This is the 2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo, and it presents a mighty challenge to the established supercar elite, even if the once bargainous price tag has balooned somewhat in the process of its evolution.
I like Porsches almost as much as the next man, but the 911 and all its various offshoots are such obvious choices. The Nissan GT-R by comparison – and this latest faster-still Nismo variant even more so – is a defiantly leftfield purchase, devoid of badge snobbery and reliant only on raw stand-out image, power – up 48bhp to 592bhp – and (in)credible Nürburgring laptime-smashing ability, more of which later.
From 2014 there will be three GT-Rs to choose from. The standard GT-R has re-calibrated suspension for a better ride, LED tech to better differentiate its front face and rear quad tail lights (now more coherent circles of light) plus a few more quid spent on the cabin (much needed). Set to cost £5000 more than the current car, it’ll be on sale early in 2014 for just over £80,000.
The Nismo version will cost circa £120,000 from summer 2014, a big old price jump, but there are quite a few additions for the cash. On the exterior the beautifully brutal visuals gain slick signature-red Nismo pinstripe detailing around the side sills, strakes and extended front and rear carbonfibre bumpers (a material choice that cuts weight by 20% and helps improve aerodynamics to a laudable 0.26Cd).
Alongside a taller and slimmer carbonfibre rear wing the changes contribute to an additional 100kg of downforce at 186mph (which is handy when you’re flying round a race track at otherwise unsettling speeds).
Also added is uprated suspension, wider-rimmed front wheels, larger hub bolts for more rigidity and exclusive springs and shock absorbers. Oh, and the Nismo’s boot lid is dry carbon, half the weight of the regular lid and strong enough to absorb the extra downforce created by that rear spoiler. Altogether the Nismo sheds 20kg from the standard GT-R. But enough of the technicalities, what’s it like behind the wheel?
Getting comfortable is easy, a manually adjustable carbon-backed driver’s bucket seat having replaced the electrically controlled chairs from the standard GT-R (more weight-saving!). The overall result is comfortable and firm, even for tall people. The Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel adds a pleasing thickness, but despite a few changes to the gearbox surround and dials, the interior still feels more stripped-out sporty than classy. And the central gear-shifter and steering-wheel paddles feel too cheap for a £100k-plus car.
Press the accelerator pedal down firmly and you’ll quickly care less about cabin niceties. The engine roars into life and aurally assures you of the rapid progress your eyes are trying hard to take in. In seconds we’re at the first corner, the engine popping and banging pleasingly as the necessary downshifts are made through the crisp dual-clutch six-speed gearbox.
>> Click here to check out CAR's race-speed ride in the Nissan GT-R Nismo at the fearsome Nürburgring circuit
Quite how much faster the Nismo is than the current GT-R’s time of 0-62mph in 2.8sec hasn’t been officially recorded yet though. Nissan’s engineers are playing the enigmatic card of ‘we prefer to leave it to the customer to decide,’ which translates in my mind to ‘we’d like to make some tweaks to make it even faster between now and later this year.’ But these are minor number quibbles.
Firing out of the corners, the car feels fast enough but calmer and more level-headed than its driver. However, the Nismo’s latent ability starts to transfer over into my confidence as the laps increase, and I learn how much quicker the corners can be taken without any hint of the back detaching itself from the Tarmac or the front choosing its own path. Acceleration punch, well-weighted and easy steering, firm but far from brutal suspension and massive braking power make the whole experience borderline Zen-like.
Massive speeds are possible but massive driver stress is unlikely. It’s hard to get out of shape in a Nismo, compared to the standard car, which is willing to fishtail if coaxed and happily does so under heavy braking.
Admittedly, our Nismo test was all too brief and restricted to the track, but Nissan’s predictions that the car could account for 30% of all GT-R sales doesn’t seem far-fetched. It’s an incredible performance car but not so track-tuned or stripped-out that more mundane cruises would become unpleasant.
It’s not quite the car that smashed the Nürburgring’s lap time for a volume production car at 7min 8sec on 30 September 2013 though. That will be available to buy too, with two fewer seats, new dampers, an even bigger rear wing and more aero tricks for about £10k more. But that will probably remain the preserve of the track-day enthusiast and account for maybe 1% of global sales.
Stick with the Nismo – especially in dark matt grey – and you’ll be cooler than a lolly in a freezer cabinet but with performance hot enough to smite almost every other supercar available today – this side of a limited edition £666,000 Porsche 918 Spyder. If the bragging rights that your car ‘can lap the ’Ring 11 seconds quicker’ are worth the extra £546,000, you go ahead.