is launching this car. Very few Indians are aware that the Japanese carmaker is even capable of building such an outrageous machine, and the brand could really do with an image boost over here.
Taking the GT-R round some bends, the steering is really beginning to impress me. The feel and weight are simply super at any speed. It’s the old-school hydraulic unit retained from the earlier car, but elsewhere there are a host of other changes. The body has been stiffened and the suspension has also been recalibrated, with stiffer mounting points. These updates have added bulk and, with no real weight-reduction attempts, the GT-R tips the scales at a heavy 1,752kg. It might pay a small price in a sprint, but makes up for that with a more planted feel. The four-wheel drive has a rearward bias, but can vary the amount of power it delivers to the front wheels. The car has prodigious grip and very predictable handling that’ll make a hero out of anyone. Push it harder and the front begins to run wide, but even a novice like me can rein it in easily.
Night has finally descended; time for our shoot and a chance to let the motor sing! For 2017, the GT-R’s twin-turbo 3.8 litre V6 gets a small bump in power to 570hp and 637Nm of torque. The climactic chapter in the legend of the GT-R is this engine. Nissan builds it like it builds its race engines – by hand, by one of just five ‘Takumi’ or master craftsmen. Ours was built by Tsunemi Ooyama, God bless him. It’s delightful – the engine just feeds in power and more power, and the acceleration is head-spinningly fast. In its time, the GT-R had built a reputation as a supercar slayer with some of the quickest acceleration times. This 2017 car is quick, no doubt, doing the dash to 100kph in a still-ballistic sub-three seconds, but frankly, today’s supercars have simply gotten quicker. The GT-R is finally paying the price for its weight. The pipes do growl, but the overall soundtrack is more of a wail – typically Japanese, I guess – and you can hear the twin-turbos whine.
Hand-built 3.8L V6 pumps out 570hp and sings like a high-pitched tenor.
Do we test the navigation, the touchscreen and the AC effectiveness? Not really. I’m sure they all work and we’ll save that for a full road test. But the Bose sound system is great, and comes with active noise cancelling to negate wind and road noise. Oh, what we do test are the rear seats, which can pack two adults in like sardines (I get no complaints from my eager volunteers) and the boot is large enough for your weekend luggage too.
The GT-R has always been about supercar killing performance and price too. However at Rs 1.99 crore (ex showroom Delhi) it’s pretty expensive when looked at against a Carrera or R8. But it does have its own appeal in its unbelievable balance, relentless power delivery and techno feel and Nissan are only looking at selling a handful of this brand builder.
A Hard Day’s Night
We wrap up our shoot at 5am, and I ponder my time with this car. Do I get it finally? I want to say yes, I really do, but the answer is no. Perhaps it’s just me, or maybe this just isn’t the age for the GT-R to win over a new legion of fans. There are many modern competitors that have moved the game forward. The GT-R isn’t the supercar slayer it once was, but it’s still one heck of a sportscar. And gosh I really did enjoy this car – I had a ball, grinned like a little kid, and wanted more, you would expect this from the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the world, but this is a Nissan. So if you’re the type that loves the story of the underdog, you’ll love the GT-R and should you be lucky enough to find yourself in the market for a supercar, I suggest you give this one a close look.