On the twilight-zone streets of Tokyo, under shimmering and winking lights of the street-racing brigade, the sacred words are not Ferrari or Porsche. No it’s GTR that’s whispered in reverence or screamed in the heat of the moment.
And why not? It’s faster than a Ferrari 458 Italia around that nasty little circuit known as the Nordschleife. And it keeps time with a Bugatti EB110 GT in the sprint from 0 to 100km/h. Long gone are the early days when Datsun dished up re-hashed versions of the Austin in the ‘50’s, and Sony’s throw away electronics of the sixties. But can the Nissan-GTR really be that good?
It’s not any car that can duff up an Italian Supercar, and in order to do that the R35 bristles with the latest technology under its Nipponese skin. The heart of this son of Nippon is a mighty hand-built 3.8lt twin Turbo. When the lights turn green, the Banzai 352kw on tap sees the needle on the beautifully crafted speedo swing past the magic 300km/h mark in less than 55 seconds. Breaking with current trends the bespectacled folk at Nissan have fitted a rear mounted twin clutch Borg Warner designed semi Automatic transmission. I’ve spent the past hour trying to find words to describe how good this gadget is. I can’t find any, so just accept this is better than anything you’ve ever driven. The shifts controlled by the obligatory paddles are lightening fast but firm, while there’s absolutely no creep sitting at the traffic light with full automatic engaged. Take off is also like a manual, so you don’t have to wait for the rubber band to wind up on your way off the line.
Looking at the power and weight of the R35, it’s quite clear that there has to be another dimension to why it’s so damned good at beating the established competition. The short explanation for this is the all wheel drive. Coupled to Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamics Control which places power exactly where it can be used, this means traction is optimised at all times.
It’s seldom that the office end of a Supercar delivers the promise of the performance and styling package. Usually this is just a chair and the necessary hardware to point the beast in the right direction. Not so the GTR! With its roots deep in the production-car world, creature comfort and finish have been well pandered to.
Tastefully dressed in black leather, the cabin is well thought out. But when it came to the design of the multifunction display, Nissan took a bold step in contracting the boys who brought us the Gran Turismo racing video games to do the design. And like their games, they gave us what we want… a trendy but functional display.
But all this would be of no value if you had to be a contortionist to pilot the R35. So Nissan have supplied figure hugging, electrically adjustable bucket seats that would find a Chiropractor nodding with approval. Of course, centrepiece of this cocoon is the GTR logo on the centre boss of the leather-clad, thick rimmed steering wheel.
It’s obvious the GTR is good, but why would it have generated this cult status, not just in Japan but also in the other countries where you can get your hands on one? Well I think a lot’s got to do with the fact that people like to see an underdog do well. Let me explain; When David put one between Goliath’s eyes, no one expected the upstart to slay the giant, so there was partying late into the night after the duel. The same with the Skyline; for less than half the price of many traditional supercars you get a car that is easy to drive to the office, but can also show a clean pair of polished exhaust tips to a Ferrari on a twisty canyon road, while still being sufficiently rare to attract the desired attention.
And finally: Is it really a Supercar! I can’t say, but I’ve ordered mine!