Düsseldorf, Germany ― While there’s nothing posh about a gun being fired, Nissan wants you to believe that the new 2017 Nissan GT-R can be civilized, comfortable even, all the while breaking your neck when you cock the hammer, or rather, put it down.
If Nissan’s hyper-performance car is anything at all, it is a crazy-fast and powerful means to cover ground. In any drag race, it leaves for dead most supercars with a retail price twice as large. But can it also do all of this in a lap of luxury akin to a Mercedes-AMG GT or an Aston Martin Vanquish? I’m sorry, there’s no way.
Be that as it may, Nissan has gone to great lengths to improve Godzilla’s overall refinement level ― picture the big lizard in a tuxedo. Yeah, that’s about right. He’s still unsightly and does not clean up nicely. He will however tear a city to shreds and that’s what he’s good at. The GT-R should stick to what it’s good at.
Cleaning up its act
The whole reasoning here is to attract more buyers, those who might not consider the Nissan GT-R because it’s rougher around the edges. Although I’ve never taken a shine to the beast, I must say that I was completely against the idea of sacrificing the R35’s known essence in order to please those who have more money than taste or brains.
Once the cloud of resentment finally passed and I got to drive the car, not much had changed. I did however fall under the spell of its twin-turbocharged 3.8L V6. Raw and immensely powerful, it reminded me of The Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe song whose lyrics go like this: “Cause if I had a set of wings man I know she could fly.”
The 2017 Nissan GT-R’s 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque (up 20 and 4, respectively) are a result of revised ignition timing and more boost a la NISMO, but the specs tell only a portion of the story. On an open stretch of Autobahn, the GT-R will lasso the horizon and yank it as hard as it can towards itself, as it did, but the new power is available over a larger section of the rev range. This means that repeated throttle punches are met with instantaneous forward surges ― fantastic for passing manoeuvres.
Nissan has not released official acceleration times or top speed numbers, but they are said to be nearly identical to those of the 2016 car. Expect the 0-100 km/h sprint to still be covered in less than 3 seconds and top speed to remain at just over 310 km/h. The experience of driving the Nissan GT-R has changed, though.
If you’re a fan of the GT-R, you’ll likely have heard of the M-Spec R34. This refined 2nd generation GT-R realigned the car with its original roots, which were more Grand Touring than Race (hence the name). That’s what the 2017 model intends to emulate.
The cabin is now quieter at speed thanks to improved aerodynamics. Not only that, but Nissan engineers have also optimized downforce generation for increased stability at high velocities. Apparently, it kicks in at 200 km/h. I did hit 250 km/h at one point, but I couldn’t tell you if the job done made it any better.
What I can tell you about are my laps around the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack in Belgium. In a massive downpour.
It won’t talk to me
I’ve never liked the Nissan GT-R’s steering or its overall handling. I’ve driven the car a half-dozen times over the last eight years, and every time I felt that the steering wheel was connected to a controller, then a box, an electrical motor, and finally the front wheels. In other words, communication between the road and the driver is next to nil. I have to believe that the front tires are acting on command, but that moment’s void is scary.
On the track, the big GT-R demonstrated its massive power and incredible brakes. It also displayed loads of body roll and understeer as the suspension squatted a surprising amount in hard corners. Although that did little to affect the car, if only because I was driving a 5/10, I still could not get a handle on the front end.
Until it did
All drive settings were set to Race for this portion of the test with the 2017 Nissan GT-R. I was able to notice the ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system doing its thing. The best example was coming out of the La Source hairpin where the front pulled me clear of the apex as the rear struggled for grip under acceleration.
I did experience an aha-moment when, on a country road near the Nürburgring, I went for it and trusted that I wasn’t going to end up in the woods, 300 metres from the tarmac. As the front suspension compressed, it was as though a connection was made, like an electrical circuit closing, permitting a free flow of information. Suddenly, the GT-R was talking to me. Alas, I had to return the keys only 10 minutes later.
That luxury I was talking about
As part of the 2017 Nissan GT-R rediscovering its GT car roots, the cockpit was cleaned up and now features far fewer visible buttons and controls. The dashboard’s sleeker and much more upscale look tastefully combines leather and contrast stitching.
The changes to the exterior shell may be less obvious, but I promise you they are as numerous. The corporate “V-motion” grille takes centre stage, of course, while the remainder of the front fascia was tweaked for the aforementioned aerodynamics and also for enhanced component cooling.
To sum up, the new 2017 Nissan GT-R has grown more luxurious, but is still as subtle as a gunshot. I doubt these enhancements will do much to increase the car’s appeal especially in the face of its many competitors that continue to evolve and improve. The GT-R’s main advantages are still its outrageous speed and relatively affordable pricing ($125,000 for the top-line Premium model).