When I learned that I was to drive the legendary Nissan GT-R my anticipation knew no bounds. I felt the same adolescent excitement I would have experienced had I been invited to a hot romantic tryst with one or more of the Pussycat Dolls. I knew it would probably be over quickly – but not too quickly, I hoped – and that it would be something I would want to do over and over again.
The opportunity for the drive came courtesy of West Way Nissan out of their prestige Oxford dealership. Welcomed by Martin Corp, the Dealer Principal, I was shown the car featured in the images by resident GT-R expert Matt who knows this motor inside out. The first thing of note was just how comfortable the car was, with the ideal driving position easily achieved via multiple electric seat adjustment. Suitably ensconced, I pressed the big red button and the GT-R growled into life.
First, let’s get the badge snobbery out of the way because I know it’s lurking out there. Yes, alright, it’s a Nissan, but there’s nothing about the car that suggests ‘budget’ or ‘mainstream’. The dash layout is conventional, almost to the point of austere, but it pays to remember that in this car there’s no time for playing around with trivial dashboard toys. It’s easy to use the navigation, radio and other car controls that all fall readily to hand, it is very well-built and fit and finish is of the highest standard. True, the cabin’s style maybe doesn’t compete with the levels of luxury and sense of occasion that supercar lovers expect to see in your average Ferrari or Lambo but, at around the £80k mark depending on specification, the Nissan GT-R is half the price of those Italian beauties. At these speeds you want functional not fussy.
With four real seats – although, unless you are under a metre tall, the rear is not somewhere you would want to be for long to be fair – and a generous 315L boot, the words ‘practical supercar’ are, for once, true and this seems largely thanks to the design which eschews sleek exotic looks for a more muscular approach. Surprisingly, Nissan say that thanks to underbody aero the GT-R has a very low drag coefficient. On close inspection you can begin to see why, with the cantilevered roof line and rear wing; it’s slippery.
So: as above I’ve started the car, heard the growl from the big quad exhaust and begun my manoeuvre out of the car park. I don’t know quite what I expected – they say Godzilla can smell fear – but the car did not take off with a squeal of tyres and rabid kerb thrashing on the big wheels as I struggled to maintain control; instead it pootled away like all the other regular Nissan’s parked nearby. The GT-R is, it turns out, a pussycat. It is as easy to drive as a Qashqai or a Juke. No drama at all: and then we – Matt came along to curb my base urges – hit the open road. From household pet to savage beast in just one press of the throttle.
With its unobtrusive all-wheel-drive system and super-fast dual clutch gearbox the potential of 542bhp and 466lb/ft was at least partially realised given the constraints of British roads. My goodness, this car is relentlessly quick and yet no matter the road grade or surface it never put a wheel wrong. The handling is immense and the GT-R is as agile as a much smaller vehicle. 62mph comes up in under three seconds and, should you want to go there, the top speed is a bowel-loosening 193. Needless to say the Japanese rocket comes with computer monitored safety kit so, for example, the GT-R makes sure the most power and braking force always goes to the correct Nitrogen-filled tyre. The short version is that the car is as good at avoiding a shunt as it is getting you safely up to speed.
On a stretch of dual carriageway we were finally able to give it the beans. Matt switched into Race mode – to save me hunting for the unfamiliar button – at which point the hand-built engine was, albeit briefly, exploited to the max. Apparently, there are only four engineers entrusted to assemble these power plants; a fellow called Hiroyuki Ichikawa built ours and a jolly good job he’d made of it too. Although the engine is vocal at pace there’s none of that shouty nonsense you get with lesser motors to give an impression of power. The soundtrack is subtle and the better for it. When once again we entered low-speed zones the gearbox happily shuffled the ratios of its own volition and the car once again demonstrated how versatile it was.
There we have it. An all too brief liaison with a pukka superstar supercar. I suspect that it would actually be cheaper to run than a Pussycat Doll too. It’ll do 20+ miles to your over-taxed gallon, service intervals are at 9000 miles and, right now at least, West Way Nissan are offering a three year service contract for around £600! A true GT car that’s as easy to use as a hatchback. They can count themselves lucky that I didn’t keep on driving until I reached a ferry port and took it to the autobahns. Mind you, I don’t suppose Matt’s family would have been too happy about it.
Geoff Maxted with thanks to Martin and Matt at West Way Nissan Oxford