2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo First Drive
Saddling the most ungodly Godzilla (and its saintlier sibling).
How much more damage would the fearsome prehistoric sea monster Gojira have wrought on the hapless miniature Tokyo cityscape had his atomic irradiation bestowed 10 percent more strength and anger? Would the difference be noticeable? This thought crossed my mind as I strapped into the new 600-hp 481-lb-ft 2015 GT-R Nismo for a grand total of four laps of the Sodegaura Forest Raceway about an hour southeast across the bay from Tokyo. The answer to both questions is “yes,” but you might need some sensitive equipment to detect it.
Equipment like the timing lights at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, which recently tripped at 7:08.679 with Michael Krumm pedaling, setting a new record for “volume production cars,” at about 10 seconds under the GT-R’s previous best. Note that a professional racing driver translated a 10 percent power increase (plus myriad improvements to aerodynamics, powertrain, all-wheel-drive torque-distribution, chassis, tires, etc.) into a two-percent reduction in Godzilla’s lap time around the Green Hell. Oh, and Krumm’s car featured enhancements over and above the one I’m piloting. I don’t have super high hopes of discovering a night-and-day difference here, especially since there isn’t a previous-generation car on hand for comparison. But let’s light up all the Race-mode lights, drop the hammer and pretend, shall we?
Shooting out of the pit straight at full blast, my spine is compressed into the seat at least 102 percent as hard as before. Turn one comes up super quick, but I haven’t built up a normal head of steam yet, so the braking is fairly light and I go down hard on the loud pedal as I unwind the wheel. Bam! Thirty degrees of chassis slip happen just about instantaneously. Probably the 2014 car would have given me 27 degrees, but I make the mental note to articulate my right ankle with a more considered precision in subsequent corners. Rocketing out toward the next corner, a fast right that that falls away right and down out of sight, I notice that the engine note seems a bit less angry-shop-vac-like; the note sounding as if it has shifted up two keys in the bass-to-baritone direction. It could be because of the bigger, higher-flow turbos or the titanium exhaust, but I’m betting it’s the new Bose Active Noise Controller that IS retained on the Nismo car (the base car’s additional sound deadeners are not).
Now it’s time to brake for the right-left combination over some slightly less even pavement. Straining to pay extremely close attention to the signals coming up through the (still) hydraulic-assisted steering—which gets a new pump, gear and assist valve (keeping the same ratio)—and can it be? Why yes, the stiffer Damptronic Race-mode shock tuning is managing this side-to-side transition at least 4 percent better, while the increased caster-trail afforded by these new upper control arms, does seem to be imparting a stronger sense of straight ahead. That’s how communicative the steering is! (And if you’re taking all of this seriously, I’m prepared to sell you this Sodegaura track I’m feeling my way around.)
Okay, now we’re heading toward the sweeper that leads onto the long front straight, and if I’m not mistaken this very slightly stiffer (and lighter) 17mm hollow rear anti-roll bar is making the rear end feel infinitesimally more drifty than the 2014 car. The grip afforded by these new tires also catches my attention—they use the same compound, but for Nismo they’re shaved—or is this perception coming from the increased rigidity of the wheel-hub-to-upright connection afforded by the 2mm larger-diameter lug bolts? I have to confess I’m unsure on this one.
Now we’re boiling up the front straight, pulling the paddles at redline, and the car is pulling stronger to the 7000-rpm point, as the power now peaks later (6800 rpm vs. 6400) and the bigger turbos are producing in the neighborhood of 10 percent more boost. As I approach the start-finish line, I’m going fast enough that the carbon-fiber rear wing (mounted to a CF deck lid that transmits the downforce through four robust overslam bumpers to the adhesive-reinforced body-side structure), front splitter and other aero tweaks are starting to exert a noticeable percentage of the 220 pounds that will be on tap at 186 mph, but the downforce is well enough balanced that the car’s behavior is unchanged.
