Can you spot the difference? No? Come on, look really closely. In fact don’t bother, because although this is a thoroughly revised 2012 model year Nissan GT-R, it looks absolutely identical to the 2011 model.
So the Nissan GT-R is still huge and brutal and indisputably Japanese. And now it’s even faster, even more capable and even more entertaining.
Nissan GT-R (2012): what's new?
That word ‘entertaining’ is what makes the GT-R such a Marmite machine. Many people see it has a super-sophisticated four-wheel drive system, a minimum-input/maximum efficiency gearbox and they read the improbable acceleration numbers and lap times and assume this GT-R is all speed and no involvement; a car that demands no skill and offers no reward other than pub bragging rights. More power will never convince that vocal group that the GT-R is a genuine hero car and a scintillating experience.
The cold hard facts are that this 2012 GT-R has been honed in every area: for the first time since its launch the GT-R’s 3.8-litre V6 twin turbo engine has been uprated mechanically rather than just through a reconfigured ECU and exhaust package.
It has revised heads, new sodium-filled valves, a revised intake system – all in the name of more throttle response and greater energy higher up the rev range.
The dampers have new programming, the springs are revised, the gearbox shifts even more cleanly and quickly, the front bulkhead is structurally stiffer... The GT-R even has different spring rates and rear suspension geometry from one side to the other to account for the weight of the driver. It’s a typically meticulous job by the GT-R’s chief engineer Mizuno-san and his team of GT-R obsessives.
What's the new 2012 GT-R like to drive?
Weirdly, when we drove the car on Silverstone’s ‘National’ circuit layout, Nissan wouldn’t divulge how much more power there was under that rippling bonnet. However, they’ve just released the new figures of 542bhp at 6400rpm and 466lb ft at 3200-5800rpm (the 2011 GT-R has 530bhp and 451lb ft).
The price is still unconfirmed but we’d expect a rise from £71,950 to more like £75,000. That’s a lot of money for a Nissan, but not a huge amount for a car that will launch from 0-60mph in under three seconds and hit 199(ish)mph. Nissan will also offer a Track Package for the GT-R, bringing lighter wheels from the SpecV, stiffer suspension, a rear seat delete (plus a new grippy material for the fronts) and a new front carbon splitter that channels air to the brakes and apparently reduces disc temperature by around 100deg under hard use. This is still being ‘investigated’ for the UK market but is almost certain to be offered.
Nissan GT-R: the review bit
We drove a standard 2012 model and it was utterly brilliant. Silverstone is damp and the GT-R is so fast that you want all the security you can get. It delivers stunning grip and traction but boy, it keeps you on your toes. The unique four-wheel drive system that directs power rearwards to a transaxle and then forwards with a separate driveshaft when necessary is set up for agility and on-limit fluidity, but that means it’s more likely to oversteer than understeer in greasy conditions and when 1700+kg is sliding you need to do something constructive.
Freeze now and – just like any other car – you’re in the Armco or the boonies. The GT-R summons huge performance and grip but you’re ultimately in charge of the fury. So be ready.
Fortunately the GT-R gives you all the tools to stay one step ahead of the crazy action. The engine has immense torque and a newfound keenness at the top end, the six-speed gearbox is absolutely seamless at speed (it’s still a bit clunky when shunting around at crawling pace) and the steering is precise and full of feel. It’s also wonderfully adjustable on the brakes so you can set the car up before a corner and drive through it as you please.
Does the 2012 Nissan GT-R feel different enough?
Yes: the engine’s response is cleaner, there’s a new appetite to the way it revs to the limiter, the chassis is more fluid and the four-wheel drive system works with more subtlety and there’s less pitch under braking. These are nuances – at least on this limited first drive – but they’re tangible. It’s more of the same, of course.
The comprehensive 2012 revisions won’t win over the sceptics but let’s not worry about that and instead celebrate an outrageous, wonderful, exciting and truly involving supercar that is as Japanese as raw chicken sashimi and requires just as much respect. I love it.