Car reviews - Nissan - GT-R - Nismo
Stonking performance, handling, braking and stability; comparative value for money, roomy and inviting cabin, practical boot, unique charm and personality
Room for improvement
Borderline punishing ride, clunky low-speed drivetrain, some equipment anomalies like no DAB+ radio or active cruise control
For the outlay there’s nothing in the world like a Nissan GT-R Nismo
15 Mar 2019
PEOPLE who long for the ultimate in everything now have another choice in the form of the GT-R Nismo. As the Nissan Motorsport name suggests, this is a razor-sharp, track-focused edition of the world-famous Godzilla, catapulting an already incredible sportscar into a rarefied stratosphere of acceleration, handling and grip. From this perspective, even the $300K price tag doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Price and equipment
Eleven years young, the Nissan R35 GT-R stands tall not only as Japan’s sole alternative to European 2+2 supercars, but also alone as the only vehicle of its type in production.
With a blue-blooded lineage stretching 60 years to the earliest Prince Skylines, there is nothing quite like Godzilla, and for that the world ought to be glad it even exists.
More than two years ago, a more visceral version was introduced, flying the Nissan Motorsport (Nismo) flag as the R35 flagship. The initial allotment sold out in weeks, too, despite a $299,000 (plus on-roads) price tag compared to the $189k Premium.
For the MY18 model… nothing’s changed except that the GT-R Nismo is now more freely available. Which isn’t always a guaranteed thing when we’re talking about a hand-built sports coupe with many unique parts compared to the garden-variety Premium, Premium Luxury and Track Edition, which continue as before.
Key changes include a highly modified version of the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine; boasting 441kW of power and 652Nm of torque, it sends an additional 22kW and 26Nm respectively to all four wheels (but mainly the rears) via a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. From standstill, the 315km/h Japanese supercar coupe is capable of hitting 100km/h in just 2.7 seconds. To put that into context, that’s the same as a Porsche 911 GT2 RS from $645,400.
Some 20mm shorter and with a 10mm wider front track thanks to a pair of fatter front wheels, the GT-R Nismo keeps all that thrust in check with bespoke suspension featuring custom spring, damper and stabiliser settings as well as stronger body construction courtesy of better bonding construction.
It also brings bigger Brembo brakes to the table, comprising of 390mm cross-drilled discs with six-piston front callipers and 380mm cross-drilled rotors with four-pot rear stoppers, while weight slides by 26kg to 1739kg, thanks to carbon-fibre for the bumpers, boot lid, side skirts and (fixed) rear spoiler. Oh, and the Dunlop tyres (255/40ZRF20 97Y NR1 under the nose and 285/35ZRF20 100Y NR1 out back) are filled with nitrogen.
Finally, the front seats are fixed-back carbon-fibre Recaros, Alcantara swathes the dash, door and wheel, and there’s Nismo-specific instrument dials, gear lever and grey paint if the black, white, silver and red aren’t to your liking. Note that choosing anything other than red incurs a premium of between $1750 and $5000.
It’s worth remembering that the GT-R range in general underwent a significant facelift during 2016, ushering in a stiffer body, greater performance, a suppler suspension, improved aerodynamics, better engine cooling properties, a revised nose cone, bonnet and bumpers; a redesigned body kit, an all-new dashboard with 16 fewer buttons (now there’s just 11!), and a more luxurious and quieter cabin offering extra-soft surfaces, a larger central touchscreen, updated multimedia, a restyled climate control system and repositioned paddle-shifters – now on the wheel rather than steering column.
Nissan’s been constantly fettling its supercar since 2007, and the changes do make today’s GT-R the best yet. The question is, is the Nismo $11kK better than the standard car?
Once upon a time, you’d jump into a Nissan GT-R and feel intimidated by the sheer haphazardness of the switchgear placement, oddball electronic displays and laughably outmoded multimedia system.
The complete interior overhaul sees order instead of chaos – from the intuitive and simple console arrangement with its logical climate control system and touchscreen display, to the handsome instrument layout. Still very GT-R, just less bizarre.
Indeed, a sort of normalisation has crept in that may or may not please purists. The everyday operational stuff now works brilliantly, so there are no complaints about the driving position (the binnacle still raises and drops with the column), instrumentation legibility, cabin ventilation, contemporary multimedia performance, storage options, overall practicality and all-round vision – aided by those angular upright A-pillars that leave you in no doubt as to what you’re ensconced in. The boot’s pretty handy too.
