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Nissan GT-R 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
8
The car they call “Godzilla” has come in for a makeover before the credits roll. Does the latest model live up to the hype?

As hard as this is to believe, the same company that makes the humble Nissan Pulsar hatchback also makes one of the wildest cars on the planet.

The Nissan GT-R is Japan’s fastest ever supercar to date, and a hero for a generation that can’t even drive yet.

More than 77 million people a have “driven” a new Nissan GT-R, the car dubbed “Godzilla” for its giant-killing ability -- if you count test drives on the Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo computer game.

Value

The virtual world is as close as most of us will get, given it’s by far the dearest car to wear a Nissan badge, likely to start at a cool $180,000 when this model arrives in local showrooms in September.

It’s either an insanely expensive Nissan or, if you believe the hype, a cut-price Porsche.

Nissan initially made bold claims about its GT-R, stating it was quicker than a Porsche around the famous Nurburgring, a perilous 21km ribbon of race track in the mountains north west of Frankfurt that has become the default measure of performance for the automotive world.

This Nissan GT-R is more important than the eight other updates over the past 10 years.

More than a little worried, Porsche was one of the first in line to buy the sixth generation GT-R when it turned up in Europe in 2007.

And then Porsche dropped a bombshell. After exhaustive tests, the German maker was not able to match the claims made by Nissan about the performance of its prized GT-R. It turned out, as physics might suggest, less power in a heavier car is in fact not faster than a $400,000 Porsche 911 Turbo.

Since then, few people on the planet have been able to match the Nissan GT-R’s claim for the 0 to 100kmh dash, which has varied from 2.8 to 3.2 seconds depending on the model and how bold Nissan was feeling at the time.

Such small differences are a big deal in the car buff world.

Which is why this Nissan GT-R is more important than the eight other updates over the past 10 years.

The GT-R has come in for one final overhaul before the next generation arrives in 2020, or perhaps even later. Nissan’s not saying.

The promise: more power and better performance for its final fling. So we took a satellite timing device to the other side of the world to test the new model.

On the road

Despite the hype, first impressions of the new GT-R were underwhelming.

Whether at suburban or freeway speeds it still feels heavy, which is hardly surprising given it weighs almost as much as a Holden Commodore.

The interior is pretty dated, too, even if Nissan has reduced the number of buttons from 27 to 11 and added a higher quality leather option in an attempt to spruce it up.

The cabin is cramped, the navigation controls are not user-friendly, and despite its high price the shift levers on the steering wheel are still made of a flimsy plastic, not a lightweight metal found in other supercars.

Most concerning, though, the new GT-R initially didn’t feel fast.

In automatic mode, there are situations when a Toyota Corolla would be more responsive.

Cruising at 65km/h, floor the throttle to overtake, and it takes an age for the twin-clutch transmission to shuffle its way down the gears, and even then only grabbing third when second would be better.

To find out just how slow the new GT-R really was, I hooked up the timing equipment, put the three driving modes into “race” position, held the brake, floored the throttle and then let it go.

What I said next cannot be printed in a newspaper. Suffice to say the GT-R accelerated like a mortar shell.

Never in my experience has a car been so deceivingly quick.

The engine held its revs momentarily until I let my foot off the brake and we were off with a lot of noise and, in my case, a lot of confusion.

The numbers told the story: 0 to 60kmh in a staggeringly quick 1.7 seconds on the way to 100km/h in 3.3 seconds. Just 0.1 seconds slower than Nissan's current claim.

Must have been beginner’s luck, I thought. So I tried it again. And again. And again. The first four runs were identical. Incredible.

The fun did eventually end after half a dozen launches; a warning light advised that the car needed a rest.

It also burns a lot of fossil fuel to deliver this performance -- forget the rating label claim, the GT-R guzzles a mind-boggling 25 to 50 litres per 100km in extreme driving. We needed to refill the tiny 74-litre petrol tank after 12 laps of a race track.

But, wow, is the new GT-R fast. Once you get to know it.

Never in my experience has a car been so deceivingly quick. Even in normal “auto” mode it still managed a breath-taking 4.5-second time. Holy friggin smoke.

With more time behind the wheel, other changes became more apparent.

The heavy duty gearbox has lost its clunkiness. As one Nissan executive said with a grin: “a lot of motorsport-inspired noises are gone”.

The steering feels lighter than before but there’s less wriggle in the wheel at high speeds. What impresses most is the accuracy with which you can position the big wide beast in any corner.

The responsiveness of the throttle -- when in manual and “race” modes -- makes the GT-R feel much more nimble than physics ought to allow.

In a corner, the nose tucks in the instant you ease ever so slightly off the throttle. Midway through a bend, move the pedal forward a fraction and feel the car climb out of the corner with grip and power you never knew existed.

The suspension is -- finally -- more comfortable over bumps. “Now family members won’t say ‘I don’t want to ride with you after lunch because your car is too harsh’,” said the Japanese chief engineer in a candid moment.

Go figure. The Nissan GT-R is no longer just a driver’s car, it’s also a car for passengers -- if you can hold on for the ride.

Verdict

The new GT-R is not faster than, or as consistent as, a Porsche 911 Turbo. But it delivers 99 per cent of the enjoyment for less than 50 per cent of the price.

Click here to see more 2016 Nissan GT-R pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$135,135
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$106,370
Highest Price
$163,900

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
45th Anniversary Edition 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $106,370 – 122,210 2016 Nissan GT-R 2016 45th Anniversary Edition Pricing and Specs
Black Edition 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $114,620 – 131,780 2016 Nissan GT-R 2016 Black Edition Pricing and Specs
Premium 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $122,320 – 140,580 2016 Nissan GT-R 2016 Premium Pricing and Specs
Premium Edition 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $108,020 – 124,190 2016 Nissan GT-R 2016 Premium Edition Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8