Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.
The GT-R’s heritage stretches back to the late ‘60s and dominance of Japanese touring car racing by souped-up Prince saloons with high-revving 2.0-litre six-cylinder engines. The coupes that followed set the mould for the Skyline GT-R, the local hero that broke into the international arena as a legend of both motorsport and videogames. The R32, R33 and R34 Skyline GT-Rs are true 90s JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) icons, their R35 successor dropping the Skyline name but taking the GT-R brand to a global audience, distilling the Skyline’s reputation for astonishing performance, technological brilliance and crushing power into a single, remarkable product. First seen in 2007 it’s become a legend in its own right.
If not conventionally beautiful the GT-R’s unique appearance is utterly distinctive and completely faithful to its heritage, culture and technical eccentricities. The brutality of its styling is reflected in the driving experience. The circular rear lights glow like afterburners, their image seared in the minds of a generation of videogamers for whom the rear of the car is familiar from hours hunched over their PlayStations. In a nod to this influence Nissan even collaborated with Gran Turismo’s creators on the screen graphics on the central display. The Track Edition you see here is enhanced by Nissan motorsport division NISMO and bears branded RAYS wheels, suspension modifications and a shell stiffened by special adhesive in a modern interpretation of traditional seam welding.
For straight-line heroes the sheer punch of the GT-R’s 550bhp turbocharged V6 remains astonishing, especially when you consider the weight of the thing. In the corners it’s a technologically and dynamically more complicated machine than legend would have you believe – for all the electronic trickery this is a car that makes significant demands of its driver. Chassis modifications from the rare breed GT-R NISMO include a special hollow rear anti-roll bar, stiffer than that in the standard GT-R to neutralise understeer and sharpen the front end. It works too – on the brakes, on turn-in and under power the Track Edition is always eager to rotate into oversteer. Commit to it and the four-wheel drive chassis then delivers corner-exit punch to back up that giant-killing reputation.
Those who don’t understand the GT-R write it off as a power-crazed brute delivering a driving experience that’s more videogame than real world. The reality is a car with a motorsport heritage the equal of any European rival, huge cultural significance to an entire generation, mind-boggling engineering born of an eccentric yet perfectionist mindset and design that still has more than a whiff of sci-fi. It’s also one of the more thrilling performance cars you can buy, capable of lap times and acceleration figures that seem to defy reason, let alone physics. And as the ‘regular’ GT-R attempts to broaden its appeal with a relatively softer edge this Track Edition offers a welcome taste of the crazed, flagship NISMO version for a much more attainable price.
Price tag of our car – £88,560, before options