TEST DRIVE: Jewel in Nissan’s crown

2013 Nissan GT-R
2013 Nissan GT-R
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If you don’t know the Nissan GT-R by now, here’s a very short introduction; Japanese company makes absurdly powerful, fiendishly complicated four-wheel drive coupe that thrashes more expensive rivals. The end.

The GT-R has been something of a jewel in the crown for Nissan. Ever since the first modern generation Skyline GT-R appeared in 1989, it’s been a car to upset the establishment, mainly by destroying prestigious competition on the road and the track.

This latest R35 model first appeared in the UK in 2009, but it has been upgraded twice in that time.

And so we come to the 2013 example and, although it has no more power than last year’s model, there are some tweaks and changes that require your attention.

Firstly the engine. It was already a hugely powerful and complex device; a 3.8-litre V6 with twin turbochargers, developing a massive 542bhp and 465lb.ft of torque. That figure remains unchanged, but Nissan has added new specification injectors and a boost pressure relief valve, both of which they say improves mid and high-rev response.

That may be so, but to be brutally honest you’ll be too busy clinging on and trying to maintain a sense of dignity to notice. The GT-R is brutally, eye-wideningly quick, regardless of how fast you’re going in the first place. That engine has power to spare whenever you want it, and as soon as the accelerator is squeezed it starts dishing it out.

Then there’s the handling. The R35 GT-R introduced a new four-wheel-drive system, and a host of baffling acronyms to represent the vast computing power devoted to getting you around your chosen bend as fast as mechanically possible. For the 2013 model, minute changes to the springs, dampers, front anti-roll bar and cam bolts are claimed to improve the handling still further.

No doubt the absurdly clever engineers sweated long into the night for these improvements, but unless your day job involves flying fighter jets or Formula 1 cars, you will simply be astounded at what the GT-R can do. It has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering, both of which maximise the grip of the very sticky tyres and allow you to harness all that power.

If it sounds like a fearsome beast then don’t be fooled; the GT-R, in many ways, is actually quite benign. The cabin is pretty straightforward and the seats are very supportive. You can slot the automatic dual-clutch transmission into D and ease away. Aside from the unquestionably firm ride, you have no idea that you’re driving something quite spectacular.

It only takes 2.7 seconds to change that though.

Bring the GT-R to rest, engage ‘R’ mode in the transmission and vehicle dynamics control, squeeze the brake hard with your left foot and put the accelerator to the floor. The engine revs will hold at 4,000rpm, and when you release the brake all hell breaks loose. In 2.7 seconds the GT-R will have reached 60mph, with 100mph coming up in under 9 seconds – if it wasn’t clear already, that is absurdly fast.

The real knockout punch is still to come though. The 2013 Nissan GT-R checks in at £76,610 – not a small amount of money – but try to buy any other car that can reach 60mph in under 3 seconds and you’ll need to spend twice as much.

Price: £76,610

Engine: 3.8-litre petrol producing 542bhp and 465lb.ft of torque.

Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch transmission driving all four wheels

Performance: Top speed 196mph, 0-62mph in 2.7 seconds

Economy: 24mpg combined

Emissions: 275g/km of CO2