GTR “Godzilla” is back, and about to eat the competition! Well sort of..
The last time I drove a Nissan R35 GTR was when it launched in the US in 2008. Coming from a long list of JDM all-wheel-drive turbo cars, I was a bit sceptical on the tall claims and rave reviews the car was getting from publications worldwide. After all the same publications did rave reviews on the Mitsubishi Evo X MR and it was in all honestly the worst Evo ever. I know, I owned one.
So with a sceptical mind, I went into Nissan in my 400whp WRX STI version 8 and asked for a test drive. I got it as the sales person was a part of the WRX club I belonged to. And the GTR with 480hp and 588NM torque blew my mind. It was an epic test drive with the sales guy asking me to push on to insane cornering speeds and I could not believe the G Readings the digital display was giving on regular tarmac on ramps and off ramps. I was sold on it. It redefined how a sports car should feel, look and drive for me. I was ready to sell my soul to the devil to get my hands on one in 2008. And at ~$80,000 it was a steal considering the huge list of supercars it could demolish in stock form.
Fast forward to 2016 December, New Delhi, India. Finally after much fanfare the Nissan GTR was launched here, at in incredible sticker price of Rs.2.3Cr on-road. One sight of the car and I was instantly transported back to 2008 and my desire for the car ignited all over again. They say you should never meet your heroes, as their follies might leave you confused and underwhelmed. I was happy with my memory of the 2008 GTR and how it made me feel. I really didn’t need to drive another GTR. Then the unthinkable happened, and I’m not talking of demonetization. I got to drive one! And for a long drive pushing it unrestricted. The GTR had evolved a lot since 2008. Some good evolution in the right direction, some seriously bad evolution in the wrong direction and in some departments there seems to have been no evolution.
Engine and Gearbox
The engine was now putting out ~565hp and 633NM of torque, in stock form. Which means a lot of ECU mapping, and BIGGER turbos. A hand built engine with Nissan’s one engine one builder policy ensures that what you are buying is as exclusive and as unique as an AMG motor. It’s ballistic this car. Its mind numbing as to how quick this car goes and keeps going till everything around you is a total blur. And then it goes even faster! While your mind is in awe of the incredible acceleration that is propelling this car to triple digit speeds as your head is pinned to the headrest, you do the unthinkable and push it a bit more. And Godzilla says to you in a glorious downshift “Yes Sir!” What a machine this car is. Its ability to blow your mind and pin u to the seat till infinity has still not changed one bit. Actually it’s gotten even more madness injected into itself!
The compression on the 3.8L v6 motor seems to have been further lowered to accommodate the added airflow new turbos. However, this creates a peculiar problem and exposes the GTR’s ‘Achilles Heel’ in the process. The problem it creates is commonly referred to as Turbo Lag. Usually turbochargers are fitted to small displacement engines with low compression which take time to generate exhaust volume and pressure required to spool the turbos. Now I can understand and even expect the presence of turbo lag in a 1.8L TSI engine with a giant K04 turbo, but not in a 3.8L v6 that alone should be able to produce 3xxhp and 2xxNM torque. The sheer volume of exhaust gases and architecture (V6) should ideally make turbo lag all but a myth in this car. But sadly it’s prevalent, very prevalent in the 2017 GTR. Drive in manual mode at any speeds below 3k rpm and the car will fall flat on its face, bogged down with it nearly 2 ton weight till the magical 3800rpm is reached an those huge turbos come to life. In a rolling start this ends up in 10-100kmph time of ~7 seconds in 2nd gear. The problem is in auto mode the car rarely ever shifts to 1st gear, so let’s assume you just took a U-turn and a Ferrari comes racing from behind, you would normally floor the gas to put the poor prancing horse in its place. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen. The GTR would be nice and cozy in 2nd gear at the U-turn and when you floor the pedal to catch the Ferrari it will sit in 2nd gear. Now normally the GTR masks this very well in the gearbox in R and the selector in Auto mode dropping 2-3 gears in an instant to provide you the shove, but it’s extremely prevalent if you are driving sedately with your grandmother and suddenly have the urge to race past that Audi S6 that just flew by you. Coming to the Audi S6 which is powered by a similar engine and gearbox layout with 200cc of additional displacement, the same phenomenon is totally absent. And the S6 is even heavier and has a torque converter gearbox unlike the slick dual clutch unit on the GTR.
