The best value performance car not yet on sale in the UK - but we've driven one here anyway

What is it?

The result of Nissan’s frustrated performance-car engineer’s obsession with bettering the 911 Turbo: this is the brand new Nissan GT-R. And this is the first place you'll read a UK drive story on it.

Allowing for currency fluctuations, it costs about £58,000, but you’ll need to import one yourself because Nissan isn’t bringing official cars here until next year. Oh, it also has 473bhp, 434lb ft of torque and it weighs 1740kg. That last figure could be a bit of a worry.

What’s it like?

Well, the aforementioned would be a worry if Nissan hadn’t decided to alter the laws of physics and make a 1700kg lump more agile, entertaining and capable than you’d imagine possible.

There is just one problem with the Japanese spec Skyline on UK roads –the ride is very firm. With the three-way dampers set to hard it is undriveable, with them set to normal it feels stiff enough to lap Silverstone (but still far too unyielding for the road) and with then clicked into comfort it is just about good enough. But only just "plenty-of-jiggle, head-toss-and-poinging-from-cats-eyes" acceptable. The Bridgestone RE070s are noisy too, but they make up for that in other areas.

Otherwise, this is a brutal demonstration of what can be achieved by an engineering team fixated on creating the ultimate point-to-point machine. It may have 473bhp, but that figure means nothing if the driver can’t use it: the driver of the R35 can use all of it, all of the time.

There is only one performance car with a better powertrain than the Skyline, and it is made by Bugatti at considerable cost. With the double-clutch gearbox set to automatic you only feel a slight judder from first to second and thereafter it is, for want of a less sickly phrase, seamless.

Brush one of the steering wheel paddles and it instantly becomes a manual (you can do this on the gearlever too). Changes happen faster tan you can comprehend and, with the gearbox mapping set to the fastest shift setting, you still don’t feel anything other than sustained acceleration. 0-60mph takes just 3.5sec, a standing quarter 11.7sec and 190mph comes up flat-out.

If the car’s dynamics are a big surprise, its desirability as an object comes as an even greater shock. People love the way it looks, the cabin is well trimmed and spacious and it has a forbidding presence on the road. Parked next to it, a Porsche '997' Turbo looks rather apologetic.

The steering is the key to the GT-R's agility; you can thread this car with surprising accuracy and even though it can appear to just bludgeon roads into submission, there is real sophistication to the way it handles. And, unlike its predecessor, the R35 doesn’t just spit you in to oversteer. It simply catapults you away from slow turns.

Should I buy one?

I want one now! If you can’t wait for a UK car some time next year then you’ll need to personally import one. But believe me: if you're after the ultimate performance weapon of the moment, there is every reason to.

This is the best value performance car not on sale in the UK.

Chris Harris

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jl4069 14 May 2009

Re: Nissan GT-R

Someone here please help me, how do Autocar tell us its the best UK's drivers car, and then give it 4 of 5 stars for HANDLING? Hows that go? Thank you in advance for anyone brave enough to explain whats in their heads! JL

Lee23404 13 May 2009

Re: Nissan GT-R

beachland wrote:
according to nissan uk website the GTR is not on sale.

I saw several at the local Datsun dealer a couple of weeks ago so I guess it's on sale. I wasn't sure about it before but it looks cool in the metal.

jocurimasini 13 May 2009

Re: Nissan GT-R

it's a great car