Every year when the Nissan GT-R gets an update, we think that's it, it can't possibly get any better. Once again we are proven wrong.
The 2012 Nissan GT-R is yet another significant step forward in the mighty GT-R's legendary history. More power, more torque, faster acceleration, better fuel economy, improved ride and handling and a noticeably more civilized gearbox are all part of the 2012 updates.
Nissan has always said that the GT-R is a continuing evolution, meaning that it improves with every single iteration. When we drove the 2009 Nissan GT-R we were blown away by its performance, the same story endued in 2010 and again in 2011. The problem with this methodology is somewhat evident, every year the Nissan GT-R gets better, so if you hold out just one more year, you’ll get a better one, but then again, if you hold out another year after that, it gets better still.
At one point or another you have to make a decision that this is the one for you. So far over 420 Australians have made that commitment and more and more are joining the party. In fact, some have traded in their ‘old’ R35 GT-R for a new one, just to have the absolute best and latest. You can think of the Nissan GT-R as a really expensive iPhone, it improves every year and you absolutely have to get the very latest for the bragging rights.
Speaking of which, this year’s model is the first to have an official 0-100km/h time of under three seconds. 2.8 seconds to be exact. To put that into perspective, that makes the Nissan GT-R faster in the sprint than a Ferrari 458, Porsche 911 Turbo, Lamborghini Gallardo or Lamborghini Aventador, Aston Martin DBS or even a Koenigsegg CCXR. That’s not a bad achievement for a car that costs $170,800.
Therein lies the biggest challenge when it comes to talking about a Nissan GT-R. What on earth do you compare it to? Absolutely nothing in its price range comes even remotely close to its performance credentials. The delicately built 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 generates 404kW of power (up from 390kW) and 628Nm of torque (up from 612Nm). Meanwhile fuel economy has dropped 0.3L/100km to 11.7 (not that you care). Only eight people in the world are qualified to build a GT-R engine and each can produce only two per day.
From the outside the only thing that gives a 2012 model away is the tiny reversing camera on the boot, which incorporates into the 7-inch LCD touchscreen for improved reversing capability. With only 500 or so R35 Nissan GT-Rs in Australia (including the few private imports), seeing one is a rare sight. Which means the level of exclusivity is definitely on supercar level.
To review the new Nissan GT-R we headed to Launceston, so that we could put it through a few of the famous Targa Tasmania stages. Behind the wheel the GT-R is still a breeze to drive. It’s the sort of car that you’d be happy to let your elderly parents take to the shops. It has a big boot, steers well, the six-speed dual clutch gearbox has been noticeably improved so that it’s no longer clunky and harsh around town and its overall behavior is incredibly docile when its treated as such. It’s all an act, of course, because just like a trained assassin, when all the switches go to R mode, it becomes a lethal machine determined to defy the laws of physics to get you to the next corner faster than you thought possible.
As we strap in and head for the mountains, it’s hard not to hear the high level of road noise. The specially designed Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres are by no means there to keep the noise down and given the GT-R doesn’t posses any potent exhaust note (it does, however, sound as if its trying to create a blackhole with all the air it sucks it), it can become a little tedious.
The GT-R’s sports seats are also clearly not designed for those of us that are aspiring Americans. It’s a good fit for the average adult but it can get pretty tight if you like your Big Macs. The interior in general is still very much a traditional Japanese creation. It’s not Spartan in feel or quality but there is a sense of over complication in the controls. There are buttons, switches, more buttons and just when you thought it was over, there are yet more buttons to be found.
Thankfully there is only one button and three switches worth playing with, the start/stop button and the transmission, suspension and VDC switches. Turn the GT-R on and flick all switches to R-mode, put your left foot on the brake and plant your right firmly on the accelerator. The GT-R will acknowledge your command and automatically engage launch control mode, holding engine revs at around 4,000 RPM in preparation for lift off. You have three seconds to prepare your neck muscles and release the brakes, holding the steering wheel as straight as possible and trying not to blackout.
When the brake pedal is released, there is an instant surge of power that slams you back into the seat, it’s not violent or brutal but it’s overpowering and addictive. By the time you’ve blinked, you’ve already hit 100km/h and in the time it takes your brain to process that tiny bit of information, you’re nearing 130km/h. As you can see, there’s a problem with the GT-R, it makes driving at 100km/h seem like a chore. This is not a car designed for our draconian speed limits. It’s determined to help you lose your licence as quickly as possible.
As we blasted up country Tasmania, there was an eerie silence. It’s the sort of feeling you get when time slows down and everything runs at a different pace. Corner after corner, street sign after street sign, all flying past at warp speed. The wildlife had long ago gone into hiding and our Godzilla was eating up the road faster than we could comprehend. Driving a Nissan GT-R is like playing Gran Tursimo, except it’s easier. You simply look into the next corner, point the steering wheel appropriately and the car’s numerous computer systems will do the rest. It almost doesn’t matter when or where you flatten the accelerator to come out of a tight corner, it works it all out for you.
The Nissan GT-R is a car that will far exceed your capability as a driver. When you’re going flat out, it feels as though it’s hardly working. The phenomenal brakes allow for very late breaking into every bend but even then it seems like it can handle more speed. It’s almost exhausting to drive flat out because it’s not a case of keeping smooth car control but being able to react fast enough to extract the maximum speed.
That’s the sort of thinking that led us to Symmons Plains racetrack, about 30 km out of Launceston. As fast as a Nissan GT-R is around the mountain, it’s at home on a racetrack. Nissan envisions that most owners will at least track their GT-R once (or have intentions to), so its track credentials are crucial to the whole process. With an infamous Porsche-beating Nurburgring time that kicked off the whole GT-R saga a few years ago, the folks at Nissan have been hard and work improving every little bit detail.
For example, the Australian delivered right-hand drive GT-Rs now compensate for the weight imbalance on the right wheel by utilising harder spring rates on the left side, while the rear gains a revised suspension arm that has been installed upwards on the left side and downwards on the right. The result? An imbalanced wheel load when stationary that is equalized when driving. Nissan says this is ideal for track work since there’s usually only the driver behind the wheel and should pose no noticeable difference for everyday use with a passenger onboard (plus it’s the perfect excuse to go for solo spirited drives).
Around the track we felt the GT-R composed and well mannered. There is the occasional understeer if you miss the line and push too hard, but ultimately it’s very forgiving. To be fair, it’s not as fun as a similarly priced Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG on track (since it hardly ever misbehaves), but it’s noticeably faster. If you want the fastest lap times, you can’t go wrong for the money, but if you want to have a bit of fun and make a lot of noise doing so, it’s probably the wrong car for you.
It’s easy to get overexcited about the Nissan GT-R, afterall, it’s an awesome machine that forces exotic supercar manufacturers to justify their existence. It has its flaws, though. The servicing costs (particularly the cost of transmission oil) is a bit of a worry and the dual-clutch gearbox is not able to drop down numerous gears instantly (like the Porsche 911's PDK), instead it has to work its way down sequentially. Lets not forget that it will be dethroned in a year’s time by yet another, better GT-R.
If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details of what Nissan has changed in the 2012 model, read this. Otherwise if you’ve got the means to buy a GT-R and have been waiting for the perfect moment, this really is it. The Nissan GT-R is irrefutably one of the best performance cars on the planet.