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Tested: GT-R grows up with 2017 revamp

Road tests
Johannesburg – Nissan's given its GT-R sports coupé a number of engine upgrades since the R35 version was launched back in 2007, but for its latest trick it’s gone further than the obligatory shot of extra power. This time it’s also taken a more premium turn to make the car appeal more to the Porsche 911, BMW M6 and Jaguar F-Type crowd.

Making it the most grown-up R35 to date, refinements have been made to make Godzilla less boy-racerish and easier to drive, without blunting that all-important spiked fist. Apart from a design tweak both inside and out, there are visual and audible refinements, along with driving-performance enhancements.

The external restyle involves a new chrome matte finish grille which has been enlarged for better engine cooling, while the bonnet’s been reinforced to aid high-speed driving stability. The front spoiler lip and front bumpers get a fresh design and the side sills are pushed out to improve air flow.

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New styling elements at the front offer improved air flow. Pictures: Denis Droppa.

At the back the trademark four-ring taillights remain but new bodywork helps improve air flow and gives the car a wider and more aggressive look, and there are new side air vents next to the quartet of exhausts. It’s not all for show; the styling changes create less drag whilst retaining the same amount of downforce.

The revamped cabin now has a distinctly more upmarket vibe. The dashboard is covered with soft nappa leather and so are the lightened new carbon-fibre sports seats. It gives the interior a more grown-up feel and it’s more user-friendly too: a simplified interface with navigation and audio controls integrated into the 8-inch touchscreen reduces the clutter of switches.

Each Nissan GT-R engine is built by one of five master craftsmen, with their name engraved on a plaque. Outputs in the 3.8-litre V6 twin-turbocharged engine have been upped to 408kW and 632Nm (previously 397kW and 628Nm), which Nissan says improves mid-range acceleration and allows a sub three-second 0-100km/h figure. Godzilla’s roar has been upgraded too with new titanium exhausts and Active Sound Enhancement (ASE). It’s a rorty and entertaining V6 sound without being especially eargasmic.

It also slices through corners better thanks to a more rigid suspension structure, riding on sticky 20” tyres wrapped around new forged aluminium wheels. At the same time Nissan’s engineering wizards have made the ride smoother.

Transmission duty is performed by an updated 6-speed dual-clutcher with smoother and quieter shifts, improving the car’s driveability and refinement when driving in traffic.

Set all the drive modes to their sportiest settings and this Nissan gets its groove on with very burly performance. Our performance tests at Gerotek gleaned acceleration figures of 0-100km/h in 3.8 seconds and a quarter-mile of 12 secs.

This turned out to be a little slower than the respective 3.5 seconds and 11.5 secs we achieved in the 390kW/612Nm GT-R we tested back in 2012. The discrepancy could be partly due to the warmer and windier test conditions we experienced in the 2017 car. It also may be that the more refined gearshifting has taken some of the bite off the acceleration. Nevertheless the latest GT-R is still blindingly fast and joins an elite handful of cars that are able to break the four second barrier at Gauteng altitude.

The GT-R’s launch control function makes easy work of achieving these sprint times. Just left-foot brake, wind the revs up until they settle at around 4000rpm, and release the brake, presto. The launch system worked perfectly for several runs in succession and the car burst off the line without bogging down or wheel spinning. Nothing worse than lining up that pesky hot hatch only for electronics to fail you at the critical moment ... “Um, wait dude my launch control wasn’t working, can we try that again?”

The GT-R’s a heavy car at over 1.7 tons, which doesn’t make it quite the ultimate cornering tool. A Porsche 911 is distinctly sharper and more alert; the front-engined Nissan’s nose doesn’t tip into turns with the same surgical precision. After a few hard laps you can also feel the brakes taking strain in the GT-R. But there’s no criticising the all-wheel drive Nissan’s grip. Those broad tyres really stick to the road, but the rear-biased handling allows some entertaining tail play when booted out of tight bends.

And thank you Nissan for moving the shift paddles from the column onto the steering wheel, allowing mid-turn gearchanges without having to take your hands off the wheel.

VERDICT

It’s smoother, more civilised, and easier to drive, but the beast still lurks within. It’s still a spiked fist, just wearing a nappa leather glove. The price has spiked too, at R2 150 000 for the Premium Edition and R2 250 000 for the Black Edition.

FACTS

Nissan GT-R Premium Edition

Engine: 3.8-litre, V6 turbopetrol

Gearbox: 6-speed dual-clutch automated

Power: 408kW @ 6800rpm

Torque: 632Nm @ 3300 - 5800rpm

0-100km/h (tested, Gauteng): 3.8 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 315km/h

Price: R2 150 000

Warranty: 3-year / 100 000km

Service Plan: 3-year / 50 000km

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