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Nissan GT-R 2020 review: 50th Anniversary

If the R35 GT-R were human, it would be approaching its centenary.
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Three years since what we expected to be its final facelift, the R35 GT-R has been updated again. Can it still cut it after 12 years?

It’s fair to say that Liam Neeson has an enduring appeal, and he’ll forever be known for his “particular set of skills.”

The R35 Nissan GT-R has reached icon status for its own set of specific action hero talents, and the Hollywood-like number of updates it’s received over the past 12 years - or about a century in human years - suggest Nissan is hell bent on giving it Keanu Reeves-esque eternal youth. 

Its trips to the surgeon have started to peter out though, with the annual tweaks of the earlier years slowing to the three year gap between its last update and the 2020 model that launches this week in time for the nameplate’s 50th birthday. 

Have they managed the Keanu Reeves or the Liam Neeson, or has it jumped the shark and due for an all-new Chris Hemsworth treatment?

Nissan GT-R 2020: 50th Anniversary
Safety rating
Engine Type3.8L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency11.7L/100km
Seating4 seats
Price from$193,800

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

The 2020 update is probably best described as a quick trim rather than a full haircut, let alone a nip and tuck. 

Believe it or not those wheels are a new design and lighter by 140g per corner. You might also spot the blue tips on the titanium exhaust, but I’ll give you a high five if you notice the new inserts for the front corner ducts. There’s also a new Urban Grey trim colour available for the Premium Luxury trim level.

The 50th Anniversary special edition sports decals inspired by a 1971 Hakuska racer and 50th Anniversary badging. The 50th Anniversary special edition sports decals inspired by a 1971 Hakuska racer and 50th Anniversary badging.

GT-R die hards will be chuffed with the return of the R34 generation’s signature Bayside Blue as a paint option though, which has required an all-new application process to suit two-decade later environmental requirements.

The car pictured is the 50th Anniversary special edition, created to celebrate the Godzilla nameplate’s golden jubilee. Unlike most special editions though, it’s not limited by build numbers or a production schedule, and is available on a built-to-order basis. 

The R34's signature Bayside Blue makes a return as a paint option. The R34's signature Bayside Blue makes a return as a paint option.

It’s based on the Premium Luxury trim level and can be distinguished by contrasting decals inspired by a 1971 Hakuska racer, 50th Anniversary badging and a special Twighlight Grey trim colour on the inside. 

Aside from the minor drivetrain tweaks mentioned below, under the GT-R’s skin has been treated to stiffened brake actuation and recalibration and adaptive suspension. 

The biggest change for daily users is the new multimedia system from the Leaf and Navara with an 8.0-inch touchscreen that also brings Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to the GT-R for the first time. 

Inside, the 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system has benn lifted from the Leaf and Navara. Inside, the 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system has benn lifted from the Leaf and Navara.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

The GT-R is still split into Premium, Premium Luxury and Track Edition trim levels, with 50th Anniversary special edition being based on the Premium Luxury. 

The top-spec Nismo version has been dropped, and pricing has been massaged upwards across the range. 

Believe it or not those wheels are a new design and lighter by 140g per corner. Believe it or not those wheels are a new design and lighter by 140g per corner.

The base GT-R Premium is now $4800 more with a $193,800 list price, the Premium Luxury swells by the same margin to $199,800, and the Track Edition grows by a full $8000 to $235,000. The Track Edition continues to be available with an optional Nismo-themed interior upgrade for an extra $12,000.

Given the update doesn’t seem to bring anything more than the standard changes, the range-wide price rises put a marginal dent in the value equation that’s long been a relative strength of the GT-R, but it still looks pretty impressive next to the $265,000 starting point for a Porsche 911.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

Nothing new here, with the same 2+2 layout that’s about as accommodating as a Porsche 911, despite the GT-R’s extra size. The boot is a decent 315 litres though, but its actual functionality is hampered by a small boot opening. 

The GT-R's boot space is rated at 315 litres. The GT-R's boot space is rated at 315 litres.

There’s also two cupholders in the front, two in the back, and bottle holders in the carpet-lined doors.

Unlike GT-R’s, the 2020 model finally adds ISOFIX child seat anchorage points to the back seat. These were previously excluded from Australian and New Zealand models. 

