Hype Justified

Hype is a dangerous thing. It can lead to overestimating, which ultimately leads to disappointment. This is true with many things: video games, movies, tv shows and most certainly cars.

And I don't think there has been a single car in history that has seen more hype than the Nissan GT-R. You've heard the phrases: 911 Turbo performance for a lower price. A missile, not a car. Clever to the point of obscurity. A supercomputer strapped to a Space Shuttle. But what's it actually like to drive?

Well, to find out, I strapped myself to the missile and drove a GT-R back in February. And I've only just been able to calm down enough to write about it.

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Let me stop before we go any further to admit I am one of the GT-R fanboys. The car captured by imagination from the second I first saw one back in 2011. At first it was the looks and the speed that amazed me. As I became older, I started to appreciate the technology and engineering behind it. I love the GT-R, so driving it was a huge occasion for me, as you might be able to understand.

So, the car. The GT-R I drove wasn't exactly stock. It was a Switzer P600, meaning it had been upgraded to over 600 hp. It was also equipped with both Innotech and Akrapovic exhaust parts: Innotech for the Y-pipe, Akrapovic at the tips. All of this makes for a pretty interesting combination.

The GT-R actually turned out to be easier to drive than I had anticipated. The steering and brakes are a touch on the heavy side, but I guess that's just a part of the supercar experience, and also something you get used to quite quickly. Visibility is not too bad either, which helps.

 The GT-R's interior is a nice place to be, if a little high tech.

The GT-R's interior is a nice place to be, if a little high tech.

One of the things people criticize the GT-R for is a lack of comfort in the seats, but I honestly didn't find it all that bad. The seats actually give you a lot more comfort than I expected. Based on people's complaints, I actually expected to sit down on a bed of rocks in a leather wrapper, and although it didn't exactly give you Maybach levels of comfort, it wasn't like sitting down on a wooden plank either.

One thing I do dislike about the GT-R is the ride. My god, it's stiff. Even in a normal mode, it's still pretty hard, and when you put the suspension into 'R' mode, every uneasy bump or crack in the road hits you like sledgehammer. The best metaphor for it is that time I came back to college after a week off and didn't realize they had replaced the soft, comfortable benches in the cantina with hard, plastic ones that looked identical, and plunched down on it. Imagine that, but then every time you go over a bump. It's not very pleasant and genuinely the sort of thing that keeps the GT-R from being a daily driver. Sure, there's a comfort mode, in the same way a small blanket over a pile of rocks is a comfort mode compared to just the rocks.

But that's enough negativity, let's talk about the GT-R's strong suits. Most importantly: speed. Just shocking, astounding, gut-punching speed. Trust me, everything you've heard about the GT-R being fast is true. As Han Solo once said:

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In a straight line it is savagely fast. So fast you sometimes don't even realize at what speeds you are thundering along. There was a part in my drive where the man sitting in the passenger seat tells me I'm doing 150 kph where 80 is the speed limit. About 5 seconds earlier, I was abiding by that speed limit. But two downshifts and some acceleration, and boom: license-losing territories of speed.

That might be the most amazing (or frightening) thing about the R35's capabilities: just how easily and seemingly effortlessly it goes so fast. It's incredibly easy to reach very illegal speeds and the car does that so well you sometimes don't even realize it.

 

 Gotta go fast

Gotta go fast

Which brings me to another point why I enjoyed the GT-R so much: how easy it is to drive. It feels like a car anyone can go fast in, and that is a compliment. The gearbox plays a large part in this. You've probably heard the phrase 'seamless gear changes' before, but it absolutely applies to this car. I don't know if the whole 'every gearbox is tailor-made for each car' story is true, but if it is, it shows. It's probably the best gearbox I've experienced in a performance car.

 The shifter paddles hidden behind the steering wheel.

The shifter paddles hidden behind the steering wheel.

I know the GT-R might not be the prettiest player in the game (even though I quite like the way it looks), or the most flamboyant, or the one with the most emotion. You might see it as nothing but a computer, a car that goes fast but doesn't offer anything else. But if you do think that, I honestly suggest driving one. Because after you've driven one you start to realize it's in an entirely different ballpark compared to any other supercar. This is a car purposefully engineered to be exceptionally fast and performance-focused. There's simply nothing else like it.

And maybe that's why it gets so much hype.