What is the Nissan GT-R?
Let’s be honest: if you’re reading this you’re most likely a car enthusiast and already know a thing or two about the Nissan GT-R. Such as the fact that it’s Nissan’s equivalent of Clark Kent ‒ a supercar hidden beneath a saloon-style body.
You may also know the astonishing stats for the latest model, launched in the UK in spring last year: 196mph top speed; 0-62mph in three seconds dead; 542bhp and 465lb ft of torque. Nissan claims it has lapped the Nurbürgring Nordschleife in 7min 24.22sec ‒ quicker than the Ferrari Enzo and Porsche 911 GT2.
A 592bhp Nismo-tuned version, also available to customers for £125,000, is faster still. In September 2013 it managed to lap the aforementioned 12.9-mile circuit in just 7min 8.69sec, making it the fourth fastest production car in the world behind two ultra-lightweight Radicals and the £650,000 Porsche 918 Spyder (McLaren and Ferrari have not released times for their respective 918-rivalling P1 and LaFerrari hypercars).
However, beyond the numbers lies a more tangible and visceral reality. The GT-R experience from behind the wheel, on the road or on track, is quite literally breathtaking. And the price (£78,020) is equally mind-blowing. A similarly powerful car from Porsche, the 911 Turbo, would cost £140,852. The BMW M5 may be around the same price as the GT-R but its driver wouldn’t see which way the Nissan went on a winding road.
As the driver of a Nissan GT-R you are Han Solo, with the ability to jump into hyperspace at the touch of the accelerator pedal. So quickly does the car accelerate, thanks to the handbuilt 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 under the bonnet – which sounds like an angry giant gurgling gravel – and power transferred to the road via all four wheels, that virtually nothing else can touch it.
Furthermore, at high speeds and in high gears the car’s electronic brain allows additional turbo boost to ensure that, where other cars begin to struggle to accelerate, the GT-R keeps on eagerly pushing forward to maximum speed. Nissan’s engineers further improved throttle response in both the mid- and upper-rev ranges for the 2013 model year.
Fortunately, the GT-R’s massive Brembo ventilated cast aluminium disc brakes provide prodigious stopping power. Meanwhile, corners are dispatched with alarming ease as the big 9.5in and 10.5in front and rear tyres grip, grip and grip some more. There is a tendency towards turn-in understeer – there’s a fairly hefty lump of metal sitting over the front wheels, after all – but this can be controlled via further acceleration as the AWD set-up favours the rear wheels and only sends torque (up to 50%) to the front when needed.
Its wide stance, low centre of gravity and downforce-generating aerodynamics allow amazingly controlled changes of direction at speed. This, as much as the V6 powerplant and trick electronics, is the secret to the GT-R’s phenomenal pace around the Nürburgring (and any other track, for that matter).
It’s evident that the saloon car exterior, as muscular as it is, clothes heavy-duty components that would normally be found only in pure-bred racing cars, not road cars and especially not four-seaters. The ride is stiff, whether you select comfort, standard or “R” suspension settings. For the most recent GT-R, Nissan also made significant revisions to the dampers, springs and front anti-roll bar to lower the centre of gravity and help improve the ride, but you could never describe the experience as refined.
Meanwhile, the shifting of cogs via the dual-clutch, six-speed semi-automatic transmission sounds like the clanking of metal as train carriages are coupled together. It all adds to the feel that you’re in a machine that calls for respect from the driver.
That said, it never feels like the GT-R will turn on the driver should they make a mistake, flipping them round and sending them hurtling backwards into a tree, as some similarly powerful sports cars have a nasty habit of doing. Running out of talent in this car is difficult, making it surprisingly forgiving for a machine so astonishingly quick.
You know you’re in a performance machine when the largest instrument on the dashboard is the rev counter. Also immediately obvious is that the display showing what gear you’re in is larger than the digital speedometer – the GT-R is a car that puts correct gear choice ahead of ultimate velocity.
The rest of the interior trim is nicely sculpted and solidly put together, using carbon-fibre and charcoal brushed-metal materials, but lacks real character and design flair. That’s probably just as well. Once you’ve played with the various buttons that control the infotainment system before deciding that you definitely don’t need to see the digital temperature controls or sat nav but definitely do, beyond question, want to view the G-force meter, oil pressure and turbo boost meter, there are few distractions that will take your eyes off the road.
The Recaro front seats (power adjustable on the driver’s side) succeed in holding the driver and passengers in place but are also relatively comfortable for long journeys. The rear seats are usable – there are even ISOFIX connections for child seats – but space could be described as “tight”, while climbing in or out is tricky as there only two doors.
And proving this is a car that is designed to be used every day, not just for track days, the GT-R comes with a reversing camera, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, electric windows, rain sensing windscreen wipers, cruise control and two cup holders (just make sure you have a lid for your morning coffee).
What to look out for when buying a used Nissan GT-R
Owners on the whole are very happy with their GT-Rs. There have been few technical faults reported and there have been no manufacturer recalls. The Nissan dealer experience also generates positive reviews. However, owners frequently grumble about the cost of servicing, so bear in mind that running costs are high, especially when fuel is factored in. The GT-R seems to ride over road humps without grounding but look out for scuffs on the spoilers all the same, and check for alloy wheel damage – this is a wide car.
The one to buy
2014 Nissan GT-R specifications
Engine: 3799cc, V6, twin-turbocharged
Power: 542bhp @ 6,400rpm
Torque: 465 lb ft @ 3,200-5,800rpm
Transmission: six-speed dual clutch
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 3.0 sec
Top speed: 196mph
Fuel: 24mpg combined
Road tax band: M
Dimensions: L 4670mm, W 1895mm, H 1370mm
Nissan GT-R rivals
- BMW M5 (click for used prices)
- Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG Black Series (click for used prices)
- Audi RS 5 (click for used prices)