► Fresh bumpers, yet more downforce
► Improved interior, stiffer bodyshell
► Regular GT-R costs £82k; the Nismo £150k
Nissan gave the long-serving R35 GT-R a spring clean for 2017, with a new, airflow-boosting grille ’n’ bumper combo and, happily, a renovated interior.
Now the flagship Nismo version, costing £149,995 to the regular GT-R’s £79,995 and littered with motorsport-derived upgrades, gets a 2017-season update package of its own.
Read CAR's review of the (regular, non-Nismo) 2017 Model Year Nissan GT-R here.
What makes the 2017 GT-R Nismo different from the older, pre-facelift version?
Broadly speaking, the same updates as the 2017-MY GT-R range in general.
It’s not just a cosmetic nose job, mind; the new front bumper and larger grille are designed to cram more air into the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6’s lair. Unlike the regular GT-R, the Nismo’s bumper is made from hand-layered carbonfibre, with a canard-bookended front splitter helping to create downforce and improve airflow around the wheelarches.
Nissan says the 2017 GT-R Nismo generates more downforce than any production car it’s made previously. With that in mind, the bonnet’s been reinforced to ensure it doesn’t distort at speed, retaining its shape for stable aero performance.
A much improved interior features a nicer steering wheel and a tidier dashboard layout, with fewer switches and a bigger touchscreen. Said screen can show you all kinds of fascinating stuff to distract you while you’re driving, including brake pedal pressure, fuel flow rate, and lateral and longitudinal G forces. Or you can beam the lot to your smartphone via a dedicated app.
In the case of the Nismo, the cabin gets its own pair of carbon-backed Recaro shell seats (with red Alcantara bits, naturally).
Apart from the scrubbed-up styling and switchgear, there’s a more fundamental manufacturing change in that the GT-R’s body-in-white itself has been made stiffer for 2017, specifically around the A-pillars. And a stiffer structure maketh a more stable platform, allowing the suspension to do its job properly and permitting finer tuning of the damper, spring and stabiliser settings.
And could you remind me what makes a GT-R Nismo different from a regular GT-R? Apart from 70-odd grand, of course
Mechanical spec for the 2017 car is largely the same as the original R35 GT-R Nismo unveiled in 2013. Put simply, it’s had an extremely thorough going over from Nissan’s in-house racing arm (Nismo being a contraction of Nissan Motorsport).
There’s a bespoke aero kit, with a carbonfibre rear spoiler based on those of Nismo’s race cars and carbon skirts, along with more weight-cutting carbon for the bootlid and the aforementioned bumper, bespoke Nismo-branded Rays wheels, specially calibrated adaptive dampers and very soft, not-very-grooved, track-focused Dunlops.
Power spirals from the standard 17MY GT-R’s 562bhp to 592bhp, partly down to the greater flow rate of larger diameter turbos, the same ones used in Nismo’s GT3 racing cars.
There are plenty of other mods too, but perhaps the best illustration of the car’s abilities is the 7min08.7sec Nordschleife laptime recorded in September 2013 by a GT-R Nismo (albeit a stripped out one fitted with what Nismo now calls the ‘N Attack’ upgrade package).
Watch CAR’s Gavin Green ride alongside former F1 star Sebastien Buemi for an eye-opening no-holds-barred lap around the Nurburgring in the 2013 GT-R Nismo
So what’s it like to drive?
We tested the Nismo at a soaking wet, freezing cold Silverstone, on the full GP circuit and a surface doing a passable impression of an ice rink.
It was brilliant.
Considering it’s a car with the thick end of 600bhp, on tyres better suited to dry conditions, the Nismo feels as intuitive and unintimidating to drive quickly as a hot hatch.
A car this tall and heavy shouldn’t be this agile (all that carbon bodywork still can’t stop it weighing more than 1700kg), and the GT-R Nismo feels like a much smaller, lighter car than it really is.
The drivetrain’s torque split is heavily biased to the rear, more so on the Nismo than the regular GT-R, and it’s extremely throttle-adjustable, even with the stability control systems switched on. Cycle through the driving modes to gradually relax the ESC’s safety net and on a wet circuit the Nismo’s chassis is forgiving and communicative enough to let you balance it in giant powerslides if you wish.
When you’re not in the mood to mess about, that same level of feedback to the driver also enables you to drive the Nismo neatly and quickly, helped by sensitive, relatively fast steering and great brake pedal feel – although a gentle judder through the pedal suggested the brakes in this particular car (the only one in the UK at the time of testing) might have had a particularly hard time. No doubting their stopping power, though.
It might cost more than many supercars, but the Nismo also feels far fitter for track purposes. As broad as our long-term Audi R8 V10 Plus’s talents are, for instance, I doubt it would feel quite as at home on a circuit as the flagship GT-R.
2017 Nissan GT-R Nismo: verdict
A serious price tag for a very serious car, capable of teaching more or less any supercar you care to mention a stern lesson. Absorbing, impressive and spectacular though the Nismo is, however, you’d really have to want a GT-R to overlook everything else that’s out there for £150k …
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