2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo First Test
The Culmination Is Here. And It Doesn't Disappoint.
The most intriguing thing about the 600-horsepower 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo is not its rambunctious all-wheel drive launch. Nor is it its wind-tunnel-tested Super GT body. No, the most enthralling thing about this Nordschleife-honed Nissan is its sharpness. It's tangible, and not just in one or two areas.
The GT-R is a master of immediacy and speed, of inhuman thrust and admirable stick. It always has been. But in this extraordinary genetic predisposition there was a glossing-over of connectedness between human and machine. It simply is the nature of this technology-laden beast. In the GT-R Nismo, tactility is gained.
That much was clear as I exited the pit at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The lane's most minute impurities jostled my hands through the Nismo's thin-rimmed helm. Four drivers -- Nismo's Michael Krumm, Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Sébastien Buemi, and brand consultants Tetsuya Tanaka and Armin Hahne -- played a role in developing the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel, just as they did in the creation of the car.
Turn 1 approached. The louvered nose swiveled aggressively, more so than in any other GT-R. Its commitment to foothold was unlike that of all other R35s I have driven, which naturally -- and very quickly -- progressed into beautiful mid-corner controllability and an equally as beautiful exit steeped in asinine speed. The Dunlop Sport Maxx GT600s bit hard in the effort. The steering fed back what felt like every cavity and pimple of the topography. Its hand-built 3.8-liter supplied unyielding grunt.
Revised springs and Bilstein DampTronic dampers, increased front caster-trail, and a thicker, 17.3mm hollow rear stabilizer bar counteracted the gravitational forces hoping to unhinge the nitrogen-filled 255mm front, 285mm rear rubber. Atop MRLS' 11 turns, understeer and loss of grip -- at my non-Randy Pobst speeds and abilities, mind you -- scarcely manifested. The Nismo's chassis navigated bends calmly, having flat keel that would yaw only when flicked extremely hard. Only in such circumstances would its ATTESA E-TS-controlled tail let go for a moment.
No longer does the twin-turbo V-6 sock your soul, either. New IHI turbos taken from the GT-R Nismo GT3 race car allow for a meatier, evenly spread dosage of 481 pound-feet (up from 463) from 3200 rpm through 5800 rpm. The immediacy and consistency of their boost are simply bananas, just like the unfazed gearshifts of the GR6 six-speed dual-clutch. The engine benefits from increased cooling efficiencies and improved cylinder ignition timing and fuel delivery.
Yet the heart doesn't feel like it corrals 600 horses. As our Carlos Lago quipped, "Maybe my butt dyno is off, but this doesn't feel like 600 ponies." The probable culprit is California's 91 octane. The GT-R Nismo operates best when swigging fuel rated at 93 and above. Annoying? Most definitely.
When evaluating the GT-R Nismo at this year's Best Driver's Car program (stay tuned for more on the competition), our racer-on-retainer, Randy Pobst, mentioned it was "very stable" and called it "the strongest GT-R ever on power." But he felt its handling needed further fine-tuning. He noticed plenty of corner entry understeer and desired higher thresholds of bite and stick from its Brembos and Dunlops. Still, he was able to "run Corkscrew harder than I did in any other car."
"It puts down power well," he noted. "It does not push on the exits, which I love, but it was pushing on the entry. Like, a lot. And it's like the differentials did not like deceleration. Something about the car doesn't like deceleration and I think it's in the differentials, because when you go to the power, it's a different car. It frees right up and it just feels like it's going a lot faster through the corner."
Even so, Randy hustled it around MRLS at considerable speed. Our official times will be posted on this channel soon, so stay tuned, but what I can tell you is that the Nismo is the quickest GT-R we've ever put on the track.
"I think it would be faster, but it needs thicker tires," Randy continued. "They're not extreme enough … I didn't get (brake) fade. I just didn't have enough bite."
Having Randy's point of view is invaluable when reviewing high-performance cars like the GT-R. But I needed to sample it in an environment where the expected 60 or 70 American buyers (who are probably not race drivers) will likely take it: a mountain road. My proving ground weaved through trees atop Palomar Mountain.
Launches in the 3881-pound GT-R Nismo demand fewer ounces of adrenaline. They're less of a TNT explosion and more of a "Pirates of the Caribbean" coaster drop. Our test team says it takes 2.9 seconds to arrive at 60 mph, making it the slowest GT-R since our 485-horse, long-term 2010 GT-R Premium (3.5 seconds). Yes, we live in a world where sub-3-second sprints are "slow."
Still, this is a GT-R. You know, the one with a 7-minute, 8.679-second record on the 'Ring. It demolished a quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds at 125.3 mph and stuck to our skidpad with an average 1.06g load -- the gummiest GT-R ever. (This includes the 800-horsepower AMS Alpha 9 we tested a few years ago.) Around our telling figure-eight course, it earned a best-for-GT-R 22.9 seconds lap time at an average 0.91 g. Last year's Track Pack did it in 23.4 seconds at an average 0.89 g. Stick is the Nismo's overarching specialty.
My confidence climbed as quickly as the GT-R did the mountain. It hunkered down. It clamped on. And it distributed its power smoothly and progressively, with every ebb, pivot, and attack I commanded. More than 220 pounds of extra downforce at 186 mph are made by the eye-catching, largely carbon-fiber physique. Getting anywhere near that speed was impossible (and illegal), but even at my incremental velocities, the difference in road hold was evident.
One cannot understate the evolution of this GT-R's feel in the esses. The marriage of an adhesive-bonded body to an upgraded steering (new assist valve, gear, and hydraulic pump) and suspension transmits messages like a fiber optic line. A first-year 2009 GT-R, in comparison, feels as though it communicates via carrier pigeon. Nor can you overlook its improved ride comfort, the civility of its transaxle, a quieter interior, or the fully stocked amenity list (its sole option is a $12,990 titanium exhaust).
Is $150,000 a fair price for slightly faster, stickier, much rarer GT-R? Some MT vets would rather buy a base car, tune it, and call it a day. To which I say, you may end up with similar speed and footwork, but good luck in the areas of refinement and everyday usability. Others, like yours truly, are of the mindset that in no way can driveway tinkerers or pro tuners match the development hours of Nissan-backed Nismo, a veteran outfit with dedicated engineering squads, winning drivers, wind tunnels, and circuits named Nürburgring Nordschleife and Sendai Highland Raceway at its disposal.
It isn't the go or the show. It's the feel. You can't tune it. You engineer it. For this most engaging and impressive road car from Tochigi, the best R35-coded GT-R we ever driven, consider the Nismo a barefaced bargain.
|2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$151,870|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||3.8L/600-hp/481-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed twin-clutch auto.|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3881 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||184.3 x 74.6 x 54.2 in|
|0-60 MPH||2.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||11.1 sec @ 125.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||97 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||1.06 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||22.9 sec @ 0.91 g (avg)|