New Nissan GT-R Nismo 2020 review

The latest Nissan GT-R Nismo offers savage acceleration and sublime steering, but at £180k it's only for the very wealthy

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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The 2020 GT-R Nismo could be a final farewell for Nissan’s iconic performance car – and it’s a fitting one, because it’s fantastic to drive, with a real depth of ability and great driver rewards. It’s the ultimate GT-R and still a unique experience in the performance car world, but at £180k it’s pricey. At nearly £80,000 cheaper but only slightly less powerful, the GT-R Track Edition seems like better value.

The Nissan GT-R is the perfect example of automotive evolution. Since the car was unveiled in 2007, one of its closest rivals, the Porsche 911 Turbo, has been facelifted, replaced entirely, then facelifted again before a new model launched this year.

Instead of launching new models Nissan has continued to hone the GT-R, the car that challenged the supercar establishment, with just one major facelift over its 13 years on sale.

In Japanese this is called kaizen – the constant need to evolve and improve – and it’s at the heart of the 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo.

This could be the GT-R’s swansong, tuned by Nissan’s in-house motorsport arm. The Nismo features a carbon fibre bonnet, boot lid and a large fixed rear wing, carbon fibre bumpers and front fenders, and carbon fibre side sills.

There are Brembo carbon ceramic brakes measuring a massive 410mm at the front, and many carbon fibre vents and ducts to aid with cooling the enhanced 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine. The new nine-spoke 20-inch forged RAYS alloy wheels are only 100g lighter collectively, though.

Thanks to a pair of turbochargers from the GT-R GT3 race car, the Nismo makes 592bhp and 600Nm of torque. That’s a lot, but despite the lightweight components the GT-R still weighs 1,725kg, which is also quite a lot for a track-focused model like this.

However, the GT-R has always used its weight to its advantage, controlling it well but using it to work the tyres (very lightly cut Dunlop Sports Maxx track rubber here) to find grip. With four-wheel drive traction has also traditionally been superb, and so it is here too.

The kaizen approach extends to the tweaks to the chassis as well. The Bilstein adaptive dampers have been reprogrammed to make them 20 per cent softer in rebound and five per cent softer in compression – a much needed change compared with the previous Nismo – that Nissan says has been possible due to the near 30kg weight saving.

The chassis tweaks and new tyres (one fewer groove for a bigger contact patch) have improved the steering. This is one of the most surprising areas of the GT-R Nismo.

You’d expect it to be fast having looked at the figures, but given the styling, the weight and the four-wheel drive set-up, you might not expect the steering to be so delicate.

It offers genuine feedback. It’s subtle, but the light set-up means you can sense what those lightly treaded front tyres are doing, pulling cambers and the crown in the road, as well as when the fronts start to lose their purchase on the tarmac or load up in a corner.

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Even on greasy roads with the temperature hovering just above zero, grip and traction are still great.

With the powertrain and stability control in R mode, and the suspension in Comfort to help even more with finding grip, the GT-R will tighten its line in a corner as you open the throttle. It’s a delightfully natural sensation despite the many, many calculations the car is making underneath you and means you can start to unwind the steering and focus on firing the car down the next straight.

The new turbos are claimed to enhance the acceleration response by 20 per cent; there’s still some lag, but it serves to make the ensuing onslaught as full boost hits all the more outrageous.

Nissan doesn’t quote a 0-62mph time, but around the 2.5-second mark in optimum conditions seems possible. In December over bumpy roads the engine’s aggression spikes the revs over bumps and ruts in the road, such is the massive thrust in the mid-range.

But the motor still revs hard right the way to its limiter like few turbocharged performance cars can. It’s accompanied by an aggressive, gravelly hiss as air is compressed and forced through the intakes by those new turbos, and a V6 howl from the revised titanium exhaust.

Few cars deliver their performance with a blend of brutality and delicacy as the 2020 GT-R Nismo. It’s undoubtedly packed full of tech, but given the sensations it offers and how these are reminiscent of the original, it seems almost old-school and analogue in many ways. The GT-R is sometimes thought of as being a digital car, but the Nismo proves it’s anything but that.

So the evolution of the species has worked here, but in some ways there are some big drawbacks to the GT-R. Despite the softening off of the set-up, and even in Comfort mode, the Nismo is firm. The damping always feels sophisticated, just still a bit much for the UK in the suspension’s default setting – and especially the racier R mode.

Occasionally it knocks the wind from your lungs in this mode – but not quite as much as when you clock the £180,095 price tag.

It’s a very accomplished car dynamically, but while the changes to the car’s interior for the facelift a few years ago injected a little more quality, the infotainment is still stone age compared with a Porsche 911 or an Audi R8. Quality is fine, but nothing more, even if the carbon backed Recaro seats are brilliantly supportive and very comfortable too.

At least the GT-R is practical, with two small rear seats and a fairly large 315-litre boot. It’s not so efficient though; all that power means figures of 19.7mpg and 325g/km CO2, if it matters to you.

Model: Nissan GT-R Nismo
Price: £180,095
Engine: 3.8-litre V6 turbo petrol
Power/torque: 592bhp/600Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: TBC
Top speed: 196mph
Economy/CO2: 19.7mpg/325g/km
On sale: Now

Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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