2015 Nissan GT-R first driveMon, 25 Nov 2013 00:00:00 -0800
What Is It?
At the original Nissan GT-R debut in 2007, chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno said he would never stop developing the car. Boy, he wasn't kidding. In the six years since, we have seen near-continuous improvements in ride, handling and horsepower in the GT-R, each version a little better, a little more powerful than the one before.
So what did Nissan introduce at the Tokyo Motor Show this year? Three more GT-Rs: the regular model that you will probably buy in your dealer showroom next summer; the NISMO GT-R that you will probably lust after; and a version of the car that recently lapped the Nurburgring in the now-famous seven minutes, eight seconds. The latter car might have been a one-off or it might make some sort of limited production run to justify its lap time as having been done by a “production car.” In any case, Nissan's already fast supercar is now faster, more powerful and more refined than it has ever been. AGAIN.
Let's start with the regular-old 2015-model GT-R coming to U.S. showrooms in January. While the engine is the same 545-hp twin-turbo V6, powering all four wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, the engineers at Nissan refined the suspension. Note: We said “refined.” They didn't just slap on a strut-tower brace and add rock-hard shocks and springs. They flinch if you use the word “softer” when describing the new setup; the word "refined" is probably more accurate.
“Normally shock and spring harder, harder, harder,” said the new chief engineer Kinichi Tanuma. “That's the typical time attack chaser. We learned at Nurburgring, maybe softer is better. Softer, but faster.”
The idea being to keep the tire on the ground so it can provide grip. Rather than say "soft," say the suspension is “optimized” for typical road conditions. Unless you have a billiard table-smooth racetrack, your suspension will need to absorb bumps without launching into space. The 255/40ZRF20 front and 285/35ZRF20s rear Dunlops are made with a new compound that increases grip. The brakes have been retuned for more firm, linear response at speeds not found on German racetracks. Likewise, the steering has been recalibrated for ease of use in city traffic. New headlights and exterior color choices round out the changes for the base 2015.
For the GT-R NISMO, the big news is the 600 hp output of the V6, thanks to the use of larger turbos used in GT3 racing, as well as optimized injectors and fuel pump. The chassis was stiffened with adhesive bonding added around the sides to allow the new front links to better locate the wheels. There's a new rear-stabilizer bar, and they even added bigger lug nuts. Aerodynamic enhancements outside add over 220 pounds of downforce while maintaining a cd of 0.26.
And, finally, there is the Time Attack GT-R, which has the very same specifications as the car that set the 7:08.679 lap time at the Nurburgring. While horsepower and torque in the V6 still peak at 600 and 481 respectively, the curves are slightly fatter. The AWD system is revised, and the aero exterior is optimized for the Nurburgring.
How Does It Drive?
We drove two of the three new GT-Rs and got a ride in one.
Our first drive was in the base car. We did a half-hour loop on Japanese country roads in a right hand-drive GT-R while trying to pay attention to the Japanese girl-voice on the NAV system (which sounded exactly like Trixie from "Speed Racer" in the original Japanese show) all the while repeating to ourselves, “Drive left, look right,” over and over. So we were a little distracted. While it is still powerful as all get-out, the entire experience is, indeed, greatly refined. The suspension is noticeably smoother than previous GT-Rs, yet it remained just as responsive. The cabin is quieter than before, and the interior appointments have more of a luxury feel. Hammer the throttle on the highway and the GT-R roars forward. How much difference is there, really, between 545 and 600 hp? Track time might tell.
Next, we drove a right hand-drive GT-R NISMO around a track called Sodegaura Forest Raceway about an hour outside Tokyo. The track configuration we used was almost a Japanese NASCAR oval except we were going the wrong way, which was OK because we were sitting on the wrong side, too. We got only four laps around the place, so most of the time we were trying to sort out the corners and figure out where all the limits might be. Thus, we left traction control on.
Launch out of the pits is very powerful, as is midrange torque-exiting corners. It would have been good to drive an old GT-R back-to-back with this new NISMO car to really feel the differences in the chassis. As it was, it feels remarkably precise in corners. More laps would have allowed us to switch off all the nannies and start to slide it around a little. Suffice to say, the GT-R NISMO is fast and powerful - faster and more powerful than the base GT-R, for sure, but a few hundred more laps would have allowed us to glean more about the difference 55 extra hp and suspension refinements make (why do they fly us halfway around the world then give us only four laps?). Look at this as a first impression of the NISMO GT-R, with more miles to come. So far, it feels great(er)!
Then, finally, we got to ride left-seat shotgun in the Time Attack/7:08 model with a professional driver at the wheel. The driver left the pits hard then wiggled the car around in the corners, never taking what you or I might assume was the faster line. (Again, why they do this?) While the differences from base to NISMO model were far more noticeable, we think maybe the jump to the Time Attack model is more of a slight hop. The difference might not be worth the tradeoff and cost to get it. Later, we learned that they figured the extra features on the Time Attack car versus the NISMO car were worth maybe 10 seconds at the Nurburgring, just in case you plan to ship your car there and have a go.
Do I Want It?
Yes, of course you do. While the fan base for the GT-R is huge, with loyal fans across the globe scrutinizing every subtle difference in paint-flake composition, the GT-R is fundamentally a great supercar and deserves to be argued about in the same flame wars as the Lexus LFA, Ferrari 458, McLaren MP4-12C and all the rest. Nissan was quick to point out the differences between this car and the Porsche 918, which was faster around the 'Ring. For instance, the electric boost afforded by the 918's battery pack during its timed Nurburgring lap would have been gone by the second lap, Nissan said. So if they'd raced two laps then maybe the GT-R would have won. Coulda, woulda, shoulda, as racers have said forever.
U.S. pricing won't be released until much closer to the car's U.S. launches, but the Japanese car starts at 15,015,000 yen, or somewhere around $150,000, depending on exchange rates. Is it worth it? Yes, of course it is. But drive everything else first, then decide. And if you figure out a way to drive everything else first, let us know how you did that, will ya?
By Mark Vaughn