When I first drove the Nissan GT-R back in 2009, its outright pace and handling performance were quite an eye opener. “The GT-R hugs the road like a ‘little black number’ on your favourite actress”, I said of the 2010 GT-R, but since then there’s been a 2011 model and now the latest 2012 derivative.
It seems the GT-R receives updates quicker than you can say ‘Apple iPhone’, but on the surface it remains largely unchanged. So what have the Japanese engineers been up to and why do GT-R owners update their cars like Apple users update their iPhones?
As a refresher, the most obvious changes to the 2011 GT-R were a new set of 20-inch RAYS alloy wheels, LED day-time running lights, a bump in power from 357 kW to 390 kW and torque went from 588 Nm to 612 Nm, together with a handful of subtle aerodynamic enhancements that dropped the drag coefficient from 0.27 to 0.26.
Between this latest GT-R and last year’s 2011 model you won’t find any styling changes, but the interior has come in for an incremental improvement in the robust fit and finish of trim and equipment. An 11-speaker Bose sound system is standard, along with the reverse parking camera linked to the 7-inch, touch-screen, display. Under the sheet-metal, however, Nissan’s engineers have prepared this latest GT-R with the all precision and dedication of a Fugu chef.
Officially, the new GT-R’s maximum power has been upped by 14 kW to 404 kW, although here in SA the 2012 GT-R is limited to 397 kW by our 95 octane fuel versus Japan’s 100. Peak torque has increased marginally to 628 Nm and is available between 3 200 – 5 800 r/min. Top speed is a claimed 315 km/h and the benchmark 0 – 100 km/h sprint is over in a supercar-embarrassing 2.8 seconds according to Nissan. Incidentally, Nissan’s launch control function is among the easiest to use – select R-mode, left foot on the brake, right foot on the accelerator, release the brake with engine revs hovering around 4 000 r/min and away you go. For what it’s worth, fuel consumption has dropped by 0.2 to an average of 11.7 L/100km and CO2 emissions have also decreased correspondingly.
Just eight people in the world are qualified to build a VR38TT engine and each of them produce two engines per day. For 2012, Nissan didn’t simply turn up the boost pressure. Instead they made changes that centre around improved air intake and exhaust gas efficiency. Still hand-built, but now with additional elbow grease, the 3.8-litre, 24-valve, twin-turbocharged V6, benefits from a more precise fitting of the air intake manifold and cylinder head, as well as sodium filled exhaust valves that lower exhaust gas temperatures and afford more compact exhaust catalysts. In addition, further efficiency has been achieved with a leaner air-fuel ratio, together with valve and ignition timing adjustments.
Nissan has also tweaked the GT-R’s transmission. At low speed, gear shifts were smooth enough in the 2010 model, but evident by audible clunks as the cogs were engaged. Now, however, the brazen operations of that previous transmission when thundering through the rev-range are no more. Nissan have replaced the transmission fluid with the same competition spec oil used by NISMO, strengthened the design of the shift fork arm and developed a firmer fixing bearing for the flywheel housing. Forget the technical minutiae, what you’re left with is a 6-speed, dual-clutch, transmission that delivers gear changes in 0.15 seconds and a shift action that’s more reassuring than unnerving. This is probably one of the biggest improvements to the car’s already obvious appeal, along with the well spec’d interior, the monstrous power and its relative bargain price tag.
Another key change for 2012 is that of the asymmetric suspension configuration for the right-hand drive (RHD) models. Nissan say the change has been made, “Accounting for the added weight of the driver in a right-hand drive vehicle coupled to the fact that the propeller shaft for front wheels is located on the right side of the vehicle.” It’s surprising that Nissan should find drivers of RHD cars to weigh more than drivers of LHD cars, but this is the type of ‘Fugu chef’ intensity referred to earlier, especially when you consider the off-set prop shaft that drives the front wheels is already made from lightweight carbon fibre. For the front suspension, there’s a harder spring rate on the left side while at the rear the suspension arm has been installed upwards on the left side and downwards on the right. This means an imbalanced wheel load when the car is stationary, but which is equalized during driving and is said to provide improved steering feel, cornering stability and ride comfort.
A quick, (yes, that’s a pun), drive in the Magaliesberg area didn’t quite test the GT-R’s handling limits, but the sweeping bends left no doubts in the GT-R’s high-speed stability and all-wheel drive grip. Entering sweeps at entertaining speeds with 20-inch tyres riding over rippling tarmac would have your heart in your mouth in any other car, but between the 1 740 kg kerb weight forcing the rubber to the road and an all-wheel drive system that evaluates and adjusts the car’s attitude every 0.2 of a second, the GT-R remains composed even when you may subconciously be raising an eyebrow.
Adjustable Bilstein DampTronic suspension, transmission and VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) settings, allow the driver to adapt the GT-R to prevailing road conditions or driving enthusiasm, which softens or hardens the car’s character within the context of a dedicated sports car. The engine changes are most notable in response from the drive-by-wire throttle, with little turbo-lag to speak of, as well as with torque delivery in the mid- to upper rev range, where the V6 howls and revels in snorting up gallons of air every second. In contrast to the GT-R’s seemingly relentless acceleration, are the forces generated by the massive brakes. 6-piston monoblock Brembo brake calipers up front and 4-piston units at the rear, slow 390 mm and 380 mm floating discs respectively, which means that while they may be faced with a monumental task at times, they are merciless in their capability.
A brief encounter with the 2012 Nissan GT-R suggests it’s more refined, both inside the cabin and beneath the skin. It’s also easier to drive than ever before, which is perhaps why the additional power over the 2010 model does not seem all that pronounced. We’ve yet to experience the car’s legendary potential on SA’s definitive winding roads, but nevertheless, Nissan’s engineers continue to impress with the results of their tireless improvement of the GT-R and the performance benchmarks it sets.
|Price (incl. VAT and CO2 Tax)|
|2012 Nissan GT-R Premium Edition||R1 387 000|
|2012 Nissan GT-R Black Edition||R1 437 000|
Prices include a 3-year / 100 000 km warranty and 50 000 km service plan.