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First drive: 2014MY Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

First drive: 2014MY Nissan GT-R
Nissan's relaxed version of the GT-R proves to be a much more appealing proposition than ever before.


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| First Drive | Val Thorens, France | Nissan GT-R |

Overall rating: 5 5 5 5 5

With the hardcore, 600hp Nismo variant of the R35 GT-R on the horizon, Nissan has taken the opportunity of 'softening up' the standard 2014 model year car to broaden the coupé range's overall appeal. The fantastic news is that this is the best road-going GT-R yet built.

Key Facts

Model tested: Nissan GT-R 2014MY
Pricing: £77,995
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: six-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: two-door coupé
Rivals: Aston Martin V12 Vantage S, Audi R8 V10 plus, Porsche 911 Turbo S
CO2 emissions: 275g/km
Combined economy: 23.9mpg
Top speed: 196mph
0-62mph: about 2.7 seconds
Power: 550hp at 6,400rpm
Torque: 632Nm at 3,200- to 5,800rpm

In the Metal: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

In terms of the broader design strokes, little has changed on the R35-generation GT-R since it issued forth in 2007, despite multiple revisions every year since, but there are minor tweaks for the 2014 version that brand aficionados need to look out for. At the front are new headlight clusters featuring a 'lightning' motif that splits the lamps, which are all-LED units with Adaptive Front Lighting (beams that turn with the steering at speed). And round the back, the distinctive quad lights have been mildly updated, giving a distinctive four-ring look at night.

Perhaps the best inclusion for 2014 is the Vermilion Red paint, which is sensational and suits the GT-R's cyborg body perfectly. This finish has flecks of gold in the deep red, which give it real kerbside appeal and it's our favourite new colour for the R35. You can opt for either Premium or Black Editions, the latter adding six-spoke black Rays alloys and sports bucket seats inside. A carbon fibre rear spoiler can be added now and the harder Track Pack (for the Black Edition only) will be available later this year.

However, given the comfort ethos this car is supposed to adhere to, the Premium's big, luxurious chairs aren't to be sniffed at, although the new pale ivory hue is likely to be love-it-or-loathe-it for many. Semi-aniline leather seats and cow hide for the steering wheel complete the interior updates.

It's a stunning looking thing inside and out, but it loses half a star because - and you don't have to look too hard - there are still one or two plastics in the cabin that aren't befitting of a car at this exalted price level. Plus, it's never a four-seater. It's strictly a 2+2, but then so are all its rivals.

Driving it: 5 5 5 5 5

The sheer accelerative force of the GT-R has never been in doubt, even in the early days when it had 'only' 478hp. So with 550hp, plus a mammoth 632Nm in reserve, it is as quick as ever and will widen the eyes of all but the most inured of passengers when operating on anything above half-power. That it also sounds great, with a metallic induction bark and an enticing exhaust note (which recedes to near silence on a trailing throttle), is an added delight.

But the possibly risky move to 'soften' the normal GT-R - ahead of the tougher Nismo's arrival - could not have turned out better. We're not the sort of people who mind a firm ride on a sports car, yet the frenetic damping of earlier R35s would probably have been tough to live with on a day-to-day basis. This 2014 car could not be any more different. Nissan has worked on reducing the vertical amplitude of the Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT nitrogen-filled tyres (255/40 ZR20 front, 285/35 ZR20 rear), has increased the car's torsional rigidity and has also improved on the suspension link bushings, which are now stiffer the more load you place on the geometry - so go faster, the car becomes more hunkered down.

The final concoction is one of simplified genius. Adjust the dampers to the softest 'Comfort' setting, or even halfway 'Normal' mode, and the car exhibits GT-like behaviour that is completely at odds with its sharp-edged exterior and reputation. It can iron out almost all roads, although we'll have to at least add the caveat that we were on extremely smooth Swiss and French tarmac. However, we're confident that even on British roads the 2014 GT-R will be a vastly more relaxing companion than in previous iterations.

And the final cerise sur la gateau is that if you put the car into its maximum attack R set-up, it still manages to ride far better than the old car could ever hope to. Sure, there's more fidgeting over ridges and less longer-frequency movement on the springs to soak up high-speed undulations, but it's not as uncomfortable as it once was.

Yet if you're worrying that the GT-R has lost its dynamic edge as a result, you're fretting in vain. That extra suppleness in the chassis means it keeps more of its rubber on the road surface for more of the time. This means you can further exploit its legendary all-wheel drive grip and fire along mountain roads at speeds that seem borderline insane for something this size; the GT-R just takes it all in its effortless stride. It still entertains, though, with superb steering, an excellent dual-clutch gearbox and a rear end that is an active and willing participant in proceedings, although the brakes sometimes grumble about having to haul 1,740kg down from high velocity time and time again.

Nissan has played a blinder with this chassis - by addressing the few niggling areas of complaint about the older cars, it has created a machine that would seriously trouble a Porsche 911 Turbo (even an S) in terms of its all-round usability. It also leaves the field completely clear for the Nismo version to go super-banzai on us, which we heartily approve of.

What you get for your Money: 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

You're buying a big, all-wheel drive Japanese coupé that is therefore likely to be extremely reliable, sure-footed in bad weather, is fitted with loads of toys, has a lovely interior for two people, a big boot and the sort of long-distance crushing capability that some Astons would kill to have. Oh, and driving dynamics in a league way ahead of anything apart from Stuttgart's finest. Yes, it costs a lot more than the £55,000 it did in 2008, but it's still more than £40,000 cheaper than either of the two 911 Turbos... and it's well below the Audi R8 V10 plus, as well. Couched in those terms, it's a total bargain.

Worth Noting

We drove older 2012 cars on Val Thorens' ice racing circuit, used for Andros Trophy events and the scene of Top Gear TV's £1,500 coupés challenge (series 13, episode five, if you're interested - and yes, it ended up with a piano being dropped on a Marina). Fitted with the latest generation studded tyres, piloting 550hp's worth of what is a physically big car on sheet ice was... a doddle. Progressive oversteer was easy to elicit and then control, while the GT-R found epic traction in adverse conditions, using only the shortest two gears. So, fit your 2014 car - the all-wheel drive system is unchanged from the 2012MY machine - with good winter tyres and the Nissan should be virtually un-crashable, even in the harshest of conditions.


The outcome of all the above is that the 2014 R35 Nissan GT-R handles as wondrously as its predecessors, if not even better, while the ride and refinement are in another dimension compared to what has gone before. The big Nissan becomes, as a result, one of the most compelling high-performance cars we've ever driven. Long, cross-continental distances would be a complete pleasure (its ghastly fuel consumption aside; good luck if you're trying to match the claimed combined figure, you'll need the same sort of holy restraint in the face of extreme provocation that Mahatma Ghandi displayed), and if you get bored of the autoroutes, you know it will blow your mind on a sinuous mountain pass. The GT-R has never been anything less than brilliant; now it is truly sublime.

Matt Robinson - 10 Mar 2014    - Nissan road tests
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- GT-R images

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Matt Robinson.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.

2014 Nissan GT-R. Image by Nissan.


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