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There are easier jobs than creating the ‘ultimate’ version of the Nissan GT-R - a car already capable of 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds and face-warping cornering speeds. But that was the brief given to Nismo, Nissan’s fast expanding performance arm, and the incredible 592bhp GT-R Nismo is the result.
When we first drove it last November we had two quick laps on a track near Tokyo, but this time around our 350-mile drive stretched from the Nurburgring in Germany back to the Auto Express HQ in London, across every type of road you can imagine. It was a fitting route, too, as the GT-R Nismo was developed primarily on the Nurburgring and draws heavily on Nismo’s racing expertise, but to succeed it needs to work on public roads as well.
The extra 49bhp and 22Nm of torque comes from larger-capacity turbos - taken from the GT3 race car - an upgraded fuel pump and revised ignition timing. As a result there’s a moment of lag while the turbos fill their lungs, followed by a blitz of acceleration that can be sustained as long as you can hold your nerve. We encountered a stretch of derestricted German autobahn and clung on until 175mph at which point the bumpy surface and proximity of the barrier got the better of us, but even then the Nismo was still pulling hard.
It might seem absurd to test a car at those sort of speeds, but every part of the GT-R Nismo, right down to larger bolts to hold the wheels on, has been built for speed - and the faster you go, the more cohesive it becomes. For example, pull the right paddle behind the wheel with the throttle planted at 100mph and the six-speed gearbox slams home the next ratio instantly, and the sensory onslaught continues. At lower speeds though, whether in auto or manual mode, the gearbox often gets confused and hesitates before dropping into a lower gear with a violent ‘thunk’.
It’s a similar story with the firmer spring and Billstein adaptive dampers – blasting around a smooth, sweeping corner the body control is other-wordly, the steering talks to you about the road surface and the faster you go the harder it grips. But drive over a speed bump, or even a manhole cover, in any of the three settings – Comfort, Normal and R – and you’ll soon lose your sense of humour.
Squeeze the throttle from a rolling start and it makes an ominous noise - much like a jet aircraft taking off - as the intakes gobble huge chunks of air, the turbos start to fizz and the tyre and wind noise crescendo. But blip the throttle at a stand still and it sound more like a home appliance than a £125,000 supercar.
Nismo has taken the GT-R to the wind tunnel and added new bumpers and side skirts plus a carbon boot-lid and rear wing. The result is an extra 100kg of down force at 186mph compared to the standard car, but it’s not exactly what you’d call pretty. Brutal, yes, which will appeal to the GT-R’s cult following, but the casual supercar browser is unlikely to be seduced by its looks.
And that’s the sticking point with the GT-R Nismo – it’s an astonishingly fast car, and a masterclass in how to get a 1.7-tonne lump of metal from A to B in the shortest possible time, but it’s singular focus on speed is also its downfall. On paper it’s the Usain Bolt of the car world, but it lacks emotion and never feels as thrilling as the numbers suggest, while the powertrain is jerky at low speeds and the ride is punishing. On the right road, given the right conditions it’s mind-blowing, but the other 90 per cent of the time the standard GT-R is just as impressive, £47,000 cheaper and easier to live with.
Price: £125,000 (est)
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6
Transmission: Six-speed twin-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 2.6 seconds (est)
Top speed: 200mph (est)
Economy: 24mpg (est)
On sale: September