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Launch Story

Nissan logo29 Mar 2011

By JAMES STANFORD and MARTON PETTENDY

NISSAN has landed its even quicker new MY11 GT-R in Australia two years after the born-again R35 super-coupe arrived here.

On sale now at selected Nissan dealers in just one specification priced up to $10,000 higher than the benchmark-setting model it replaces, the upgraded all-wheel drive coupe comes with more power and torque, revised suspension, a new-look interior and more standard equipment.

The headline act, however, is claimed 0-100km/h acceleration that is almost half a second quicker than before at an astonishing three seconds dead, maintaining the giant-killing Japanese supercar’s edge over hallowed European competitors that cost twice and in some cases three times as much.

Nissan says it holds a strong order bank for Australia’s single MY11 version, which costs $168,800 plus on-road costs – $6000 more than the outgoing GT-R Premium flagship it effectively replaces and $10,000 more than the discontinued entry-level MY10 GT-R – and is expected to attract 200 customers here this year.

It is just as well because, as with all sportscars, the R35-series GT-R’s popularity has waned significantly since it was released in Australia in March 2009. Nissan has sold just two GT-Rs so far this year and tallied only 77 in 2010 – two-thirds down on the 238 examples it shifted in the new GT-R’s debut year.

Nissan Australia announced a bargain-basement starting price of just $148,800 for the R35 at the Sydney motor show in October 2008, a year after the company’s audacious global chief Carlos Ghosn presented the final production version of his ground-breaking new baby in Tokyo.

Nissan then blamed currency fluctuations for pushing the car’s base price to $155,800 before it had even arrived here, but softened the blow for early adopters by honouring its initial price for the 150-plus Australians who had pre-ordered.

Even with subsequent price increases and the upgraded model’s more substantial price hike, however, the GT-R remains less than half as expensive as Porsche’s iconic 911 Turbo coupe and more than three times more affordable than the top-end supercar yardsticks with which its ballistic performance figures allow it to compete.

Of course, Porsche and Ferrari insist its Nissan badge will prevent any self-respecting European supercar enthusiast that is lucky enough to be in a position to buy a Ferrari 458 Italia ($526,950) or top-shelf 911 GT2 RS ($560,000) from cross-shopping this Japanese upstart with the finest established wares from Maranello or Zuffenhausen.

Of course, Nissan’s GT-R heritage does not stretch back as far as Ferrari’s or Porsche’s, even if Nissan is keen to celebrate this year’s 20th anniversary of the original R32 Skyline GT-R’s historic 1991 Bathurst 1000 and Australian Touring Car Championship double victories, a feat it repeated in 1992.

The fact remains, however, that few others cars – regardless of their pricetag – can match the GT-R’s pace.

For the 2011 model year – in line with Mr Ghosn’s promise to constantly evolve the born-again R35 over its current life cycle – the GT-R comes with a host of engine, suspension, braking, electronic and aerodynamic upgrades.

Visually differentiated primarily by the addition of LED daytime running lights, the MY11 GT-R follows last year’s updated MY10 model, which brought more subtle changes, like better low to mid-range engine response, revised shock absorbers, enhanced cooling and a fresh equipment list.

The headline act for 2011, however, is a 0-100km/h acceleration figure Nissan claims has been lowered to a staggering 3.046 seconds – almost half a second quicker than the MY10’s already-mighty figure.

NissanGT-R center imageBy way of comparison, Ferrari claims its new 458 does the 0-100 sprint in 3.4 seconds, while – at least officially – Porsche says its 911 GT2 is only as quick as the previous GT-R at 3.5 seconds.

That actually makes the 911 Turbo S (3.3 seconds for the PDK-only coupe) Porsche’s quickest car to the national highway limit, even though we’ve recorded an independently verified 3.2-second pass in the latest standard 911 Turbo – which is around the same pace Porsche promises for its upcoming 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid.

Of course, 0-100km/h acceleration is just one measure of performance and Nissan’s tit-for-tat battle with Porsche and its GT2 to set the fastest time at Germany’s famed Nurburgring has been well documented, with both models allegedly recording lap times under the benchmark figure of 7:30 and Porsche’s blistering new 911 GT2 RS said to have set the latest yardstick at just 7:18.

Whatever the actual pecking order in the upper echelons of the performance car world, the latest GT-R achieves quite a feat by delivering the first significant power boost since the R35 went on sale in Japan in December 2007, while reducing average fuel consumption by 3.5 per cent, from 12.5 to 12.0L/100km, and CO2 emissions to 279g/km.

Not many people would have suggested the GT-R needed any more power, but the hand-made VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 has been revised to reap another 33kW and 24Nm.

The revised 3.8-litre unit, with red rocker covers to link it to the R34 GT-R’s inline six, now generates a whopping 390kW (up from 357kW) at the same 6400rpm, matching Porsche’s 911 Turbo S but not the ballistic new 456kW GT2 RS.

