Model tested: Recaro Price: £81,995 Power: 562bhp Torque: 470lb ft 0-60mph: 3.4sec 30-70mph in fourth: 6.0sec Fuel economy: 21.6mpg C02 emissions: 275g/km
In the press blurb for the latest incarnation of the GT-R, Nissan confidently claims a place for its cultish product on the “cutting edge of the premium sports car sector” earned since its launch way back in 2007. A more accurate version of that sentence, though, would replace the word ‘since’ with ‘at’.
At its launch, very nearly a decade ago, the GT-R arguably set the performance benchmark for its price point – a price point substantially lower than the Porsche 911 Turbo.
Devastatingly fast it has undeniably remained on the top, and it apparently continues to loom large in the imagination of anyone under the age of 35. Yet in so many ways other than outright speed, the cutting edge of the premium sports car segment has long since moved out of the reach of the GT-R, even as Nissan blithely inflated its list price to suggest parity with markedly superior opposition.
And so as the GT-R ages, its brief subtly changes. Added comfort, luxuriousness and refinement are among the priorities of the comprehensive 2017-model-year update, which comes after the car’s last major facelift in 2011. Styling has been tweaked, the interior upgraded, refinement measures improved, the chassis revised and – inevitably – peakpower from the twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 increased. Nissan calls them the most significant alterations since the car’s launch – and they will need to be to justify the breadth of the 2017 line-up.
Three conventional trim grades will be offered: Pure, Recaro and Prestige, starting from £79,995. But the GT-R will also be available as a Track Edition engineered by Nismo, plus a distinct Nismo model costing £149,995. Which means it’s expected to incorporate everything from a 911 Carrera to the McLaren 570S as rivals. We drove the £81,995 Recaro version to test its new mettle.
DESIGN AND ENGINEERING 4/5
The lookis altered, but don’t expect a layman to necessarily spot the difference. There’s a new bumper, bonnet, daytime running lights and grille – hardly a bold reimagining of the mighty Godzilla. Instead, Nissan insists that most changes are less about improving the car’s thickset looks than they are enhancing its aerodynamic rigour. Thus, downforce, drag reduction and cooling airflow are variously cited as the reasons for the front spoiler extending by a few millimetres, the sills being reshaped and the rear bumper swapped for the one deployed on the previous-generation Nismo. So the latest GT-R cuts through the air marginally more cleanly and soothes its components slightly more efficiently – but enters the eyeballs in more or less the same way.
That’s probably fine, though, because you’re likely either to buy into the Nissan’s idiosyncratic looks or dislike them to the extent that it would take more than a facelift to fix them. Of greater importance than the way it (still) looks are the structural improvements made in the pursuit of greater rigidity. Reinforcements in the A-pillar and C-pillar areas are said to result in better and more uniform stiffness and are accompanied by newly valved Bilstein adaptive dampers plus tougher suspension mounts. The steering remains by speed-sensitive, hydraulically assisted rack and pinion, but Nissan claims for it sharper responses and reduced effort at lower speeds.
Serious effort, too, has been devoted to exorcising the din that typically blights long journeys in the GT-R. The quality of the sound deadening behind the dashboard has been improved, the ‘booming’ exhaust resonance has been electronically damped and the car employs a noise cancelling system to mask unwanted sounds in the cabin.
The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission has also been revised in the interests of quietness. Changes to the control software are intended to make shifts more precise, smoothing out the previously cranky low-speed changes and decreasing the whine that tended to emanate from between the rear wheels.
The ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system fed by that gearbox remains the same, sending drive to the rear wheels only until circumstances dictate otherwise, but the power source itself – the hand-assembled 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 – gets higher boost pressure and a new ignition system that more accurately controls timing at each cylinder for a more efficient fuel burn. Together with a new titanium exhaust, the engine now delivers 562bhp – a 20bhp hike – as well as marginally increased peak torque over a broader rev range.