Monday, June 6, 2016

First Drive: 2016 Nissan GT-R

The main problem with track events is that you’re given such limited seat time with any given vehicle that it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. The Nissan GT-R, as you probably guessed, is one big exception. My run with it was limited to just a handful of laps around the Gran Turismo-sounding Sodegaura Forest Raceway and a single hot lap with a professional NISMO race driver; yet it’s all that took to make me re-think if the laws of physics actually existed.

The GT-R I flogged around the track isn’t the 2017 model, so it doesn’t do the 565 horsepower and 633 Nm of torque that now comes standard. Yet, despite being some 20 horsepower and 5 Nm of torque down, it’s quick—blistering and scarily quick. Punch the throttle and it’ll smash the century mark in about three seconds. It easily lives up to its Godzilla nickname, punching, kicking, and rearranging my innards even before I approach the first turn.

The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, meticulously assembled by one master craftsman per car, was pure engine music. It’s the sort of soundtrack that announced a thunderous presence, like a raging growl of a monster in full attack mode. It was pure mechanical bliss. It was magical. The 6-speed dual clutch never once lost a beat thanks to its lightning-quick shifts.

With such a large frame and a heavy 1,740-kilogram curb weight, the first thought that crossed my mind is that this car will refuse to turn.  Scrub a bit of speed, I thought. Turn a bit more, I thought. What happened next is deserving of a click-bait headline: I was blown away. There it was, a two-ton sports coupe, happily dancing into the tight left-handler. It was beautifully balanced, light and responsive.

Coming out of the corner and winding up my steering, I buried the throttle, and the GT-R let out no drama—the tires didn’t squeal for grip and the steering wheel didn’t saw in protest. The steering provided little feedback as to what the tires were doing, but the quick off-center response was perfect for charging aggressively through the twisty track.

The advanced all-wheel drive system did all the complex calculations that kept me pointed in the right direction and for the next couple of corners; I was trying to find the GT-R’s limit. At one point, I playfully tried drifting it mid-corner, to which it obliged; easily corrected by a small flick of the wheel. Suffice to say, the limit found me. By the time I approached the long sweeping final bend onto the start/finish straight, my balls were in my throat.

Godzilla may be a cute nickname, but I found the three-letter badge even more telling. As its name suggests, it itches not only for track laps, but for the wide open road as well. The interior, I find, is astute in its design—ergonomic, straightforward, and precise. The instrument cluster moves vertically with the steering wheel while the Alcantara and leather seats provide body-hugging support. Being from the Land of the Rising Sun though, the GT-R can also suffer from information overload. The center stack reports too much data, overloading my senses like a Japanese game show.

Outside, despite being on sale for a full decade, the GT-R still looks every bit as menacing and eye-catching. The funky and angular design isn’t pretty in the traditional sense, but it’s brutally effective. See one in the rear view mirrors, and you’ll move aside. It looks every bit like a road-going sledgehammer, ready to bludgeon any German or Italian exotic that gets in its way.

It doesn’t matter what I call it—GT-R, R35, or Godzilla—this is one Nissan that’s made a lasting impression. The GT-R is certainly a supercar-stomping, high-tech dynamo and its blend of power, poise, and control is certainly unique. Four laps in and I discover that physics seem to have no hold on this car. I wished my blistering quick laps were because of skill, but it’s not. This car made me feel positively heroic and afraid behind the wheel at the same. It’s the first time any car has managed to do so.

Nissan Philippines, Inc. has confirmed that the R35 GT-R will be sold in the Philippines. The launch window is sometime this year. According to some sources, some dealers have begun taking in reservations. The pricing though is still a moving goal post, with some estimates pegging it at around P 5-million, while others put it closer to P 7-million. 


  1. a review done too soon. even if the car makes it here - it could be just a halo car because of the cost. not to mention the servicing and re tooling needed for the job. Nice review though.

    1. I don't think Nissan Philippines will sell a lot of these. In fact, they're just awarding the GT-R selling rights to just one dealer.

  2. when it arrives here. the next generation is already on its way. a bit too late for nissan?

    1. Perhaps. Maybe it's just going to be a brand-building exercise.