There’s a lot to be said for a car with a one-setting-fits-all mentality, but sometimes that singular focus can be a bit too challenging. Take the R35 Nissan GT-R. Despite boasting multiple suspension and drive-mode settings, the overriding feeling always involved degrees of brutality. After seven years on Aussie soil (nine years in Japan), the R35 GT-R was in need of a deportment and grooming course.
But much has changed with the MY17 Nissan GT-R. With a range vaguely split into ‘comfort’ and ‘sport’ variants (though those are relative terms – all GT-Rs are proper sports cars), the GT-R has broadened its talents significantly. At entry level, it’s a better-finished, more sophisticated and liveable sports car, while at the upper end, it’s as close to a race car for the road as you’re going to get for a round-the-world business-class ticket over $200K.
- Handling. The GT-R might weigh upwards of 1760kg but most of the time, you’d never know. A sophisticated all-wheel-drive system that sends 100 percent of drive to the rear much of the time, and up to 50/50 front/rear in more demanding conditions, enhances the Nissan sports car’s classic rear-biased balance, while Nismo-spec components and body strengthening turn the MY17 GT-R Track Edition into a mind-blowing circuit supremo. A seductive new steering wheel doesn’t hurt either.
- Street cred. Despite its encroaching vintage, the R35 GT-R has always been a head-turner. The MY17 mods not only enhance the GT-R’s street cred, they actually improve its function (namely cooling and aerodynamics). Black 20-inch Rays alloys (super-tough six-spoke forged items on the Track Edition), a striking new colour called Katsura Orange and new multi-hued leather interior options (red, ivory, tan or black – GT-R Premium Luxury only) give the latest GT-R the additional sparkle it needs to really stand out in 2016. That said, a black GT-R with black 20s still has enormous presence.
- Performance. With 15kW more than last year’s GT-R (meaning a serious 419kW), the MY17 should be capable of three-dead to 100km/h from standstill. And Nissan claims the MY17 GT-R is 0.2sec faster from 100-200km/h, which is great news if you live in Germany. The twin-turbo V6 also has plenty of torque, meaning you don’t have to be flogging the GT-R to appreciate its muscle.
- Everyday driving. Much-improved as the regular GT-R’s ride quality, steering ease and driveline refinement may be, the GT-R can still be a challenge in the cut-and-thrust of day-to-day life. Long, relatively heavy doors, minimal rear-seat space (despite its external size) and a deep boot with a high loading lip compromise its weekend-away capabilities, while firm suspension and difficult rear and side vision demand attention and driving ability to get the best from the GT-R in an urban environment.
- Turbo lag. In its most relaxed drive mode, following some sedate cruising, the GT-R is too languid when suddenly asked to harness its considerable grunt. Plant your right foot and it will kick down a gear or two before acknowledging your commitment, then dropping yet another gear for full forward thrust. Full kickdown should mean exactly that.
- Price. Starting at $189K (for the Premium Edition), the GT-R is a very expensive Nissan – especially one that lacks modern safety features like collision alert or autonomous emergency braking (AEB). And while the Premium Luxury Edition ($195K) and Track Edition ($227K) add plenty of choice equipment, like the option of a Nappa leather dashboard, console and door trim (in four colours) in the Premium Luxury Edition, or black and red Recaro leather buckets in the Track Edition, you’d want to be in love with the GT-R’s engineering to discover its true value for money.
ANY RIVALS I SHOULD CONSIDER?
Possibly the BMW M4 Competition and Mercedes-AMG C63 S Coupe if it’s ballistic two-door coupe cool you’re chasing, though both German heavyweights are better all-rounders than the GT-R, without perhaps quite reaching the height of its highs. And there’s always the Porsche 911 for an even steeper price than the GT-R, and that’s the base model. As far as supersonic thrills for the money goes, the Nissan has a unique appeal.