What is it?
For its legion of fans all over the world it’s the latest incarnation of ‘Godzilla’ – a four-wheeled monster that spits fire through its four exhausts and gobbles supercars for breakfast. It’s also seen as the David of the car world capable of slaying Goliaths such as Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari. All this has given it cult status amongst a tribe of enthusiasts who value a car’s brains and brawn more than its badge. But In India, its primary task is to spin a halo around the struggling Nissan brand and to tell you that the same company, which makes the Micras and the Sunnys, can also produce something sensational like the Nissan GT-R.
And to drive home that statement the GT-R was made the star of the Nissan stand at the Delhi Auto Expo last February. But, that was the older car. Headed to a Nissan dealer only in Delhi (there will be just one GT-R outlet in the country to start with) this September, will be the revamped 2017 version.
After nine years, you would have expected an all-new model, but instead Nissan has given the ‘R35’ generation a massive facelift with an upgrade to every bit of the car, both inside and out. Making references to the older GT-R, since it was never launched here, may not put the new car in perspective, but if you’ve seen any of the of grey market cars or the handful of officially imported
GT-Rs you’ll notice that the new car’s signature V-Motion grille is now wider and looks more aggressive. The bigger air intakes allow for better engine cooling but also increase drag, which has been compensated for by making the rest of the characteristically chiselled design more slippery. There’s a new bumper and a more pronounced chin spoiler, which add to the GT-R’s arresting looks. The wider side sills and the large diffuser under the rear bumper are functional tweaks to improve airflow.
There are a raft of changes under the skin as well. The body is now stiffer, especially around the A- and C-pillars. The suspension too has been beefed up with a recalibrated suspension and stiffer mounting points. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any weight savings and the GT-R weighs a substantial 1,752kg. To move that mass, you need a potent engine and here the GT-R’s proven twin-turbo 3.8 V6 with a bump up in power to 570hp seems right for the job. But we have to say we were disappointed by the nominal 20hp power and 6Nm torque increase, especially in a car that’s traditionally thrived on being modded to insane horsepower figures. However, Nissan says it not about how much power but how the power is produced that makes the difference, and to make all those horses even more accessible, the engine gets a completely remapped ECU, new ignition and exhaust systems and higher boost pressure. The GT-R retains the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The packaging constraints of the rear-mounted, transaxle transmission has left no space for Nissan engineers to squeeze in an extra gear.
What's it like to drive?
The cabin is a big leap ahead of the previous car, which was littered with cheap-looking plastics and fiddly buttons. In the new GT-R, the dashboard top and door pads are wrapped in double-stitched leather, there’s carbonfibre treatment on the transmission tunnel and the round, Micra-like air vents are thankfully replaced with a smarter rotary design on the sides and slim, rectangular ones in the centre console. The infotainment screen is now larger and sits nicely at eye level for easy viewing of all the settings and functions, which are easy to access by either jabbing the screen or rotating the jog dialer, which is new on the GT-R.
The steering wheel is now slimmer but still feels good to grip and the paddleshifters have been moved from the steering column to the wheel to make mid-corner gearshifts easier. No doubt, quality levels are a huge step up from the older car but still not a match for the tactile feel and superior textures you get in an equivalent German supercar. The cabin still feels more functional than luxurious.
Easing out of the Sheraton Hotel at Dusseldorf airport, the first thing I notice is the transmission which when left in Normal mode is impressively smooth for a dual-clutch unit. It juggles ratios fairly seamlessly at low speeds, which is a big plus for everyday usability. Ride comfort too has been improved but it’s hard to really test the suspension on smooth autobahns. There is a choppy edge to ride when you encounter the odd, rippled surface and car tends to ‘tramline’ or follow uneven road contours. What’s absolutely phenomenal though is the straight-line stability, and holding speeds above 220kph in pelting rain was shockingly easy and the fantastic all-round visibility (for a supercar) certainly helped.
Nissan has really nailed the steering on the GT-R, which is hard to fault. It’s quick off-centre yet doesn’t feel twitchy at high speeds and weights up in a delightfully progressive way. The secret? It’s an old school, hydraulically assisted unit. Nissan believes that the feel and feedback of electrically assisted steering systems still aren’t good enough for its subliminal supercar.
The derestricted sections of the autobahn made it convenient to whip every one of the GT-R’s 570 horses. Acceleration is, as expected, pretty brutal for a car that’s capable of hitting 100kph from rest in around 3 seconds and small gaps in the heavy traffic were enough to wind the speedo needle past 230kph. The GT-R can easily outrun lesser sportscars, but in terms of ultimate performance the heavy kerb weight doesn’t make it feel manically fast like say a Porsche Turbo.
The engine soundtrack is more a throaty growl than a high-pitched howl and it’s now less of an assault on your eardrums, thanks to a Bose active noise cancellation system and an acoustic shield in the windscreen that mutes the din by a good 10 decibels.
Six laps of the legendary Spa-Francorchamp circuit in typically Spa conditions (wet, foggy, slippery and poor visibility) was a challenge the GT-R took up with aplomb. Even with all the electronic nannies firmly switched on, it was easy to break traction, the torrential conditions easily overwhelming the Dunlop SP Sports which have a tread pattern that works best on dry roads. Though it was easy to breach the relatively low grip levels what came across is how astonishingly fast the GT-R is even in the wet (I crossed 230kph on the Kemmel straight), and how easy it is to drive on the limit and even a smidgen beyond.
Squirt the throttle excessively and the tail twitches, pointing to the rear-biased power delivery. Cross the cornering limit and the front end first washes out before all four wheels progressively slide. The handling is so predictable that it makes novice drivers feel like heroes, especially when they are charging up Eau Rouge, possibly the most legendary corner in Formula 1. In dry conditions, the GT-R’s prodigious amounts of grip would have been a different ball game altogether.
Should I buy one?
Nissan has indicated that the GT-R in India will cost close to a ludicrous Rs 2.5 crore (ex-showroom, Delhi) which instantly begs the question: Would anyone pay a Porsche 911 or Audi R8 money for a Nissan? The truth is not many would, which is why Nissan doesn’t expect to sell more than a handful of GT-Rs every year. But if you’re someone who isn’t interested in brand appeal but wants a machine that is easy to drive astonishingly quickly in all conditions, then few cars come close to the GT-R's wide breadth of talents. It’s not everybody’s supercar but is certainly an everyday supercar.