Nissan’s GT-R name, since its inception in 1969 has been a force to be reckoned with and for most car enthusiasts really made its name some twenty years later with the R32 Skyline GT-R before sending the automotive world crazy a decade later with what is possibly now, one of the most sought after models ever made, the R34 Skyline GT-R.
With a very rich and hugely successful motorsport heritage across the globe from the late sixties, the Skyline GT-R in all its guises has set records and broken records, as well as dominated many national and international racing championships with ease on most continents.
Until the launch of the “GT-R” (Nissan dropped the Skyline name) in 2009, the GT-R models hadn’t been readily available to purchase as new cars in the UK. Just one dealership over on the mainland sold the R33 and R34 as new models with a mere 100 cars and 80 cars sold as UK models respectively.
As such there was a lot of hype about the GT-R, or “R35” as it is unofficially known launching and especially for the Irish market as for the first time there would be a Nissan dealer on the Emerald isle to sell and service new GT-R’s.
This “NISMO Centre” as it is known within Nissan circles, who specialise in GT-R models is Charles Hurst Nissan on the Boucher Road in Belfast [read about the dealership here] and have held such status since 2010 with dozens of GT-R’s sold and cared for since.
The GT-R has another street name of Godzilla, namely due to the aforementioned motorsport dominance and the fact it was an unstoppable monster, such monstrous characteristics have carried through all generations and as such, once let loose in this re-styled MY17 GT-R all we could do was tame this latest beast from the East!
On arrival at Charles Hurst Nissan I was excited as I have been fortunate enough to spend some time driving the current/outgoing GTR on track and I think they are absolutely fantastic machines, if a little lacking inside, but fantastic nonetheless.
Also fellow motoring writer Darren Liggett of The Irish Sun was trusted with this exact GT-R to take part in the three day Cannonball Ireland supercar event and had nothing but good to say about it, so with such hype I was eager to start my GT-R adventure.
So what has changed with the GTR then?
Well not a huge amount, as Nissan got things so right from the onset. This year there was a slight facelift, from what I gather new headlights and LED DRL’s added to the bumper with this MY17 (2017 car that some may well have registered in December 2016) getting the big overhaul.
The shell of the car and the main components remain largely untouched as the big difference of the new car is to the interior, but outside there are enough changes to make the GT-R much more modern and appealing looking.
Front and rear bumpers are fully redesigned units, adding angles and lines rather than the bland curves of the old car’s bumpers. More cooling and aero is available, with the bumpers receiving purposeful looking lower splitters and diffusers whilst the NISMO side skirts from the outgoing model, now come as standard.
The headlights from the facelifted car have been transferred over and offer LED technology with LED DRL’s sitting neatly into air ducts at each side of the front bumper. The rear spoiler is different from before and the boring old wheels have been replaced with 20” forged, split width wheels that look fabulous. The GT-R has a road presence like few others and is incredibly wide, whilst around the rear four larger than life tailpipes nestle in the bumper.
The exhaust is one other thing that has changed on the MY17 car as now all cars, including the base model are equipped with the previously optional Titanium system. There are five models available and in a humours mood I renamed them Poverty | Sporty | Posh | Uncomfortable and Expensive.
These translate in order as follows, with the real model names applied; “Pure” – from £79,995 is the entry level model which is far from basic and comes with everything you need and then some, fitted with a mix of leather and alcantara interior.
“Recaro” – from £81,995 as tested by us, adds the Recaro black and red leather interior whilst “Prestige” – from £82,495 (expected to be the most popular model) adds larger and softer seats available in black, red, ivory or tan leather whilst the lower half of the dash and door cars get treated to matching colour.
A black coloured Prestige with tan leather would be absolutely sumptuous and that is a word that i never thought I would be able to apply to a GT-R in fairness, as until now they have been a little cheap inside.
Next up is the “Track Edition” – from £91,995 which is likely to be a little too focussed on performance to be a comfortbale every day car. It receives lightweight RAYS NISMO GT500 alloy wheels, NISMO tuned Bilstein suspension, carbon spoiler and NISMO body bonding to aid rigidity and handling.
This brings us to Godzilla and the “NISMO” model – from 149,995 which gets more power, the range topping NissanConnect infotainment system, NISMO Carbon backed Recaro bucket seats, NISMO carbon fibre body parts such as front and rear bumpers, side skirts, racing rear wing and bottled as well as the dash, roof liner and steering wheel being finished in black alcantara.
Before going inside the car I needed to load the camera gear into the boot, which was substantial enough to my surprise and would easily carry a couple of bags for a week’s road trip whilst bulky items may not fit due to the restrictive entry gap.
Inside the MY17 GT-R is where most of the changes for this model have taken place and they are clear to be seen as it is now a very welcoming place with quality about it having been redesigned and hand crafted.
