GT-R grows up with 2017 re­vamp

Lat­est ver­sion of Godzilla gets a power boost, but is also eas­ier to drive

The Star Early Edition - - ROAD TEST - DE­NIS DROPPA

NIS­SAN’S given its GT-R sports coupé a num­ber of en­gine up­grades since the R35 ver­sion was launched back in 2007, but for its lat­est trick it’s gone fur­ther than the oblig­a­tory shot of ex­tra power. This time it’s also taken a more pre­mium turn to make the car ap­peal more to the Porsche 911, BMW M6 and Jaguar F-Type crowd.

Mak­ing it the most grown-up R35 to date, re­fine­ments have been made to make Godzilla less boy-rac­er­ish and eas­ier to drive, with­out blunt­ing that all-im­por­tant spiked fist. Apart from a de­sign tweak both in­side and out, there are vis­ual and au­di­ble re­fine­ments, along with driv­ing-per­for­mance en­hance­ments.

The ex­ter­nal restyle in­volves a new chrome matte fin­ish grille which has been en­larged for bet­ter en­gine cool­ing, while the bon­net’s been re­in­forced to aid high-speed driv­ing sta­bil­ity. The front spoiler lip and front bumpers get a fresh de­sign and the side sills are pushed out to im­prove air flow.

At the back the trade­mark four­ring tail­lights re­main but new body­work helps im­prove air flow and gives the car a wider and more ag­gres­sive look, and there are new side air vents next to the quar­tet of ex­hausts. It’s not all for show; the styling changes cre­ate less drag whilst re­tain­ing the same amount of down­force.

The re­vamped cabin now has a dis­tinctly more up­mar­ket vibe. The dash­board is cov­ered with soft nappa leather and so are the light­ened new car­bon-fi­bre sports seats. It gives the in­te­rior a more grown-up feel and it’s more user-friendly too: a sim­pli­fied in­ter­face with nav­i­ga­tion and au­dio con­trols in­te­grated into the 8-inch touch­screen re­duces the clut­ter of switches.

Each Nis­san GT-R en­gine is built by one of five master crafts­men, with their name en­graved on a plaque. Out­puts in the 3.8-litre V6 twin-tur­bocharged en­gine have been upped to 408kW and 632Nm (pre­vi­ously 397kW and 628Nm), which Nis­san says im­proves midrange ac­cel­er­a­tion and al­lows a sub three-sec­ond 0-100km/h fig­ure. Godzilla’s roar has been up­graded too with new ti­ta­nium ex­hausts and Ac­tive Sound En­hance­ment (ASE). It’s a rorty and en­ter­tain­ing V6 sound with­out be­ing es­pe­cially ear­gas­mic.

It also slices through cor­ners bet­ter thanks to a more rigid sus­pen­sion struc­ture, rid­ing on sticky 20” tyres wrapped around new forged alu­minium wheels. At the same time Nis­san’s en­gi­neer­ing wizards have made the ride smoother.

Trans­mis­sion duty is per­formed by an up­dated 6-speed dual-clutcher with smoother and qui­eter shifts, im­prov­ing the car’s drive­abil­ity and re­fine­ment when driv­ing in traf­fic.

Set all the drive modes to their sporti­est set­tings and this Nis­san gets its groove on with very burly per­for­mance. Our per­for­mance tests at Gerotek gleaned ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures of 0-100km/h in 3.8 sec­onds and a quar­ter-mile of 12 secs.

This turned out to be a lit­tle slower than the re­spec­tive 3.5 sec­onds and 11.5 secs we achieved in the 390kW/612Nm GT-R we tested back in 2012. The dis­crep­ancy could be partly due to the warmer and windier test con­di­tions we ex­pe­ri­enced in the 2017 car. It also may be that the more re­fined gearshift­ing has taken some of the bite off the ac­cel­er­a­tion. Nev­er­the­less the lat­est GT-R is still blind­ingly fast and joins an elite hand­ful of cars that are able to break the four sec­ond bar­rier at Gaut­eng al­ti­tude.

The GT-R’s launch con­trol func­tion makes easy work of achiev­ing these sprint times. Just left-foot brake, wind the revs up un­til they set­tle at around 4000rpm, and re­lease the brake, presto. The launch sys­tem worked per­fectly for sev­eral runs in suc­ces­sion and the car burst off the line with­out bog­ging down or wheel spin­ning. Noth­ing worse than lin­ing up that pesky hot hatch only for elec­tron­ics to fail you at the crit­i­cal mo­ment ... “Um, wait dude my launch con­trol wasn’t work­ing, can we try that again?”

The GT-R’s a heavy car at over 1.7 tons, which doesn’t make it quite the ul­ti­mate cor­ner­ing tool. A Porsche 911 is dis­tinctly sharper and more alert; the front-en­gined Nis­san’s nose doesn’t tip into turns with the same sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion. Af­ter a few hard laps you can also feel the brakes tak­ing strain in the GT-R. But there’s no crit­i­cis­ing the all-wheel drive Nis­san’s grip. Those broad tyres re­ally stick to the road, but the rear-bi­ased han­dling al­lows some en­ter­tain­ing tail play when booted out of tight bends.

And thank you Nis­san for mov­ing the shift pad­dles from the col­umn onto the steer­ing wheel, al­low­ing mid-turn gearchanges with­out hav­ing to take your hands off the wheel. VER­DICT It’s smoother, more civilised, and eas­ier to drive, but the beast still lurks within. It’s still a spiked fist, just wear­ing a nappa leather glove. The price has spiked too, at R2 150 000 for the Pre­mium Edi­tion and R2 250 000 for the Black Edi­tion.

New styling el­e­ments at the front of­fer im­proved air flow.

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