Car review: Nissan GT-R

11:16 14 April 2011

2011 Nissan GT-R

2011 Nissan GT-R

Nissan UK

It’s an icon of Japanese performance and its predecessors had a habit of humbling supercars for breakfast: say hello to the 2011-spec Nissan GT-R.

There’s no mistaking it for anything else: its exterior design is focused on channelling air, feeding the engine and brakes and keeping it stuck to the road for as long as physically possible. Not that it is unattractive as a result, far from it in fact. It just has the simple appeal of a finely-honed chef’s knife - purposeful and mightily effective.

Spotting the latest breed of GT-R requires dedication, not least because you won’t see many about. This isn’t a Nissan you’ll see on every street corner: limited numbers will be available in the UK and only 14 hand-picked dealers have been entrusted with the privilege of selling you one. A car of this nature deserves respect.

There are plenty of other detail tweaks too. Sharpened aerodynamics, lighter wheels, improved cooling, retuned suspension and upgraded tyres, better cabin materials and even a low fuel consumption mode for when the mood takes you. This is more than just an annual update.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the performance. Of course there is a little more power: an increase to take it to a Ferrari-bashing 523bhp.

As ever, this power is channelled through a six-speed dual clutch gearbox to the fiendishly clever four-wheel drive system. Clever because the numerous electronic brains constantly monitor a whole range of vehicle parameters in order to achieve maximum acceleration and minimal slip. If that sounds like a dull way of going about things, then you could not be more wrong.

For a car that will nudge 200mph in a straight line, it is anything but intimidating. Pop open the sleek aluminium door handle to climb inside and the layout before you is purposeful but welcoming. The small, chunky steering wheel has the feel of a racing car, and the superb Recaro seats adjust over a wide range but however it’s set it will clamp you in place, ready for the G-forces to come.

Start up, slip the transmission lever into automatic and you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about. It pulls away as seamlessly as a family hatch with only a rumble from the exhausts and the firmness of the ride to give any indication that there’s more on offer. There’s even the option of softening up the suspension for bumpier roads, as well as setting the stability control and rear diff to more sympathetic settings. It will even operate in two-wheel drive during tight manoeuvres to avoid any unpleasant transmission shunt. Like any true supercar of the modern age, it can do the boring stuff without throwing tantrums and making you wish you’d taken the bus.

It’s a true everyday supercar, and you’ll take every mile of it without hesitation for the pleasure it provides when the road conditions go in your favour. Not that you need good weather and a sunny day: rain, wind or shine, the GT-R is equipped to deploy every ounce of its performance regardless of conditions.

Even the smallest gap in traffic is enough. The merest squeeze of the accelerator brings in the twin turbochargers, and despite the mammoth output there is a large wedge of torque available from low revs. But if you want the full effect, switch the transmission to manual, sharpen the suspension and transmission modes and push the throttle to the floor.

Before you get to the carpet the GT-R surges forward and begins to eat up the asphalt in front. Beyond 3,000rpm the scenery starts to blur and your eyes will instinctively widen, all accompanied by a purposeful roar from the tailpipes. Should you be on a suitable stretch of straight and derestricted road the GT-R will punch all the way up to a spectacular 196mph with the seamlessness of the gearchanges simply adding to the dramatic acceleration. There may be hypercars that could out run it, but none of them can match the GT-R’s ability to deploy this performance so easily and so frequently.

And all this drama can be brought to a halt in a flash thanks to the mighty carbon brakes. Learn hard on them and they will not wilt, a twitch of the steering wheel and it will dive in to the bend exactly as your inputs demand. The grip on offer is eye-widening, and you have complete control aided by the four-wheel drive system for maximum acceleration out the other side. It has the capability to despatch bends far above what the average driver would think possible, and yet all the time you are kept completely in the loop with a constant stream of feedback through the steering wheel.

It’s a sensory overload when you want and yet it can cope with the humdrum without breaking sweat. It has the kudos and the looks to turn heads wherever it goes and needs no excuses when pulling alongside the established supercar hierarchy. But the sucker punch is the price: starting at £69,950, the Nissan GT-R runs rings around similarly-priced exotica. All you need to do is sign on the dotted line. – MATT JOY

Facts at a glance

Nissan GT-R, £69,950

Engine: 3.6-litre petrol unit producing 523bhp and 451lb.ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch transmission driving all four wheels

Performance: Top speed 196mph, 0-62mph in 3.1 seconds

Economy: 23.5 mpg combined

Emissions: 279g/km of C02

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