Wednesday, 19 August 2009

First Drive: Nissan R35 GT-R

Nissan has upset the pecking order of supercars since the world debut of its R35 GT-R in 2007, even without factoring in the bang-for-bucks factor. In Malaysia, a 2008 model can be had for as ‘little’ as RM600k – 650k, brand new, unused and unregistered. For the money of a Porsche Cayman S, you can have something quicker than a Porsche 911 Turbo (Tiptronic S). Of course, many will argue that the R35 is still a Nissan at the end of the day. Undeniably, the latter is nothing less than Stuttgart’s finest sportcar, an iconic 911 model at that, wearing that solid Porsche badge, rich with racing heritage et al. Well, think about being able to buy two new GT-Rs for the price of one new 911 Turbo, maybe this will put things in better perspective. But is the GT-R as engaging as a 911? Admittedly, I am not an authority on that, since the last time I drove a 997 Turbo was at the Porsche World Roadshow at Sepang F1 Circuit in 2007. Anyway, here’s my brief driving impression of the R35 GT-R at a local parallel importer recently.

Cranking up the V6 is definitely milder versus Porsche’s boxer-6. Heck! Even a 3.4L Cayman S is more melodramatic! No sense of occasion even as you prodded the gas pedal, rousing the engine from idle. Cool and calm, reminding one of a Nissan Sylphy! On the move – at crawling speed - the twin-clutch tranny was a tad jerky in a latchy kind of way but you can feel the horses underneath the front bonnet waiting to be unleashed. Once after a traffic light, all hell broke loose as it ‘teleported’ into a small spot between two cars in an overtaking manoeuvre. Yes! In a GT-R, set your mind to any small crevice in congested traffic, stoke the throttle and with small inputs at the steering, you are already away and safely tucked ahead. Believe me, it’s that easy and effortless, in that proverbial cliché: blink of an eye.

Approaching a right-hander positive gradient ram, the GT-R hit 140km/h faster than you can say “Nissan GT-R” and I was soon negotiating a sweeping corner, with no time to slow down or think for that matter. It’s amazingly planted and fuss-free around bends, what’s more with the sticky, semi-slick standard issue 20” Bridgestone Potenza RE070R. Naturally, with all that electronics-laden drivetrain and suspension trickery, it makes you want to go faster with ever increasing confidence. In other words, you do not feel the speed in an R35 GT-R. Onto a straight then on, it was blistering quick approaching JDM limiter top speed but I eased off seeing that this ‘tester’ had hardly 30km on its odometer. Still not much sound from the engine up front, with just some huff-puff from the rear mufflers, mimicking a mid-engine rumble, or is it just my clouded perception from all that warp speed? And I was nowhere near flicking switches into the more wicked “R” settings for its sportier suspension and throttle mapping. Seeing that my close associate will likely buy this test unit, we decided to turn back to the showroom and not subject it to further premature abuse.

There you have it, my first drive in a new Nissan GT-R. It’s very rapid, highly responsive, tenaciously grippy and absolutely awesome on the road. While the overall feedback was relatively muted somewhat, it gets an extreme boy racer’s job done, ruthlessly cold and calculated. I can’t help but feel that the GT-R is exceptionally capable to the extent of being a tad too clinical in its execution of speed, handling and tactile feedbacks. A smidgen too synthetic, you might say, a little akin to virtual driving in video games, I reckoned. However, things may be different should I get to drive this GT-R again a few months down the road, with its twin turbocharged VR38DETT lump (480 bhp/588 Nm) more run-in, going for perhaps more distant interstate jaunts and/or uphill to Bukit Tinggi or Ulu Yam. I just gotta make sure I have a stiff cup of coffee beforehand…in black preferably!

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