When the R35-spec Nissan GT-R first appeared in 2007 it stunned the automotive world, notching up easy victories against the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo in comparison tests, and posting incredible Nurburgring lap times. Now Nissan claims it has 'enhanced' the GT-R for 2011, so just how much better has it become? Read on for CAR's review of the new Nissan GT-R.
What's changed on the 2011 Nissan GT-R?
Most people will miss the details that distance 2010 Nissan GT-Rs from the new 2011 models. On the outside, the GT-R gains a reprofiled front bumper with wider grille, enlarged intakes, LED running lights and a claimed downforce improvement of 10%. The rear bumper has been redesigned with a larger diffuser and new vent to aid aerodynamics and underbody cooling, along with larger exhaust tips. There are lighter Rays forged-aluminium wheels riding on a new compound (but same size) Dunlop SP-Sport Maxx tyre.
Inside the GT-R Nissan has fitted darker, classier fillets of metal and carbon to the instrument panel and centre console, and the shift paddles for ther dual-clutch transmission are described as 'featuring magnesium'. Hardly stand-out features, then.
But buyers won’t miss the price: it rises from either £59,945 or £61,245 for the previous Premium or Black Editions, to £69,950 for one model that’s available with comfort or Recaro seats. It’s a big hike, and Nissan puts much of it down to a terrible exchange rate and new-for-2011 20% VAT rate.
Luckily, there’s more to this than just cosmetics and a bigger hole in your wallet. Now hiding under a red engine cover, the 3.8-litre V6's output jumps from 478bhp to 523bhp and economy improves thanks to larger inlet tracts and a revised ECU and exhaust. Plus there are bigger 390mm front brakes, a stiffer front end – a neat carbon strut brace links the strut tops – and re-worked suspension too. More intriguingly, four-wheel drive becomes rear-drive below around 6mph when the steering is cranked over; improves refinement and low-speed manouevrability, says Nissan.
Those tweaks seem pretty minor. Does the GT-R drive any better as a result?
It’s easy to be sceptical, but the changes really do manifest themselves. Yes, most GT-Rs make much more than 478bhp on the dyno, but you’ll feel the 45bhp promised here – lowdown flexibility is the same, as is the way the performance notches up in killer 500rpm increments, but it hits noticeably harder in the mid-range, and the delivery now encourages you to wind the revs right out, where it was previously breathless at the outer limits.
The new Bilstein dampers are also far more compliant, helping the GT-R to soak up bumps where previously it would feel too tightly coiled on British B-roads. Combine that with a brake pedal that’s still reassuringly firm, a chassis that’s heavily rear-biased under acceleration and a darty front end that’s even more positive and you’ve got a deeply satisfying drive. Plus, making the GT-R rear-drive during low-speed manoeuvres eliminates annoying shunts and clunks. Shame it’s still as noisy inside.
Nissan points out that if the 2010 GT-R delivered 911 Turbo performance, then the 2011 car takes the fight to the Turbo S, a progression that Porsche charges £17k for. True. But the GT-R won us over with 911 Turbo shove for M3/RS5 money. I’ve not driven them back-to-back, but I reckon the new Turbo S is faster, and, now, those BMWs and Audis are cheaper too. We still love it, it just makes a little less sense now.
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