Performance cars are expensive and thus not many really wait for them to be launched in India. But there is an exception, the Nissan GT-R. Showcased at multiple Auto Expos in India, the Japanese supercar killer has a massive fan following, all thanks to its predecessors, the Skyline which movies like the Fast and the Furious have highlighted very well. Nissan has finally decided to launch the GT-R in India and we sample the Godzilla in its natural habitat, the race track.
The first glimpse of the Nissan GT-R in recent times happened at the 2016 Auto Expo when the Japanese car maker made its launch plans official. The same car was used for the drive at India’s only Formula 1 circuit, the BIC. Being a new car with just 200 odd kms on the odo and due to time constraints, we had only 1 flying lap in the car with the in-lap being a cool down lap. The Buddh circuit has some interesting corners along with a 1.2 kms long uphill straight, enough to test the mettle of the flagship Nissan.
DESIGN AND STYLE ;
Right away we see a pretty big departure from last year’s model. The V-motion grille has been enlarged a bit to provide better airflow and engine cooling. Along with the larger size, you’ll notice that the large horizontal splitter in the middle is now finished in matte chrome. On the previous model, the vertical louvers below the splitter were angled, but on the 2017 model, those vertical louvers now sit straight up and down. The black mesh that backs the grille also has an updated pattern. In addition to the updated grille, the LED fog lights have been moved farther to the corners of the fascia and integrated into corner vents. A new front spoiler has been added to increase downforce, while at the same time adding a sportier look to the front end. The vents on the hood appear to be the same, but the bumps in the hood that accent them are more prevalent for this year.
Moving to the sides, there isn’t a whole lot that changed. The profile of the body is pretty much the same, but the side skirts have been extended to help direct airflow around the vehicle. Despite that effect, it gives the car a little more flare on the sides compared to last year’s rather flat side skirt design. A new, vertically oriented vent has also been applied to each rear quarter, in line with the crease that separates the rear quarter from the rear fascia.
Around back, the same decklid and spoiler remain, but the fascia itself has been redesigned. Instead of having square-like impressions above the exhaust outlets, there are now horizontally slanted body lines that point towards the rear diffuser. That rear diffuser is the same as last year’s model. The exhaust tips look to be slanted outward a bit in comparison, and there are new, fully functional vents on the outside edges of the fascia. All told, the 2017 Nissan GT-R has a stance and design that makes it appear wider and is certainly more aggressive than last year’s model.
CABIN AND COMFORT ;
It has normal doors too, and getting in and out of the Nissan GT-R is surprisingly easy for a sportscar. Taller drivers do need to mind their head with the sloping roofline. The seats are electrically adjustable, but ironically their movement is slow. So if you are the type who needs to retract the seat for ingress or egress, this can get frustrating. The seats aren’t as comfortable as they look. Though they are quite accommodating, the backrest bulges out quite bit and can be cumbersome for certain people. The GT-R has seat pads in the back for kids, and while none of the kids I took for a spin could see outside – thanks to the high window line – they knew the car was going very fast. That works for me.I like the fact that the entire instrument console moves along with the steering wheel when adjusting the rake angle, ensuring an unobstructed view of the clocks. The steering has a chunkier design and the instrumentation is now easier to read. I love its typical Japanese tuner-car inspired design – analogue clocks, a fancy carbon-fibre faceplate and a tiny multi-info display. The rev-counter takes centre stage and has a neat OLED shift-light between the 6,500rpm mark and the 7,000rpm red line to guide you with the optimum shift points.
The entire centre console on the Nissan GT-R is now redesigned. Though it is still a multi-layered design, the layout is cleaner. The AC vents, which used to resemble the Micra’s units, have now made way for neater and more upmarket designs. The temperature control on our test car was quite inconsistent though and would sometimes freeze the cabin even with temperatures set to 29°C. Then there’s the floorboard that heats up quite a bit every time the car is driven hard. Previous GT-R users, however, will notice that the cooling efficiency of the drivetrain is now better.You will often find tons of gauges in the cabins of tuner-cars and that has inspired the infotainment system of the Nissan GT-R as well. It measures pressure and temperature of various engine fluids and the boost gauge for the turbocharger and stacks it all into a digital format on the infotainment screen. It throws in additional gauges for lateral G-forces and torque split between the front and rear wheels.