Some observers might find the Nismo’s blanketing Alcantara treatment as overkill, but the quality and craftsmanship are first class. There’s an air of solidity and purpose to the cabin that was missing from before, building on the interior’s inherent spaciousness and practicality, while those fixed Recaro buckets certainly do hold even skinny posteriors in place.
And, being a Nismo, there’s no escaping the racecar soundtrack piping through like a sort of quadrophonic narrative each time the accelerator pedal is pushed; along with the thinly padded seating, the noise provides an intimate connection to the road as well as a constant reminder that speed and handling are the cornerstones of this particular GT-R. Just as in a 911 GT2. but at less than half the price.
Hallelujah, too, for the improved paddle-shifter location. Now the driver no longer has to second-guess where they are.
Being a decade-old machine, there’s no autonomous emergency braking, let alone adaptive cruise control; and no digital radio is a bit of a disappointment nowadays.
Finally, a word about the rear accommodation. You need to be short, partial to road and exhaust bellow and up for a buttock pummelling. But at least you’ll be able to watch all that dramatic performance unfold in front of you.
Engine and transmission
What can we say about the GT-R Nismo’s performance that hasn’t been described before?
Compared to the MY08 original, this one pumps out an extra 84kW and 64Nm; combined with the 26kg shed, beefed-up body, slammed suspension, wider tracks and fatter rubber, this goes from storming to cyclonic. It’s astounding how forceful the performance is, with speed piling on relentlessly as you are literally flung towards the horizon in a micro-suede cocoon. Point A to point B is that instantaneous.
Frankly, an endless wide-open road or your favourite racetrack is what this car is all about, since it gels so seamlessly as it soars well north of 200km/h, with that twin-turbo still churning out more of everything. Perhaps not as sonically alluring as you might expect, the seduction is all in the numbers this Nismo is capable of conjuring – ones that record how neck-snappingly immediate the stopping power is as well as the acceleration past the triple-ton.
Yet pottering about town, in the mandatory Comfort mode if you don’t want your coccyx to splinter, there’s still enough pussy cat in this Nissan for it to be a useable commuter. Yes, that old GT-R transmission shunt still rears its clunky head from time to time, and it seems dreadfully wasteful using a fraction of the available oomph on tap, but this galaxy-class Starship can cruise along at impulse speeds.
Fuel consumption is hardly the Nismo’s priority, as our 17.0L/100km average confirmed. The official figure is 11.7L/100km.
Ride and handling
Big hefty turning circle, clunky AWD system and a dual-clutch transmission that’s prone to snatch and shunt dilute any low-speed manoeuvring joy that the Nismo may offer. Everywhere else this thing blitzes.
Armed with a double-wishbone front end and multi-link rear, the greatest Nissan slices through corners wet or dry with astonishing composure and ease, backed up by ninja-reflex steering precision and feel. Confidence inspiring even in driving rain, few cars feel as four-square flat to the surface as the GT-R does gliding between bends.
In fact, the way this heavy beast seems to shed its bulk as speeds rise is almost supernatural, no doubt an upshot of a chassis ensemble that includes the traction and yaw-based ATTESSA AWD system with mechanical limited-slip diff that apportions between 50 and 100 per cent of drive to the back end. Aluminium as well as those carbon-fibre body panels, along with an engine mounted aft of the front axle (for a 53/47 front-to-rear weight distribution), also do their bit to make this elephant skate like an Olympian.
The price to pay for such rooted handling and roadholding is teeth-gnashing ride over less-than-smooth suraces (as we said, comfort mode is essential), but at least the GT-R offers the choice. Racing along smooth surfaces, with Race mode and dampers at their firmest setting, all that extraordinary control is all that’s important.
Safety and servicing
The Nissan GT-R has not undergone an ANCAP crash test, so it does not have a safety rating.
The warranty period is for three-years/100,000 kilometres, with service intervals fixed at every six months or 15,000km. Currently, as per all Nissans, there is no capped-price servicing.
To be honest, we’d buy the slightly softer, agreeably smoother and $110K-cheaper regular GT-R and enjoy its incredibly wide bandwidth of abilities while pocketing the savings. As we said, there’s nothing else like it anywhere.
Yet the Nismo does deliver the ultimate expression of that iconic sports car, and in its own unique way, represents amazing value considering just how much performance and handling are on offer.
Whichever one you choose, the GT-R remains an incredible – and somewhat timeless – machine. We’re just grateful to Nissan that it exists. Even nearly a dozen years on.
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