$300k can get you a lot of car these days. Not only are you well into high-performance territory from the Germans, but you’re also not that far off scooping up something new from the Brits. You might even be swayed by something second hand from the Italians, which is why I have always found the Japanese built Nissan GTR to be such a fascinating proposition, and the GT-R Nismo, absolutely mind-boggling. At the launch of the Nissan Qashqai, I scored the best seat in the house, sitting alongside the brand’s General Manager of Corporate Comms who insisted that I had to try the GT-R Nismo Edition for myself. Months later I was behind the wheel of the most race-bred and aggressively tuned vehicle I’d ever driven, and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
The Nissan GT-R Nismo is not a car for everyone, in fact, it’s a car for very few. Outside of the fact that it looks like it came straight from the set of 2 Fast 2 Furious, it’s unbelievably uncomfortable to spend any more than a couple of hours in and it costs a staggering $300k plus on roads. But I must say, it is one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever sat behind the wheel of, delivering stomach-wrenching acceleration, Clag like grip and a driving experience like no other.
This unique experience I’m referencing is not based solely on performance; even though it’s probably the first car I’d pick if I had to navigate a track as quickly as possible, it’s about the Nismo’s characteristics. Never before have I genuinely felt like I was driving a race car on the road. Every part of it has been designed to increase rigidity, aero and air flow. There’s a sense of mechanical rawness about the Nismo, like nothing I’ve driven in the past. It is so stiff, so direct, so poised, a car with only one purpose – to go fast.
On Sydney roads, it is both unnecessary and almost intolerable. Along McPherson St, in Cremorne, you’re almost bounced out of your seat. Brittle is a word that springs to mind, but can’t quite do it justice. I said the Focus RS had a harsh ride; the Nismo makes the RS feel like a Rolls-Royce Phantom. There’s a comfort mode, but you wouldn’t know it. The gearbox groans and clunks as you decelerate, preferring to engage first on its own accord – it’s as if Nismo doesn’t want you to do anything except flog it.
And flog it I did.
Just a week after steering a 570S Spider through the National Park (a drive I thought I’d unlikely top), I returned at dawn with my Hattori Hanzō blade ready to slice my way through some of my favourite roads in the state, and all I could say was WOW.
Suddenly it becomes apparent why the car is the way it is; there’s nothing on your mind except you and the tool you’re wielding. You can feel everything, how responsive the steering is, how sharp the gearchanges are, how flat it is through the corners. The boost, oh my lord – it’s utterly insatiable. How the Nismo can pull so hard from the mid-range in third and even fourth is beyond my comprehension, as is the grip. The rear feels so pinned, clearly benefiting from the monstrous carbon fibre wing perched atop the boot (it actually has quite a practical boot too). There’s no roll and no understeer, it just hunts corner after corner and propels you from each without a care in the world. It’s as enjoyable as driving gets.
And that is why the Nissan GT-R Nismo Edition has a place in any motoring enthusiasts garage. It might not be your first or your second choice, might not be your third, but I can tell you right now, even if you had 100 cars there would be days you’d wake up and say, all I want to do is drive the Nismo today – it would never get lost because it’s such a unique and exhilarating proposition.
Check out the GT-R Nismo in depth at Nissan’s website.
Check out John McMahon’s comparison of the BMW M3 Sedan (photographed above) and the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio here.