2015 Nissan GT-R and 2016 Nissan GT-R Nismo - The Latest Evolution

Published on November 27, 2013 in First Drives by Gabriel Gélinas

When the GT-R first arrived on the North American scene in 2008, it caused an incredible shockwave in the high-performance car world by offering power and speed that put it squarely in supercar territory but at a sports car price point. Over the years, the price has gone up significantly while the performance level has crept up incrementally. With the new GT-R, Nissan hits a magic number with the power output of the twin-turbocharged V6 engine now rated at 600 horsepower for the NISMO model.

From a styling standpoint, the GT-R is a large and muscular car that can be qualified as striking, but not beautiful, and the new model features updates such as LED headlamps, equipped with AFS (Adaptive Front Lighting System) that automatically adjust the angle of the light beam according to the speed of the car, as well small cosmetic changes to the tail lamps and the GT-R badge located on the front fenders. Also new is a signature Gold flake amber red pearl color with microscopic gold-tinted glass flakes infused into the paint to create an almost shimmering effect in bright sunlight. Climbing aboard, it is clear that efforts have been made to make the car more upscale with a leather steering wheel and part-leather seats with high-quality stitching but the GT-R is not on the same level as Porsches or Audis as far as refinement is concerned.

Driving the GT-R on public roads in Japan, or anywhere else for that matter, can be an exercise in frustration because the car is so capable and, much like all performance cars of this caliber, it’s full potential can never be truly exploited on public roads. The steering feel is excellent and the brakes are incredibly strong with superb pedal feel. To make the car more comfortable for everyday use, suspension stroke has been increased by fifty percent and setting the dampers to comfort mode dramatically improves the ride quality. The dual-clutch gearbox can be controlled in full-automatic mode or by way of the steering column-mounted paddle shifters but the shift speed does not feel as immediate as in a Porsche or Audi.

To really push this car’s performance envelope, you need some track time which we able to get at the wheel of the NISMO variant. Compared to the base GT-R, the NISMO version gets advanced aerodynamic modifications that can generate 100 kilos of downforce at 300 kilometers per hour. It’s bodyshell is more rigid thanks to adhesive bonding in addition to spot welding, the suspension features custom-developed Bilstein dampers as well as a hollow 17.3 millimeter rear anti-roll bar and it also gets specifically-engineered Dunlop tires. It all adds up to some serious stuff that makes the car is immensely capable on the track but it can’t quite compensate for the fact that the GT-R remains a heavy car with a curb weight of 1750 kilos for the base car and 1720 kilos for the NISMO variant. On the short Sodegaura Forest Raceway, the car was very quick indeed but the weight could really be felt in a quick right-left transition featuring a slight elevation change that upset the car’s balance and got the all-wheel drive system clawing for traction. This slight drama probably would not have occurred in a lighter car and highlighted the fact that, for all it’s technical prowess, the GT-R is still a heavy beast and that some weight-shedding would have been welcome. Having said that, the Brembo-supplied brakes performed admirably with massive deceleration, the steering always felt just right and the power came on strong on corner exits but, as the GT-R is turbocharged, you don’t get the aural pleasure of the engine’s war cry at full song as the sound is all induction noise which isn’t all that pleasing.

The GT-R will be available in Canada in the first quarter of 2014 as a 2015 model with the GT-R NISMO coming online towards the end of 2014 as a 2016 model year car. No pricing information was shared as we are still some time away from the Canadian market launch but we can expect pricing to be comparable to the current model, which retails at 106,930 dollars for the Premium model and 116,565 dollars for the Black Edition.

The Nissan GT-R is an icon in it’s homeland and it is, now as before, a perfect demonstration of what can be achieved when Japanese engineers are let loose. Performance-wise, it is nothing short of astonishing and yet it still fails to stir the soul in the way that a Porsche or a Ferrari can. In many ways, the GT-R is a laser-focused and very sharp weapon that truly makes it a “digital” sports car. While it may be incredibly powerful and lightning quick, it seems to live in a parallel universe where logic trumps emotion every time which makes it more of a high-performance “machine” than a high-performance car.

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