I get to play with a 2011 Nissan GTR for the weekend.
I have spent the past three days preparing for the untimely demise of my license. Funeral arrangements had been made, my Oyster card was charged and I made sure my trainers had a clean set of heels.
My neck hurts, so I’ll also be sending Nissan a bill to ensure that I am treated by expert masseurs in ensuring my spine has not encountered alignment issues from the brutal centrifugal forces at work at every roundabout, shifting the very fabric of my tissue, muscle and sinew to such an extent, I feel like a Hellraiser demon with all exposed internals etc.
Furthermore, it was a gross inappropriate expectation to have me spending more time looking at my rear view mirror than out of my windscreen in anticipation of the impending arrest and subsequent media circus frenzy that would no doubt have escalated from having turned myself into the first road user to ever discover time travel from a chance encounter during some unholy speed and g-force combination to provide some until now undiscovered mathematical equation. This irregular impact of stress upon myself should not go unnoticed.
I have spent the past three, glorious days in a 2011 Nissan GTR. Most of you know the drill by now. What’s different? More power, up to 523BHP, bigger brakes, better aero (less drag better MPG) and new wheels. See here for a complete list of changes. 2011 GT-R – THE BEST GETS BETTER – GT-R Register – Official Nissan Skyline and GTR Owners Club forum
Quite simply put, this is an astonishingly fast and competent car. I can end the review right now by saying, if what you want is the quickest point to point car in the universe, then look no further. To compound matters by pricing it under £70k does nothing other than send super car owners into fits of apoplexy.
What makes it so devastatingly quick is beyond my comprehension. My Lamborghini LP560, with 550 BHP and less weight, is not this quick. Nor is it so damn well equipped, with every luxury conceivable thrown into the mix. Sat nav, dual zone climate control, cruise, bluetooth, iphone integration, heated leather seats – and four seats with a boot.
It makes a compelling argument against the supercar establishment. Certainly, in pure performance figures, if you remove the Nissan name, you have a car that can destroy all but the most functional track devices on road and off. So why do we still aspire to the illogical, impracticalities of super car ownership when the GTR gives us more than we’ll ever need? We’ll come back to this later. It’s a conundrum, make no mistake.
Let’s talk about the performance of this car.
Every time I left the traffic lights, I became more and more paranoid that I’d just inadvertently launched before the lights had turned green again as I’d look in my mirror and see that I was over 100m down the road and the other motorists were still static at the lights.
Forget first gear. Just….forget it. It doesn’t ever hang around long enough for you to notice it actually exists. But the speed and efficiency with which it engages second and continues a relentless, tireless, committed and stubborn urge, sucking up small children and causing tornados in its wake is utterly frightening. One can only sympathise with the constant Baby Veyron comparisons, it really is a monster.
I have never driven a car so utterly effortless in its devastating capacity to lunch every other car on the road. It is a force of benign nature that offers relentless levels of competence and aptitude to such extents that one cannot help but feel a little complacent about its performance. It’s so easy to do.
I still begrudge Nissan for not making the car sound a little more menacing. Aurally, it’s up there with Dyson. But then that’s the car summed up. It’s the most functionally competent car I’ve ever driven. Its goal was to smash the ‘Ring title and make a car that strikes fear into the hearts of the establishment. And it has done this, repeatedly. It has literally done everything it set out to do.
And that ferocious urge doesn’t get tired, ever. Any gear, any revs, punch it. Motorway slip roads become moments of pure, red tinged frenzy with slight banks to roads causing periods of light speed comedy. But as your confidence develops, so do the accumulating speeds. It is an exercise in restraint, as any nonchalance surely will lead to some dramatic finale.
Ride around town and things are a little different. The damping, though not perfect, does a better job of absorbing the harshness of city commutes. It’s got good ground clearance too, avoiding any damage from speed bumps throughout London. This compounds a scary conclusion in that the faster you go, the better the car becomes, but the threshold of this car is so high, your buffer for mistakes equally become thinner.
