Nissan finally made a car that is both comfortable and can perform as well as, or even better than, other dedicated performance cars out there. The GT-R is the embodiment of Tamura-San’s vision of a perfect car, and what a car it is! The performance numbers are astonishing!
In my younger years when I was starting out my racing career joining slalom races, I was often told by my contemporaries to save up and build a dedicated race car. I, however, did not have the resources to do so. And I only had one car, which was a struggle to keep race-ready back then. I remember skipping lunch and saving every peso I had just to have enough money for the race entry fees. Most of the experienced guys often told me that I had to “choose between a fast car and a comfortable car” because I couldn’t have both. Suffice to say, I chose to have a fast car. And fast meant south of 100hp on a 1981 Toyota Corolla Liftback.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate to have had the chance to drive the 2017 Nissan GT-R to its full potential, on a proper race track. Complete with the blessings of Nissan Philippines and the guidance of the GT-R’s chief designer Mr. Hiroshi Tamura, I was part of the team that worked on the GT-R’s test drive activity for motoring media and clients. I also got to experience working with Nissan’s ace driver Takao Matsumoto and chief engineer Mitsutaka Matsumoto for the project.
While my time with the GT-R was limited, it was enough to shatter the tenets I grew up to believe. Nissan finally made a car that is both comfortable and can perform as well as, or even better than, other dedicated performance cars out there. The GT-R is the embodiment of Tamura-San’s vision of a perfect car, and what a car it is! The performance numbers are astonishing! The GT-R’s 3.8-liter V6 Twin Turbo engine delivers 562 hp @6800 rpm and 633 nm of torque at 3300-5800 rpm.
The GT-R is a very versatile car. In “GT mode,” it is a Grand Tourer and can be used as a daily driver amongst other things. While in ”R mode,” it is a performance car well suited for the race track. The price may be a bit steep for the normal person but for what it can do and what it can give you, I think it’s a bargain. Yes, it costs more than an average middle-class house, but if you can afford it, you get more car! A premium interior, comfortable ride, top-notch handling, and a very powerful power plant.
How can a car that is so comfortable and easy to drive on the road feel so at home on the racetrack?
My best answer is magic! Tamura-san is definitely a wizard of sorts because I think that the first issue they have overcome is speed’s natural enemy, heat. As a byproduct of speed, heat is always the enemy. It seems that the GT-R has heat and also reliability in check. During our time with the GT-R’s, the two units were working at race speeds from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm with only the occasional refueling and a 30-minute mid-day break to check the brakes. It must have been a monstrous task to dial in the suspension to have a superior ride quality and still provide fast cornering speeds on the track. The delicate balance of comfort and performance has just been almost perfectly judged and bridged by the GT-R.
The GT-R is one hell of a car. When you push the car near its limits, it commands your full attention. In manual mode, you have to focus on the road while keeping track of the rev counter that goes from 6000 rpm to the 7100 redline in a blink of an eye. Acceleration is brutal when the launch control is enabled and you will tend to squint as the tachometer nears its redline and the engine delivers the final burst of power just before shifting gears. At the Clark International Speedway where the track day was held, I still managed to do 210 kph approaching turn 1 on the shortened straight. I found that it was easy to overcook the turn by coming in faster than normal mainly because the GT-R is so composed at high speeds that it lessens the perception of speed. It just gives you so much confidence that the driver feels it has a safety net and that the GT-R will somehow miraculously get you out of a bad situation. The weird thing is, that it actually does — because the driver aids kick in and the system modulates the throttle input and power delivery once it feels that the car is out of shape or understeering. What I like most about this system is the fact that it cuts in and out almost unnoticeably. The result is a very good driver feeling of oneness with the car. The R-mode just feels more engaging and is generally a must when you are utilizing all of the almost 570 horses available. The gearbox, suspension, and traction control work in unison, always ready to deliver the best drive of your life. The exhaust note is one of the nicest throaty sounds produced by a car, and it sings its heart out as soon as you hit the middle of the rev range. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing it.
In my many years of racing, from slalom, karting, circuit and rally racing, I never imagined I would get to drive such an awesome car. It’s actually not the power figures that amaze me, but how the power is delivered —in a smooth and sophisticated way. While many people call it a beast, I look at the GT-R and see an engineering marvel. It’s a testament to advances in technology and one man’s vision and hard work to develop what many did not think would ever be possible.
After driving the GT-R around the track numerous times in a day giving out taxi rides to the guests of Nissan, a sad reality dawned on me... everything after this will feel slow. Even riding my motorcycle will not come close to the exhilaration that the GT-R delivers. I got out of racing a long time ago, and whatever fire I still had, I kept hidden in the deepest corner of my being. Driving the GT-R has re –ignited that spark and my quest for speed. My life is ruined now because it will be difficult to quench this quest for speed without the GT-R. Life will never be the same.