The suspension was a bit more forgiving on bad roads. Hell it’s so much softer than the outgoing model that you can finally see the car squat on its rear tires in the insanely quick launch to 100kmph in less than 3 seconds. It feels less hard-core though. Less raw, more refined but a bit dulled out artificially in some way. It’s still more competent than most sports cars though. More so if the official skid pad figures are to be trusted. And it keeps that same composure over some bad stretches of tarmac where the outgoing model would get twitchy. Even with the suspension in R mode, the car feels a lot softer than the outgoing model. More GT-ish than GT-R. This produces some interesting side effects when you try to launch the car in not so perfect level tarmac. The rear steps out, and you find yourself raging sideway to 100kmph in 2.7 seconds till the front hooks up, and straightens the car out. Not the most reassuring feeling in something that costs 2.3Cr and is not owned by you.
Exhaust Note and Engine Sound
The exhaust finally got a bit of a soothing note. Let’s face it, the VR38DETT isn’t exactly the best sounding engine. Yes there are plenty of aftermarket kits that make it sound melodious. The new updated system does a good job of soothing out the rough notes and actually can quieten it down with exhaust flaps and noise cancellation if you decide to have a conference call at 200kmph. It sounds LOUD with the flaps open, but that is honestly not the most pleasant sound. The saving grace is that inside the cabin you can hear the glorious sound of those titanium turbo chargers spooling up every time. It feels like you are in a fighter jet, and in all honestly this thing does accelerate towards the horizon like one.
The Looks – Exterior
The exterior and interior got a huge update in terms of styling. The exterior styling I like. The front end has become finally attractive, the rear end updates are subtle but really add to the menacing character of the car. The side skirts look tacky though, and so do the vents on the side of the rear bumper which Nissan swears are functional. Unfortunately on such a sculpted car the side vents on the lower edge of the rear bumper look like something a cheesy body shop would sell to wannabe civic ricer boys. The bits of carbon fibre thrown all around are a wonderful touch. Hell even the diffuser in the bottom of the car is bloody carbon fibre. And coming to the bottom of the car, well it’s FLAT. Like something you’d see in a DTM or JGTC race car, which is an insanely nice touch to a road going car. The attention to aerodynamic detain in this car is totally worth observing. It’s truly a work of art and science in this department.
The Looks – Interior
Coming to the interior, I was a bit indifferent. Considering most of the time spent here would be focused on looking outside the car than inside, I was happy with the original interiors and totally indifferent to the updates. The iDrive/MMI/Command style controller is nice, but pointless since the display is touchscreen and is much easier to operate in that fashion rather than fiddling and clicking thru the knob. The new display seems and feels totally outdated in 2016-17, especially when you have dealt with the excellent infotainment GUI’s from the Germans and the incredible digital dash of the Lexus LFA. But all that is irrelevant when you are driving thru traffic like a mad man. All except for the steering wheel. I hate it. The original GTR had a bulky steering wheel with the paddles on the steering column. However in 2016 finally someone at Nissan found a way to put paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel, instead of the steering column. That said, the paddles felt better on the steering column where they belong in a proper sports car. In a car with this much power and this much grip, you have no business thinking of changing gears in the middle of a corner. Also the size of the new wheel is all wrong! The view thru the steering of the gauges is terrible. As it is stands the speedo on a car this quick is obtusely tiny and that combined with the fact that you can barely see it thru the new steering wheel doesn’t add much confidence when you are doing triple digit speeds starting with a 2. The steering wheel design and the decision to use it seems like an afterthought on the part of Nissan and most of us would have been much happier with the old design with its form and functionality.
So what is the GT-R in 2016-17? It’s been evolving for 8 years now, and Nissan swears like Apple does with its iPhones that “This is the Best one ever!” In a way that’s not a lie. But then that’s as true for the GTR as it is for someone who hasn’t used the Google Pixel or a Samsung S7. At the 2.3Cr price tag is it worth choosing the GTR over the 911 Turbo S or the AMG GT-S or even a R8v10 or a second and Huracan? Sadly the answer is No. For the price of the 2017 GTR, I’d rather get a BMW M3 and a C63S AMG both of which are hugely capable cars and feel like they belong in 2017 and can demand their 1.3Cr price tags. Had this car been launched at the same price point, we’d be seeing GTR’s flying off the shelf in India.
And that was the idea with the GTR wasn’t it?
“The car you could buy at 1/3rd the cost of a Ferrari or a 911 Turbo and outrun them in with little to no effort”. Isn’t that what made Godzilla a hero and a legend in most of our minds?
Somehow I feel Nissan India forgot to read that part of Godzilla’s history, legend and fame when they were pricing out this car.