  • The GT-R's 2+2 layout offers similar space to a Porsche 911. The GT-R's 2+2 layout offers similar space to a Porsche 911.
  • For the 2020 model, ISOFIX child seat points have been added to the back seats. For the 2020 model, ISOFIX child seat points have been added to the back seats.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6’s key stats are unchanged at a mammoth 419kW at 6800rpm and 632Nm available from 3300-5800rpm.

New turbos derived from the GT3 race car have been fitted, which aren’t quite the same as the Nismo’s GT3-matching units, which promise to be 5 per cent more efficient, without changing the max outputs.

Underneath the bonnet is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, making 419kW/632Nm. Underneath the bonnet is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, making 419kW/632Nm.

The six-speed dual clutch transaxle has also been recalibrated for more aggressive throttle blips on downchanges, and allow gearchanges to occur during ABS engagement.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

This was never going to be a highlight, but all versions of the GT-R still carry an 11.7L/100km official combined fuel consumption figure, which is actually quite reasonable for a car with this much performance.

A diet of full-strength 98RON premium unleaded is mandated though, and the above fuel figure combined with its 74-litre tank suggest a highway range of around 630km between fills.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The GT-R has never been rated by ANCAP and lacks a few now-common safety aids like AEB and blind-spot monitoring

It does come with a reversing camera, along with dual front, side and curtain airbags. It’s worth noting that the when the Track Edition is optioned with the Nismo interior, the Recaro seats mean it misses out on the side and curtain airbags like the GT-R Nismo. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The GT-R benefits from Nissan’s newly extended five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, although it is not eligible for Nissan’s capped price service program. Service intervals pegged at a relatively tight six months or 10,000km.

What's it like to drive?   9/10

Even more than a decade later, the GT-R is still a mammoth car to drive. Mammoth in terms of its size and the sale of the thrills it delivers. 

Cars in general have grown larger and heavier in the past 12 years, but 1765kg is still a lot for a performance car designed to go around corners as well as it accelerates. 

And therein lies the great R35 oxymoron, it’s SUV heavy but supercar fast and agile. 

There’s no other car around that matches The GT-R's aggressive performance. There’s no other car around that matches The GT-R's aggressive performance.

Nissan stopped quoting acceleration figures with the 2017 model, but it still packs the outputs and hardware that nudged 0-100km/h below 3 seconds in the past. 

So it is still fast, but what’s surprising is that the drive experience never seems to date, no matter how many years have been stacked on between opportunities to hop behind the wheel.

It needs to be said that the 2020 changes are undetectable in isolation, but what made the GT-R feel so special in 2007 still applies today. 

The R35 is SUV heavy, but supercar fast and agile. The R35 is SUV heavy, but supercar fast and agile.

You could criticise it for its harsh ride quality and assortment of whirs, groans and occasional thunks from the drivetrain, but I feel this is part of the GT-R’s charm. Has any depiction of its Godzilla namesake ever been quiet and friendly? 

Rather than feeling like it’s falling apart, the GT-R’s mechanical soundtrack is more of an exciting reminder of how many moving parts are employed to deliver its performance.

And it’s still largely the car that delivers this performance, from the responsiveness of the twin-turbos, the excellent calibration of the dual-clutch transmission to the massive grip of four fat tyres controlled by its clever all-wheel drivetrain and array of diffs. 

The driving experience of the R35 never seems to date. The driving experience of the R35 never seems to date.

But regardless of the scale of the role the car plays in its performance, the driver’s most important connection, the steering wheel is delightfully round with grippy high-quality leather. The steering itself is sharp and direct too.

There’s no other car around that matches its brutal looks with such aggressive performance and thrills for the driver, yet it still feels idiot-proof in its execution. 

Verdict

While the 2020 changes aren’t enough to disguise its age, it’s pretty awesome that Nissan continues to develop the GT-R, as its distinct character is yet to be matched by anyone.

So it’s more Liam Neeson than Keanu Reeves, but to keep attracting buyers Nissan should really give us a new Chris Hemsworth version. 

Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.

Pricing Guides

$193,800
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$193,800
Highest Price
$193,800
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Design7
Price and features7
Practicality7
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership7
Driving9
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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