Nismo may not be a household name just yet, but automotive enthusiasts will be familiar with Nissan’s in-house hotshop and its long history of turning out enhanced vehicles for road and track use.
Finally, after an excruciating wait, the Nismo treatment arrives in Australia applied to the already ballistically fast and fine-handling GT-R coupe.
To celebrate the deeply enshrined link between Nissan and Motorsport, Nissan Australia launched the GT-R Nismo at Bathurst, just days after the Bathurst 12-Hour race, putting the road-registerable car over the same course as its GT3-spec race sibling.
Vehicle Style: High-performance coupe
Price: $299,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 441kW/652Nm 3.8-litre 6cyl turbo petrol | 7sp automatic
Fuel Consumption Claimed: 11.7 l/100km
As the flagship of Nissan’s already impressive GT-R range, the GT-R Nismo wears an eye-watering $299,000 (plus on-road costs) pricetag. If you’re running the numbers that’s $110k more expensive than the range-opening GT-R Premium Edition and $72k more than the Track Edition that already features some Nismo enhancements, including lightweight forged alloy wheels, stiffer body construction and wider front guards.
To wear the Nismo title the GT-R undergoes a thorough rework, with more power and torque from its 3.8-litre V6 thanks to a pair of larger turbochargers, reworked suspension, and aerodynamic changes that result in more downforce for improved on-limit handling
THE INTERIOR | RATING: /5
- Standard Equipment: Nismo manual-slide carbon fibre backed Recaro front seats, Nismo Alcantara and leather steering wheel, Alcantara covered dashboard, dual-zone climate control, proximity key with push-button start, multi-function driving data screen, Nismo instrumentation, carbon fibre bootlid, 20x10-inch front, 20x10.5-inch alloy wheels.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, CD player, AM/FM radio, 2x USB inputs, active noise cancellation, 1-speaker Bose audio
- Cargo Volume: 315 litres
Inside the GT-R Nismo offers unique touches including Alcantara on the dash and steering wheel and a pair of Recaro front seats that are snug in their support, with manual fore-aft adjustment and electric backrest recline.
As part of the GT-R range’s 2017 updates, it is more modern in its design than it was previously and the myriad functions within the top-mounted multimedia screen are simpler to navigate with a rotary controller on the centre console.
The ability to drop the cushion and sit even lower in the car would be welcomed, and for something with such a narrow focus the inclusion of nearly-useless rear seats seems a little unusual.
ON THE ROAD | RATING: /5
- Engine: 441kW/652Nm twin turbocharged 3.8 litre V6
- Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic, all wheel drive
- Suspension: Double wishbone front, multi-link independent rear, Bilstein DampTronic adjustable dampers
- Brakes: Front six-piston Brembo calipers with 390mm ventilated rotors, rear four-piston Brembo calipers with 380mm ventilated rotors
To extract more from the GT-R Nismo’s 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 a pair of larger turbos help develop more power and torque than the standard model, resulting in an extra 22kW and 20Nm bringing totals to to 441kW and 652Nm.
Beneath the car the Bilstein adaptive suspension system is three-times stiffer for extra road holding, and on the outside the bodywork has been tweaked for better aerodynamics and improved downforce.
Despite the weight-saving measures, the GT-R Nismo only tips the scales 21kg lighter than the Track Edition (at 1739kg) while its extra power, on the other hand, hasn't altered its claimed average fuel consumption of 11.7L/100km.
Before hitting the track to put the GT-R Nismo through its most demanding test, we tried it out just outside of Bathurst to see what it's like in everyday conditions. The regular GT-R has never been a poster child for plush comfort but the latest upgrade, introduced last year, has been the most significant in this generation and focused on improving its all-round usability.
Those improvements carry over to the Nismo model too, with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic smoother in the way it shifts when left to its own devices and much quieter too.
On the road, the incredibly stiff suspension fidgets over even the slightest bump and wanders over camber changes in the road even in the softest of its three settings. Firmness aside, the ride is still well controlled and only the harshest potholes will crash into the cabin.
The pin-sharp steering adds to that busyness as well, so lively and communicative that it constantly jiggles in your hands, relaying masses of feedback to the driver.
It would be possible to forgive the GT-R Nismo's harshness if you were driving it to and from a racetrack where you could unleash its full potential. Because it is there, freed from the restrictions of complying with everyday constraints, that the extent of the its fearsome performance can be fully appreciated and experienced.
Despite Nissan not officially suggesting any acceleration figures for the car, the GT-R Nismo is undeniably fast. It climbs Bathurst’s Mountain Straight with a relentless surge of pulling power that sees the speedo nudge past 230km/h over the hump, where it gets light enough to induce a whimper of wheelspin before compressing under brakes for the on-camber Griffins Bend that begins one of the most challenging, eye-opening stretches of tarmac in the country.
The fast and flowing run over the top of Mount Panorama not only requires skill and commitment from the nut behind the wheel, but a car that is equally as well endowed. The GT-R is one of those cars; the combination of its ultra-stiff suspension, sticky Dunlop tyres, computer-controlled all-wheel drive system and whatever downforce it can generate from the carbon fibre bits and pieces hanging off it at either end ensures it has masses of grip at any speed.
ANCAP Rating: The Nissan GT-R has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: Dual front airbags, multi-mode electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, load-limiting front seatbelt pretensioners, reversing camera.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Finely tuned for track usage, the last Porsche 911 GT3 still sits as a segment benchmark, and though it doesn’t form a part of the current line-up, a new one is just around the corner, bringing another registrable racecar to the garages of a lucky few.
Straddling either side of the GT-R Nismo’s price point the V8 and V12 Aston Martin Vantage might err towards Grand Tourer more than outright track weapons but that serves to make them a little easier to live with between track outings.
With a soundtrack that means business, and a finely honed chassis that’s as at home on the freeway as it is on the racetrack the Mercedes-AMG GT S isn’t quite the same level of honed and hardcore purity as the GT-R Nismo, down on power, but almost a perfect match on torque with fantastically entertaining rear wheel drive handling.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The ‘regular’ versions of the GT-R are already an amazing example of mechanical and electronic engineering, but the Nismo elevates its road holding to another level, all the while making it both more engaging and challenging to drive.
There’s a definitive race car-like character, reducing some of the digital interference that has made the R35 seem like you're driving a video game rather than a genuine sports car. It can be manhandled and thrown around a bit more than the normal GT-R, endowing it with a degree of playfulness when it dances towards its limit of adhesion.
It also feels like a car that you could never be truly complacent with; ferociously fast and solidly heavy, the GT-R Nismo demands the driver’s full attention, a brief lapse of which could lead to a very big and very fast mistake.
The monstrous price point is a struggle, something that the Nissan badges on the front and rear don’t have the pedigree to overcome, particularly against the similarly track-focused Porsche 911 GT3 that costs around the same money.
But with the fast-paced evolution of autonomous transport threatening to take control away from drivers, the world needs more cars like the Nismo GT-R. Fast, furious and fearsome - confidence inspiring and fear-evoking at the same time for an end result that’s truly epic.
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