So, 10 years into Godzilla’s life and a common question is whether the GT-R, a Nissan - can really be called a Supercar. It is a constant source of conflict between the automotive elite and the surveyors of Nürburgring Lap times. From the exotic, cutting edge lines to the sub-3 second 0-100 sprint time, others are inclined to agree. But putting that to the side, perhaps a more pressing question is whether the ageing platform, 11 years old this year, is still a wise choice.
I've been blessed enough to end up with a GT-R as a plaything, but I've also had a couple of different ones around a track over time, one of which was back-to-back with an Audi R8 and a Lamborghini Aventador, which made for some interesting comparison.
A long story short, last year I set myself a goal of buying something special for my birthday. April '19 rolled around and it came to decision time. It came down to a budget of $150,000 and the aim would be to buy as much of a dream car as possible.
The short list was plentiful and included a Ferrari 360, Lamborghini Gallardo and Audi R8 among others.
I stumbled across a well-priced GT-R and before I could mutter "never meet your heroes", I'd sent a message to the dealer in Melbourne saying that I'd take it. It was far from the raw mini-supercar experience that I had in mind.
No inspection, no time for hesitation, no head over heart.
The next month was full of anxiety as I hit refresh on my car transporter's tracking website to see if it was inching ever closer.
I was nervous, as I'm the type of person who gets separation anxiety from being out of sight from my car at the best of times; but also because it had been a month, and I had just sent a huge amount of cash on something I hadn't seen.
May rolls around and I get the phone call. Godzilla had arrived. Like in the movie, its arrival was followed by chaos, lots of confused running around and squealing. I had even spent the week obsessing over what clothes and shoes I would wear for collection day (A comfy hoodie and my favourite driving Converse) and what the first-drive route would be. You see, I didn't know the maintenance record and true condition of the car, so the first drive had to be more functional rather than thrilling.
It rumbled up to the collection bay and I was handed the keys and started what would be a year long journey of either ultimate satisfaction, or supreme regret.
I suppose this is the point where the usual elephant in the corner pokes his trumpet in the air. Visually the GT-R is striking. Angular lines guide your eye around the car and all the way back to the iconic round tail lights. It seems as many people love the car visually as don't like it, but you can't deny its road presence. It's a large car and its girth does take a bit of getting used to if you have only had sleeker cars.
The interior simply can't be thrown into the ring with more authoritative luxury brands - it doesn't feature the same supple leathers and textured plastics that you'd find in something German for example. But don't let that prejudice you into thinking it's bad. Just a little plain, perhaps. Seating position is excellent (for my frame at least) for long drives and spirited runs alike. The 8-inch touchscreen is angled towards the driver, and in setting the true tone of the car, features some gorgeous displays designed by Polyphony Digital; yes, the video game studio behind Gran Turismo.
This includes a number of views which show you various telemetry and statistics about the car, including some user-customisable displays. Everything from the all-important boost pressure, to throttle and brake position, fluid temperatures and cornering and acceleration G's can be displayed at the twist of a knob. The infotainment is a bit long in the tooth now - there is no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay here - but the Premium Bose audio is crisp, punchy and clear and it doesn’t distort at the high end of the volume dial. I find it a nice place to be. I didn’t buy the car with the intent of sitting in it to feel anything other than going fast; so its simplistic nature lends itself perfectly to that.
I've intentionally held off until now to talk about the drive, and before I do I have to add that my GT-R isn't quite as it was off the factory floor. It's been breathed on by renowned GT-R tuners in the UK - Litchfield. Given a modified version of their Stage 4.25 kit, it puts out just shy of 700bhp. Among other tweaks, the work includes a larger intercooler and full exhaust system to keep things flowing quickly, and uprated fuel pumps and injectors to keep the beast fed with high octane fuel. It is mapped remotely by the guys in the UK. The net result is a monster that produces as much torque as my E92 M3 does at its peak - all by 2000rpm. From 4-7000rpm it now produces a flat 600+ lbs/ft of neck-snapping torque. I have also replaced the stock Potenzas for a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S which has given a notable improvement in steering-feel.
So I poke the 'start engine' button and she snorts to life. Being turbocharged, you don't get the same soul-stirring burble as you do from a V8; but with the tweaked breathing mods there is a very audible roar.
