It takes a certain kind of driver to sample the Nissan GT-R - a car with a 0-60mph time of 2.7 seconds - and say, “Yes, it's good, I like it, but can you make it quicker?”
In the years since Nissan dropped the Skyline moniker and detonated our dynamic expectations with its own Godzilla, it has been responding to this vocal minority with incremental improvements; for the 2014 model year, it has come up with an emphatic answer - the 591bhp Nismo.
As well as pushing the car’s limits deeper into hair-raising terrority, the car is destined to become the flagship of Nissan’s much-expanded tuner division (and race team).
While there is no limit to the number that will be built, the manufacturer reckons there will be no more than 200 examples built a year - only a small proportion of which will make it to the UK.
Even with a mighty premium - expect the price to knock on the door of £120k - it is reasonable to assume that UK (and global) demand will far outstretch supply. Does the new model deserve all the attention it’s about to get?
Well, Nissan’s marketing department has no doubt already done a fine job of softening enthusiasts up with a much mentioned ‘Ring time of 7.08 - an extraordinary, if slightly misleading lap attack we’ll return to later - but the single-mindedness of the on-paper technical adjustments are certainly noteworthy.
For a start, only a layman would mistake the now-standard MY 14 spec car with the NISMO. While the ride height has not changed, aerodynamic improvements help lower the centre of gravity and have rendered an even meaner-looking machine from the already aggressive template.
The carbonfibre additions are evidence of the lessons learnt from the Japanese Super GT race car, and comprise a new wider front bumper (and unseen undercover strake), elongated back bumper and an even-more-lairy rear spoiler. The net result, which doesn’t impact the GT-R’s drag figure, is an additional 100kg of downforce at huge, track-specific velocities.
Specifically tuned to work with the extra weight is a custom-developed suspension setup featuring Bilstein DampTronic dampers and new upper links on the front double wishbones for increased caster trail, as well as beefier hub bolts and a 17.3mm hollow rear anti-roll bar.
The emphasis here, unsurprisingly, is on improved rigidity, stability and ever-greater grip levels - helped along in no small amount by bespoke Dunlop tyres which, at the front, dress slightly wider 20-inch alloys.
Attempting to unstick the American rubber is the same Japanese 3.8-litre V6 petrol engine as before, although it’s furnished with the larger, high-flow turbochargers that were previously reserved for the GT3 racer.
Along with improved ignition timing courtesy of a Nismo-programmed ECU, and a higher-capacity fuel pump, peak output has risen by 50bhp over standard.
That, perhaps, does not sound like a colossal amount when you’re explicitly handing out bigger performance to buyers likely to already be desensitised to huge acceleration by the existing GT-R - but its effectiveness is felt right out of the gate.
No dramatic change of character has been wrought by Nismo’s tinkering - the V6’s walloping shunts of linear power still gallop through the same six gear ratios - they simply do so freer, quicker and with considerably more kick.
Likewise, torque has only improved by a measly 14lb ft (to 481lb ft) but between the cleverer brain and gustier turbines, the GT-R finds monster in-gear pick up either side of corners.
Not that you ever need to slow down the Nismo enough to impair the turbines anyway. The GT-R’s fabled ability to make near straights of apexes attains new levels of uncanniness. Driven immediately after the new MY14 car, a model carefully fettled to obtain new levels of compliance, the tuned version seems doubly aggressive.
The change of direction hasn’t lost its sense of weightiness - this is a big car, and the Nismo is barely 20kg lighter thanks to excellent carbon back bucket seats - but superior stiffness (and more importantly, control) makes it that bit pointier than standard.
A new bonding process, which enhances the bodyshell's rigidity with adhesive as well as spot welds, underpins the sensation of heightened precision; making the extra power no harder to tidy up if you exceed the Nismo's prodigious ability to keep transmitting it onto the tarmac.
The car’s continued resistance to understeer, along with a deliberately liberal attitude to rear wheel slip in Race mode, means the second half of the four-wheel drive system slides progressively, and about as waywardly as you’d reasonably want given the barrier-finding potential of the performance.
At first glance then, confined only to a short track for very few rotations, the Nismo seems as promised. A GT-R, but more so. That you’d lap quicker in it - certainly the maker’s intention - is invariably going to be true.
Whether it qualifies for its lap-breaking reputation is more troublesome as this is not quite the same car which confounded the stopwatch on the Nordschleife. To access that requires an option box tick, one likely to set you back an additional several thousand pounds.
The track pack, or whatever Nismo decides to call it, puts the car through an additional round of tinkering that leaves it even better able to manipulate the air (yet bigger rear spoiler) better at hugging the ground (adjustable dampers) better at stopping (brake pads) and better on its toes (being 50kg lighter). By Nissan’s own standard’s - rigorously backed up by its own go-faster fans - this must be considered the ultimate incarnation of the GT-R.
However, as the engineers themselves are quick to testify, the appeal of a fantasy lap time is a distant second to the feel and responsiveness of the car in question.
In these subjective terms, given that the Nismo cranks up its capacity for formidable lick without winding down your ability to engage with it in a rewarding way, we’d argue Godzilla has never been more deserving of its fans' frenzied enthusiasm.