Nissan GTR refines its directorial supercar status

05-Sep-2019


It is amusing that the same carmaker that produces the ideal granny’s car, the Nissan Micra, also makes the indomitable Skyline GTR35, re-honed for 2020, having celebrated its 50th Anniversary this year and Iain Robertson takes control.

A supercar within an innocuous but purposeful 2+2 coupe profile, GTR’s prices commence at £83,995, with the NISMO 600 version pictured here pitched at £174,995, an enormous price tag for a genuine giant-slayer of unremitting high-quality. The doyen of the hot-shoe brigade, since the first GTRs were produced in 1969, it has been a model synonymous with high-performance. Its formidable reputation was bolstered by taking decisive race championship victories, until it was banned (ironically) for being too fast. Featuring active 4WD, four-wheel steering and a bi-turbo V6 petrol engine, the latest technological showpiece has received a series of significant additional refinements.

In NISMO 600 form, its 3,799cc engine has been boosted to 595bhp (from 565bhp standard), with 480lbs ft of torque. Its predictive, automated-manual gearshift times have been reduced by 0.15s in ‘Race-Mode’. The Bilstein adaptive damping suspension has been refined for sharper bump and rebound control but a smoother ride quality overall, while the steering is not only more linear than before but is now more surgically precise. The braking system has been improved for greater feel and keener pedal responses. The lightweight titanium exhaust system has been modified from turbochargers to tailpipes. New alloy wheels and the return of Bayside Blue to the colour palette, using an intriguing double-heat treatment, plus revitalised trim detailing features in the cabin.

Kaizen is at the heart of the GTR. It is evinced by the NISMO team’s constant need to evolve and fine tune. Each member projects curiosity and a ‘what if’ mentality. Small improvements combine to make a high-quality discernible difference. Largely hand-built, the V6 engine is race engineered. Its twin turbochargers have been revised to the same specification used by the GTR35 GT3 racing car, which spool-up almost 25% faster for better low-rev pull and less lag. They are mounted on a new manifold with optimised turbo flange attachment points that allow for easier servicing access, without touching the exhaust manifold. Thanks to new abradable seals, tighter clearances are provided that result in a 5% improvement in thermal efficiency.

Driving through an optimised 6-speed, twin-clutch, automated-manual gearbox, for statistics fans, the GTR has a top speed of 196mph, is capable of scorching from 0-60mph in 2.3s, emitting CO2 at a rate of 325g/km (and a massive road tax bill), while returning 19.7mpg on the official combined test cycle (WLTP figures). The algorithm for the adaptive shift transmission has been altered to provide more logical and intelligent shift patterns and marginally speedier shift times than previously (either using the gearstick sequentially, or the steering-wheel mounted paddles). Although it still cannot make block-changes down, or up the gearbox, the faster shift times make the sequential shifts less arduous and less laboured. It also introduces perfect ‘rev-matching’ on downshifts, so that the driver does not have to. It is hard to believe that such a tiny shift speed improvement (0.15s in R for ‘race’ mode) can make such a vast difference in driveability but, the combination of all the refinements have improved the GTR to new pinnacle levels.

It is pure power that motivates the 1,725kgs 2+2, despite carbon-fibre wings, roof, spoilers and bonnet/boot panels. The front wings also contain aerodynamic vents (just like the current Porsche 911 GT3) that allow heat build-up from the all-ceramic braking system to be extracted. Ceramic brakes dissipate heat more efficiently than steel equivalents and provide around 30% greater stopping potency. At 410mm diameter (390mm rear), the front rotors are the largest ever fitted to any road car and the Brembo yellow callipers resist heat discoloration.

The 20x10J (front) and 20x10.5J (rear) RAYS forged alloy wheels are 100gms lighter than before and are designed with an extra series of ribs within the wheel wells to ensure that they grip the nitrogen-filled (remain cooler for longer), run-flat tyres better, to resist any slipping on the rims during bouts of hard acceleration. Even the bespoke Dunlop Sports Max GT600 tyres (245/40x20 – front; 285/35x20 – rear) feature fewer grooves to increase the contact patch by 11%. A fresh rubber compound and more rounded shoulders provide enhanced lateral grip.

It helps that the lightweight, stronger carbon-fibre Recaro bucket seats are marginally more accommodating, yet supportive for northern European drivers. Their padding is more attuned to the car’s improved dynamic capabilities. The ATTESA ET-S (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-terrain, with Electronic Torque-Split) four-wheel drive system is unique to the GTR and provides a variable torque split between front and rear axles, monitoring the car’s movements through a 16-bit computer, up to ten times per second. It detects wheel slip and, using a three-axis G-sensor that works in conjunction with the car’s ABS system, it apportions power to each wheel, to make the GTR even more engaging to drive at high speed, thus enhancing driver appeal. Yet, it is not demanding and actually helps the driver to indulge in the prodigious capabilities of the car, even ensuring that driver reactions are intuitive to the car’s handling intelligence.

Nissan knows that it has produced a car that possesses nearly unbeatable chassis dynamics. However, it is probably aware that the Skyline is not exactly cutting edge in design terms, even though the aerodynamics were highly advanced more than a decade ago (0.26Cd). Coming from the ‘old skool’ ethics of ‘if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it’, amazingly, Nissan has produced a car that almost warrants a GTR36 designation, so dramatic and re-honed are the effects of the changes introduced on the 2020 model. For what it is worth, early GTR35 models are now available at less than a tenth of their original invoice values.
It needs to be stated that the Skyline GTR35 is still a 15 years old design at heart and, unlike a number of its competitors, it does not feature electrification at any level. Nissan suggests that it has those consumer offerings further down its price list and that the GTR35 is a singularly focused, high-quality and race-bred machine (especially in NISMO 600 guise), for which aspects of hybrid technology will be included in future model developments. As a prime example of honing improving the product, Nissan has given the GTR35 a level of visceral feedback that equates to the previous GTR34 model, which is a monumental achievement.