Car reviews - Nissan - GT-R - 50th Anniversary
Brutal acceleration, characterful exhaust note when on song, relatively comfortable ride, communicative chassis, premium-ish cabin, interesting specification
Room for improvement
Performance wasted on public roads, clunky low-speed gear changes, heavy low-speed steering, dated technologies, cheap ‘50th Anniversary’ bootlid sticker
Nissan makes the iconic GT-R supercar a little more GT-like for its 50th Anniversary
23 Aug 2019
CAN you believe it has been 50 years since the original GT-R was released? Now in its sixth generation, the Nissan’s performance flagship is steeped in history, remaining a head-turner for enthusiasts the world over.
And while the current GT-R, the R35, may be 12 years old, it doesn’t look like it is going to disappear soon. It’s no surprise then that Nissan has given its halo model another model-year update.
With Nissan’s focus on delivering grand-tourer-like acceleration, braking and handling, do these changes make for a better GT-R? We put the new model to test in celebratory 50th Anniversary form to find out.
First drive impressions
Let’s face it. The GT-R’s performance is wasted on public roads. This is a beast that is truly at home on a racetrack or private roads where speed limits do not apply.
But, when you do get the opportunity to give it a real squirt, it’s a visceral and memorable experience.
With a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol engine producing 419kW of power at 6800rpm and 632Nm of torque from 3300-5800rpm, the GT-R is definitely not short on herbs. And you certainly feel them when you bury the right pedal.
While the GT-R is all-wheel drive, the front axle only does its thing when oversteer is about to become a factor, so you really feel like you’re getting pushed in the back under heavy acceleration.
A sub-three-second 0-100km/h sprint time will be enough to scare off most would-be challengers at the traffic lights, but the GT-R’s MY20 update is more about what it’s like to drive when not under duress.
Nissan claims the adoption of ‘Nismo technology’ has resulted in more GT-like driving characteristics for the supercar. So, a little more GT and a little less R, then.
Naturally, it’s hard to truly assess these differences without driving the MY17 and MY20 back-to-back, but the GT-R can certainly be relaxed when commuting at a leisurely pace.
If kept to low engine speeds, it’s surprisingly docile, but push a little harder and into the bent six’s mid-range and the MY20’s upgraded turbochargers (featuring an abradable seal taken from the GT-R GT3 racecar) spool up and unleash hell.
Performance hits its pinnacle when the drivetrain is put into its R mode, at which point things become a little frantic. Well, we’re underselling it a bit.
Not to worry, though, the GT-R’s upgraded Brembo brakes wash away speed with even more precision thanks to their new booster that increases pedal response by requiring less stroke.
At full tilt, the titanium exhaust system (now featuring achingly cool blue-rimmed tips that mimic molten-hot items) finally comes alive. The rapid-fire pops heard when downshifting are seriously addictive.
The GT-R’s six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission plays a key role in its performance story, providing neck-snapping upshifts when throttle inputs are significant.
However, gear changes at low speeds are a little clunky, somewhat diminishing the alleged GT-like improvements.
Same goes for the GT-R’s steering, which remains overwhelmingly heavy at low speeds, making parking and three-point turns that little bit more painful.
But when speed builds, the steering unusually becomes lighter, so much so that you want some of that troublesome heft back.
But we digress, what is more GT-like is the level of ride comfort the GT-R offers. No, we’re not going to pretend like it’s luscious, but the GT-R’s retuned suspension is relatively good when it comes to dealing with speed bumps, potholes and the like.
With three-mode adaptive dampers to play with, the GT-R is not unforgiving on Australia’s low-quality roads, certainly not like its pre-update Nismo flagship was, the upgraded version of which is yet to launch locally.
Of course, you do feel the ever-changing road surfaces beneath, but that’s all a part of the GT-R’s communicative chassis, which keeps you well-informed while carving up corners.
Other MY20 changes are limited to redesigned front foglights – watch out – and the addition of stunning Bayside Blue, based on the R34’s Wangan Blue heritage hue, to the GT-R’s colour palette. The Premium Luxury grade also gets a new interior shade, Urban Grey.
But there is one other significant addition: The 50th Anniversary variant we exclusively tested.
At $209,300 plus on-road costs, the 50th Anniversary costs $9500 more than the Premium Luxury grade it is based upon. The latter is actually now $4800 dearer alongside the entry-level Premium variant ($193,800). The Track Edition has risen by $8000, to $235,000.
For the extra spend, buyers get the choice of three exterior colour combinations (Super Silver with white, Ivory Peal with red, and Bayside Blue with white), with the contrasting hue used for a retro livery that harks back to the GT-R racecar from the 1971 Japan Grand Prix.
There’s also the obligatory ’50th Anniversary’ branding, which is subtle but effective… with the exception of the crude sticker that is found on the bootlid. It would be the first thing we would delete if given the choice.
Inside, the 50th Anniversary gets exclusive two-tone Twilight Grey semi-aniline leather upholstery, which trims its steering wheel, seats, doors, dashboard and most other touchpoints. To our eye, it looks worn from factory, which is… interesting.
Nonetheless, the 50th Anniversary feels properly luxurious to sit inside of. Its sports seats are both comfortable and supportive, while the aforementioned cow hide used is delightfully supple.
The only letdowns are the three huge sheets of black hard plastic used in the second row. Well, them and the GT-R’s out-dated infotainment system… and cabin design. We could go on.
In fact, there’s no ignoring that the R35 has become an automotive dinosaur, with notable new safety technologies, such as autonomous emergency braking and lane-keep assist, unavailable.
But if you judge the GT-R on face value, it is a bonafide supercar and an ‘affordable’ one at that, so does what it doesn’t have really matter?
Make no mistake, the GT-R is the embodiment of a PlayStation supercar… in reality.
Excuse us, we’re now in search of an appropriate racetrack.
The Road to Recovery podcast series
Model release date: 1 August 2019
All car reviews
Click to share