In a matter of seconds it’s time to throw out the anchor for turn one. Mmmmm. The initial bite of the brakes and the linearity of the pedal feels just that little bit more assured, thanks to the added rigidity of the caliper brackets.I’m allowed another two hot laps and a cool down during which I begin to fully appreciate the more obscure improvements (like the effect of the new wheels that shave a half-pound per corner despite measuring a half-inch wider at 10.0 x 20 in), but I couldn’t possibly bore you with all those details. Instead, let me tell you about the passenger-seat hot-lap I took in the “Time Attack” car—a functional clone to the one Krumm set his record in. Oooh, la-la. Man, did the differences in THAT car stand out, but fear not—you’ll be able to buy them all in an official accessory package (required to qualify Krumm’s time as a “volume production” result).
As my hot-shoe ace shoots out of the pits, I can feel the subtle broadening and reshaping of the power and torque curves applied to this car (the peak values remain the same). He seems to struggle less putting the power down exiting the turns, probably as a result of the slightly re-tweaked torque-distribution mapping. The aerodynamic behavior is also utterly transformed by the taller rear wing, the fence along the trailing edge of the hood, and the little aero flipper shelves located high at the trailing edge of each front fender. After three laps that give my neck muscles quite a workout maintaining my bobbling, helmeted head in some semblance of an upright position, I climb out confident that my own speeds would have been at least another 2 percent quicker in this car…
Okay, for those who’ve read this far (and we’ll check to see which peevish commenters did), the impressions I’m claiming are tongue-in-cheek, but they illustrate the intended function of all the very real updates made to the Nismo and Nismo Track (or Nismo Time Attack, the name hasn’t been decided yet) GT-Rs. The reality is: the GT-R has always been awesome. This new one is 2 or 10, or 12 percent more awesome, and most of us will have trouble determining exactly how much in a few short laps of an unfamiliar track. When we get one at Best Drivers Car, we’ll eagerly quantify its incremental fabulosity at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Ooh, and maybe we’ll be able to share our lapping session with you Gran Turismo fans. When driven on circuits mapped to the game, the car can download a file to a USB stick that allows you to relive the run on your game console. How cool is that?
The Saintly Sibling base car.
Motor Trend’s two long-term GT-Rs have collectively racked up scores of hard launches, dyno runs, hot laps, etc. taking everything in stride and never failing to impress even our most jaded editors when driven in monster-movie anger. Along the way these cars have drawn plenty of criticism for how fatiguing they are to tool around in on daily errands and long trips. Well, now that there are multiple higher performance variants to choose, the time seemed right to civilize the base car. Toward that end, considerable sound absorbing and blocking materials have been added to the firewall, the floor, tunnel, and rear bulkhead with the goal of excluding the least pleasant road noises and some of those endearing mechanical geartrain noises. The difference is noticeable from the first twist of the key and at idle. The interior is also dressed up with additional stitching, carbon-fiber look backgrounds for the gauges, a higher-definition multi-function center display, and new color-accent interiors with color extending to the passenger dash and larger areas on the doors, with Ivory joining the Amber red.
Chassis revisions also aim to smooth the ride while preserving current handling levels. Comfort mode damping is considerably more compliant, while the spring rates, stabilizer bars, link bushings, and alignment were all tweaked. Even the tires are redesigned with a new compound and a new tread design with the two outermost longitudinal tread channels getting a little reinforcing step to make them more rigid in lateral grip. The result is that now when you turn the steering wheel, the car responds in a more linear fashion with respect to yaw and roll for a more secure, stable feeling. The wheels also stay pressed to the ground better over uneven pavement and perceived harshness drops to less than half what it was. Other changes include all LED forward lighting via six projector lenses with DRL signature streaks in front, and revised rear lamps with thinner, more uniform parking-lamp rings encircling the fatter ring of brake lights. The GT-R still won’t be for everyone, but the refinements brought to bear on the 2015 car (which goes on sale January 2) should appeal to a slightly larger audience.