Nissan R35 GTR on track
The original R32 GTR was coined “Godzilla” due to its sheer dominance in the Australian Touring Car Series, which subsequently saw this Nissan vehicle banned due to its all-wheel drive advantage.
The world eventually took notice of the true potential of Japan’s iconic tarmac terrorist.
Today, almost 30 years after the original “modern” GTR was launched, we have the opportunity to sample the latest 2017 model-year R35 GTR on local ground.
The latest R35 is armed with a vast array of technology that makes it even more menacing than its forebears: a hand-made aluminium-alloy closed-deck 3.8-later V6 boosted by twin turbochargers that feature plasma-coated cylinder liners for better heat management and less friction and heat; a sophisticated ATTESA all-wheel drive system that predominantly drives the rear wheels until a wheelsman is detected; electronic damping adjustable Bilstein dampers to suspend the 1,740-kg beast; a carbon-composite front chassis section for lighter weight and better strength; a fast-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch transmission; forged 20-inch alloy wheels by RAYS Engineering; specially developed 255/40R20 and 285/35R20 Dunlop runflat tires; and so many more.
Hence, modern enthusiasts call the R35 GTR “Mecha-Godzilla,” named after the legendary Japanese kaiju’s robotic arch-nemesis, essentially a mechanized clone of the original.
Of note, there are currently only five authorized takumi (roughly translated in Japanese as artisan craftsmen or specialist) in Nissan who can assemble a VR38DET engine of the R35 GTR, of which one is interestingly a woman.
Mr. GTR himself, Hiroshi Tamura, flew in from Japan to give participants a briefing on the GTR’s latest advancements for model year 2017: a revised aerodynamic package that features front bumpers that manage airflow better; a 20 percent bigger radiator grill opening that gives 20 percent more airflow, and thus providing 20 percent better thermal capacity at elevated speeds and during track action; a redesigned hood with ridges that prevents buckling due to intense air pressure buildup at speeds pushing 300 km/h; a rear diffuser and rear bumper that manages airflow separation and combination; and reshaped C-pillars that also smoothen airflow past the cockpit.
The engine features new turbochargers previously seen on the first NISMO variant R35 GTR from a few years back, now producing 565 hp and 630 Newton meters of torque over a wider power band, and crucially, a much firmer chassis that has allowed GTR engineers to improve ride comfort and on-track performance despite riding on even firmer suspension.
The interior has also received the biggest update since the GTR’s release almost 10 years ago: a revised dashboard, revised steering wheel, and a new interior trim that makes for a cozier, more luxurious ambiance.
Tamara-san says that the GTR’s ultimate goal is to improve overall driving pleasure. The GTR development team aims to make the GTR as comfortable as possible while providing supercar-levels of performance that is easily accessible by even novice drivers.
For track addicts looking for every last iota of performance, there is the track-focused NISMO variant R35. The multi-information display designed together with Polyphony Digital, producers of the ever popular Gran Turismo driving simulator franchise for the Sony Playstation remains.
Previously, the GTR was severely criticized for being too digital and two-dimensional. While the numbers it delivered were impressive (0-100 km/h in the low 3-second range, 315 km/h top speed, and an eventual 7:08 laptime at the infamous Nurburgring), the GTR lacked that crucial analog feel of involvement. It was either totally on or off, black-and-white with no shades of grey at all.
This made the GTR cold and sterile, lacking that spark to establish a very solid emotional connection.
Tamura aimed to dispel this by allowing motoring journalists to sample the GTR’s performance on both road and track.
Clark International Speedway was the venue for our test. We used roughly two-thirds of the track, which let us sample the GTR’s both low and high-speed cornering prowess as well as rapid acceleration and hard-braking.
From the drag start at the end of the main straight, drivers would accelerate halfway down, then come to a screeching stop, only to accelerate hard again until braking 150 meters prior to the cork-screw, a long left-handed decreasing radius sweeper.
The GTR flowed smoothly through this sweeper and arrested high speeds, while trail-braking confidently.
This was followed by an off-camber and almost hairpin-section right turn where riding the FIA-regulation curbing failed to unbalance the GTR.
Powering out of this turn led to another long straight and another sweeping hairpin that saw more curb-riding, and again onto another straight before braking hard into another tight hairpin that led you back to the halfway mark of the main straight.
From there, it was another full-throttle blast down the straight, only to brake later and exit the track via the pit lane.
While we only had a handful of laps to savor the GTR’s confidence-inspiring persona, it was enough to cement in our minds that the R35 truly is among the greats, and despite the lofty P7.35-million price tag, gives impressive value for money in the performance car stakes.
Best place your order for one now before the excise tax is hiked as prices will most likely hit past P10 million.
Subjectively, the 2017 R35 GTR has been engineered with a lot of feel, progression and that all-important driver involvement, making it truly enjoyable.
You don’t just feel like a passenger playing a sterile video-game experience; you really feel part of the equation.
Even with the traction and stability control turned off, the GTR feels like it is on your side, rewarding you, the driver, with confidence that allows you to slowly push the envelope, find your limits, and challenge it to go beyond.
You can be rough with the GTR, and it remains faithful, with a bit of tail-wagging.
You can also drive neatly, and the GTR rewards you with precision and huge levels of grip.
On tight hairpins, riding the curbs and getting liberal with the throttle early, the GTR wags its tail a wee bit to remind you not to defy physics too much, but regains traction as soon as the steering wheel straightens up and you rocket out of the turn flat-out.
On the open road in and around Clarkfield in Pampanga, ride comfort and NVH isolation has improved due to the firmer chassis, making it an even more capable grand-tourer for very long drives.
A special valve on the exhaust keeps engine noise down at partial throttle cruise to make the GTR even more refined and comfortable.
After the day’s on-track exploits, Tamura-san and the rest of the Nissan Pilipinas Inc. team, led by President Ramesh Narasimha and Nissan Gallery Quezon Ave. dealer principal Willy Tee Ten, the only Nissan dealership authorized to service the R35 GTR, were very happy with the feedback of media drivers and clients.
Currently, Nissan has sold and delivered 29 units of the R35 GTR to its customers, with 16 more on order and more reservations in the pipeline.
Despite the R35 GTR pushing 10 years since its original launch at the 2007 Tokyo Motorshow, demand remains strong.
Tamura-san says that the R35 GTR will continue to evolve, improve and achieve higher levels of driving pleasure until its replacement is introduced, which Tamura-san says, won’t be anytime soon.
To heat things up a little bit, after the track-day, I heard rumors that Nissan Pilipinas might get two units of the NISMO Spec R35 GTR in 2017.
While I could not confirm the story, it certainly had a few Manila GTR Owners Club members excited at the possibility of owning Nissan’s ultimate expression of the R35 GTR throughout the day’s events.
Now that’s something I wouldn’t mind driving flat-out on any race track.