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Thursday, 24 March 2016

2016 (2017 MY) Nissan GT-R is Newer than a New iPhone

2016/17 Nissan GT-R
Some cars favour evolution over revolution, and one car which has been championing this 911-like approach to improvement is the Nissan GT-R (ironic given it specifically targeted the 997 Turbo...). Revisions to suspension and software settings seem to arrive every year, with incremental horsepower hikes if we're lucky. Other than getting some fresh headlights two years ago, the only significant change to the outside came in 2011, with the "DBA-R35" replacing the "CBA-R35." That had extra whiskers and LEDs in the front bumper, brake vents in the rear ones and new wheels (plus a revised front chassis structure, hence the different model code). That year, power jumped from ~480 to 530hp and the transmission no longer ate itself alive after more than one use of warranty-voiding Launch Control. It would seem that Nissan needed a few years to recover from such huge changes as reshaping the chrome of the grille surround, because for 2012-14 it was back to gaining 10 horsepower here and shaving off 0.1 seconds to 62mph there, with asymmetrical suspension settings to account for the weight of a driver and eventually nicer leather on the seats. In 2014 we finally got a proper track-tuned NISMO version, which also meant the normal GT-R could now be tuned to be a bit less unforgiving over bumps. A bit...

In 2016, the R35-generation GT-R is getting on for 9 years old, and the interior in particular feels out of date compared to the new Type-991 911 Turbo and second-gen Audi R8 among others. A new wheel design and a software update isn't really cutting it anymore, even though Godzilla remains crushingly fast by all accounts, not least thanks to a staggering 2.8-second 0-62mph time at present and LC you can use without destroying the dual-clutch 'box or your warranty. Nevertheless, it's time for something properly new. Rumours suggest that the 'R36' GT-R will be a hybrid and arrive no earlier than 2018, so for the time being it's the R35 that's getting overhauled once again.


To the casual eye, it's the same. But actually it isn't. Thankfully, for anyone remotely familiar with R35s the differences are a damn sight easier to spot than those on a 911 facelift or a new iPhone 6SCEXWhatever. A lot of things from nose to tail just look more sculpted. The front bumper has new vertical grilles under the headlights to reference the 2005 GT-R PROTO concept car, as well as an enlarged and reshaped main grille with a non-reflective chrome "V-motion" blade standing proud of the usual plastic central bumper cover, while the bumper corners' leading edges flanking the headlights are more NISMO-like and there's a reshaped front spoiler with additional lower corner pieces in black. The side skirts were previously completely flat on the standard car, whereas now they bulge smoothly and dynamically to better guide the air around the wheels and the floor. The rear bumper again has thin vertical protrusions like the NISMO version, under which sit more artfully-shaped rear brake ducts behind the rear wheels, while there's a new silver insert resembling the one in the front grille turned upside down, plus the areas above the quad exhausts are indented horizontally and the area of black plastic reaches slightly higher to make the car look wider (we're told). The updated headlights with LED inserts appeared with the NISMO in 2014, along with the skinnier GT-R trim piece in front of the doors, but both details fit in much better with the new 2016/17 styling in these images. The creases along the bonnet are now little ridges, to better guide the air, and there is yet another new design for the 20" wheels, featuring skinny spokes spaced far apart. Finally, the new metallic orange paint colour is called Blaze Metallic, which sounds like some obscure EDM artist.

In summary, while the shape is certainly familiar, the details are enough to make it look like a new car again. Conversely, the interior is vastly different:


The door trims and seats look familiar, but the steering wheel, dashboard and centre console are all completely new. Nissan proudly state that the number of buttons and switches has been reduced from 27 to 11... although how many of them simply migrated to the steering wheel I don't know. Either way, the new touchscreen display is now a much more prominent feature, an inch bigger at 8" and newly incorporating navigation and audio controls alongside the usual array of performance measurements available. Hopefully it finally has DAB radio too. Appropriately for a car whose name is short for "Gran Turismo Racing," the performance data screens continue to be done by Polyphony Digital (no wonder the replacement is taking so long!), but drivers in real life will also want to know that the metal gear-shift paddles are now fixed to the wheel instead of the steering column, to better facilitate shifting while turning. The air conditioning vents have been relegated to below the new 'screen, which seems like an oddly low-down placement for them, to me at least. But then, any proper nerd knows that real-time boost pressure data is more important than fresh air! As well as your own fingers, the screen can be operated with a new control module by the driver's knee. I sincerely hope the carbon fibre centre console trim is genuine, or else it's as tacky as Inoue.

Importantly, there's more widespread use of Nappa leather and soft-touch finishes. The original R35 was a £55,000 car, but the outgoing 2014/15 model is now £78,000 basic and this major update isn't going to be any cheaper (prices unannounced for now). It can't afford to have dodgy plastics everywhere, especially if it's meant to be baiting 911 Turbos and McLarens. This car has never had a problem living up to the 'R' bit of its name, but the 'GT' element is being enhanced with a "smoother, less noisy" gearbox and interior Active Noise Cancellation technology to complement new sound deadening materials for the four occupants (yes, it still has back seats, which personal experience tells me are slightly less cramped than they look due to the long seat base - the real issue is headroom). The windscreen is made of 'acoustic glass' for even more quietness. Tech fans in some markets will revel in the ability to link their phone to the car and remotely operate the door locks, alarm and activate the vehicle tracker or even call the police if it's stolen.


Of course, this wouldn't be a GT-R update without a smidgen more power, so it's got that too. The venerable VR38DETT now makes 570PS (562bhp) and 469lb/ft, an increase of 20 horses and 3 torques. Of course, Nissan are notoriously conservative with their GT-R horsepower figures and have been since the R32 of 1989, so read that as "at least" 570 horsepower, courtesy of improved ignition timing control and higher boost from both turbos. The 0-60 time won't be any longer, but we haven't yet been told whether it's any shorter than 2.8 seconds. Similarly, Nissan haven't yet revealed if that clever sound deadening has increased the hefty 1740kg weight figure. If you voice these concerns in the vicinity of the new car then it can shout over you, thanks to a new titanium exhaust with Active Sound Enhancement valves that make it louder when the situation calls for it. We do know that the car maintains its 0.26Cd drag coefficient despite making slightly more front downforce. How much more? "This much." [holds up hands an arbitrary distance apart]

The other thing it needs is suspension tweaks. Not only does it have "new suspension," but the body structure is more rigid (it's a shame they didn't elaborate on either of these facts). The result is allegedly "the most comfortable GT-R to date" as well as "better stability through quick lateral transitions and higher overall cornering speed." So it's better at both GT and R, then.

The remaining details will be filled in over time, until the new-new-new GT-R goes on sale this summer and magazines test it against seven-figure hypercars to try finding a quick enough rival. Or the 991 Turbo S. Probably just the 991 Turbo S, to be honest.

Until then, watch this surprisingly intense video of a master engine builder assembling the 3.8L twin-turbo V6 all by himself.



Alternatively, if you're still having trouble identifying all the changes, then here are some comparison and detail shots:

Click To Enlarge
For the interior comparisons, the left one is the 2008-15 interior and right is the new one. 




Small point, but I think the newly applied lip around the edge of the outer tail lights is a subtle reference to the short-lived 1973 "KenMeri" Skyline 2000 GT-R.

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This was written for SmallBlog V8. Report if found elsewhere. [QEKslbz974vcPE6zKNwN]

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