But the engine is not where the time and money was spent in creating the Nismo GT-R. Instead the car’s engineers focused on improving the bits they knew would make the biggest difference at their holy grail: the Nürburgring. And to make the Nismo GT-R as fast as it could be around the Nordschleife they centred on the suspension, the four wheel-drive system, the tyres and, most of all, on the aerodynamics.
As such, the Nismo has all the usual suspension upgrades you’d expect; stiffer springs, bigger (but lighter because they are hollow) anti-roll bars, ultra trick adjustable Bilstein dampers and a set of phenomenally sticky tyres that were developed bespoke for the car by Dunlop. Even when cold you can tell just from the tread pattern that the Nismo’s tyres are a bit naughty, but get some heat into them and then give them a prod and they feel as soft as a Haribo on a hot summer’s day. Which equals grip, basically, and lots of it.
But what’s made arguably even more difference, certainly to the way the car drives, are the alterations in geometry to both the front (double wishbone) and rear (multi-link) suspension. New links for the wishbones at the front and modifications to the hubs front and rear have, in conjunction with a slightly stiffer bodyshell thanks to new bonding tenchiques compared with the standard car, enabled the Nismo’s engineers to set the car up in a much more aggressive way. We’ll come to the results in a moment.
You can see the new body parts with your own eyes, and whether you like what they do for the GT-R’s appearance or not is, of course, entirely subjective (I personally think it looks fantastic, though I’m not sure what the neighbours would think with one of these things parked on the drive). But what you can’t possibly appreciate until you drive it is how much extra downforce the Nismo’s various new skirts and spoilers help to produce.
Nissan claims as much as an extra 100kg above 100mph; whatever the number and whatever the speed required to generate it, you can feel the thing squeezing itself into the ground, feeling more in control of itself, through pretty much any corner taken at more than 60mph.
What's it like?
Maybe the biggest difference of all in the way the Nismo drives compared with the standard GT-R, is the way it turns in to a corner. Whatever they’ve done to the suspension, especially at the rear you suspect, really does work. You can tell the car has been set up to go round a track as fast as possible because the moment you even think about aiming the nose towards a corner apex, it slices straight into it, and the tail obeys with such immediacy that, sometimes, it even feels like it might get away from you.
At best it feels neutral, at worst a touch oversteery, and at no point – seemingly – does it want to understeer. Anywhere. And on a track that’s precisely how you’d want it to be to get the best out of the stopwatch. Hence the reason Nismo claims – and there’s a video to prove it etc – the car has lapped the Nurburgring in 7min 08sec. On standard tyres, albeit with it the slightly lighter but no more powerful Track Pack option in situ.
Around Cadwell Park the Nismo GT-R still felt big in every way imaginable – it still weighs over 1700kg, after all – but it also felt agile and alive in a way that the standard car no longer does, not compared with the front line competitors at this kind of money, at any rate.
It felt sensational, to be honest, with more of everything everywhere – more straight line performance, more brakes, better turn in precision, more grip; lots more grip. And I climbed out after a day at the wheel grinning from ear to ear, heart thumping, eyes bulging, brain frazzled but also glad that both car and driver were still in one piece. That’s the kind of raw, seductive, unhinged range of thrills that this car can produce on a circuit like Cadwell Park. And you can’t help but be blown away by it as a result.