As a driving machine the Nissan GT-R requires little improvement, but for the 2016 New York auto show Nissan has unveiled the latest version of the R35-generation car with some of its most significant changes yet.
That starts with styling changes. While the basic GT-R shape is still present and correct, the details have been modernised and updated, with elements like a new ‘V-Motion’ grille helping the GT-R fit in with the rest of Nissan’s lineup.
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The grille itself is bigger than before to aid engine cooling, and it’s finished in a new mesh pattern. The bonnet is new too and ‘significantly reinforced’ which Nissan says aids stability in high-speed cornering. A new bumper – complete with lower lip spoiler – completes the look.
Talking to Nissan's creative chief, Shiro Nakamura, he told evo that the changes have improved aerodynamic efficiency while reducing lift - all the while bringing the car closer in line with Nissan's other models.
Side sills are wider, and at the rear the bodywork has been reprofiled to improve air flow. Two details remain the same as before, however – the use of quad tailpipes, and matching quad tail lights that have defined GT-R models over several generations.
Another multi-generational feature of GT-R models has been a lacklustre cabin, but Nissan has worked hard to give the updated GT-R an interior worthy of its price tag. Leather now covers the entire dashboard, while the layout of the centre console – previously a haven for haphazardly-strewn switches (27 of them, according to Nissan) – has been simplified down to 11 controls. Some of those previous features have found their way into a new 8-inch touchscreen.
Nissan GT-R product specialist Hiroshi Tamura explained the changes to evo. 'We've tried to get closer to the original concept of the GT-R with the cabin. Of course, we could go even wilder, but this is a hundred-thousand dollar car, not a million dollar car.'
That explains the relatively small number of mechanical changes too, though small detail changes result in improvements across the board.
There’s still a 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V6, but thanks to new ignition timing and more boost from the turbochargers it now develops 562bhp and 470lb ft of torque, up from 542bhp and 466lb ft. Tamura points out Nissan's ethos of 'line management' - while more power is possible from the V6, the company is much more concerned about making its power accessible throughout the rev range.
The old six-speed dual-clutch transmission has also been refined for less noise and smoother shifts – doubtless an improvement, but we’re hoping the GT-R’s busy, aggressive character hasn’t diminished as a result.
You can now control the ‘box with steering wheel-mounted paddles (on an all-new wheel) rather than items affixed to the column. 'Obviously, you try and avoid changing gear in a corner,' says Tamura, 'but sometimes, your hands might be at 45 degrees or so. Even with the large column-mounted paddles, you'd occasionally need to take a hand off to flick the paddle. That's no longer necessary with the wheel-mounted paddles.' Nissan says the feel of the paddles is also improved.
Incidentally, Tamura confirmed that there are absolutely no plans for a manual gearbox - despite rivals like Porsche now conceding that while its fastest models will always feature twin-clutch transmissions, cars like the 911R are dedicated to the feel of driving, rather than outright speed.
'In our range, drivers who want a manual are more likely to go for the 370Z - I consider that car more of a "dance partner", with rear-wheel drive, natural aspiration, a manual... the GT-R is a more powerful machine.
'Way back in 2001, with the original R35 GT-R concept, I proposed a two-pedal, paddleshift setup. I knew it would be a craze. And I wanted the car to be easy to drive. Modern cars are so powerful - but you can't have a system that says "Bing bong, good morning, this is a very dangerous sports car" when you start up, so we control the power with technology.'
The old car’s handling was already spectacular; with a stiffer body shell, new suspension, and new alloy wheels and 20-inch tyres, it should be no less impressive this time around. It’s also said to be more comfortable (quieter, and smoother-riding), which is certainly an area in which the outgoing car could have been improved upon.
Full pricing and specification details will be revealed closer to the car’s autumn launch.