The Nissan GT-R Nismo is a racecar made for the road. It takes what is already one of the fastest accelerating cars in the world and makes it faster, so to that end, it’s every car enthusiast's dream. But does it make sense?
With 441kW of power and 652Nm of torque, (37kW, 24Nm more than the regular GT-R), the Nismo tuned 'Godzilla' is a supercar slaying racer that is somehow legal to drive to the shops.
To drive it, we came to Mt Fuji racetrack in Japan, which gets converted for the Nismo Festival of Speed once a year. The track itself is a former Formula 1 circuit best known for the race between Niki Lauda and James Hunt, made famous in the movie ‘Rush’.
Just like in the movie, on our drive day the weather gods were not kind, with semi-torrential rain ruining what would’ve otherwise been some seriously fast laps. Alas, even on a terrible day the Nismo GT-R is fast.
The power and torque upgrades come due to the turbocharger change from the regular GT-R to that used in the GT-R GT3 racecar.
From the outside it’s a bit boy racey, like something out of a Japanese comic book, with its red Nismo highlights, racing wheels and an aero package better suited to a GT racer.
The interior too, remains largely the same but with racecar-like seats and modified trim.
We jumped behind the wheel of our GT-R Nismo and headed out on Mt Fuji raceway with specific instructions not to exceed 180km/h on the straight due to poor weather. Instructions we obeyed diligently only after the needle repeatedly went past 240km/h.
The first thing to note with the Nissan GT-R Nismo is that it is indeed too fast. It’s one of those cars where regular or even semi-professional drivers will hardly ever extract its full potential.
It is of course helped by its computer system, which will break the laws of physics to keep you pointing in the right direction. In the age of computer assistance, that’s not a bad thing but if you’re a true driver, that’s not nearly as fun as it sounds.
In the wet, the GT-R Nismo is a complete handful. Come hard into a corner, turn in, ease on the accelerator and there’s still wheelspin all over the place.
But given it’s AWD – and an excellent system at that - there’s no sense of panic as the supercar struggles to find its feet. Instead, there is just pure joy as one gets to experience what it feels like when a car as quick as a GT-R is sliding sideways under full acceleration going around Panasonic corner at Mt Fuji.
When the accelerator is flattened, not many cars come close to the ferocity of the Nismo GT-R. It goes from 0-100km/h in 2.1 seconds, only fractionally slower than a modern-day Formula One car and faster than anything from Ferrari or Lamborghini. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission is also unbelievably rapid as it responds to change requests almost before you grab the paddle shifters.
That in itself is a huge drawcard for dinner conversation, but the real reason you buy a Nismo GT-R is because you frequent track days and then the argument becomes somewhat flawed, because what’s the point of a car that is faster than your ability to react?
And if even for a millisecond you think that doesn’t include you, you’d be dead wrong. For all intents and purposes, this is the sort of car you can put Lewis Hamilton in and even he will still have fun. That’s a huge credit to what Nissan and Nismo have built.
Nissan uses Usain Bolt as its brand ambassador to promote the GT-R and that makes sense, cause the guy is seriously quick, but for the regular Joe, or the amateur racer, you’d really be better off going flat out in a slower car and learning racecraft rather than finding yourself well and truly overwhelmed by a car’s sheer speed.
You see, while the GT-R Nismo is superb, even the regular GT-R is still faster than most people will ever need, even for a track car. Plus, it’s designed to go fast almost regardless of what you do, so while it’ll kill track times anywhere it goes, it just won’t be all that much fun in the process.
Don’t think we don’t love the Nissan GT-R. We do. We love the Nismo edition even more, but to be perfectly honest, we had far more fun driving the 370Z Nismo on the same track - considering how often it tried to kill us - than the GT-R.
To burst a proverbial bubble, if you think the GT-R Nismo will make your Porsche-owning friends weep as you crush their lap times (and you will), you’d be wrong because they are having far more fun in the process (though they’ve paid a lot more for it), which is perhaps the best way to think of the GT-R: Extremely fast in every imaginable way and circumstance, but that’s about all there is to it.
Nismo will launch in Australia soon, but when that will be is still undetermined. When it does, though, the Nismo GT-R will be hugely popular with existing GT-R customers and perhaps those seeking to buy something stupidly fast for what is essentially a bargain. Pricing remains unconfirmed but expect something close to $200,000.