2014 Nissan GT-R Japanese Spec First Drive
Less is More as Godzilla is Updated Yet Again
Yeah, yeah, we know. The 2014 Nissan GT-R seen here looks identical to last year’s model. That’s because it is. Huh? Then why allocate precious editorial space for a new drive story? Well, while Godzilla may look the same (apart from a new carbon fiber rear wing) it handles far better, boasts improved ride quality, and delivers beefier torque in the upper rev ranges thanks to some strategic modifications, according to Nissan.
Those changes helped the 2014 GT-R drop even more seconds off its official time around Germany’s famed Nurburgring. At 7 minutes, 18.6 seconds with Nissan’s top gun Toshio Suzuki at the wheel, the updated GT-R is now the second-fastest production car around the ‘Ring on stock tires, after the Lexus LFA.
To test out the updated GT-R, we were summoned to the Sportsland Sugo Circuit some 230 miles north-east of Tokyo, where we heard from outspoken chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno -- the guy who boldly stated he’d continue to upgrade the car with each succeeding model year. Mizuno-san has lived up to that claim, continuing to boost the GT-R’s power and torque plus, revising the chassis, suspension, and other bits. His main goal is to make the GT-R the fastest production car on standard road tires around the Nurburgring. He’s close.
This time, Mizuno’s obsession has a lot more to do with the new car than all previous updates, as the 2014 GT-R reportedly benefits from feedback gained from competing in this year’s Nurburgring 24-hour race. Mizuno’s press briefing, in which he outlined the updates to the car, felt more like a sermon than a lecture. No other Japanese chief engineer speaks as passionately about their creations as he does. It was kind of like the world of supercars according to Mr. M.
“The GT-R is faster out of the blocks than anything else, can corner faster than anything else with higher G forces, and maintain greater cornering stability under higher loads than anything else,” Mizuno said. “Apart from its near 50:50 front-rear weight distribution, the GT-R has the ideal engine power-to-curb weight-to-tire footprint ratio, something that guarantees industry-leading results.”
He assures us that the 2014 GT-R’s 545 horsepower; its claimed 3825-pound curb weight (our long-term, 2013 GT-R tipped the scales at 3887 pounds); and sticky, run-flat 20-inch rubber will help the car rocket from 0-60 mph in 2.7 seconds (our long-termer hit 2.8), corner at up to 2.8 g, and stop from 60-to-0 mph in less than 100 feet, even in the wet! He says that any changes to this ideal “power-weight-tire footprint ratio” would lead to slower times and less stability.
“For example, if we were to lighten the GT-R by 200 pounds, its 0-60 mph sprint time would fall from 2.7 seconds to around 3.3 seconds. And its stopping distance (from 60 to zero) would stretch from 99 feet to around 115 feet,” explains Mizuno. “The ratio we have now is the ideal one. Only this time, our modifications make it an even better car to drive!” stresses the man who answers directly to CEO Carlos Ghosn.
He has a point. Based on our test laps around Sugo, the revised coupe turns in sharper, is more stable into and out of the corners, has a more compliant ride, and delivers stronger throttle response in the high rev ranges than last year’s version. So how did he achieve that?
First, the engine. As Mizuno so poignantly pointed out, next season’s GT-R will not get any power or torque upgrades. The 3.8-liter twin turbo V-6 will still produce 545 horsepower and 463 lb-ft of torque, “ideal numbers,” according to Mr. M. Also, no changes have been made to car’s superb twin-clutch GR6 gearbox, rear transaxle, or brilliant Atessa 4WD system. The addition of high- output injectors that better control fuel injection in the mid-ranges, as well as a new orifice fitted to the turbo bypass valve that retards the loss of boost pressure, combine to deliver a stronger punch from higher revs when you get back on the gas.
We were amazed with the beefier response between 4500 and 7000 rpm in the high-speed twisty sections when constantly switching between on gas, off gas, dabbing the brakes, then back on the gas again. The better response allows for even quicker exits from corners. “This was an idea we picked up from the 24-hour race this year, because Nurburgring has many high- speed, twisty sections, and maintaining beefier boost on tap in the mid- to top end was a must,” he insists.
