Road test: Nissan GT-R

Still brutally quick, but a thorough revamp has softened its manner

Years after it first appeared and with no sign of a successor, Nissan’s once groundbreaking GT-R has been given a sufficiently comprehensive facelift to merit re-examination on these pages.

And, for once, the focus is not on simply making it faster, though its hand-built 3.8-litre twin turbo has been gifted a further 20bhp to bring the total to 562. So while the performance is not as shocking as it was a decade ago, because its few competitors have caught up most of what was once a yawning shortfall, it can still elicit a stifled yelp from an unsuspecting passenger. 

We don’t know exactly how quick it is because Nissan thinks it adds to the car’s mystique to withhold acceleration figures (it doesn’t, it’s just annoying), but it’s been timed below 3.5sec to 60mph and under 8sec to 100mph elsewhere and that feels about right.

Far more interesting, at least to me, are the efforts Nissan has made to make the GT-R quieter and more refined, as if in the autumn of its life it has suddenly realised it’s time to grow up. The structure has been stiffened, but the suspension has been softened.

An effectively new, far more plush interior has been fitted and additional sound-deadening material has been packed into its bulkheads.

The result is to turn a car I have long considered one of the most overrated on sale into an effective and, more importantly, likeable, all-purpose, all-weather weapon.

It remains simple to criticise: the cabin is ugly, the new touchscreen infotainment is clunky, the gearing is too short, the switchgear too scattered and the fuel consumption truly atrocious. What’s changed is that the fundamental way it goes about its business is so improved that these failings are far easier to tolerate.

Probably most improved is the ride quality, though to me the power delivery seems more progressive too. Nissan has found a balance that allows the car to feel completely planted over the worst crests, while at last providing the compliance to take the edges off all those road imperfections that used to pepper progress in its earlier iterations. What Nissan appears to have grasped is that by making the GT-R more civilised, it has actually also made it more appealing to go out and drive. There may be some payback at track speeds, I don’t know because I didn’t take it to a circuit, but on the road the news is uniformly good.

Even so, it remains a car for iconoclasts. A 911 Carrera S remains far easier to live with and, while not quite so gut-bustingly rapid, probably a more pleasurable thing simply to get in and drive. Then again if you’ve always liked the idea of the GT-R but not the reality, it’s worth another look. Ten years on, the GT-R is finally turning into the car it should have been from the start.