A Weekend with MechaGodzilla: 2015 NISMO GT-R
Since its official launch in late 2007, the GT-R has been pushing boundaries in the automotive industry and making a name for itself. In 2015, Nissan is turning heads again with an extreme iteration, the NISMO GT-R.
Spotting one of these limited production cars on the road is rare, and the idea of getting behind the wheel of one can be brushed off with an “in your wildest dreams.” But somehow, the stars aligned and I would be spending a weekend alone with Nissan’s legendary supercar.
This wouldn’t be my first experience with the NISMO GT-R, having been
driven flown around Willow Springs Raceway last year by Pirelli World Challenge driver Bryan Heitkotter. Regardless, I put on my Japanese imported R-34 Skyline t-shirt and did my best to not explode from excitement.
The minutes seemed to pass slower than usual that morning, but a gentle tap on my shoulder from the receptionist snapped me back to real-time. MechaGodzilla had arrived.
A crowd had already formed around the car before I could even exit the building. People I had never met before were shouting my name in the distance and demanding that the doors be unlocked.
I spent the next part of the morning playing show-and-tell to a seemingly endless drove of admirers while fielding a mix of emotions from them: disbelief, jealousy, awe. But through it all, one thing was clear. The NISMO GT-R is a definite crowd-pleaser.
My first hour of drive time was spent crawling along the congested freeways of Los Angeles, waving and giving the thumbs-up to strangers while they took photos.
This is a terrible way to experience the hand-assembled, twin-turbocharged V6, but it allows the GT-R to show off just how civilized it can be, even with 600 horsepower under the hood.
The dual-clutch transmission is silky-smooth at low speeds, shifting into 6th gear by about 30 MPH for maximum fuel economy.
Since I was going to be stuck for a while, I placed the adjustable suspension into comfort mode and turned up the stereo. The dual subwoofers mounted in the back seat boomed to life and caught me by surprise; I wasn’t expecting to be able to turn this track-monster into a rolling nightclub with its 11 speaker setup.
Most “ultimate edition” cars trade creature comforts for weight savings, sometimes only installing a single speaker for the turn signal tick. But NISMO made sure the interior goes beyond just functional and opted for weight enhancements elsewhere, like the full carbon-fiber trunk lid, spoiler and front and rear fascias.
I’m up at 5:30 am the next morning and head to Malibu where I meet up with two other journalists for a spirited cruise along Latigo Canyon Road and the famed Mulholland Highway. Our pack is an eclectic mix that includes a 1992 Acura NSX and a 2015 Maserati GranCabrio.
The NISMO GT-R’s footprint and tuning is ideally suited for the high-speed, sweeping turns found on a track like Laguna Seca or the Nürburgring, but it still carves through the low speed canyon roads like a hot knife through butter.
The harder I push the GT-R, the better it performs, and where most rear-wheel drive cars understeer, the ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system pulls me out of corners without so much as a chirp from the tires.
The leather-appointed Recaro seat and a foot planted firmly on the dead-pedal keeps me glued in place during the toughest switchbacks. As we emerge from the twists of Latigo Canyon and turn onto Mulholland, I find myself wondering how the engineers at NISMO managed to simultaneously increase performance while decreasing drama.
It’s a confidence booster for a Gran Turismo-trained driver like myself, and a dangerous ego-inflater. The car is almost too good; it absorbs novice mistakes, fills the gaps with performance and just moves on, leaving you to believe that you’re the greatest driver in the world.
Aside from the obvious aerodynamic upgrades, NISMO improves on the GT-R platform with small but significant changes. One of the more prominent updates that I noticed is the transmission now downshifts multiple gears without hesitation.
With previous versions, a 6th to 3rd shift on the highway would result in long pause between 5th and 4th gear. Doing the same in the NISMO, the transmission now blips past 5th so quickly it feels like it skips the gear.
Other improvements include an increase in the adjustable damping range on the Bilstein suspension system—there’s a considerable difference between Comfort, Normal and R-Mode. Also increased is the 6,800 RPM redline that fills the air with a glorious mix of turbo hiss and exhaust roar.
For the rest of the weekend, the GT-R attracted a steady stream of fans at the California Festival of Speed. It was fun watching people perform double-takes once they realized this wasn’t a regular GT-R.
Just as I was getting comfortable with parking this $150,000 supercar on the streets of Los Angeles, the weekend draws to a close. I spend my last hours with the GT-R driving along the California coastline, etching every sound, sensation and movement into my memory.
There’s something inexplicably special about this car. It’s aggressive yet classy and carries with it a heritage of world-class racing and engineering. It’s a grocery getter, a grand tourer and a track slayer. As I park the car for the last time in my garage, I’m convinced that the NISMO GT-R really is a renaissance car for the ages. It stays true to Kazutoshi Mizuno’s vision of building a “supercar that could be driven anywhere, anytime and by anyone.”
Join the supercar fans in the forum.>>
Photos by Andrew Chen