GODZILLA’S EX­TRA GRUNT

Strap your­self in for a wild ride aboard the new GT-R, JOSHUA DOWL­ING writes

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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