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
This is not a shy, retiring car and it’ll certainly attract attention on the move. The looks reflect the GT-R’s fairly hefty kerb weight, but despite this the chassis serves up an incredible level of grip, which means huge corner speed and incredible point-to-point pace.
While it can compete with more expensive machinery on the road, inside, the GT-R can’t hold a candle to the likes of the Porsche 911. Although it’s now comfier than ever, the interior feels cheap in places. You do get a fair amount of equipment for your money, however: 20-inch alloys, cruise control, keyless go, Bluetooth, sat-nav, a Bose sound system and adjustable suspension dampers all come as standard on the entry-level GT-R.
Despite being on sale for more than seven years, the Nissan GT-R is still a performance phenomenon. Over the years the Japanese firm has evolved the engineering underneath the brutish skin to improve the GT-R’s performance, handling, ride and efficiency, but the basic recipe has remained the same.
With acceleration to humble much more expensive supercars, the Nissan boasts a powerful 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and a highly sophisticated four-wheel drive system. It’s all controlled by a raft of electronics designed to put the power to the road as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As part of Nissan’s philosophy of updating its flagship year after year, the latest version is now more mature than ever, leaving space for the ultra-focused Nissan GT-R Nismo.
The 2015 model year car was revised with modified suspension dampers to improve cornering stability, new tyres for a better ride and more stability, a revised brake setup for better feel and retuned steering to reduce vibration through the wheel. Over the years the GT-R’s also gained more sound deadening to further improve refinement and everyday usability. For the 2017 model year there’s more power, a heavily revised interior, plus more suspension tweaks to improve day-to-day comfort.
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One area where the Nissan might not be so usable is around town, as the car’s sheer size and compromised rearward visibility due to its muscular looks mean it’s difficult to manoeuvre. The styling is a point of contention, too, as the GT-R’s unique design won’t be too everyone’s tastes.
However, for Nissan performance enthusiasts, the GT-R has almost mythical significance. It’s bloodline descends directly from one of Japan’s most revered performance models, the Skyline GT-R which was launched in 1969. Over the years, and five generations, the model has a spectacular Touring Car racing record and later models are popular with the tuning and drift crowd too. The last Skyline GT-R was produced in 2002, and although Nissan contemplated carrying on the famous name in its entirety when the current generation car arrived in 2007, they decided to drop the Skyline reference.
Engines, performance and drive
The Nissan GT-R is a genuine technological tour de force, and its 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 manoeuvrability. Factor in the extra sound deadening, and the GT-R is now more civilised for day-to-day use. It’s not perfect, though. Along with that all-wheel drive system that clunks and groans at low speed, there’s plenty of tyre roar on the motorway due to the huge, low-profile tyres.
Thanks to stiffer springs and Billstein dampers, revised suspension geometry and hip-hugging Recaro seats, the driving experience of the even more focused GT-R Nismo 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, achieving a bonkers lap time of 7 minutes 8.69 seconds.
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The car's 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine now delivers 562bhp with 637Nm of torque, 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, where it’ll shuffle gears around smoothly and without fuss.
The only slight gripe with the transmission is the grumbling noises it produces when manoeuvring at low speed. It doesn’t sound too healthy, as the diffs chunter and whine, but reliability is good and this little quirk only adds to the GT-R’s focused personality.
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.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
On the face of it, the Nissan GT-R isn’t cheap. But look at the enormous performance available, and you'll see that you'd have to spend nearly twice as much to find something that can match it – although there are plenty of slower Porsche 911s that may tempt you for the same money. Running costs will be in the supercar category thanks to expensive tyres, steep servicing 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 utilise the car’s full performance potential. 275g/km CO2 mean expensive road tax, too, at £505 per year, as well as high tax bills for company car users.
There’s not much out there that can go meaningfully faster on the Queen’s highway, and as a result GT-R owners can expect pretty steep insurance quotes based on a Group 50 rating.
Older generation Nissan Skyline GT-Rs are a certain type of performance enthusiasts dream, because they offer stonking performance, potential for easy upgrades, and they’re cheap as chips – partly down to their grey import status.
That heritage, and Nissan’s blue-collar brand hasn’t exactly helped the values of the current generation of GT-Rs on the used market, and car valuation experts CAP reckon that if you bought one today you'd lose a little more than half your money over three years and 36,000 miles of driving, with a residual value of 48 per cent. Considering the car costs around £80,000 that’s quite a sting, but even a Porsche 911 Carrera 4 with a similar price tag will only return a couple of percentage points more – and you’ll lose more again on all the extras you had to buy to match the GT-R’s spec.
Interior, design and technology
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.
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Less exotic is the interior, which lacks the quality and design you’d expect from a classy coupe but has been vastly improved for the 2017 model year. Some of the plastics look still look and feel a little cheap, but a new touchscreen system has allowed Nissan to tidy up the dash and there’s softer nappa leather for a more luxurious feel.
Despite the lacklustre interior design, the car’s exterior styling still turns heads – where rivals have released all-new, fresher looking models, the GT-R has remained relatively constant in design terms. But that’s no bad thing, as the car still has a legion of loyal fans.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
A touchscreen infotainment system and a comprehensive data logger that records everything from cornering g-forces to lap times, means the GT-R has an impressive techy feel that fits with the Nissan’s character. Most of the car’s functions are now controlled by a new eight-inch touchscreen, although the system isn’t the most intuitive and doesn’t have the greatest graphics.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Given the performance available, the big Nissanis surprisingly practical. However, there’s not a lot of storage, with only a glovebox, a pair of cup holders 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 may lack the sense of occasion you expect from a 196mph sports car.
It's also worth restating that the car’s firm ride and noisy tyres mean it’s not really a relaxed cruiser. Other potential rivals like the Porsche 911 or Audi R8 offer a greater degree of suspension compliance, while BMW’s big M6 Coupe has a completely different feel and is more expensive, but is certainly more luxurious too.
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The Nissan GT-R doesn’t feel that small and wieldy on the road, and the dimensions back that up. It’s 4,710mm long and 1,895mm wide, and 1,370mm tall which makes it a fair bit bigger than a Porsche 911 which measures 4,499mm x 1,852mm x 1,298mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
Adults are unlikely to be able to squeeze into the rear seats for anything but a very short trip, but they’re fine for children and extra luggage. Occupants up front get plenty of head and legroom, while the driver benefits from lots of seat and wheel adjustment.
There’s even a decent 315-litre boot – although it suffers from a high-loading lip. At least it’s a usable shape though, with no funny protrusions, and it’s big for a supercar. It will easily swallow a pair of suitcases or your golf clubs.
Reliability and Safety
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. That said, with a top speed knocking on the door of 200mph, if you do get into trouble things could get ugly.
However big brakes and grippy tyres mean the GT-R should be able to outperform most things on the road, and with its high reserves of grip and performance the car should remain composed if you need to perform an extreme avoidance manoeuvre.
The GT-R went through extensive testing before it went on sale of course, but there were some early question marks about how the car's complex four-wheel drive transmission would cope once miles begin to build. Some owners of early cars experienced expensive failures of the GT-R’s complex twin-clutch gearbox. However, with the more recent models Nissan seems to have cured the problem.
If there are any mechanical maladies, it’s encouraging to know that the GT-R is covered by the same three-year warranty as other Nissan models.
Nissan has a number of specialist GT-R dealers trained to maintain this hi-tech machine. Servicing intervals depend on how you drive the car, but at the very least you’ll be visiting your dealer once a year or every 12,000 miles.