Godzilla.. the Legend?
So. 10 years into Godzilla’s life and a common question is whether or not the GTR, a Nissan, can really be called a Supercar. It is a constant source of conflict between the automotive elite and the purveyors of Nurburgring Lap times. From the exotic, cutting edge lines to the sub 3 second 0-100 sprint time, others are inclined to agree. But putting that to the side, perhaps a more pressing question is whether the aging platform, 10 years old this year, is still a strong performer.
You may recall that we were more than entertained as we piped one around a Las Vegas track against two supercars in the more traditional sense. But I grew interested in how the GTR might fair as a day to day beast, reserved for a weekend drive and the odd track day and the idea that a sub $150k car could humble cars worth a couple of times the value.
When opportunity knocks, you kick open the door and embrace it with open arms. Perusing the classifieds we stumbled across a low km 2013 GTR at a can’t miss price with a twist and spoiler alert: ended up buying it completely unseen.
The twist being the main event here. You see this GTR has been fettled with a larger flow Intercooler. It’s turbos have been reworked whilst a custom ECU coding revises the ignition control, variable valve timing and fuel maps as well as allows boost to be adjusted on the fly. Fuel consumption under partial throttle conditions is increased and a variable boost control allows the ultimate control. Exhaust fumes race down the Miltek downpipes towards the 102mm Litchfield exhaust. The end result is a staggering increase in torque and power, right across the rev range.
And what an increase it is. Revised figures mean that peak torque of 617 lbs/ft is hit at just under 4,000 rpm. In fact, at 2,600 rpm this GTR is still hitting 500 lbs/ft of torque. To put that into context, the Aventador Superveloce makes 509 lbs-ft maximum torque at 6,750 rpm and a max power of 729 bhp. So whilst pushing not far off double the max torque of an e9x M3 this GTR will just be getting started.
Rolling on fresh Michelin PS 4S all round, the grip is as good a compromise between all-weather road-drivability and performance as you could hope for really. The performance doesn’t drop off in the wet as drastically as with the PS2, but it retains enough of the dry, warm performance as you’d need in a road car and even a part time track weapon. The feedback from the turn it is nicely weighted and as you squeeze the trigger, you’re rewarded with a rear-biased squirm, guiding you, angled around the bend and hurtling you into the horizon as you flatten out on the exit. You do feel the extra weight as you pilot the car but adjust your driving style to extract the maximum from it and you’ll reap the benefits.
Even in standard guise, the 2012 GTR was the first to sport a sub 3 second 0-100 time. So you can picture what the effects of adding the equivalent power of a similar year Civic Type R or Focus ST on top would be.
The performance on tap here is simply soul stiring. Around town in comfort mode, the GTR adapts into a pseudo GT car, being relatively comfortable whilst remaining communicative. Being a 2013, it rides slightly more smoothly than the older counterparts, whilst never being a full armchair cruiser. However show it at some angular passes and prod the toggle switches into Race, things really begin to take on another dimension. The GTR is impressively agile despite its 1,740 kg girth – weight which would be shared with the likes of a Galalrdo spyder. It’s no lightweight, but Mizuno-San, the brains behind the project insists that it owes some of its handling prowess to this weight – we’ll be putting that to the test in the future. A carbon fiber hood, lightweight seats, carbon ceramic brakes and lightweight wheels would likely shave off around 60kg.
Launch control thrusts you beyond the speed limit faster than your mind has time to fully catch up with what’s happening and therein lies a slight problem. The GTR doesn’t cuddle your licence safely nested in the glove-box. No. It holds a lighter to it, seemingly in a constant bid to have it blown to smithereens.
Cruising through some hilly Western Australian roads, the curves simply pass by almost as if they were your dance partner. The GTR’s plethora of computers constantly tweak and adjust you as you make progress that flowing through bends feels like second nature. Combined with the modified exhaust, the whole thing becomes a symphony of sounds, the click clack from the gearbox at low speeds, the gearbox changes which, despite the GTR being perhaps the first of the new-era of DSG boxes, are still frightfully quick, the howl from the exhaust as you come fully on boost which sees it develop into an angry, angry roar. It’s intoxicating.
