NISSAN GT-R NISMO: FOREVER YOUNG?
Why is it that after more than a decade of the R35 GT-R, we still can’t get enough of it? There’s more to it than just performance.
What could the Nissan GT-R possibly have in common with the iPhone, the fifth Harry Potter book and the Lamborghini Reventón? As it turns out, all were first released in 2007. Lots can happen in 14 years and it wouldn’t be fair to say the R35 GT-R hasn’t changed, because it has. However, these changes haven’t exactly been drastic. The GT-R NISMO brought a touch of spice to the line-up in 2013 with its enhanced looks and performance but fast forward to now, even with all of the yearly updates the GT-R remains the good ol’ Godzilla of which we all already know.
However, there is something quite paradoxical about the R35 today. While we desperately desire for something new to happen, the GT-R still brings serious levels of performance to the table and it is still a car that we all look up to. The simple act of knocking on Nissan’s door in 2021 to ask for their GT-R NISMO is sufficient proof that yes, it is still very much a relevant car and it still well deserves its place amongst the others. So we took the GT-R NISMO to Japan’s Hakone area to find out what makes this car, forever young.
Having gone through the hands of Nissan’s in-house tuning division,
there is more to this upgraded GT-R than its white, red and carbon fiber styling. On the outside, the NISMO shows distinct aerodynamic upgrades. The wing is visibly more imposing, and so are other parts such as the splitter, the side skirts and the diffuser. In this case, bigger does not mean heavier as carbon fiber is now omnipresent on the NISMO. The bonnet, roof, trunk, diffuser and the front fenders have all been switched to carbon fiber parts and on the inside, each seat is 1.4 kg lighter. All combined, the NISMO saves a total of 30 kg, bringing its curb weight down to somewhere around 1,730 kg. The most noticeable difference may likely be the scalloped vents on the front fenders. Inspired by the GT-R GT3, not only is this visually pleasing, it brings the NISMO a true race car look. These vents are not just here for decoration: they help funnel hot air out of the engine bay while also providing additional downforce onto the front tires.
It is also worth taking a closer look at the NISMO’s Brilliant White Pearl paint. The fine metallic flakes shimmer under the light, bringing out the delicate pearl white of what would seemingly look like a solid white from afar. Quite the contrast for this beast of a car!
In terms of performance, what you see is what you get.
Just like its looks, the NISMO is razor sharp and brutally fast. As you press the start button, the monster within the NISMO roars to life with all sorts of mechanical sounds. Slowly pushing the throttle, you can feel the mass of the GT-R setting into motion. The NISMO isn't the most exciting to drive in the city but while remaining civilized, it is impatiently waiting for you to do one thing: take it out for a proper drive on some proper roads.
“A race car for the road”: that is what the GT-R NISMO is meant to be. The NISMO-tuned VR38DETT (aka the hand-built 3.8L twin turbo V6) engine truly opens up as you reach the open road. There, it will take you less than the NISMO’s 0-100 km/h in 2.8 seconds to realize how light and lightning fast the car feels. The NISMO flies on straights thanks to the 600 hp and 481 lb-ft at your disposal. Its strong race car heritage is particularly noticeable with its turbochargers, which come straight from the GT3 race car. Despite a noticeable turbo lag, the turbos powerfully kick in when you thought the car was already giving you decent power and speed. For an even more dramatic experience, the mind blowing propulsion is accompanied with the turbos’ distinct spaceship-like whistling sound.
The NISMO isn’t a particularly loud car. Its exhaust notes are genuine with satisfying pops and bangs coming out of the exhaust pipes. As the fuel efficiency can at times average the 5km/l, each pop coming out of the exhaust will probably cost you a few hundred yen. The NISMO will fly by your eyes and the violent sounds you hear as it displaces the air is unlike anything else.
The NISMO also excels around corners. The Dunlop tires have their share of responsibility for that, as they now increase the contact patch by 11% thanks to their wider tread and fewer grooves. The set of aluminium rims painted black are now slightly lighter and as you peak through them, you will notice the carbon ceramic brakes that help bring this whole mass to a stop in the blink of an eye. The bright yellow brake pads are not only a surprisingly perfect match for the car’s white paint, they are also the biggest brake pads ever fitted to a Japanese car.
As for Nissan’s four-wheel drive system, it makes the GT-R extremely sharp and it goes where you direct it with incredible precision. Add to this the GT-R’s dual clutch gearbox and you may think this would be the winning combination for an easy going, exciting, Porsche 911-like drive up and down the mountains. As a matter of fact, driving the GT-R is no walk in the park. It is a demanding car that requires your full and undivided attention. When you firmly ask, the car delivers and as you get to understand each other, there is ultimately room for perfect symbiosis. You will need to take the NISMO to the race track in order to fully exploit its potential but there is still plenty to discover and enjoy on open roads.
The interior stays faithful to the GT-R interior we all know of
and this isn’t a bad thing at all. We still love the quality metallic knobs and buttons, the Bose speakers and the same rear seats. We happily welcome back the Polyphony Digital designed screens for all of your driving data. Despite having been criticized for not being so much of a useful feature for the driver, we must say that for the passenger, this is probably going to be a lot more entertaining than any of the current digital screens you’d get just for the sake of technology.
There are also plenty of GT-R and NISMO badges to make you feel proud and special for driving such a car. We must also highlight that speccing a NISMO is a headache free experience as the available options are minimal. The two-tone black and red interior is already decided for you and the priciest option you can get is the ¥140,800 (approx. $1,300; £950) luxurious set of floor mats with their metallic GT-R logo and carbon fiber inserts.
For a car that shares parts with its GT3 counterpart, the interior couldn’t be any roomier. The carbon fiber Recaro bucket seats in the NISMO are incredibly comfortable, nicely padded and they hold you in place even when the G Force tries to push you around. The backseats haven’t been replaced with a roll cage and remain the same as those you’d get in the standard GT-R. This means yes, you can have race car levels of fun with two extra passengers (ideally not too tall) in the back. The massive GT-R trunk is also present, which is another feature that makes the NISMO a great all rounder and remember, none of the competition provides such practicality and performance all at once.
There was a time when the GT-R NISMO occupied centre stage
as one of the fastest production cars out there. Today, the dynamics have changed. With newer high-tech sports cars taking over the headlines, the GT-R NISMO isn’t as shiny and as fast as it used to be. The ¥24,200,000 (approx. $221,000; £160,000) price tag isn’t helping either. For roughly the same amount, the competition will offer you something that is faster, lighter and that feels a lot more up to date with 2021 technology. In the NISMO’s defense, not many manufacturers are generous enough to comprise a set of carbon ceramic brakes amongst other things as standard. Quite the opposite from the competition’s costly and never ending options list.
New cars may come and go, but it feels as if the GT-R could easily go on another five years without ever losing its shine. So what is it about the GT-R NISMO that makes it just as relevant as it did when it came out? As we drove from dusk till dawn up and down the Hakone roads, something became quite obvious. No other supercar driving around attracted the attention the GT-R NISMO did. Whenever we would stop for a quick break, people would stop and look. Forget about that McLaren over there, it’s the GT-R with which people wanted to take a picture! More than you’d think, the GT-R (and the NISMO in particular) remains THE car people here in Japan look up to.
With monstrous levels of performance, aggressive looks, practicality points and a successful past to back it up, the GT-R NISMO displays massive amounts of personality that will leave you wanting for more. While performance and usability does have an important say in how relevant you are, it is ultimately character and what you truly mean to people that makes you last. After all, what is the point of breaking records if you don’t have the personality to go with it?