Business Day - Motor News
Road hooligan learns some slick manners
DRIVING IMPRESSION/ Nissan’s GT-R has received luxury appointments for 2017, but without compromising on performance, writes Lerato Matebese
Metamorphosis, it would seem, continues to be the constant when it comes to Nissan’s GT-R.
Since its launch internationally in 2007 (2009 locally), the model has received incremental updates. Usually at annual intervals, the tweaks meant the model was constantly being improved to keep up with newer entrants.
From the onset, one of the R35 GT-R’s design provisos was to offer a vehicle that would depose some seriously potent sports cars, the Porsche 911 Turbo being a case in point, although at a significantly lower price. It is rumoured that Nissan bought its own 911 Turbo against which to benchmark the GT-R’s performance.
The GT-R’s success means the vehicle has featured in many a performance shootout and has always been regarded as a relative bargain.
However, it lacked the overall refinement of its competitors in that the spool-up of the turbos was so audible it sounded like a heavily modified car. The chittychatter of the transmission as it swapped cogs was a given and road and wind noise were at the forefront of the driving experience rather than mellowed into the background.
In essence, the GT-R felt like a road-legal race car that decimated the opposition, cornered with G-force verve and galloped along the road at an eye-watering rate. To be frank, a decade ago, few cars could hold a candle to Godzilla (as the car is affectionately known to fans).
For 2017, the engineers have given the model the largest number of updates in its history. The front has a new grille and valance, while headlight innards now have daytime running lights. Those forged 20-inch wheels are new and lighter, while the exhaust plumbing is lighter and more audible, thanks to titanium construction.
However, the biggest changes can be found in the interior where there are swathes of leather, more sounddeadening material and plush, thick cut-pile carpets.
There is definitely a more premium, Infiniti-inspired disposition (Nissan’s luxury arm), while shortcut buttons for the infotainment system have also been adopted.
Overall, the model feels more GT than ever, which bodes well for those with a penchant for travelling vast distances comfortably, yet swiftly.
All this refinement does not mean that Godzilla has lost any of its fangs. In fact, this is quite the contrary as it has grown much sharper ones in the form of the updated, hand-built 3.8l V6 twin turbo that now puts out 408kW and 632Nm via a sixspeed dual clutch automatic (now with steering wheelmounted paddles as opposed to the previous models’ steering column-mounted ones).
Nissan claims it can accelerate from 0-100km/h in around 2.9 seconds with the aid of launch control, although testing that figure reveals a time closer to 3.8 seconds, according to some of our colleagues, while the top speed is 315km/h.
All that power is harnessed by an all-wheel drive system that ensures high adhesion through corners, although the 1.7-tonne weight of the car does make its presence felt as it transitions from one side to the other when flung into a series of bends and under hard braking.
At R2.15m, the GT-R is no longer the performance bargain it used to be, with models such as the Porsche 911 GTS costing less at R1.695m and even the Panamera Turbo coming in at R2.4m. In fact, I believe Nissan would do well to offer another performance coupe around the R1.2m mark to bridge that gap.
That said, with drive mode settings in full attack, all notions of the car having lost its edge are banished. Time may have been kind to the GT-R, but the game has firmly moved on. Even so, Godzilla still remains an exhilarating driver’s car, money and weight notwithstanding.