The new Nissan GT-R Nismo combines motorsport power with luxury comfort

Porsche Turbo performance for a fraction of the price: that's long been the sales pitch for the Nissan GT-R, one of the most ballistic cars ever to emerge from Japan.

But the latest addition to the lineup upends the value equation somewhat.

At $378,000 the Nismo is no ordinary GT-R, almost double the price of the garden variety GT-R that shares the same basic engine, body and mechanicals.

Track focus

Except the Nismo has had the motorsport treatment with various tweaks and changes inspired by the GT3 race cars that in 2015 won the gruelling Bathurst 12 Hour race.

Its twin turbos are straight from the GT3 racer, for example. The suspension has also been tweaked. Springs have been tweaked and dampers softened slightly to account for the 30kg weight reduction realised by the use of carbon fibre in the bonnet, roof and front guards.

Steel brakes have been replaced by lighter, more resilient carbon ceramic discs.

There are also aerodynamic and visual tweaks; the curvier front splitter and pinstriping around the lower edge are more for the trainspotters but the sizeable rear wing screams its intentions.

Even standing still the GT-R looks mean and ready for business, its quartet of exhausts sending a heat haze shimmering from behind.

Saddling up

Our taste test came on a private road that allowed for spirited driving without the force of the law aiming a radar gun at you. It only takes a couple of corners to establish things are quite different to a regular GT-R.

Advertisement

The Nismo's semi-slick Dunlop tyres places more rubber on the road and the rubber compound is stickier, for more grip. That makes for beautifully sharp turn-in, where the nose of the car points assertively at the corner.

It means you can steer with confidence and be assured there's loads of grip throughout the corner.

Warming up

Push hard lap after lap and the heat ultimately reduces traction and the Nismo begins pushing wide as you wind on pace.

But it's hugely competent to the limit and makes for superb quick direction changes. Over a small crest the GT-R wiggles and squirms momentarily but has a PlayStation-like effortlessness in the way it settles and shoots.

Any wag of the tail when powering out of corners is quickly brought into line by the clever all-wheel drive system, which sends more drive to the front wheels to claw back traction.

Powering up

Despite unique turbos the Nismo only tickles power up around 5 per cent (22kW) over the regular GT-R. But with 441kW it's a mighty whack, able to blast very effectively out of corners, something helped by that all-wheel drive system.

There's almost no chance of wheelspin, so you can feed power on with confidence. Those turbos may spin up faster, but there are still hints of lag, quick juts of the throttle making the delay between instruction and go more pronounced.

Not that it's lacking in pull, the excitement from 4000rpm to 7000rpm reinforcing the might of the 3.8-litre V6. There's 652Nm that keeps pulling strongly across the middle rev range.

While the stability control gently pulls things back if you're over-eager in bends, it's less intrusive in Race mode, the raw ability of the car shining through.

The R35 model GT-R may be getting on in life but it's still brutally effective at going quickly.

Shifting up

Acceleration is helped by tweaks to the twin-clutch transmission, which can be clumsy and cantankerous on the road but feels in its element on the track.

Shifts are fractionally quicker and still super slick, the car jolting into the next ratio with purpose.

Wheel mounted paddles allow full control, but even in auto there's an intelligence that shows this car is more about track than road.

The transmission also downshifts nicely when rushing up to a corner, too, ensuring it's in the right ratio when things get busy.

Stopping power

Those carbon ceramic brakes also do a superb job at slowing things quickly.

The front calipers have six pistons and clasp 410mm discs, the biggest ever fitted to a Japanese car.

With the speedo north of 200km/h on a big downhill stop it pulls up superbly, with zero hint the brakes are giving up.

It cements the GT-R as an accomplished track lapper, able to pile on speed ferociously but not ignoring the other aspects of scrabbling around a circuit. 

Tech focus

Despite the tech going on beneath the skin the GT-R hasn't changed radically inside.

There's loads of carbon fibre and suede-like Alcantara that reinforces the racing heritage, while the Recaro seats keep you nicely located – but elsewhere there's plenty of regular GT-R.

The GT-R's infotainment screen is looking tired more than a decade after it debuted. But the plethora of customisable menus still kills anything from the supercar elite.

You can monitor everything from oil and transmission temperatures to the torque split between the wheels to G-forces, steering angles and brake force.

OK, so it's arguably a tad gimmicky, but for those into their performance it's an extra facet that cements the GT-R's tech focus.

So, back to the price…

Yes, plenty has been done to the Nismo GT-R, but ultimately it's the price that dominates.

As well as being the fastest and most powerful roadgoing car out of Japan it's also currently the most expensive.

Yet the Nismo isn't twice as good as a regular Nissan GT-R. Like all supercars it succumbs to the law of diminishing returns, where big investments are required for incremental performance gains.

But for those who plan some race track blasts or think they'll benefit from the performance improvements, the Nismo makes a mighty Godzilla statement.