This is a hugely significant moment for Nissan. It’s the first time its 911-bashing GT-R has been tested with the correct body attached to its all-wheel-drive hardware – and we’ve caught it on its first foray around the Nurburgring. It’s been a long time coming – and there’s still some way to go – but the GT-R will be worth the wait. Not only will it deliver what Nissan calls 911 Turbo performance and dynamics for 911 money, it now finally looks the part too. So, a 500bhp twin-turbo all-wheel-drive rocket, complete with a double-clutch paddleshift transmission and active aerodynamics, for £65,000. Are you reading this, Herr Wiedeking?
How it looks
Like this, basically. This is the GT-R Proto, the Nissan concept that was unveiled at last year’s Tokyo motor show. Flick between this and the car snapped around the Nurburgring and bar a few minor changes – the door handles, wing mirrors and headlamps graphics – what you see here is what will hit showrooms in 18 months time. The GT-R’s styling is a radical departure from the wedgy look of its predecessor. With its crisp, creased sheetmetal, short overhangs and clean detailing, the GT-R will finally be able to sit alongside more exotic rivals without looking the design dullard. Key design signals are the blacked-out A-pillar giving the Nissan’s windscreen and front windows a distinctive helmet visor shape, the four circular rear lights that are echoed by the four exhaust pipes, the ‘waterfall’ headlamps that cascade from bonnet to bumper and the air vents beneath the front wheels that enhance the aerodynamics of the front wheels. It’s the first clean sheet design for the GT-R. Unlike previous models, it gets its own bespoke platform architecture, although there is some component crossover with the existing Skyline range to trim costs and save development time. It’s also the first time the GT-R will be offered as a global car – the previous models were only sold in Japan, New Zealand, Australia and the UK. We’ve yet to see the interior – the Proto concept had blacked out windows – but insiders claim the cockpit will be very driver-centric, with plenty of aluminium componentry, simple bold dials for engine and road speed, turbo boost and g-force. And it’s a 2+2 cabin layout, so the smaller rear seats will be for occasional use only.
Under the skin
Rather than inheriting a hand-me-down chassis, the GT-R’s ground-up design means bespoke dimensions for the wheelbase, tracks and overhangs. Expect a nigh-perfect weight distribution and exceptional chassis balance. The GT-R will use a revised version of the R34 Skyline’s Attesa-ETS Pro intelligent all-wheel drivetrain. Capable of shifting torque front, back, left and right the all-paw system delivers incredible grip, irrespective of road or weather conditions. Buyers will have the choice of a close ratio six-speed manual transmission or a newly developed double-clutch box with paddle shifters. No automatic is planned. High speed aerodynamics have also topped the engineering brief – that broad and low nose features a kerb-kissing air dam that, along with the rear diffuser, will suck the GT-R to the road as speed increases. High-speed stability will be further enhanced by the active rear spoiler, which will rise and fall according to speed.
The engine room
What rumbles beneath the GT-R’s nostrilled bonnet is still an incredibly close-guarded secret – only a handful of key engineers know the engine specifics, but our sources claim the car will run a heavily modified version of the 350Z’s V6 powerplant. Nissan initially looked at using its 4.5-litre V8 but its size and weight increase spoiled the GT-R’s chassis balance, so the smaller V6 was selected instead. Bored and stroked to a full 4.0-litres and breathed on by a brace of responsive twin-scroll turbochargers, the all-alloy engine is expected to push out 500bhp, handled by a uprated version of Nissan’s all-wheel-drive system.
Crucially Nissan’s engineers have shied away from trying to create headline-grabbing 0-60mph and top speed figures – instead Nissan is honing the GT-R for a sub eight minute lap of the Nurburgring, which it feels is a far better indicator of the car’s overall performance, rather than straight-line speed. That the ‘Ring was chosen for this, rather than a domestic track in Japan, is a graphic indicator of just how crucial the European market will be for the GT-R.
So long, Skyline
It may look production ready, but the GT-R is still almost 24 months away from production, which means it will be late 2008 before we’ll see it on UK roads. Oh, and the GT-R will no longer wear the Skyline moniker – although the Skyline range continues in production, the GT-R has been elevated to a stand alone model – understandable given how little in common it has with the standard Skyline.