Nissan GT-R review
The Nissan GT-R is a technological tour de force that can give the world's fastest supercars a run for their money
The 2014 Nissan GT-R combines supercar-slaying performance with an extra dose of day-to-day refinement and comfort. It comes with a muscular 543bhp 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, which is mated to a four-wheel drive transmission, six-speed twin-clutch gearbox and raft of hi-tech electronics designed to get the power to the road as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The GT-R is unique in the fact that Nissan has updated it every year since it launched in 2007, and the latest tweaks to the steering and suspension, plus extra sound deadening have boosted its everyday usability. However, if that all sounds a bit sensible and grown-up, then there's always the 592bhp GT-R Nismo, which has even more extreme chassis settings and blistering point to point pace, albeit for a six-figure price tag.
The brutal looks won't be to all tastes, as the GT-R’s mix of bluff lines, bulky dimensions and aerodynamic add-ons lack the sophistication of a Porsche 911 or Audi R8. Yet despite its size and weight, the GT-R can carry huge speed through corners, thanks to the huge reserves of grip on offer.
Inside, the GT-R has a rather basic cabin that's dull to look at and lacks the high quality finish you’d expect of a car that costs so much money, but then the GT-R is a focused driving machine designed to cover ground at an alarming rate, and in that respect it's in a class of one.
The sheer scale of the Nissan GT-R gives it huge road presence. Even cars costing twice as much will struggle to match the imposing styling of Nissan’s angular coupe. It’s not exactly pretty, but with four huge exhaust pipes, circular tail-lights and vast alloy wheels, it never fails to turn heads. Its evocative badge doesn’t hold the universal appeal of an Italian thoroughbred, but for its fans, there’s nothing to rival the appeal of the GT-R logo.
The Nismo model marks itself out with unique front and rear bumpers, deeper side skirts and a carbon boot lid with a huge rear wing attached to it. It's not just for show either, Nissan says the Nismo produces an extra 100kg of downforce compared to the standard model at 186mph.
Less impressive is the interior, which lacks the quality and design you’d expect from classy coupe. Some of the plastics look a little cheap, while the layout of the dashboard is reminiscent of a Japanese Eighties hi-fi system. Still, there’s loads of standard equipment, while the touchscreen infotainment system includes a comprehensive data logger that records everything from cornering g-forces to lap times.
The Nissan GT-R is a genuine technological tour de force. Its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine delivers 543bhp and launch control helps it blast from 0-62mph in just 2.7 seconds. Acceleration is brutal thanks to the GT-R’s excellent four-wheel drive transmission and six-speed twin-clutch gearbox. The paddleshift set-up provides seamless power delivery and super-smooth gearchanges – it can even be used as a full auto.
The advanced Electronic Stability Control system and adaptive dampers can be configured to suit road and track driving. In the most extreme R setting the Nissan demonstrates remarkable agility and can rip along twisting back roads at barely believable speed. Even so, the GT-R can’t defy the laws of physics and you’re constantly aware of the car’s hefty 1,740kg kerbweight.
Revisions to the suspension have resulted in a softer ride around town, while low speed steering assistance has been increased in a bid to improve manuoverability. Factor in the extra sound deadening, and the GT-R is now more civilised for day-to-day use. It’s not perfect, though. The all-wheel drive system clunks and groans and low speed, plus there’s plenty of tyre roar on the motorway.
Strangely, Nissan doesn't quote a 0-62mph time for the more powerful 592bhp GT-R Nismo, but has hinted that 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds is possible. Thanks to stiffer springs and Billstein dampers, revised suspension geometry and hip-hugging Recaro seats the driving experience is far more extreme and less comfortable than the standard car. As a result, the Nismo always feels more at home on a race track than a road, but that's no real surprise, as it was developed specifically to lap the Nurburgring Nordschliefe as quickly as possible.
A host of electronic driver aids are designed to keep the Nissan GT-R on the straight and narrow, and you get six airbags as standard. The GT-R hasn’t been through the Euro NCAP crash test programme, but with such a super stiff chassis, the big coupe should be a strong performer if the hi-tech electronics fail to foil a crash.
The GT-R went through extensive testing before it went on sale, and Nissan has a number of specialist GT-R dealers trained to maintain this hi-tech machine. And if there are mechanical maladies, it’s encouraging to know that the GT-R is covered by the same three-year warranty as other Nissan models.
Given the performance available, the big Nissan is surprisingly practical. Adults are unlikely to be able to squeeze into the rear seats, but they’re fine for children and extra luggage. There’s even a decent 315-litre boot – although it suffers from a high-loading lip.
Occupants up front get plenty of head and legroom, while the driver benefits from lots of seat and wheel adjustment. However, there’s not a lot of storage, with only a glovebox and cramped door pockets for all your odds and ends.
Technology lovers will cherish the multifunction display at the centre of the dashboard, because it provides information on everything from cornering g-forces to turbo boost pressure. However, the switchgear and cabin plastics are better suited to a supermini than a supercar, and the bluff dashboard looks basic. It comes with loads of standard kit, but simply lacks the sense of occasion you expect from a 193mph sports car.
On the face of it, the Nissan GT-R isn’t cheap. But look at the performance available, and you'll see that you'd have to spend nearly twice as much to find something that can match it. Running costs will be in the supercar category thanks to expensive tyres, steep servicing costs and pricey insurance. And you’ll need to budget for some big fuel bills, too – Nissan claims 23.9mpg, but this figure will drop to single digits if you utlilise the Nissan’s full performance potential.
There are also some question marks about how the car's complex four-wheel drive transmission will cope once miles begin to build, with some owners experience expensive failures of the GT-R’s complex twin-clutch gearbox.