Peak torque of 612Nm (up from 588Nm) is now available all the way from 3200rpm to 6000rpm, rather than only at 5200rpm, making the 2011 GT-R engine more flexible, though still less muscular than the most potent version of Porsche’s twin-turbo 3.8-litre flat six (700Nm).

Nissan engineers increased boost pressure, changed the valve timing and air mixture ratio and added larger inlet pipes. There is also a redesigned faster-acting catalyst.

The GR6 six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission remains largely unchanged for the newest GT-R. It still features two wet clutches to ensure pre-selection of the next gear and the ability to change gears so quickly that the engine remains on boost. Like the previous version, the transmission can be controlled using steering wheel shift paddles, which are now made from magnesium.

Nissan has also developed a new ‘Save’ mode for the transmission, which can be selected for more sedate driving during which engine torque is reduced and shift points are raised to avoid unnecessary over-revving and fuel consumption.

Drivers can still select the ‘R’ mode, which orders the transmission to shift faster and harder and the VDC stability control system to be less intrusive, while the GT-R also retains its controversial launch control function, which Nissan refers to only as “starting performance”.

The revised GT-R runs the same ‘Atessa’ all-wheel drive system, which can shoot up to 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels and up to 50 per cent to the front wheels, but some minor control changes have been made.

It still features a rear-mounted independent transaxle, but there is now a two-wheel-drive mode that comes into play below 10km/h and when the steering wheel is turned beyond the half-lock point, aiding low-speed parking.

Nissan has revised the 10kg-lighter (but still relatively heavy) suspension, although the basic architecture – comprising a double wishbone front-end and four-link rear-end – remains.

Nissan has introduced new shock absorbers it claims are more precise and react faster to driver inputs. The dampers are self-adjusting based on data from 11 sensors, or the driver can select from Comfort, Sport or R modes, which provide different pre-set damping rates.

It fitted a rigid, lightweight front suspension strut brace made from carbon-aluminium honeycomb composite to increase body stiffness, revised front suspension geometry to improve turning grip and straight-line stability, and a different rear roll centre to improve tyre grip and feedback.

There is also an additional support member in the passenger side of the instrument panel, which now connects more rigidly with the engine bay, while Nissan says the fitment of body panels on the production line is more accurate and “a higher-precision G sensor is utilised in checking the instrument panel during the vibration testing of each vehicle body”.

Other changes to the front suspension include retuned springs, dampers and anti-roll bar to “improve the vertical load response of the tyres”, while the front caster angle is increased marginally to improve both turn-in grip and straight-line stability.

At the rear, toe performance is modified by lowering the roll centre height to improve cornering grip and increase road feel, while an aluminium free-piston shock absorber is adopted to increase damping force while reducing friction and improving ride comfort.

Upgraded Nissan-developed brake rotors are now thinner but slightly larger in diameter (390mm up front, 380mm at the rear) and are claimed to improve braking force, fade resistance and pedal control, while extending brake rotor life.

Lighter and more rigid new 20-inch forged alloy wheels are fitted, wrapped with stickier-compound Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT tyres with improved sidewall rigidity and a tread pattern that Nissan says enhances straight-line stability on rutted roads. The new wheels measure 9.5 inches wide at the front and 10.5 inches wide at the rear, wearing 255/40-section tyres at the front and 285/35s at the rear.

Unless you are a fan, the exterior changes for the 2011 GT-R are likely to go unnoticed. They include the LED DRLs, new front and rear bumpers, an extended rear diffuser, LED tail-lights and new exhaust outlets.

Nissan says the changes to the bumpers, which include fins at the front, have reduced the car’s aerodynamic drag coefficient from 0.272 to 0.268Cd, while the rear bumper revisions are said to generate 10 per cent more downforce.

Perhaps more important to some GT-R buyers is the addition of two new exterior colours – with Daytona Blue replacing Titanium Grey and Metallic Black replacing Kuro Black.

Nissan has also upgraded the cabin, with the aim of giving it a more elegant and luxurious appearance, including a revised instrument panel with new satellite-navigation display and real carbon-fibre centre cluster finish, matt-black switches, a “velour-like” coating for the GT-R badge on the steering wheel and black-smoked (rather than chromed) climate controls.

There are also new door seals to improve the GT-R’s door-closing sound, extra trim mounting points aimed at eliminating squeaks and front seats that are said to offer improved comfort and support and a larger heated section than before.

Standard equipment includes front, side and curtain airbags, a Bose audio system with 11 speakers, including two sub-woofers, iPod connectivity, a seven-inch colour centre screen with graphics designed by Gran Turismo creators Polyphony, satellite-navigation with 3D view, a 9.36GB music hard-drive, keyless entry and starting, Bluetooth phone connectivity, dual-zone climate-control, leather seat trim with suede inserts and a leather-trimmed dashboard.

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