2020 Nissan GT-R driven: King of the Monsters returns for battle

By Willem van de Putte Time of article published Sep 6, 2019

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Johannesburg - GT-R, that is all. No further introduction needed if you care anything about sports cars, speed or an iconic name. 

Even competitive manufacturers I’m sure doff their cap when they see the all-conquering car dubbed “Godzilla” back in the late '80s and early '90s . 

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to spend a few days testing Nissan’s sixth generation R35 halo product and it’s one of a few cars that any excuse to get behind the wheel would do. “Sorry, I forgot the milk, let me quickly go get some, shucks you wanted two litres I’ll go fetch more.You wanted bread as well… ” 

That car was introduced to South Africa in 2009 and rocketed to 100km/h in under three seconds. It’s understandable then that the Japanese supercar was an absolute game changer as were all the previous generations starting in 1969.

Which brings us back to the present and the new GT-R 50th Anniversary edition launched locally last week. Nothing much has changed in terms of emotions when you see it; it’s still a car that hits all the right buttons and no doubt owners will still be looking for any excuse to take it out on the road. 

We get two trim levels, the GT-R Premium and GT-R Black Edition but we were there to drive the 50th Anniversary Edition, built to celebrate, well… 50 years of GT-R and everything that went before it. So what is it? The most obvious is the liveries, taken from the Japanese GP series; Bayside (Wangan) Blue with white racing stripes and blue accents on the wheel spokes. Pearl white with red stripes and Super silver with white stripes round off the trio.

Inside subtle changes like a special grey interior, a unique steering wheel and shift knob trim, seat embossing and Alcantara headliner with unique stitching complete a premium space to spend time in. 

Initially it was thought that the handful of takumi technicians that individually hand build each engine had extracted about as much as they could from the 3.8-litre twin turbo engine. However, new turbos now increase the engine’s low rev range response. It still pushes out 410kW and 632Nm which Nissan says will get to 100km/h from a standstill in 2.9 seconds. Keep in mind too that a standard GT-R this year finished the Simola Hillclimb in just 44.094 seconds. 

The power is sent to all four wheels via a revised and very smooth six-speed dual clutch gearbox with a refined “R mode”. Downshifts are now more aggressive to better anticipate quick corner exits, with gear selection happening during ABS engagement providing reduced understeer. Also the exhaust note providing a magnificent backdrop is produced by a new titanium muffler featuring titanium finishers with burnished blue tips. 

Better cornering stability and a smoother ride is provided by a tweaked electronically controlled suspension, while a new brake booster increases initial braking response, handy I reckon when the needle heads towards 300km/h and a bend in the road comes up a lot quicker than usual. 

But is the 2020 edition of the GT-R as much fun to drive as the previous models? In short, absolutely. 

Heading to a fairly secluded piece of road towards Hart - beespoort Dam we played with the various settings on the 8-inch infotainment system to show us some of the racing icons such as G-forces, speed and accelerator percentages. 

It’s astounding how quickly you get up to speed while keeping an eye on the rev counter pointing straight at your face. Noticeable too is how quiet the cockpit is relative to the speed over various tarred surfaces. 

Launch control is done simply by planting your left foot on the brake, flooring the accelerator till it hits 4000rpm and letting go. Just as you begin to wonder whether you’ve done something wrong, a slight tyre squeal snaps your head back and the GT-R does what it’s famous for, careering down the tarmac in a howl of exhaust note and the auto box changing just in time before it redlines. Heading in to a bend at speed you get to appreciate how well balanced the car is with its gearbox behind you and the V6 upfront combining for almost perfect weight distribution.

Even at speeds that your head says shouldn’t be possible it stays true without a hint of things getting out of hand. Heading back to Pretoria at the speed limit, it’s almost an insult to the engine to be idling along behind the mundane. 

This GT-R cries out to be thrashed to the limit and is everything that a GT-R should be.


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