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Nissan GT-R NISMO MY17: Driven

With the GT-R softened off as standard now, what does that mean for the NISMO?

By Matt Bird / Saturday, January 28, 2017

As conditions go for testing the latest

, Silverstone GP in December is pretty much spot on actually: fast enough for 600hp to really show off, challenging enough to (hopefully) test those chassis tweaks and also rather wet. Perfect. Not usually ideal for a conventional track car, but then the NISMO isn't a conventional track car; it's a GT-R first and foremost, and rain rather suits a GT-R.

All the other cars ran off scared

All the other cars ran off scared

We'll return to that; first, a refresh of what makes this car fit to carry that hallowed nameplate. Taking the new interior and updated look from the

, the NISMO also gets tweaks to the springs, dampers and anti-roll bars for a "better overall balance" and a marginal improvement in Nissan's dynamic tests. It remains a 600hp, near-200mph car, same as before. And


The schedule is refreshingly simple in fact, with half an hour allocated on Silverstone, not a single other car and an instructor who is surprisingly quiet. Perhaps he was scared. That it was up there with some of the best half-hour drives of 2016 should hopefully tell you a lot.

Initial impression s from a couple of exploratory (read: slow) warm-up laps show a few familiar and endearing GT-R traits. Electro-hydraulic steering that's far more pleasant than even the best Porsche EPAS systems (with a lovely Alcantara wheel), a host of drivetrain noises that could only be from a GT-R and a sense of incredible agility that remains mismatched with something so physically large.

Steady now...

Steady now...

Same but more so

It won't surprise you to hear that much of what impressed about the old NISMO remains the same here. Even in their standard setting, the Bilstein Damptronic - why do they always sound like an incontinence aid? - dampers are fantastic, giving the car absolute composure and the driver great confidence. There are caveats here though, as always. First being that Silverstone is a smooth circuit anyway, providing a less challenging task. And without a road test being possible, it's hard to be definitive on whether the settings are successful for the NISMO or a crashy nightmare in the way some Japanese specials can be. Still, if it's good enough for that Nurburgring lap, you would hope it could deal with a B-road...

The NISMO is still tremendously fast too, tangibly if not significantly brisker than the standard GT-R. There's some lag from the venerable VR38DETT but also an appetite for the 6,800rpm power peak that implores you to keep it there. Even with a short shift into fourth and a conservative braking point for Stowe, the NISMO saunters on to 140mph down the Hangar straight. How do people feel the need for even more power?

Be less conservative with that braking point though and the magic box of tricks begins to open. As mentioned way back when we first drove the NISMO in Japan, the thicker rear anti-roll bar compared to standard makes this car far more mobile at turn-in; with a slipperier surface too this sense of agility is enhanced to a very entertaining degree. While never tremendously precise, the way a GT-R rotates its way into a bend on the brakes, alleviating the understeer that's sometimes there, is jolly good fun. With time and space perhaps it could be learnt and exploited properly, because it can be a little unnerving on first experience!

Brakes aren't ceramic, but more than good enough

Brakes aren't ceramic, but more than good enough

Twist and shout

That same sense of flightiness can be found on corner exit too. Sometimes it will hook up fantastically, the lock gradually unwinding in your hands, the traction control untroubled. Then another time you'll get a spike of oversteer with what feels like the same approach. Edgy might be a bit harsh; 'intense' probably best describes it, and you need to be concentrating.

Isn't that what we want from Japanese special editions though? The legend has been constructed on raw, angry, uncompromising cars, so it's a real pleasure to see that defiant attitude survive to 2017. You won't get the most from it in half an hour or without some effort, making it a more memorable experience.

Encouragingly, using the instructor's wet line around Silverstone shows how grippy and fast the NISMO really can be on this surface.  Whatever your chosen line or approach though, that the driver is told so much about the car through the steering, through the seats and through the brakes makes it so rewarding. There are different ways to drive and exploit it, while also being kept right at the centre of the action. Regardless of the tech and the image, a GT-R NISMO is still a deeply involving and exciting sports car. That's the joy of it.

Expensive, yes, but still rather brilliant

Expensive, yes, but still rather brilliant

Deal breaker

Trouble is that Β£150,000 remains a great deal of money, even if NISMOs

. As well as being not far off double a standard GT-R, it's beyond cars like a


and the

. That sort of money will also buy a

still with a triple-digit mileage. While the NISMO retains a unique appeal, it's hard not to conclude that those rivals are more broadly talented and more suited to the majority of buyers.

will adore it with very good reason, and we remain very happy that a GT-R NISMO exists, but our choice would most likely be a Track Edition with the best part of Β£60,000 left over.

 3,799cc, V6, twin-turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed twin-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 600@6,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 481@3,600rpm
0-62mph: 2.5sec (est.)
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,725kg (kerb weight)
MPG: 23.9 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 275g/km
Price: £149,995













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