Cars UK [rating:5.0]
Car makers who produce mass-market cars dream of having a ‘halo’ car, a car which showcases the extreme abilities of the maker and gets accepted as a supercar in its own right. It’s a hard thing to pull off, and usually ends up as a great car, but with little or no kudos. A recent examples of failure in this area is VW with the Phaeton. By any measure the Phaeton is a spectacular car, but buyers couldn’t get over the VW badge, and have consigned it to the bin marked ‘Big Passat’.
But Audi has managed to pull it off with the R8, a car which has taken the fight to the 911 with a passion, and is still riding high, even adding a more powerful version for 2009 (the Audi R8 V10). The R8 is accepted as a supercar in its own right, not just a posing Audi.
And now it’s Nissan’s turn with the GT-R. Nissan has had high performance cars before, and its Skyline, never officially imported as a UK Car, is the bloodline for the GT-R.
But how does the GT-R stack up? Is it a real supercar? Can it really take the fight to established marques in this niche like Porsche, Ferrari and Lamborghini?
Quality and Comfort
Nissan does build cars very well, and the GT-R is no exception. But the exception is the soul the GT-R has, something sadly lacking in most Japanese cars. Admittedly, the GT-R has not exactly got a traditional feel to it; you don’t really have a big sense of its lineage coming through. But a lineage it does have. Descended from the Skylines, which first saw the light of day in the 1960s, there is a long history of performance cars from Nissan, and it shows in the GT-R.
The GT-R is just the right side of boy-racer. You only need to look at it to know it’s something special. The build quality is superb, although some of the interior fixtures and fittings are a little underwhelming in the quality department. But you have to remind yourself that this is a sub £60k car, not a £160k car. The compromises in this area are completely acceptable.
It’s not particularly luxurious in the cabin, but it suits the car. Snug is probably the best description, but the back seats are definitely sub-snug – you’re not going to be able to put your teenagers in here for long. But the boot is spacious enough for a couple of decent sized bags (and with run-flats there is no spare wheel to fill up the space), and by supercar standards this is a quiet, comfortable and reasonably capacious car.
On the Road
This is the bit the GT-R is all about. And it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The 3.8 V6 gives a huge 480bhp (although, as all the engines are hand built each is slightly different, and there have been many reports logging the bhp well in to the 500s), 430lb/ft of torque, almost 200mph and a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds. Look at those figures again. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that can come close to the GT-R at this price. Quite frankly, there is almost nothing that comes close at twice this price. Quite incredible.
But it’s not just the power the GT-R has that blows you away, it’s the way it uses the power. The all wheel drive and huge array of traction and technical gizmos means the GT-R utilises every drop of power at its disposal in a way that rarely scares the pants off you, and makes you feel like you could give Mr Schumacher a decent run for his money.
The joy of the X-Box like GT-R is that it cleverly allows you to choose how you want to drive, and delivers the optimum set-up every time. Want a poodle around town. No problem, just choose the comfort setting and cruise with the best. Feeling a bit lively? Drop the mode selector in to normal and the car tightens up and feels much more eager. And if you want to play at NASCAR driver then shoot for the ‘R’ option and the car turns in to something no £60k Nissan ever should. I always believed that the Porsche 911 Turbo was the quickest car in the real world. Not any more. The GT-R does exactly what you want, when you want, whatever your mood is or the road conditions dictate. Astonishing.
Running costs rarely bother those who buy cars with this sort of performance. But the GT-R is different. It hasn’t been made to be brought out of the garage on a sunny Sunday for a mad country blat. No, it is a true everyday supercar in the 911 mould, and running costs are relevant.
You can take it as read that the insurance, particularly for younger drivers, is going to be high. But it won’t be a killer for those of us of more ‘mature’ years. Fuel consumption? Well, I always find the figures pointless on cars like this. The headline official figure is 23mpg. And if you drive the GT-R like a Micra you might achieve that. But you won’t. Believe me, you really won’t (and if you do, you should sell it and then book yourself in a retirement home immediately). You will drive it at every opportunity as it’s meant to be driven – quickly. And then you’ll be lucky to see 16mpg. But that’s as good or better than you’ll see in any other car with comparable performance.
Depreciation is a key factor, and you can rest pretty easy on this score for the time being at least. At this price, the cars are going to be, and remain, despite the economic gloom, highly desirable. Which means you have a pretty good chance of seeing high residuals – as much as 75% over 3 years.
Servicing isn’t going to be peanuts, but it won’t be Porsche-nomical either. Nissan is opening dedicated service centres for the GT-R around the country, where you can expect to get suitably deferential and knowledgeable service. It will be more than a Micra, but it won’t break the bank. And now that Nissan has decided to delete the launch-control from cars coming to the UK, you’re going to struggle to break such a bullet-proof car in any sort of massive way.
Stunning. There is really no where else to go with this. I had expected great performance and good build quality, but expectations are exceeded in every department.
The GT-R looks good, drives incredibly and is built to last. It remains to be seen how reliable the X-Box elements of the car are, but there is every reason to expect they will be ultra-reliable.
The GT-R should scare the pants off Porsche and Ferrari, and every other car maker with pretensions at this level of performance. There is nothing that compares to what Nissan has achieved at anything like the price. And if that’s still not enough, there are modifiers starting to pop up offering ‘Tuned’ GT-Rs. It’s hard to believe you could make it any better than it is.
Cars UK [rating:5.0] A supercar that gives Pagani a run for their money, at the price of a high-end E-Class.