Since 1969 Nissan has been producing high performance versions of its Skyline range, called the Nissan Skyline GT-R. Over the years the car has become an icon and drawn much attention to the Nissan brand, both on and off the racetrack. Although no longer part of the Skyline family and carrying the Skyline badge, the Nissan GT-R continues the ‘blood-line’ from Skyline GT-R’s of old. As with the previous generation GT-R R32 through to R34, the Nissan GT-R is all-wheel drive and powered by a twin-turbo 6-cylinder engine. However, the four-wheel-steering HICAS system has been removed, and the previous straight-6 RB26DETT engine has been replaced with a new V6 VR38DETT unit. Because of the GT-R’s heritage, the chassis code for the all-new version has been called CBA-R35, or ‘R35′ for short, continuing the naming convention from previous Skyline GT-R generations.
Having only been in South Africa a few short months, and with all of the cars already sold, time behind the wheel of the new Nissan R35 GT-R is somewhat scarce. However, we’ve managed to spend time in the new GT-R on the road and the track, to discover whether Nissan’s new supercar really is that fast and whether you should believe all the hype.
Driving The GT-R
We spent time with the GT-R on the congested streets of Johannesburg, as well as the wide-open spaces of Killarney race circuit in Cape Town and found the GT-R took both in its stride. Forty-five minutes in stop/start traffic is a place nobody wishes to be, but the GT-R is no less uncomfortable than many luxury sedans. There’s a Bose sound system to keep you entertained and an air-con that we reckon is powered by the same twin-turbo’s as the engine, because the faster we went the colder it got. The 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT) is silky smooth and although you can hear the mechanical movements as it slots into 1st gear once you’ve come to a stop, it’s never transferred through the rest of the drive-train. Although the GT-R weighs a hefty 1750 kg’s and fills its lane with a length of 4655 mm and width of 1894 mm, it’s not an intimidating car to thread through crowded city streets and this is partly what gives the GT-R its anytime, anywhere appeal.
When the opportunity finally came to stomp on the accelerator pedal and let the engine loose, the GT-R responded with ferocious acceleration and unrelenting pace. Forget the zero to 100 km/h sprint, it’s over too quickly. Truth be told, we don’t know how fast we were going, we were just focused on the road ahead and the small black speck in the distance, which quickly morphed into a small family sedan – travelling at a snails pace by comparison. The way the GT-R accelerates is brilliant. With a sophisticated rear-mounted trans-axle connected to the engine via carbon fibre driveshaft, and a second, smaller, carbon fibre driveshaft extending back to the front wheels, the GT-R’s all-wheel-drive ensures the 20-inch wheels bite into the tarmac and provide phenomenal grip no matter what forces are at play. The twin-turbochargers are ready to respond at a moments notice and the 588 N.m of torque, which Nissan claims is available between 3 200 and 5 200 rpm, seems available over a wider rev range. The whine from the two IHI turbo’s and the growl from the 357 kW V6 are intoxicating sounds that keep you wanting more – coupled with the fixed rear-wing in the mirrors, it’s an experience we imagine could be similar to that of being in a fighter-jet.
When it came time to enter the twisty bits, the GT-R impressed again. The combination of the car’s 20-inch wheels attached to independent suspension and all-wheel drive with torque split, that is reassessed and adjusted by the onboard computers every 0.2 of a second, means the GT-R hugs the road like a ‘little black number’ on your favourite actress.
The only problem with driving the GT-R on the road, is that you’re not on a race track where you are able to fully experience the agility of Godzilla – the nickname earned by Skyline GT-R for its raw and brutal nature. Being able to push a car to its limit is highly rewarding and part of the joy of high-performance driving. Nissan SA recognises this and through their two Nissan High Performance Centres (NHPC’s) will assist owners with setup of their GT-R’s for track-day use, for example wheel-alignment and camber, etc. When the track fun is over and the car is returned to the best setup for road use, Nissan technicians are able to check the data collected from ‘black box’, and make sure all components are running optimally and make recommendations to the owner should any maintenance be needed.
We managed a few laps of the Killarney race circuit in Cape Town and the GT-R’s braking and handling are remarkable. The 380 mm discs in combination with the Brembo brake calipers, slow the 1,7 tonne car within distances that have your eyeballs on stalks. The level of grip provided by the large 20-inch tyres – whose power is fed by the all-wheel-drive with 1.5-way mechanical limited slip differential – forces your neck muscles to work hard in keeping your horizontal perspective of the world in check. The steering response is direct and if you do happen to enter a turn with too much enthusiasm, the all-wheel-drive system irons out any understeer quickly and without fuss, allowing you to climb back on the throttle for a hasty exit. Once you find your rhythm, the GT-R rewards with impressive laptimes, but more importantly, a thrill usually associated with cars double its price. Simply put, at R1 175 000, no other manufacturer comes close to offering this much bang for your buck.
