2017 Nissan GT-R review
Alex Rae’s 2017 Nissan GT-R review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: Godzilla lives up to its name with weapons-grade performance and a more mature ride.
2017 Nissan GT-R
Pricing From $189,000+ORC Warranty three-years 100,000 kilometres Service Intervals 10,000km or 6 months Safety N/A Engine 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged six-cylinder Power 419kW at 6800rpm Torque 632Nm at 3300-5800rpm Transmission six-speed dual-clutch automatic Drive all-wheel drive Dimensions 4710mm (L); 1895mm (W); 1370mm (H) Weight 1717kg Bootspace 315L Spare runflat Fuel Tank 74 litres Thirst 11.7L/100km (combined cycle)
THE NISSAN R35 GT-R is about to celebrate its eighth birthday in Australia and what you’re looking at here is the most comprehensive refreshment since the thing was launched here in 2009 (2007 in other parts of the world). Indeed, Nissan says, “The new GT-R is more comfortable than ever before, with a new sense of elegance and civility that one would rarely find in such a high-performance super sports car”. Okay.
What is it?
For 2017, the GT-R in Australia is available in either GT-R Premium form or GT-R Track Edition Engineered by NISMO. The GT-R Black Edition and NISMO have been dropped from the line-up, with many of their bits and pieces absorbed by the top-spec GT-R Track Edition.
From the GT-R Black Edition it gets:
- Dry carbon fibre rear spoiler;
- Black and red Recaro seats; and
- Black leather interior treatment with red stitching (steering wheel, gear shifter, dashboard, door trims).
From the GT-R NISMO it gets:
- bonding body (adhesive bonding on spot welding makes GT-R body shell more rigid, producing more precise suspension response under extreme loads);
- front and rear suspension (springs, dampers, stabilisers, upper links);
- six-spoke aluminium forged lightweight 20-inch RAYS wheels with black finish; and
- front guards (allowing room for GT-R NISMO front suspension and wheels. Wheel width is 10 inches for Track Edition Engineered by NISMO vs 9.5 inches wide for Premium Edition).
The refreshed GT-R gets a stiffened chassis, and more power from its hand-built 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6. It now boasts 419kW of power at 6800rpm and 632Nm of torque from 3300-5800rpm compared to 357kW and 588Nm from its hand-built motor, and its 0-100km/h has dropped from 3.5sec to 2.7sec. The new GT-R Track Edition is 5kg lighter than the Premium Edition and the front track is 10mm wider too. There’s a badge on the centre console that helps to identify which flavor of GT-R you’re in.
While this refreshed GT-R might not look a whole lot different to the one it replaces, there have been some pretty substantial tweaks, including a new bonnet, and front bumpers as well as new-look daytime-running lights. Indeed, according to Nissan, the new bonnet provides substantial downforce at 200km/h which will be particularly handy when nipping down to the supermarket…
Nissan claims all of the tweaks to the body of the GT-R were intended to make the thing slipperier and offer more downforce at high speed. Things like profile of the under spoiler at the front, the sill lip and the C-pillars have all been “optimised” for better air flow around the car.
Around at the back, the GT-R gets the rear bumper from the GT-R NISMO. New-design Y-spoke alloys round out the design tweaks.
What’s it like on the inside?
According to Nissan’s press guff, “the Nissan GT-R’s new interior delivers an unparalleled degree of comfort, luxury and everyday usability unlike any iteration before it”. But that wouldn’t have been hard…
The dashboard has been tweaked and the Premium Edition can be wrapped in cost-optional Nappa leather. To keep weight down, padding on things like the dashboard and door linings has been kept to a minimum. And so it seems with the seats, which we’ll come back to shortly.
While the cabin of the old GT-R was like sitting in a fighter plane with around 27 switches on the dash, the refreshed one we’re driving has reduced this to 11. There’s a new 8.0-inch touchscreen with a centre console mounted controller for use when, according to Nissan, “travelling at high speed”. Okay.
