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Nissan GT-R review (2011)
Model - Nissan GT-R (2011)
Bodystyle - Two-door coupé
Engine - 3.8 V6 twin-turbo, 530hp @ 6,400rpm, 451lb ft @ 3,200-6,000rpm
Transmission - six-speed dual clutch paddleshift automatic, independent transaxle four-wheel drive
What is it?
Does the Nissan GT-R need an introduction by this point? It exploded into the European automotive landscape back in 2009, offering astonishing performance for a £50k price tag - and immediately put Porsche's nose out of joint.
The price has crept up - to nearer £70,000 - since then, but so has the power. The 2011 version tested here packs 530hp to the original's 480hp, and integrates a number of tweaks that are intended to make it seem less 'digital'.
Such is the way of these things that a new 2012 model has just been announced. 550hp, closer to £75,000 and with incredible attention to detail mods that include asymmetrical suspension, and is set to raise the game again.
Where does it fit?
But let's see what the current car can do first, eh? Those 530 horses put the GT-R into play against all kinds of exotic machinery; to such an extent that Nissan's asking price continues to look relatively parsimonious.
Obvious rivals include the 911 Turbo, the Audi R8 (you'll need the V10...) and perhaps even the much pricier Aston Martin V12 Vantage. Or, if you're digging the brutal vibe, maybe you'd also consider a BMW M5 or Mercedes E63 AMG.
None of these have anything like the electronic all-wheel drive chassis of the GT-R, though. Clearly, it sits right at the top of the Nissan tree. The 2011 comes in just one specification, too - so there's nothing to ponder in that respect.
Is it for you?
The digital thing has been so associated with the GT-R since its introduction that it's become a cliché. Blame the astonishing chassis, which generally seems as if it would do at least as good a job without you; though Nissan hasn't helped itself by using Gran Turismo's designers to create the virtual instrumentation.
The point is, if you're considering one of these you're probably a bit of a tech-head as well as a petrolhead. This is not a car aimed at people afraid of the instruction manual for their microwave.
More importantly, it's also a monster. The GT-R is extraordinarily fast. Totally and utterly supercar fast. And you need to be prepared for running costs to match - and we mean brakes and tyres as much as petrol and insurance.
What does it do well?
But the hell with all that mundane practical stuff, this thing is built for speed. With a launch control-equipped twin-clutch six-speed gearbox, warranty worries permitting the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 will propel this 1,740kg beastie from 0-62mph in just 3.0 seconds.
It is almost hallucinogenically rapid - pull out to overtake a single car, and you've either got to start braking as soon as you've stabbed the throttle or dispatch every slower vehicle in front of you. Which, let's face it, is just about anything else on the road.
That might be fine for the opposition to stomach, if it wasn't also devastatingly effective at going round corners. Improvements to the steering feel increase your sense of control and involvement, and the chassis delivers grip or showboating heroics however you see fit.
What doesn't it do well?
This is such a comprehensively competent machine that you can almost take it for granted. It's easy to drive very quickly, and doesn't really make a very exciting noise - so it's no surprise it leaves some people cold.
Arguably, those people just aren't using it properly - but it's equally true that to maximise the GT-R's actual potential on the public road really is going to lead quickly to some interesting conversations with local law enforcement officers.
So you have to choose your moments very wisely, or perhaps consign maximum mischief to the racetrack. At which point the various R modes for the suspension, drivetrain and stability control systems should start to make more sense.
What is it like to live with?
Conversely, it's hard to believe anyone would spend much time driving one of these on British tarmac without quickly engaging the 'Comfort' setting for the suspension. This maintains a flat cornering posture, but takes the bite out of the worst bumps.
Which actually makes it easier to go faster, in most circumstances. The engine is more than flexible enough to just trundle, however - all the better for accepting and acknowledging the admiring glances of other motorists.
And, genuinely, they are mostly admiring. From a practicality perspective the boot's big but the rear seats aren't much use since there's almost zero legroom. The clunky diff noises and ticking fuel pump on start-up all add to the sense of adventure.
How green is it?
The Nissan GT-R has a 196mph top speed. So the obvious answer to this question is not very. But considering that, a claimed 23.5mpg combined with 279g/km CO2 emissions is nowhere near as bad as it could be.
In reality you'll probably see high teens at best - but the drivetrain does now feature a 'Save' mode for improved fuel economy when cruising.
Trouble is, even when you are cruising, the temptation to drop the hammer ever so often is essentially just completely overwhelming...
Would we buy it?
Tough one. For the money - and, in fact, even if you add quite a lot more of the folding stuff - nothing comes close to the GT-R's performance. But it won't ever be cheap to run, and we wonder whether it has quite got the emotional depth to satisfy a demanding driver over a long-term relationship.
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