Almost a decade after its launch, Nissan’s asphalt-shredding GT-R has been given its most comprehensive revision yet. Early cars – limited to just 479bhp – were far from faithful to their ‘GT prefix, with low-speed awkwardness, high-speed noise and a brittle ride among the compromises made to fulfil the car’s shock and awe performance mandate. But with such responsibilities now ceded to the much pricier GT-R Nismo and, to a lesser extent, the ‘Nismo-lite’ Track Edition, Nissan claims the standard GT-R has finally been ushered into true GT territory. Yet to the plusher interior, gentler ride, added refinement and friendlier gearbox mapping, there’s an almost obligatory power hike for the familiar 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, with 20 extra horses taking the latest total to 562bhp. An exterior facelift brings less drag, more downforce and better cooling, while structural enhancements boost stiffness. This is as thorough an update as they come.
The newly angular nose and tail and fresh Y-spoke 20in Rays alloy wheels bring yet more aggression to Godzilla’s brutish form. Slip inside, though, and there’s now lots of nappa leather and, with the help of a new rotary dial, the button count has been slashed from 27 to 11. The dial supplements the new touchscreen (an inch larger at 8.0in), although navigating the menus can be slow and unintuitive, and the sat-nav graphics are a bit basic and hesitant. Our top-spec Prestige test car is differentiated from the cheaper Pure (£79,995) and Recaro (£81,995) trims by upholstery alone. Its reprofiled front seats are soft-surfaced, comfy, supportive and electrically adjustable, and the steering wheel’s manual reach and rake manipulation is effective, if fiddly. The shift paddles are now attached to the steering wheel, not the column.
A new neighbourly function claims to hush start-up exhaust clamour by 10dB, although we struggled to notice. However, it’s hard to miss the newly improved low-speed manners. There’s still a little gear gnashing and differential fizz when manoeuvring, but less than there once was, and throttle modulation and upshift smoothness in first and second are no longer sore points. The steering is usefully lighter in town, too. Likewise, motorway miles are now quite bearable. Improved sound deadening complements the noise-cancelling speaker tech introduced in 2014, with road noise only an issue on coarse surfaces.
But all this sophistication is for nought if the GT-R doesn’t still distort your grasp of time and space, and when allowed to stretch its legs on the road, this 2017 model delivers such mania in spades. It offers a relentless surge that fills the space between 2500rpm and the 7000rpm limiter like poured concrete in a mobster’s boots.
The soundtrack still doesn’t quite match the acceleration, but it’s at once silky and forceful. The softest of the three damper modes is now genuinely supple over all but the crustiest B-roads and still allows super-sharp turn-in and flat cornering. Even the suspension’s middle setting is largely tenable, although you’ll rarely need it on the road, and the steering’s weight and feedback are nicely configured.
A stint on track at Thruxton revealed depths of communication and engagement that belie its more point-and-shoot on-road character. The feelsome brakes also work efficiently, even when adjusting corner approach angles.
A series of laps in the 21kg lighter Track Edition – which costs £10,000 more than the Recaro and gets forged Rays that widen the front track, a carbonfibre spoiler, stiffer bodywork and Nismo-honed suspension -revealed a nimbler, keener, even more confidence-inspiring iteration.
But having eradicated its most nigglesome foibles in favour of civility, the standard GT-R is now more recoin mend able than ever. Despite a creeping price, the GT-R is still a bargain. It will still (unofficially) hit 60mph in less than three seconds, still maul any given corner on the road and still deliver track day thrills – except now it won’t furrow your brow doing the daily stuff.