Rear seats are token, too. Strangely enough, you can fit two small adults in there but not any children. The short base of the seats mean their feet don’t quite drop into the gap, but instead end up pushing up against the front seats.
I still am quite confused with the interior of the GTR. At first impression, it appears that it has been designed by at least half a dozen people, each person given a responsibility for each section. It doesn’t seem to work in any form of unity, lacking the cohesion necessary to make an occasion for the driver. But spend a few hours here and all of a sudden it makes sense. Bar the electric windows, everything is within the reach of the driver. It’s quite a usable cockpit. And the sat nav is amongst the best I’ve ever used.
A combination of dozens of different screens, the unit shifts intelligently from one display to another, switching clever instructions as it sees fit. Combined with the 3D landmarks, it’s a fast, effective system which was a joy to use. iPhone integration was amazing also. With my unit plugged in, I had my phone paired through bluetooth and my playlists up on the touchscreen unit within seconds. A classy well done to Nissan for that, thoroughly good job.
Sunday morning, 7am and I’m driving up to meet friends in supercars. I’m in a great environment, the R35, and strictly speaking I don’t know if I’d rather be in anything else right now. It’s comfortable, surreally quick and has all the mod cons you’d want.
This time of morning allows for swift progress and liberties to be taken. Mostly, shifting down is unnecessary as the car will swallow tarmac, regardless of gear, in full automatic. Arriving shortly after at our meeting point, the fast moving convoy is in progress after picking up more cars along the way.
By the time we arrive at our first petrol station, we’ve got 4 Lamborghini’s, a 458 Italia, a Zonda F, a Mercedes AMG CLK63 Black and a Porsche GT3RS. Despite the obvious performance adequacy (the GTR is more than a match for all these cars in real terms), I am completely invisible. Especially when we get to our final destination where we’ve picked up another Zonda, an F50, a Murcielago SV, Carerra GT and a host of other supercars.
Whilst paying for petrol, I overhear a few people at the queue talking about the collection of colour out on the forecourt. Every single car is mentioned apart from the GTR – and I won’t lie, this was a little damaging to my ego. Why wasn’t I being noticed? Didn’t they hear about the 523BHP engine? The 7.22 Ring lap? I knew exactly how to show them. When I start my engine, they’ll see.
As the whole forecourt erupted into life with various forms of Italian exotica celebrating the progression of the modern combustion engine, I sat there and started my engine, slightly embarrassed with the relatively silent contribution my gigantic exhausts were making. I’ll just do my windows up then…
Back on the road, and the visual payback is repeated. Every car gets photographed, pointed at, commented on – except mine. Again, I’m a silent witness to an orgy of car exotica and despite me being able to play with the best of them, I felt like the last guy picked for the football team.
The lack of aural and visual impact is indeed a problem in such esteemed company. A supercar is all about the drama. It’s about the excesses and necessities (or lack of thereof) of over-the-top extravagance. It’s why Lambo’s start engines with at least 2000 too many rpm’s. And why when you downshift a Ferrari you get a strangely gratuitous throttle blip.
Things that can’t be measured and can’t be reasoned with any form of logic. But therein lies the appeal of the GTR. It is unfazed by the spectacle of supercar characteristic. It attempts to do what it does best in the most efficient, unassuming way possible. It doesn’t feel the need to bark before it bites, instead opting to deliver its key message in a calm, controlled, almost mature manner.
Its performance is massive. Its offering is delightfully rich. And there is its character laid bare. It’s a loyal dog, always there for you when you need him, never questioning your motives and continues to provide you with the best relationship you could ever have.
As the sun dipped over Rickmansworth on a fantastic Sunday afternoon, everything suddenly fell into place for me and I suddenly understood the Nissan GTR.
I think if Nissan spent less time trying to force the GTR to become a supercar, it may eventually find itself placed in a unique pigeon hole without peer. It’s not a supercar, but it is a supercar slayer. With a boot.
Thanks to Terry Steeden at Nissan GB for the loan of the car. You’re lucky you have the car back. Nissan security were willing to take a bribe.