This new unit is a step-ahead of the old one both in looks and functionality but it still feels decidedly previous-generation compared to key rivals, and even with cheap runabouts. There’s no Apple Car Play or Android Auto (it connects via Bluetooth), for instance, and this is a level of functionality that car buyers are coming to want as these systems are familiar to the user and often allow them to bypass the native system’s menu complexity. Moving on.
Ahead of the driver is a multi-function meter which allows you to toggle through things like coolant temperature, engine oil temperature and pressure, transmission oil temperature and much more… this might all seem a little irrelevant for those simply pootling about the suburbs, but take the GT-R to a race track and these elements become very useful.
The paddle shifters, which were previously mounted to the steering column, are now mounted to the steering wheel.
The figure-hugging seats, as mentioned, aren’t, despite Nissan’s claims, particularly comfortable on longer drives, feeling too flat and firm. That said, they keep you in place when you’re driving enthusiastically. It’s not hard to find a good driving position, and the steering offers reach and height adjustment.
There are back seats but they’re utterly useless as there’s virtually no legroom. So, think of this thing as a two-seater only. The boot offers 315 litres of storage space and you can’t fold down the back seats.
What’s it like on the road?
The one thing about cars designed to go as fast around a track as possible is that they can often be a handful to drive on public roads, and the GT-R isn’t an exception to the rule. And for this refreshed model, Nissan has pushed the GT-R even more towards track performance, despite claims the thing is more “civil” than ever. It isn’t.
The engine is a 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that makes 419kW of power at 6800rpm and 632Nm of torque from 3300-5800rpm compared to 357kW and 588Nm in the previous model. This is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission which Nissan claims is now smoother in the first two gears, but it’s still tiresome and notchy when moving off from a standstill.
The GT-R is an all-wheel drive but in normal driving conditions the drive split is 0:100 and so it behaves as a rear-drive car, but the system is capable of splitting torque by 50:50 front to rear, depending on the speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle, tyre slip, road surface and yaw rate.
Like the old model, this refreshed one features DampTronic which sounds a silly name for a drive mode selector, but what the hey… it offers Normal, Comfort and R, but there’s almost no discernable difference between Normal and Comfort and so Comfort is never, ever likely to be used; it certainly doesn’t make the thing comfortable.
As you would imagine, the transmission needs speed on board to smooth out, and so low-speed driving, three-point turns and parking, become a bit of a clunk fest through the gears. Once speed builds, though, and it builds eye-wateringly quickly the transmission becomes rifle-bolt precise.
Nissan have toned down the exhaust for around town driving, becoming louder once revs build past 3000rpm. There’s an exhaust sound control button which you can press for a quieter engine start; it closes a valve in the exhaust system.
One criticism of the GT-R was that the suspension was too harsh and the runflats didn’t help either, so for this refreshed model, Nissan made the body more rigid, but it hasn’t said by how much. The suspension has also come in for an overhaul with the net result that it feels more compliant than before… firm now rather than hard.
And it gives more confidence in corners too, where the GT-R will now roll with the worst of the road, rather than slamming into humps and bumps. That said, mid corner bumps under brakes can upset the front end but, overall this refreshed GT-R is a more involving and confidence-inspiring car to drive across country roads than ever before.
Despite its impressive grip, the 1700kg-plus weight of the GT-R and its track focus mean that it’s always going to feel a little bit like a sledgehammer on the open road with understeer always lingering in the background. And, ultimately, it lacks the precision and driver connection of something like, say, a Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ.
What about the safety features?
The Nissan GT-R has not been ANCAP or EuroNCAP rated, but it does get things like all-wheel drive (even if it is effectively a rear-drive in most situations), airbags, traction and stability controls. The GT-R also features tyre pressure monitoring, pre-tensioning seatbelts (front) and child restraints.
Why would you buy it?
There’s not much that can come close to the GT-R’s performance and although it is expensive it will wipe the floor with a lot of cars out there. It isn’t a good daily driver but if you’re only taking it out on Sundays and track days then it’s a top pick. Buyers who want something more comfortable and practical for regular driving would want to shop around, but if you always wanted to own a Godzilla well, it doesn’t get much better than this one.