Car reviews - Nissan - GT-R - range
Seamless performance, fast-changing transmission, handling, brakes, steering, improved economy, driver comfort
Room for improvement
Road noise, dash-top reflections, interior details, busy steering, door handles
23 Mar 2012
NISSAN broke the supercar mould with its awesome all-wheel-drive R32 series GT-R – lovingly nicknamed Godzilla for its other-worldly performance – and the 2012 version of the fourth-generation R35 model takes the concept one step further.
As the auto industry in general rewrites old conventions – like the amount of power you can get out of a drop of petrol and the benchmark standards of power per litre of engine size – so Nissan has stretched the envelope with the latest GT-R, extracting more power, more torque, across a wider range, yet using less petrol and emitting fewer CO2.
At the same time, the engineers have further refined the suspension so that it not only handles better, but has a ride that belies its racetrack breeding and handling.
The result is a car that we already knew to be mighty, but which is now mightier still.
There has been much talk about the GT-R’s latest claimed 0-100km/h acceleration time of a mere 2.8 seconds – a couple of tenths faster than the previous version and quicker than Porsche’s top-dog 911 Turbo S.
There’s good reason to question the veracity of that claim, which well-equipped testers around the world have failed to verify, and an argument that Porsche has always been a bit conservative with its claims, but that hardly matters.
What really matters is that the GT-R goes like a cut cat and does it with an unexpected degree of poise, planting its incredible 404kW of power and 628Nm of torque to the ground without any wheelspin or undue electronic intervention and hurtling down the road without fuss, accompanied by a manly exhaust roar as you snap-snap-snap through the gears.
You don’t even need to take the twin-turbo V6 to the redline every time because the solid surge of acceleration is available over such a wide rev band that short-shifting rewards you and feels smoother without losing much, if anything, in terms of time getting to the speed limit.
Even it you don’t match Nissan’s claim, you can be confident you’re accelerating faster than a V8 Supercar without even straining, while sitting comfortably and listening to your favourite music. It is extraordinary.
In terms of handling, the all-paw GT-R has tremendous grip and is incredibly composed, upset only by the most inconvenient of mid-corner bumps when leaning hard on the edge, and even then really only with the electronically adjustable suspension set (unnecessarily) on the hardest setting.
On the road, we mostly set the suspension of fully soft, which provided a more comfortable ride and greater capacity to absorb those mid-corner bumps while still providing more lateral grip than you should ever need in public – even on the Targa Tasmania roads we were lucky enough to be on.
Thankfully, Nissan provided plenty of time to experience the limits of the GT-R in the more responsible environment of a race circuit – the deceptively tricky Symmons Plains just out of Launceston.
Even the most capable of road cars can feel a little tame on a track, but the GT-R felt right at home with the suspension set on hard, even with the stability control turned off.
Those big new Dunlops grab the bitumen hard and, even when you break traction, it was never anything less than controlled and balanced – a touch of initial understeer on turn-in and easily controlled power-oversteer coming out as you feed in the wall of power.
The power quickly sends the speedo racing on the straights, but those massive brakes hauled the big coupe down to cornering speed in short order, and without troublesome squirming and they pressed the tyres into the ground.
Despite possessing such enormous cornering capacity, the GT-R rides really well on all types of surface. Even with the suspension on ‘hard’, there’s no risk of losing your fillings or crushing your kidneys. In fact, a day at the wheel proved to be very comfortable.
The only downside we noted was a lot of road noise, which is hardly unexpected from such wide tyres on a car with a tight suspension, firm joints and as little sound-deadening as possible.
Those same characteristics were probably responsible for the car moving around a lot with small changes in the road that you wouldn’t notice in a regular vehicle, making it feel a bit jiggly or busy. It’s a car you need to hold onto and stay focussed on the road.
We had no complaints with the steering, though, which always felt well-weighted and communicative, and we loved snapping through the smooth-changing dual-clutch transmission or letting it take care of the changes automatically.
Our biggest issue was with the dashboard, which throws huge reflections onto the windscreen and leaves you struggling to take in the road detail necessary when driving any car, let alone one as quick as this.
We could also criticise the frankly silly exterior door handles, random bits of carbon-fibre inside and poor placement of the window buttons and interior door handles.
However, this car is all about the driving experience and for that it is a lot of car for the $170,000 asking price. It might be a bit more expensive than before, but it still costs less than half the price of a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Now that’s a decision we’d like to have to make.
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