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2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary performance review

By Louis Cordony, 23 Aug 2019 Reviews

2020 Nissan GT-R performance review feature

Godzilla refines its road manners for 2020

There’s a curious noise inside the 2020 Nissan GT-R. Something other than the low-frequency throb spilling from the new titanium exhaust. It’s more a quiet hum. A transmission whine buried under sound deadening, buffered by active noise cancellation technology.

It’s a reminder that the R35 GT-R today is a different beast from the one that debuted in 2007. Godzilla is getting old, you see. So as it blows out the birthday candles on 50 years of the GT-R nameplate, it’s celebrating the model that's been on sale for 12 of them with a special edition.

Fittingly, it’s called the 50th Anniversary. Ours is blue. And not just any blue, Bayside Wangan Blue. It's a nod to the Tokyo freeway that street racers infamously make into their own Monza late at night.

While you get some stripes, special badging and a unique interior colour called Twilight Grey, everything else that is new is shared with the standard MY20 GT-R. Even this Bayside Blue is available on all variants, bar the Nismo. So listen up.

On the face of it, not much has changed. Progress on performance has been fairly rapid throughout the R35’s life and rather than deliver another shot-in-the-arm with power and torque, engineers have slaved to develop the MY17 package into an even more matured and refined machine.

You could say Nissan’s hand has been forced by the limits of the current car. For instance, its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 has lifted outputs by only 2kW and 1Nm to avoid tempting its connecting rods and injectors into failure.

Classic MOTOR: R32 v R33 v R34 v R35 GT-R comparison

With a total of 421kW and 633Nm, whatever headroom is left in the engine has been saved for the incoming Nismo. Outputs go through the same six-speed dual-clutch transaxle that can blast half of available grunt to the front wheels. The automatic also scores revised mapping in R mode for brisker downshifts.

The bigger gain, perhaps, lies in the bark unleashed by the titanium exhaust that’s finally made its way onto the Aussie car’s standard spec list. It shaves around 5kg from the R35's rump and settles kerb mass at 1765kg. And that's not all Hiroshi Tamura, the GT-R’s chief product specialist, has kept up his sleeve.

He tells us they’ve lined abradable seals on the MY20’s turbocharger compressor housings, as with the MY14 Nismo, which open the intake tracts to improve flow and response. This sort of science belongs in an aircraft. 

MORE: GT-R & 370Z 50th Anniversary Australian pricing confirmed

They’ve also shaved 140 grams from each wheel while improving their rigidity. A revised brake booster improves pedal stroke. Meanwhile it’s claimed the suspension delivers faster response and better comfort, while the retuned steering is more "linear and precise".

We'll have to shelve evaluating such claims for another time since circumstance out of our own, and Nissan’s, control pushed our drive program to the end of twilight. A 421kW super sports car is not something you want to uncork while kangaroos are waiting to cross the road.

That was fine, anyway, since you’d need to drive it on a racetrack to truly understand the MY20’s incremental gains in speed. And the Queensland roads that snake their way to Mount Mee let us focus on the package at a slightly slower pace.

First off, the steering still feels disconnected through its massive 255mm front Dunlops. They also can tramline on cambered roads. In Comfort mode its 20-inch tyres still transmit small frequency bumps but the newly tuned dampers cancel out the worst depressions and harsh thuds you’d otherwise feel over cattle grids.

It’s an easier car to drive on part throttle, with only a split-second of lag in the first few millimetres of tip-in. And those titanium pipes enhance the V6’s genuine growl when you want to hear it without any drone or boom when you don’t. Nice.

The transmission, too, feels more enthusiastic in R-mode, down changing with close-to-PDK levels of intuition when leading into a corner rather than waiting for you to stomp the gas on the way out.

The car, the myth, the legend: Celebrating 50 years of the GT-R

At lower speeds it’s smoother, engaging quietly when crawling along. But it also remains sluggish when you plant the throttle as it climbs down through its ratios one by one. Luckily, that V6’s fat torque curve doesn’t need a low gear to suck you in and spit you down the road at serious pace.

Entry into the MY20 range has risen about $4K on a MY17 spec GT-R with the base Premium variant kicking off at $193,800. Fancier leather inside the Luxury spec model steps that up to $199,800, while the 50th Anniversary tops out the current range at a built-to-order $209,300. Track Editions begin at $235K.

As pretty as the 50th Anniversary is with those stripes we’d find it hard to buy into its hype since it fails to feel special for a $9K premium. Which leaves us to focus on the MY20 GT-R.

Its improved ride and low-down response has polished the R35’s grand touring credentials while new gearbox software shrinks concerns that perhaps the GT-R's performance is not worth the trouble. That exhaust adds character, too, without shouting about it.

Like always, the GT-R punches way above its price in performance. An updated infotainment system or dash design would freshen it against a suite of newly updated (or soon-to-be) rivals, but it remains unmatched in speed against anything this side of optioned Porsche 911 Carrera 4S.

Yep, it's the same old story for the R35. But it's one we still enjoy telling.  

2020 NISSAN GT-R SPECS
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, DOHC, 24v 
Power: 421kW @ 6800rpm
Torque: 633Nm @ 3300-5800rpm
Weight: 1765kg
0-100km/h: 3.2 seconds (estimated)
Price: $193,800 - $209,300 

Like: Comfier ride, ballistic speed, added refinement
Dislike: Ageing interior technology, tardy gearbox, end-of-the-line engine performance

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

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