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A week in the life of a Nissan GT-R

Published: 20 May 2009

I’ve been lucky enough to follow the GT-R story pretty closely over the past two years. I got an early passenger ride in summer 2007 at Nissan’s highly secretive test circuit in Hokkaido, Japan; conducted the first independently timed laps in the UK with a private import (I drove the GT-R around Rockingham one second faster than the 911 Turbo. Watch our videos here); drove another GT-R up the hill at Goodwood last year; then lapped the same car around Anglessey during our Performance Car of The Year 2008 fast fest.

Until recently, though, I’d never actually lived with the GT-R – it was all just a blur of flat-out blasts and performance tests. So our CAR Magazine trip to meet the new Porsche GT3 and GT-R Spec V at the Nurburgring gave me the excuse I needed: a week-long loan and hundreds of miles to cover.

Nissan makes a big deal of the GT-R being a real-world supercar with its rear seats, transmission's Snow setting, large-ish boot and adjustable suspension. And I’m pleased to report it did a damn good job of adapting to my family of three’s daily demands before I left for Germany, and proved an uber-competent continent crosser in the days after.

Nissan GT-R: a child-friendly supercar?

Isofix anchors in the rear seats meant I got both my daughter and her baby seat back there without too much hassle. She seemed happy too, if a tad quieter than usual. Niggles? A tall wife would struggle with the legroom left after sliding the front seat forwards to clear the baby chair, and it’s easy to bosh both parent and offspring’s heads on the rear glass while manoeuvring into and out of the back.

A family walk saw our large crossover pushchair (and, yes, unlike owners of crossover cars, we do get the wheels muddy!) fit easily in the boot, although the high boot lip was a little tough to clear. Check out our photos in the attached gallery. That became more of an issue later on when I loaded up my heavy bass amplifier and headed out to a gig. Still, the amp fitted – and it felt pretty rock-and-roll to turn up at the venue in a GT-R. I'm sure I played harder and faster that night.

The daily commute in a Nissan GT-R

So far so good. But the daily schlep did reveal a shortfall I’d never noticed with the GT-R before. Its dual-clutch gearbox might be slick-shifting at speed, but it’s clunky while parking and when cold, and a little hit-and-miss on steep inclines where it can roll back as if in neutral before thunking into gear and lurching forward.

Overall, though, I was highly impressed, and that’s before I’d let it do what it does best: demolish a B-road on a late-night blast. The GT-R obviously didn’t disappoint when it came to shifting along deserted country roads at high speeds, and the experience only reminded me how much I prefer the big Nissan on road to track – the extra space of a track makes the GT-R feel a little sterile when you stay within the limits, and a little clumsy when you stray beyond them.

Driving the Nissan GT-R to the Nurburgring

Come Nurburgring departure time, the GT-R easily swallowed all our gear, lasted as long as 300 miles on a tank with a decent turn of speed (acceptable with nigh-on 500bhp, I’d say) and felt comfortable throughout the trip. Yes, the suspension’s always pretty firm – though our 2010 model year car was noticeably more pliant than the Japanese-spec models I’ve sampled before – and there’s a relatively high level of road noise, but nothing that became overbearing.

In fact, the most annoying part of the trip was the attention. Someone actually knocked at my front door to ask about it just before I left, and then we were pulled over by Channel Tunnel security under the pretence of a vehicle inspection. The entire team turned out to drool, one even shouting ‘yeah, cor!’ while others were only a little more subtle. ‘Open the boot, sir,’ demanded one. ‘And, er, now the bonnet.’ I’ve been stopped a few times going into Europe, but never have I been asked to pop the bonnet! And then they threatened to impound it – with the delayed punchline that it was too nice to take to a race circuit. How we laughed at that one. Ho ho ho. Oh yes, very good.

Still, we got through eventually, thank goodness. A 160mph dash on foreign autobahns reassured us that this Euro-spec car wasn’t artificially restrained, while a lack of sat-nav (UK models won’t be offered with it until later in the production run) at those speeds had us map reading in double-quick time.

And then we were there, ready to scorch around the Nordschleife in the same car that my baby daughter had ridden around in, the car I’d filled with guitar gear, the car that – a few niggles aside – really does cut the mustard as the world’s most convincing everyday supercar.

How does it cut it against the Spec V and Porsche GT3? Find out in the July 2009 issue of CAR Magazine.

By Ben Barry

Contributing editor, sideways merchant, tyre disintegrator

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