Striking the GT-R definitely is, but it doesn’t elicit head-turning antics in the same way the Italian exotics do, at least not to the untrained eye. The elements are all there, chiseled lines, pronounced front air-intakes and air-splitter, 20-inch wheels, wide track, flared wheel arches, prominent rear wing and quad-exhausts the size of small cannon’s. The GT-R has presence on our roads for sure, and draws fans of ‘Godzilla’ like the proverbial moth to a flame. Available in six different colours, our favourite is the ‘Vibrant Red’, which adds a bit of ‘flash’ to what is otherwise understated potential – although the ‘White Pearl’ is a close second. Despite the relatively un-supercar-like styling, the devil is in the details. If you look closely at the GT-R you start to notice the little things which help it to perform the way it does.
For starters, the underbelly is arguably the smoothest of any road going car we’ve seen. This reduces air turbulence and creates a zone of low pressure air between the car and the road, effectively sucking the car to the road at high speed. The ‘aero-blades’ on either edge of the front bumper provide optimum airflow around the tyres and along the body. The side vents behind the front wheels assist in providing downforce to the front end and optimise airflow down the side of the car. The large rear-wing adds downforce and even includes a small ‘bulge’ on the top of either of side mountings, to direct air and aid lateral stability.
The first thing we noticed about the new GT-R when we hopped in, was how ‘normal’ it felt. The seating position feels relatively high, the windscreen is not steeply raked like other supercars and sits rather upright, the windows are big and provide easy all-round visibility, and overall the cabin feels spacious by supercar standards. However, it doesn’t take long for you to realise you’re in something a little bit special. A quick glance at the instruments reveals a centrally positioned rev counter and a speedometer that, above 100 km/h, increases in increments of 30 km/h before being marked off at 340 km/h. Of course, it’s the digital display – designed by the makers of the Sony Playstation game, Gran Turismo – mounted above the centre console that will grab your attention. The touch screen LCD monitor shows a multitude of real-time technical data about the car and the layout of the information is easily customisable using a familiar drag-and-drop method. Known as the ‘black box’, Nissan technicians are able to download this data, including every minute steering input you made on your journey, to analyse the car’s performance and ensure all is well. Below the LCD are controls for the radio and air conditioning, as well as three switches housed within an aluminium surround. These control the pre-set parameters for suspension, transmission and the traction – the ‘R’ setting on those switches is for ‘Race’. In terms of the driving position, the sports seats are comfortable and hug your body without being claustrophobic. Indeed, this is the overall tone of the GT-R’s interior, all the controls are well positioned and easy to operate, with a supportive and comfortable driving position. Even while still parked, the GT-R gives you a feeling of solid build quality, control and confidence, without compromise.
So after tearing up some of Gauteng’s quieter roads and a few laps on the racetrack in the new R35 GT-R, we have to say, yes, the car is as fast as everyone says it is and most impressive is the value for money relative to the performance. With Nissan SA expecting to deliver around 100 cars in its first year on sale, the GT-R is a supercar which looks set to leave the showrooms as quickly as it leaves a set of traffic lights.
Oh, we almost forgot, 59 jurors from twenty-five countries throughout the world named it 2009 World Performance Car of The Year.
- Nissan’s achievement in performance and drive-ability, a rewarding drive to anyone from novice to seasoned professional.
- Amazing value for money in the supercar arena.
- Solid build quality.
- Fantastic handling, braking and power.
- Everyday appeal – with enormous boot space by supercar standards.
We Would Like…
- A more supercar feel i.e. emotion and soul.
- We’re not entirely sold on the looks, but trademark double tail-lights with huge exhausts do look good.
- A bit more feedback from those quad-exhausts.
|Price||R1 175 000|
|Warranty||3 years / 100 000 km|
|Service Plan||3 years / 50 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||3 799 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||6-cylinders, V-formation|
|Power||357 kW @ 6 400 rpm|
|Torque||588 N.m @ 3 200|
|Transmission||6-Speed Double-clutch Automatic|
|Drive type||All-Wheel Drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 3.4 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||310 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||12.4 L/100km (claimed combined)|
Thanks to for the use of their GT-R. If you’re in Johannesburg, why not visit them and take a look at the car for yourself.