It’s fitting that sprinter Usain Bolt is the ambassador for the Nissan GT-R: both the Olympic gold medalist and Nissan’s hero are guilty of eating too many chicken nuggets (at least Bolt admits it) and are blindingly fast. World beaters? Bolt yes, but the GT-R? Well, that depends…
What’s new about the MY13 GT-R?
An extra layer taken off its paint, the windscreen is now 0.5g lighter and it has a new ‘Race Sport Plus-Plus-Plus’ mode. No… In all seriousness, the incremental changes since the supercar’s 2009 release have been scoffed, but look at the 2013 GT-R against the original version of the current R35 model and the value of the constant refining and honing of this cut-price supercar is evident. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 now has 542bhp, matching last year’s figure but 69bhp up on its 2009 spec. For MY13, it has new fuel injectors, changes to the turbochargers plus a new ECU map for crisper throttle response. The suspension has been revised for a lower centre of gravity, too, but at 1740kg, sadly it doesn’t weigh any less, with 135kg more than new Porsche 911 Turbo S to carry around.
>> Read more about the GT-R’s MY13 updates here
So how fast is it?
Blink and you’ll miss it. The GT-R’s 0-62mph time is officially 2.7sec, which is almost a second better than its 2009 0-62mph claim of 3.6sec. It’s marginally faster than the Porsche 911 Turbo S (does it matter?) and, unless you’re in a Bugatti Veyron, nothing else on four wheels can touch it in a straight line. In fact, only the Caterham 620R with its 2.79sec 0-60 (not 62) time comes close to the Nissan’s acceleration. Yet the GT-R, of course, is a little more useful – especially with all-wheel drive and a proper roof as we come into winter…
But it’s like playing Playstation, isn’t it?
The GT-R isn’t the benchmark when it comes to driver involvement, nor is it a muted, bland experience that’s all about the meteoritic straight-line throttle performance. Sure, it’ll be beyond the speed limit out of a slip road before you know it, but nailing the throttle no longer instantly snaps your head off. The GT-R delivers the full force of its 542bhp mandate in a much more controlled manner than the 2007 version, with the throttle feel, instant gear change from the six-speed dual-clutch ’box and superb traction working together to make it a much more effective performance car.
There’s still some character and playfulness – two words rarely associated with the GT-R – around corners. From standstill, full throttle out a bend gives you not only punch, but there’s tyre squeal as you have to give the steering wheel a slight hustle to keep it all together. It’s neither eerily twitchy nor uncontrolled, but there’s a level of movement and adjustability that’s often overlooked because the 911 does it better. Credit where credit’s due for the Nissan. On the move, and its composure is solid and dependable, and the brakes are on par with anything this side of a McLaren 12C, meaning maximum attack into bends and more time with the throttle buried when you’ve got the courage. The body control? Excellent. Grip levels? Brilliant, even in the wet with ESC switched off. Turn in? Sharp, although you can feel the Nissan’s mass as you conquer corners. That’s the only chink in the GT-R’s performance armour: you can feel its weight under brakes, where it moves around a little, particularly over bumpy roads.
What about around town?
Back in the real world – and by that, when you’re not on a track or a twisty B-road – and the GT-R is surprisingly civilised. The ride is firm, as you’d expect from a weapons-grade supercar, but in the suspension’s Comfort mode it can negotiate a speedhump without the need to call a chiropractor. At urban speeds, it doesn’t need the control of the stiffer settings, simply because it’s not going fast enough. The driveline clicks and clunks mechanically around town, which you’ll either love or hate, and the fact that the GT-R isn’t as expensive as the 911 it benchmarks is clear: the doors sound comparatively tinny when you shut them, the materials aren’t as convincing, while the cabin design is follows the boy-racer rather than sophisticated sports car ethos.
The Nissan GT-R is better than ever. While it’s significantly faster than its 2009 iteration (on paper), the crucial point is that the performance – the power, traction and point-to-point ability – is served up in a more cohesive way. Gone is the speed-at-all-costs mentality, with a more polished effort that makes it more livable as well as more entertaining. Sadly, the increase in ability has brought an increase in price, too, with its £76,610 starting figure £20k above its £56,795 ask.
It could still go on a diet, too, which would also give it better reflexes, but for all its flaws, the ‘Godzilla’ is still a great value monster effort that’ll simply blow you away.