GODZILLA’S EXTRA GRUNT
Strap yourself in for a wild ride aboard the new GT-R, JOSHUA DOWLING writes
IT’S hard to believe the same company that makes humble Nissan Pulsar hatchback also builds one of wildest cars on planet.
The Nissan GT-R, Japan’s fastest supercar to date, is a hero for a generation that can’t even drive yet.
More than 77 million people have “driven” new the car dubbed Godzilla its giant-killing ability — is, if you count test drives on the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo computer game.
The virtual world is as close as most of us will get, given it’s by far the dearest car to wear a Nissan badge — it’s likely start at cool $180,000 when it arrives in local showrooms in September.
It’s either an insanely expensive Nissan or, if you believe the hype, a cut-price Porsche.
initially made bold claims, stating the GT-R was quicker than Porsche around famed Nurburgring, a perilous 21km ribbon of racetrack in mountains northwest of Frankfurt that has become the peak measure performance for auto world.
More than little worried, Porsche was one the first in line to buy sixth-generation GT-R when it turned up in Europe 2007.
And then Porsche dropped a bombshell. After exhaustive tests, the German maker was not able to match the claims made by Nissan about performance of its prized GT-R.
It turned out, as physics might suggest, less power in a heavier car is in fact not faster than $400,000 Porsche 911 Turbo.
Since then, few have matched the Nissan GT-R’s claim for 0-100km/h dash, which has varied from 2.8 seconds to 3.2 seconds depending on the model and how bold Nissan was at time. Such small differences are a big deal in car buff world.
Which is why this GT-R is more important than Nissan’s eight other updates over the past 10 years.
The has come in for one final overhaul before next generation arrives in 2020, or perhaps even later. Nissan’s not saying.
The promise: more power and better performance for its final fling. So we took a satellite timing device to the other side of the world test new model.
ON THE ROAD
Despite the hype, first impressions of new GT-R are underwhelming.
Whether at suburban or freeway speeds it still feels heavy, which is hardly surprising given it weighs almost as much as a Holden Commodore.
The interior is pretty dated, too, even if Nissan has reduced the number of buttons from 27 to 11 and added a higher quality leather option in bid to spruce it up.
The cabin is cramped, the navigation controls are not userfriendly and, despite its high price paddle-shifters on steering wheel are still made of a flimsy plastic, lightweight metal as in other supercars.
Of greater concern, though, the new GT-R initially doesn’t feel fast.
In automatic mode, there are situations when a Toyota Corolla would be more responsive. At 65km/h, floor the throttle to overtake and it takes an age for twin-clutch transmission shuffle its way down
the gears. When it does, it grabs third when second would be better.
To find out just how slow the new GT-R really was, I hook up timing equipment, put three driving modes into “race” position, hold brake, floor the throttle and then let it go. What said next isn’t fit to print. Suffice to say accelerates like a mortar shell.
The engine holds its revs momentarily, I let my foot off the brake and we’re off with a lot of noise and, in case, confusion.
numbers told story: 060km/h in an astonishingly quick 1.7 seconds on the way to 100km/h 3.3 seconds. Just 0.1 seconds slower than Nissan’s current claim.
Beginner’s luck, I think. So I try it again. And again. And again. The first four runs are identical. Incredible.
The fun eventually ends after half a dozen launches: a warning light advises that the car needs rest.
It also burns lot of fossil fuel to deliver this performance — forget the rating label claim, GT-R guzzles mind-boggling 25.0L-50L/100km in extreme driving. We need refill tiny 74L tank after 12 laps of Belgium’s legendary Spa Francorchamps racetrack. But, wow, is the new GT-R fast. Once you get to know it.
Never in my experience has a car been so deceptively quick. Even in normal “auto” mode it still clocks breathtaking 4.5-second time.
With more time behind the wheel, other changes became apparent. The steering feels lighter than before but there’s less wriggle in wheel at high speeds. What impresses most is the accuracy with which I can position big wide beast any corner. The responsiveness of the throttle — when in manual and “race” modes
makes GT-R feel much more nimble than physics ought to allow.
In a corner, nose tucks in instant I ease ever so slightly off the throttle. Midway through a bend, squeezing the pedal forward fraction,
feel car climb out of corner with unearthly grip and power.
The updated engine delivers extra power torque in middle the rev range, where I can put it to good use. What a pity there aren’t more induction exhaust noises delight the senses.
There are other improvements. The heavy-duty gearbox has lost its clunkiness. And suspension is — finally more comfortable over bumps. “Now family members won’t say, ‘I don’t want to ride with you after lunch because your car too harsh’,” the Japanese chief engineer says in a candid moment.
Go figure. The Nissan GT-R is no longer just a driver’s car, it’s also for passengers — if you can hold on for the ride.
The new GT-R is not faster than, or as consistent as, a Porsche 911 Turbo. But it delivers 99 per cent of the enjoyment for less than 50 the price.