Slip the gearbox into manual shift, drop the transmission to second, straighten the steering wheel and stamp on the right-hand pedal. Before I can say Haiku, the farm I was passing is now out of sight, my lungs have found a new home in the boot and my licence is suddenly in lap of the driving gods. It’s safe to say the Nissan GTR isn’t just a beefed-up 370Z.
The route for my drive would be down to Galashiels in the Scottish Borders down the A7; a road that properly tests a car in all aspects with short straights, fast sweepers and tight, blind corners. And taking a look at the GTR before I start the drive, I’m worried by its sheer size. It seems massive, especially with that huge arse; I wouldn’t want that thing stepping out on me.
I knew what the Nissan was capable of before getting in; I’ve had a couple of passenger rides which have blown my mind over the years and I’ve watched numerous giant-killing tests on the internet. The CEO of the company I work for even has one, albeit tuned to 660bhp rather than the standard 530bhp of this 2012 car. The claims of 0-60 in under three seconds never seem tangible until you genuinely sit in one and experience the volcanic nature of the R35 ‘Godzilla’.
Once civilisation has been left behind, I give the GTR a prod, just to test the waters.
There’s a half second pause as the twin turbochargers on the V6 block spool, followed by a colossal punch in the lower back and a rate of acceleration that I imagine nothing short of a Veyron will ever hope of achieving. And this is from a 3.8-Litre, not some 8-Litre quad-turbo leviathan. The only word I can think of to describe the GTR’s power delivery is savage; a whole different level of performance.
My MX-5 is DEFCON 6. All is well and comfortable and there is virtually nothing to worry about. I would say the new 911 Carrera S is DEFCON 3 – excrement has slightly hit thy fan and a few seconds of pinned throttle can send a small group of countries into war. Godzilla is catastrophic nuclear war and a licence-killer within seconds.
The turbocharging is more old-school than I thought it would be; compared to something like a 991.2 Carrera S which has an unbelievably linear power delivery (the way all manufacturers are going these days) the Nissan has a definitive pause when floored but by god does it deliver its power after that. I struggle to believe it is only producing 530bhp, I wouldn’t be taken aback if the guys at Performance Portfolio turned around and told me it had been tuned up to nearer 800hp.
What then places the GTR over and above just an engine strapped to some bodywork is the way in which the power is put down and distributed. With all the driver aids on, the throttle can be punched into the footwell midway around any corner, and with no fuss at all it will slingshot the 1.7-tonne car and a petrified student blogger through and out the other end with a simple squat and a stability that I’ve only ever experienced in a homologated rally car (the Integrale). The grip from the 20-inch tyres combined with a staggeringly talented all-wheel drive system make the GTR stupidly quick through the Scottish countryside.
The steering has a refreshingly substantial feel to it; too many modern sports cars have city-light steering that is far too disconnected from the road. The Nissan however follows its turbocharging ethics with the steering weight, with it loading up beautifully in the many esse bends littering the road to Gala.
The damping is on point too, not once do I feel uncomfortable or that the car has become uncontrollably stiff. Looking at the size of the arse on the GTR, you’d imagine that it would be a bit of a boat in comparison to something like a 458 or a Huracan. And yet somehow once you’re behind the wheel, the girth of the car suddenly diminishes and I gained a confidence that allowed me to put the front tyres exactly where I wished with no significant body roll or trepidation as to where the back end might end up.
Slow driving is definitely not the GTR’s strong point; once I reached the grungy border town of Galashiels, it was a quick turnaround in the town centre before blasting back home. And trundling through the streets, the amount of clunking and clanking from the four-wheel drive system was quite alarming. The car genuinely sounds and feels broken at anything under 20mph, almost as if there is never enough oil circulating and lubricating the immensely complicated system of gears and shafts. I’m assured that this is very much the norm for the R35 and has actually been refined and sorted in the new 2017 model which has just been launched. And who cares about driving a GTR that slowly anyway?
With all the witchcraft going on between the engine and the four wheels, the heat produced along the transmission tunnel is quite startling; something akin to a rotary-engined Mazda. I only really noticed this however due to the fact that I’d left the key in the cupholder the whole time and once I’d pulled back up at PPF HQ, the metallic key had become uncomfortably hot. I wouldn’t want to be leaving my cornershop Lilt sitting there after the car had warmed up.
The interior is by far the most focussed driving environment I’ve ever been in – everything is firmly angled towards you, creating a personal capsule for the driver that enhances the feeling of complete control that the GTR infuses within you. The small R paddles stare at me, tempting my left index finger to hold them all downwards to change the settings into their race modes which funnily enough did actually cause a genuine shift in the car’s personality; dip into the throttle on corner exit with the traction control in its marginal setting and the usual squat and slingshot is replaced by the slightest of shimmies from the rear wheels, but all is restored to DEFCON 1 after a fraction of a second.
Over the last year or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that power definitely isn’t everything. The Boxsters, Integrales and MX-5s of this world prove this point but when performance figures reach Veyron-scaring levels, it’s tough not to crave a ballistic missile under the bonnet.
The Nissan GTR is quite simply a phenomenon, a step up, a truly ground-breaking machine. It completely recalibrates what speed is capable for a road car with its impenetrable combination of power delivery and mechanical grip. Sure, certain manufacturers have finally caught up with the stupendous numbers that the GTR has produced for years but Nissan were so far ahead of the game in terms of outright pace that the R35 has been a benchmark since its launch. It is the giant killer of my generation and it was a true honour to get behind the wheel of it for what was essentially my first true supercar drive. And the way this year is going, it definitely won’t be my last.
A massive thank you must go to Performance Portfolio for lending me their GTR for the day and I look forward to working with them much more in future! Here is a link to their YouTube channel, give them a watch!
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