Some additions may seem a little obscure, but that’s the nature of upgrading a supercar. Mizuno tells us his team added a special baffle plate to the bottom of the oil pan, a modification that helps to stabilize oil pressure, while reducing rotational friction in the oil pan at the same time. Its merit? Apparently it helps to deliver more stability to the car in high-speed corners.
Of course, when speaking about engine modifications, we cannot ignore the only real addition to the exterior of the engine: a special plaque proudly displaying the name of the engineer who put together the hand-built engine. And when you only have six engineers who are qualified to build the GT-R’s hand-built V-6s, why not take pride in their exploits? Kind of makes us wonder why this acknowledgement was not made before.
The GT-R still employs Bilstein damptronic fully adjustable suspension. What’s different this time are the cam bolts installed on the front suspension to improve camber accuracy under heavy load conditions. The highlight of the suspension upgrades this year focus on the revised roll center. When thrown into a corner at speed, revamped bushings on the front upper arms create a new geometry package that sees the roll center move down and to the outward corner, thus lowering the car’s center of gravity, keeping the car flatter through the turn, and allowing tread on the inner side of the tires to retain higher levels of grip.
In combination with reinforcements to the dash panel bar, these revisions generate better steering response at all speeds. Less steering effort is now required to turn in, while less steering angle is needed to corner. In addition, braking stability and grip from high speeds has improved. When asked about the better braking efficiency, Mizuno reiterated his claim that the GT-R will stop from 60 mph – on dry or wet surfaces – in less than 100 feet (our long-termer stopped from 60 in 105 feet). Without having the equipment to test those claims, we’ll just have to take him at his word.
He also made sure that we tried the new Comfort mode on the Bilstein dampers, a revision that makes the car more liveable on a day-to-day basis. It softens the ride and does away with the excessive crashing and banging that the last version suffered when going over undulations.
To see what the GT-R can do at its absolute upper limits, we jumped aboard for a couple of hot laps with Nissan’s chief development driver, Toshio Suzuki. With everything happening so fast as he approached the corners, it was hard to focus on everything going on with his steering wheel, the clever diffs, and brakes. One aspect of his driving that was mindboggling to a mere mortal was his ability to dab the brakes, turn in with little effort, wait for the rear to come around, get back on the gas earlier than humanly possible, and let the tricky diff sort out the differing amounts of oversteer as it pulled him through corners at speeds clearing 15 mph faster than we would ever dare.
Given these few precious moments with the meister in his element, I asked him what his hairiest moment in the GT-R was. Without thinking, he said, “the time a tire burst on the Nurburgring when I was doing 170 mph. But because we use the best and safest run-flats, I was able to control the car easily and slowly cruise back to the pits. In any other car on standard tires, I would have ended up in a wall or the Armco.” So to all those detractors of run-flats, here is living proof that such tires offer the best of both worlds -- performance and safety. Oh, and the ride comfort levels are vastly improved, too, according to Nissan.
Inside the GT-R, Mizuno’s team is offering a Fashionable Interior package as an option for the Premium Edition. Intending to add extra luxury, this package boasts a two-tone color scheme of amber-red leather seats and a black dash. You also get a twin-tone red and black steering wheel.
Mizuno has also used special slip-resistant leather and a more supportive side cushion that supposedly keeps you planted in high speed corners. The bottom line? If you plan to do regular track days, we’d recommend a proper racing bucket seat and harness.
According to Mr. M, there is an all-new GT-R in the pipeline, but we can expect to see the current R35 version upgraded “several more times” before its life cycle is over. Our sources tell us that the GT-R will be back at Nurburgring next year for the 24-hour race. Wonder what feedback they’ll come up with next year because this year’s leap was subtle, but substantial.
ASIDE: The new Nurburgring lap time of 7 minutes, 18.6 seconds was in truth 7 minutes, 19.1 seconds. But as another car blocked the GT-R’s progress through one corner, forcing ace driver Toshio Suzuki to come off the gas for a split second, Mizuno’s team calculated that spike in the throttle map to account for a loss of 0.5 seconds. So they subtracted half a second from the 7m 19.1s and came up with 7 min 18.6. Fair? What do you think?
|2014 Nissan GT-R|
|BASE PRICE||$100,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.8L/545-hp/463-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3850 lb (est)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||183.9 x 74.6 x 53.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||2.7 sec (mfr est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||16/23 mpg (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||January 2013|