The infotainment system is designed by Polyphony Digital – the blokes behind the PlayStation exclusive Gran Turismo racing simulator. That also explains why the functionality is accurate, but the user interface and graphics are out of sync with today’s age – literally the only letdown in the GT-R’s cabin. Getting an updated infotainment out of Polyphony Digital would probably take a decade. GT Academy gamers know what I’m talking about!
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
Besides the aero tweaks and cosmetic enhancements, the serious business is under the skin and under the bonnet in particular where the existing 3.8-litre V6 VR38DETT engine has been further tweaked with both hardware and software upgrades and is based on the knowledge that Nismo has gained from participating in high octane events such as the Nürburgring 24 hour races. Engine power has been bumped and is now rated at 592 HP and 652 Nm of torque. The biggest change out here relates to the breathing apparatus – by which we mean the turbo chargers. The old hardware has been replace with new high-flow, large diameter turbochargers, which are straight off from the GT3 racing cars. These turbos help improve breathing, while optimised individual ignition timing control for each cylinder and upgraded fuel pump improve combustion in the cylinders.
Besides the engine upgrades, the suspension set-up has been clearly inspired by that of the Nismo racing GT-R. The coil springs and custom-developed Bilstein DampTronic shock absorber in the front and rear suspension are specially calibrated to deliver progressive handling response at the limit. Drive has choice of three suspension modes: Comfort, Normal and R (for circuit applications). Since the users of Nismo GT-R are expected to enjoy track days without the hassle of track set-ups, Nismo has co-developed high grip asymmetric tyres with Dunlop. The Nismo variants are fitted with 255/40 ZRF20 up front and 285/35 ZRF20 in the rear on Nismo designed light alloys.
Nissan decided that we should test this car in an appropriate setting. So, an hour’s drive from Tokyo, we accumulated at the Sodegaura Forest Raceway, located in Sodegaura-shi, Chiba. This is where we were strapped up inside the Nismo GT-R for a few test laps. Given the go ahead sign by the marshal, we blast out of the pits onto a 90-degree right hander in second gear. The acceleration in first gear and part of second is enough for one to realize that the Nismo GT-R is genuinely fast as the numbers on the spec sheet have suggested all along. By the time we completed a full lap, this car reminded me one of the white-knuckle hit of acceleration from a supercar tested by us recently, the McLaren 12C in particular. While there’s plenty of torque in the low rev band to ensure G-forces are felt, there’s a short delay as the GT3 turbos move into action, and even before you have realized what’s you are hit by the ‘G’-forces literally pinning you to the seats.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
Many testers are keen to play down rumours that the GT-R is emotionless to drive – there’s plenty of character here, and the engine sounds fantastic. There’s loads of grip whether the road is tight or open, and you can feel the four-wheel-drive system moving power to the wheels that need it the most.Like most of the car’s systems, the suspension is adjustable from switches on the centre console, and there’s a comfort mode to smooth the ride when you just want to sit on the motorway and cruise. As in some rivals, the GT-R has an adjustable exhaust that can be made quieter at the touch of a button.You can also adjust the speed of the automatic gearbox’s gearshifts. The fastest mode (called R mode), wallops you in the back as you shift up gears with your foot flat on the accelerator. Around town, the gearbox happily shuffles along smoothly, and makes the GT-R feel no more challenging to pootle around in than a Qashqai.
Standard safety features for the 2017 Nissan GT-R include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera.
The Nissan GT-R is well worth the long wait and going by the track experience it is a car that every auto enthusiast should have one parked in their garage. It is a showcase of Nissan’s phenomenal engineering know-how and it is difficult to put it in words just how special this car feels. It’s a car which is brimming with technology yet it offers a pure and unadulterated driving experience. The GT-R will hit our shores by September this year at around Rs 1.5 crores. And in my eyes it’s still a bargain when you consider the sheer range of abilities it possesses.