Nissan GT-R Nismo is much improved by changes that have already enhanced the standard GT-R line-up, albeit at a price

What is it?

Right, now pay attention for the Nissan GT-R Nismo, because this is where it gets complicated. The Nissan GT-R – this one is the R35 generation – has been around since 2007. Which, yes, means that people are starting to ask Nissan for an all-new one, but Nissan hasn’t finished with this version yet.

Nissan introduces upgrades to the GT-R most years, but for 2017 the regular version received its biggest alterations so far: a power increase, a new interior layout (the most notable change) and aerodynamic upgrades inspired by the existing GT-R Nismo, the range-topping special racy version. There were enhancements to the chassis stiffness, too. The Nismo variant already had a stiffer chassis, but that stiffness was achieved by a different method to the standard car’s increase. Following? Good.

Now the complicated bit, because the Nismo variant has also received some modifications for 2017. But instead of things that featured on the Nismo filtering down to the rest of the GT-R range, here things are filtering back up. The Nismo gets the same interior changes as the regular GT-R, meaning that the button count on the dashboard is down from 27 to 11. That’s a good thing, and with it comes a separate rotary controller for the 8.0in touchscreen, which is otherwise a bit fiddly to use at speed.

Those aerodynamic changes that filtered from the Nismo to the standard GT-R – most noticeable around the wedgy rear end – remain but have been tweaked a little more. The standard GT-R’s new, broader grille has been introduced, although this is more for aesthetics than because of an increase in cooling requirements. But there are a few other exterior aero tweaks around the front end, to increase downforce while not adding any more drag.

Finally, although the standard GT-R shell is stiffer, the Nismo is still the recipient of extra chassis stiffening enhanhcements of its own. The increase in torsional rigidity means the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars have all been tweaked, all by unspecified amounts but none a great deal, to alter the handling balance. The aim wasn’t only to add pure speed but to increase the feel of agility and make the Nismo a bit more playful near is limit. When it comes down to actual increases in cornering ability and ‘slalom times’, Nissan claims a modest 2% improvement. dl23660

What's it like?

Unlike the regular GT-R, neither the engine nor the gearbox of the 2017 Nismo has been touched, so it’s still a 592bhp, 3.8-litre V6 whose turbos have been nicked from Nissan’s GT-R GT3 race car. The engine drives all four wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. 

What does all that mean? It means that, in December, on a frosty morning at Silverstone and on an exceedingly slippery surface, the GT-R Nismo is disinclined to show its best hand. In a way, that’s not a bad thing; you can find out about a car’s handling in rather slower conditions than if it were 25deg C in June. 

That there’s no increase in power or torque – the latter still stands at an impressive 481lb ft from 3600rpm – is precisely no hardship at all. The regular GT-R isn’t a light car, never was, and at just 27kg lighter than the standard GT-R the Nismo is no exception. But 592bhp makes pretty light work of 1725kg. Nissan is also disinclined to claim a 0-60mph time (something Japanese car makers have begun to make a habit of), but if it doesn’t end in a point-zero, there’s a chance it’ll start with a two. 

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Peak power arrives at 6800rpm and you can rev the engine to all but 7000rpm, but with peak torque hanging around until 5800rpm and because the noise is always powerful, always bassy and with no crescendo like you’d get in, say, a Porsche 911 GT3, there’s no need to wring every last rev out of every gear.

Improvements in grip levels are, in these conditions, impossible to note. They likely would be in the dry, too, at only 2%, but a change in the Nismo’s preferred cornering stance is easier to feel. Rather than run out of grip at both ends and scrabble and nibble at each corner, it feels happier to let you turn the steering less and let the power shuffle around at the rear more. The steering is still terrifically responsive, too. The changes might make negligible difference to the speed, but you can feel an additional keenness in the cornering stance.


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Should I buy one?

There are many reasons you’d want one, and some reasons you’d still think twice. The price is up a bit. Well, quite a lot. Instead of £125,000, the Nismo is now £149,995. 

I seem to remember when a GT-R was once the budget alternative to a supercar. Now, the Nismo is supercar-priced, though that doesn’t mean you’re being taken for a ride. I’d be surprised if it were turning a bigger profit margin than most supercars, given there are lots of hand-built elements, such as the engine, while in terms of performance, the GT-R is embarrassed by nothing, and you get a lot of options and carbonfibre as standard. 

Either way, Nissan will have no trouble selling the two dozen or so Nismos that are heading to the UK, and their drivers will have no trouble enjoying them.

2017 Nissan GT-R Nismo

Location Northamptonshire On Sale Now Price £149,995 Engine V6, 3799cc, twin-turbo, petrol Power 592bhp at 6800rpm Torque 481lb ft 3600rpm Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch auto Kerb weight 1725kg 0-62mph 3.0sec (est) Top speed 196mph Economy 23.9mpg (combined) CO2/tax band 275g/km, 37% Rivals Porsche 911 GT3 RS, McLaren 570S 

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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Spanner 27 January 2017

It has a red engine cover

Copying Mercedes, clearly red engine covers boost performance. I'm sold, where do I sign?