0-100km/h comes in well under 3 seconds and beyond that it will pull relentlessly, keeping up with superbikes on the straights and Porsches in the corners. It's not a light car and there is no hiding almost two tonnes of mass, yet somehow it still changes direction on a knife's edge. Gear changes are instant if not quite having the finesse of a PDK box; you can catch it off-guard if you assume that it will do everything for you. The car has been built from the ground up to perform. Mizuno-San, the brains behind the R35, has said in the past that it owes its handling prowess in part to its weight. The suspension is balanced from the factory, being stiffer on the driver’s side to lend itself to solo-track attacks.
The default response to any GT-R driver is that it ''doesn't feel the same as a supercar'' or that it ''drives itself'', but I feel that anyone who doesn't think you can evolve as a driver in the GT-R, or that the electrics in an Italian supercar aren't helping you make quick progress, simply hasn't spent enough time at the helm of a GT-R. It's not until you really become involved and at one with the car that you really start to explore the reaches of what it can do.
The whole thing feels alive, you can hear the six-speed dual-clutch transmission clacking away, the faint whistle of the turbos spooling up, the growing roar of the exhaust as you pick up speed, and the mechanical sound of that V6 all creating a symphony that is unique to the R35's orchestra. Each motor is hand-build and you somehow catch a sense of that. As you engage with the car, rising over peaks, diving onto troughs, and attacking corners with baffling pace, the exhaust roars, pops and burbles, and the whole thing becomes intoxicating. In reverse, the mechanical noises from the GT-R are at their least subtle, which again some would see as simply unrefined, but I feel it really adds to the sense of occasion.
It really comes alive when you bound between corners at speed, and when you really get up the rev range the world simply goes backwards in moments. The 6-pot front and 4-pot rear Brembos pull you up at a rate that causes your face to go all gooey before you get to the other end and get on the gas again. You really don't realise how much speed you accumulate in such a short space of time and how much of that you can carry in places that you feel you shouldn't. Being 4WD, you can expose a hint of understeer if you miss a line, and the car needs to be truly manhandled to get tail-happy, generally well beyond the sort of driving that you'll get away with on the road.
There's a constant battle while trying to extend your capabilities as a driver beyond the capabilities of the car - which will rarely put a foot wrong.
The steering can be accused of expressing the slightest of vagueness for a moment as you turn in, but from there it is communicative, and despite the electrics you somehow obtain a wonderful feel of precisely what the car is doing. It feels almost perfectly weighted at speed and flows excellently. Around town, just off-centre can be a little limp, but this isn’t where you want to be piloting your GT-R. But if you do, you’ll find the auto-box adapts to your driving style and will return 12-14 litres per 100 kilometres.
The car has expressed the usual J-spec reliability that you'd hope for, with a year's ownership only needing a simple service and a new battery. The servicing is a point of contention; this year my car needed all fluids done - oil, transmission, front and rear diffs. Find a good specialist and the cost will be down to $2,000; but you can more than treble that if you go to a dealership. Frightful, but you have to remember that despite the badge on the boot, for all intents and purposes, you are in a supercar now. I’ve always had the desire for something a little more prestigious, something with a gated 6-speed box and eight or ten cylinders mounted behind my left ear, but after living with the Nissan for 12 months, I can’t help but feel I would miss so much about it if I ever did move on.
The GT-R remains somewhat practical, as it has a rear shelf disguised as passenger seats. But (spoiler alert), even small children will struggle to fit in if you like your leg room up front. Set the suspension to comfort and you get an extra level of suppleness which increases the prospects of the GT-R as a daily driver. The ride height is low, but still allows you to navigate town without any problems.
So whilst some will say price and pedigree means it can't be a supercar, others will scoff at the fact that supercars lap the Nürburgring slower than the stock R35, including the Enzo and various Porsches and McLarens. At worst, it's a supercar-eater. But none of that matters.
So to be frank, I couldn’t care less on what artificial category the car is shoehorned into; sporty GT, Racing GT, Supercar, Supercar wannabe... in and of itself, it remains a breathtaking experience. It whips your licence out of the glovebox and holds a lighter to it if you give it a chance. And with a car that is constantly evolving to be faster, quicker, and sharper, there comes a point where the opportunity to own the 'ultimate' R35 is actually right in front of you if you consider throwing some mods into the mix.
I don’t regret a thing.