First drive review: Nissan GT-R Nismo (2014)

It’s absolutely qashew nuts

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2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo review, Sunday Times

2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo, £125,000

YOU POSSIBLY haven’t heard of Nismo. And who could blame you? It is the part of Nissan that is responsible for building exciting sports cars, and the GT-R is its latest model. But guess how many the car maker is hoping to sell in Britain. A thousand? Several hundred? Nope, just 25.

From the company that does a roaring trade in family cars — the Nissan Qashqai is one of Britain’s most popular models — that is a little peculiar. But such a stealthy approach allows Nismo to take big risks, try out new technologies and break the norms of sports car design and engineering. The plan is simple. Each time something works, it can be used in a high-performance version of a high-street car — imagine a 250bhp Qashqai tearing up a Tesco car park. And when it goes wrong, it’s quietly swept under the carpet.

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Before petrolheads scoff, Nismo really is bringing its know-how to everyday Nissans. At next month’s Paris motor show, the company will reveal a new family of Nismo models. It will start with the Juke Nismo, not so much a car as a jet-propelled running shoe. Then a much-improved version of the 370Z is coming to showrooms, aimed at drivers who think a Porsche Cayman is as common as it is overpriced. And for the hot-hatch aficionado there will be a Pulsar Nismo. Rumour has it that it will be faster than the Golf GTI and cost several thousand pounds less.

Nissan GTR Nismo review

The flagship, though, is the GT-R Nismo. Its price alone tells you this is something out of the ordinary. A standard GT-R costs £78,020, the Nismo £125,000. Just 200 will be made, which lends it an air of exclusivity beyond even Aston Martin, Porsche and Ferrari.

Before you ask whether Nissan, the master of sensible and affordable cars, has taken leave of its senses, bear in mind that the competition charges a similar amount for its sporting hardware. Audi’s R8 V10 Plus is £126,835; the Porsche 911 GT3 costs £100,540; then there’s the Ferrari 458 Speciale, which will set you back £206,945.

We tested Nissan’s fastest, most sophisticated sports car yet at the toughest race circuit known to man or machine: the Nürburgring. Situated in the Eifel region of Germany, it’s a daunting 12.9-mile stretch of patchwork road that slithers sinisterly through dense forest. Just thinking about it is enough to send shivers down a driver’s spine.

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Approaching the Nismo does nothing to put your mind at rest. The car hasn’t been styled. It has been designed by supercomputer and wind tunnel to suck itself to the floor. There is carbon fibre wherever you look. Get down on your hands and knees and there it is again, cloaking the underside of the GT-R Nismo with a flat floor designed to smooth the flow of air, just as in a racing car. Every crunch over a speed bump probably costs thousands.

Nismo then put down the laptops and reached for the spanners, unscrewing the turbocharger of the standard GT-R and replacing it with a motor sport item. This raises power from 542bhp to 592bhp. The technical description for this is, I believe, OMG.

Engine bay, James Mills reviews the Nissan GT-R Nismo

The adjustable Bilstein dampers offer three settings — Comfort, Sport and Race — but it’s Comfort for us today. And the reinforced wheel hubs aren’t being taxed to the extent they would be were the track dry and the custom Dunlop tyres hot and sticky.

The Nismo model seems to breathe more deeply and accelerate harder than the standard GT-R. There’s a little bit of a delay between flooring the throttle and the two large turbos waking up, but with a bit of practice you’d learn to adapt your driving to suit. The engine is surprisingly smooth and quiet, nothing like that of a 911 GT3 or 458. Some will feel it’s less thrilling for it, but others will welcome the calm when the time comes to leave the racetrack and begin the drive home.

The interior has never been much of a feature of the GT-R. Practical, yes, but stylish, no. It looks like the control room of a nuclear power station, although the new Recaro seats are lighter (part of the structure is — you guessed it — carbon fibre) and offer much better support to the upper body.

A slightly thinner steering wheel is wrapped in Alcantara trim, and there’s a boot that will hold a lot more than an Hermès handbag. It’s even got comfy back seats with Isofix child-seat mounts. But all of this is of little significance compared with the driving experience.

Nissan GT-R Nismo interior

Here’s a car that’s capable of charging around a racetrack almost as quickly as the world’s most expensive supercars, models such as the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and the ridiculously named Ferrari LaFerrari. And it does it for a fraction of their prices.

It’s impossible not to wonder how Nissan and Nismo can make a penny of profit on a car such as this. Perhaps they won’t. But so long as the know-how filters down into cars that you and I can buy, such as next year’s Juke, 370Z and Pulsar, we can all enjoy it at Nissan’s expense.


Verdict ★★★★☆

Tomorrow’s Qashqai in its wild, hellraiser youth


2014 Nissan GT-R Nismo specifications

  • Engine: 3799cc, V6, twin turbo
  • Power: 592bhp @ 6400rpm
  • Torque: 481 lb ft @ 5800rpm
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Performance: 0-62mph in 2.7sec
  • Top speed: 200mph
  • Fuel: 24mpg
  • CO2: 275g/km (estimated)
  • Road tax band: M (£1,090 first year; £500 thereafter)
  • Price: 125,000
  • Release date: On sale now

Nissan GT-R Nismo rivals

Porsche 911 GT3, £100,540

  • For Engaging driving experience; wonderful engine note
  • Against Can’t match the speed of the GT-R Nismo

Ferrari 458 Speciale, £206,945

  • For V8 engine revs to 9000rpm; great handling and gearbox
  • Against Have you seen what it costs?

For the full account of James Mills’s day at the Nürburgring, go to click here


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