The dash, door cards and centre console have been reworked and on this model tested are finished in a soft touch material with red stitching to compliment the red and black Recaro seats while there is some satin finished carbon fibre trim around the gear stick and handbrake which was pleasing to the eyes.
The steering wheel has had a dramatic change also, whilst there is a drive wheel to control the infotainment, which to me makes using the system complicated as the touch screen operation works just fine and is much faster and easier.
Two rear seats are best suited for children as four adults in the GT-R would be an uncomfortable experience at best though there is a stack of room in the passenger side so three adults on a long drive could well be alright.
The Recaro seats in this model look great and are heated with both seats being electrically adjustable, providing plenty of comfort and huge support this is likely the spec I would opt for if the numbers came up.
With supercar performance infotainment isn’t something that would be high up on owners priority lists however the GT-R is a big cruiser that could be lived with daily, easily enough and as such this model is equipped with BOSE audio speaker system and an 8” touchscreen built into the dash that offers Sat Nav, Bluetooth, DAB Radio and smart phone integration to list a few.
It offers more than expected including a reverse camera while one popular feature is the “live data” read outs and graphs that are available via the customisable functions menu where you can view temperatures of various engine systems as well as pressures within the systems along with a G-Force meter and lap timer plus lots more.
Engine wise the GT-R is fitted with a 3.8L v6 twin turbo petrol unit producing 570PS with just under 640Nm of torque which when on full boost in GT-R driving mode pulls like a fighter jet and with launch control will go from 0-60mph in an expected, eye watering 3 seconds (I am struggling to find official figures so possibly give or take a few tenths here).
With a top speed close to 200mph the GT-R most certainly retains the Godzilla ethos and indeed on driving, without incriminating myself I can assure you it keeps pulling when many cars will start to run out of puff, absolutely mind boggling for a car that weights nearly 1800kg and the Brembo brakes that are bigger than the wheels on most cars work immesnly when required.
These engines are hand built and there are only five men in the entire world that are trained and experienced to a level that allows them to construct the engines during assembly, this particular engine was built by Tetsushi Matsumoto and each engine has a name plaque with the builders name on it, a nice touch.
Power is put to the ground via a very rear biased all-wheel drive system, during some imagery the car was set at GT-R mode for the sake of the camera and forgetful me carried on with more images before leaving Belfast on my lap of Strangford Lough and on a moist road I soon learned this bias fact and that the GT-R demands huge amounts of respect.
Needless to say, after some laughter to myself and realising what mode I was in, the car was put back into a much more sedate driving mode (still insane however) and soon after it donned on me as to just how controllable and fun the GT-R can be, this fun is best kept for the race track however!
So yes, it was goodbye to the big smoke in style as I set off on an adventure that would take in the western side of Strangford Lough along some fantastic meandering roads to Strangford before getting the boat over to Portaferry and hugging the Irish Sea back to Belfast with a few stops along the way for imagery.
The driving experience of the GT-R is something else, the six speed twin clutch gearbox has been refined somewhat in the new car making it less agricultural for want of a word. The old GT-R’s ‘box would have been a little clunky and not the smoothest thing on the road, especially when driving normally and around town so this refinement is more than welcomed and keeps the car in line with its now refined interior.
Outside of the city and daily commute the GT-R is best enjoyed in manual mode and I do feel that it could do with another gear as a “low rpm cruise gear”, this sentiment is shared with one man who will have the first GT-R registered in NI so I am glad I am not alone on that fact.
Being a big heavy car, some of the roads I found myself on maybe weren’t best suited for the GT-R in theory, but it proved me wrong and absorbed them with ease and comfort whilst being a little bit of a handful at times due to the weather and road conditions.
Getting the car on one of the wettest days we have seen for a while, meant there was a lot of standing water as well as grease coming up through the roads and whilst the GT-R is all wheel drive with enough electronic trickery to keep it planted, the tyres could only cope with so much.
Being fitted with a driver focussed Dunlop Sports Max GT 600 DSST CTT run flat-nitrogen filled tyre that could easily be described as a road legal slick it coped well enough considering the conditions though I would be very keen to get a good drive in the GT-R on a dry summers day.
With such performance, handling and control, my day with the GT-R came to a close and what a day it was, despite not being a stranger to the GT-R of old, this was the first time I have ever driven one on the road and I must say it is a different beast indeed.
A beast that needs tamed much more and a beast that demands much more driver input than I thought. A much more grown up and refined GT-R is born with all the Godzilla mannerisms of the past, well done Nissan!
Annual tax comes in at £515/annum whilst average consumption over my adventure was late teens which is acceptable considering the performance.
Words and Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]