You might think Nissan only sells sensible cars built for families on a tight budget. However, delve deeper into the current range and one model bucks the trend big time - outstripping many supercars on speed and price.
The latest, race-inspired GT-R Nismo costs £180,000, looks nothing like a Lamborghini or a Porsche, yet is simply thrilling to drive. A four-seat coupe draped in aerodynamic spoilers and skirts, there really is nothing like it on the road.
Nismo is based on the ‘standard’ GT-R, which in current guise has been around for over a decade. Despite annual updates, nowadays the Nissan does look something of a dinosaur both inside and out.
Fortunately, it’s the technological wizardry beneath which makes the Nissan so exhilarating to drive. There are all manner of driver aids at work – useful in a legendary Japanese performance car with devasting power from a 3.8-litre V6 engine.
And while the GT-R is fantastic value for money at £84,000, it remains less than half the cost of the ultimate version – this all-new and rather dazzling GT-R Nismo.
Nissan engineers have borrowed much from the GT3 GT-R race car for the Nismo. Firstly, the coupe has been put on a carbon-fibre diet, including the roof, bumpers and that whopping rear spoiler. Together with new interior components, it’s 30kg lighter.
Scalloped vents channel hot air away from the engine bay and provide even more down force on the 20-inch tyres. Specially designed for the car, the rubber has a wider tread with fewer grooves, increasing the contact point by 11 per cent and boosting steering response.
A raft of small improvements across the coupe have combined to give a tighter, even more thrilling ride in the Nismo, Nissan engineers working overtime to squeeze every last drop of performance from the car.
The hand-built V6 is further enhanced with GT-3 race-inspired twin turbochargers, so 0-60mph acceleration is even more rapid, at seriously quick 2.8 seconds. The Nismo will then keep on going through the six-speed auto gearbox to 186mph.
The GT-R Nismo still divides opinion like no other performance car yet maintains an almost mythical status. It has outpaced, out-handled and thoroughly embarrassed all-comers on the racetrack – with no respect for badge or breeding.
If you don’t care about the badge on the bonnet, aren’t bothered by the tacky interior and hooligan looks, then the Nissan is a streetwise alternative to two of the most feted supercars on the road – the Lamborghini Huracan and the Porsche 911 Turbo S.
The Huracan is a more ‘conventional’ looking supercar than the Nismo – low, angular and terribly indiscreet. The Evo coupe version costs £165,256 but most buyers will add tens of thousands more buying bespoke paint, wheels and interior trim.
A mid-engined V10, the Lambo is actually a whisper slower than the Nismo but tops 200mph. It still announces your arrival like a McLaren or Ferrari – a raucous exhaust note that screams for attention.
Like the Nissan, it’s surprisingly easy to drive very fast, with all-wheel steering and a dynamic steering set-up that devours corners. Only cabin noise at speed can be a little tiresome on longer trips.
The Huracan is also totally impractical, which is perhaps a trademark of any supercar. So while the Nissan has back seats and a boot, the Lamborghini offers a tiny luggage space under the bonnet and that’s it.
Perhaps Nissan’s biggest rival then is the range-topping Porsche 911 Turbo S – the benchmark supercar, currently updated with a greatly improved chassis and massive all-round ability. It shaves 0.1 seconds off the Nismo from 0-60mph and can reach 205mph.
Purists will tell you the £156,000 Turbo S has lost some of its character equipped with a turbocharged engine but frankly, if the 911’s surefooted handling and 641bhp of power can’t raise excitement levels you probably haven’t got a pulse.
The 911 is the ultimate all-rounder. Fast, comfortable and yes, even relatively practical with a back seat and large under-bonnet space. Somehow it lacks a little visual drama compared to the outrageous Huracan but for a fast, cross-country drive, the Porsche is still the coupe to beat.
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