Then there’s the six piston Brembo brakes which allow you to leave braking later and later as you have a play. The car will rarely put a foot wrong – you have to REALLY manhandle it if you want it to get a little tail happy, and sometimes you’ll get a little understeer if you miss a line, due in part to the 4WD nature of the beast. It generally defies the laws of physics as you change direction with almost unbelievable pace and the most tiresome thing about negotiating a course at high speed is that it’s a constant battle to react quicker than the car. Insider tip: the GTR WILL exceed your capabilities as a driver.
As it stands, I estimate that we’ve removed just under 2 kgs from each corner as a result of ditching the runflats, and around 7kg for the exhaust. The bum-g-sensor feels a slightly heightened sense of urgency when changing direction but that could largely be simply down to the tyre selection.
The go-to criticism for the GTR is the build quality. It really, really isn’t bad – in fact some would call it somewhat luxurious with it’s adjustable, heated leather recaro’s, Multi-speaker Bose Audio and so on. But playing in this field, you are inevitably going to be comparing it with the likes of the Audi R8 and above. Audi build quality is always going to be superior, the assured, weighty clunking of switchgear, the deeper, more supple feel of leather etc. But then, if your main focus is in fact the business of driving, this might not be of consequence to your decision.
In fact, the simplistic nature of the car on the surface – whilst still driver-focused albeit lacking in ultimate refinement is part of its charm to me. Ok so the seats don’t quite have the plumpness of BMW’s nappa leather, nor do the plastics have that comforting rubberised finish of an Audi Dash, but if you’re pre-occupied with driving the thing then it isn’t something that sits at the forefront of your mind and for me, rarely crosses it at all. The infotainment isn’t as slick as you’d find in a Porsche; again, that’s not to say it is specifically deficient, but certain options and functions are a little more concealed than you’d like. The sound from the Premium’s speakers is a pleasant one though, thumping away with a good level of warmth and crispness for the times where you don’t want to listen to the beast.
There are some nice examples dabbed about, the down force-inducing undertray/splitter for example is a gorgeous carbon-fiber piece. Labels of carbon-composite are dabbed around in the engine bay on various members, reflective of the engineering being ‘just so’.
The mirrors and door handles are futher examples of the attention to detail – designed to maximise airflow around the car.
As it sits in idle, warming up, the gearbox makes some lovely mechanical chatter that you can hear beneath the gumble from the 3.8 v6. Each engine is hand made and thus slightly unique and you somehow get a sense of that.
The attention to detail as the GTR is fettled over the years is a work of true passion. The geometry of the suspension for example is set up so that it is unbalanced. Stiffer springs on one side and a biased rear suspension setup offsets the fact that around a track you’re likely only to have the driver at the wheel.
Car enthusiasts aren’t without their complexities and this car isn’t without it’s foibles of course. But we’re a funny bunch and you can’t harp on about the GT-R for too long before someone pipes up ‘rubbish, not a Supercar’. The reasons often vary from ‘it has too many computers’ to ‘it’s not exotic enough’ or ‘doesn’t cost enough’ or ‘doesn’t have the right badge’. It has angular lines, a costly service schedule, handling and performance that utterly humbles similarly aged machines (Just have a look at Nurburgring times as a simple metric – the 2012 shaved 7 seconds off the 2009’s time, and sits above McLaren’s, Ferraris (including the Enzo), various Porsches, the list goes on) and can accelerate to 100kph in under three seconds. Others will comment on the car being too ‘digital’. There’s some truth to that, but it is much more an evolution of how you drive as opposed to simply not driving the thing.
So to be frank, I couldn’t care less on what artificial category the car is shoehorned into, sporty GT, Racing GT, Supercar, Non Supercar. In and of itself, it remains a breathtaking experience. And whilst the GTR is constantly evolving, it may serve you just as well to take things into your own hands and use what is a staggering platform to create your own ultimate version of Godzilla.