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It’s never easy waking up on a cold winter morning to catch the dawn flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg, but when it involves the Nissan GT-R and the open road, I’m not going to complain. A couple of years ago I missed out on a drive in the first-generation GT-R, so when Nissan’s exuberant PR lady invited me for an exclusive drive in the much faster and refined 2011 model, I was there before you could say G-Force.
Let me start by saying that the GT-R is the fastest car I’ve ever driven. And it’s not bad-looking. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a car enthusiast or not, the GT-R’s origami-imbued physique attracts attention wherever it drives. To the casual observer the differences between the old and new GT-R are hard to distinguish, but closer investigation reveals changes to both its exterior and mechanical innards.
It’s still as aggressive as ever but sports a reworked front bumper to increase downforce, LED strips and DRL headlight clusters, while the rear features a newly designed bumper with an extended diffuser, an LED fog lamp and four larger diameter exhaust tips.
The biggest and probably most exciting change lies under the bonnet. As with the previous-generation GT-R, the new version employs an oversquare 3.8-litre V6 twin turbocharged mill but unlike its forebear this one’s a whole lot more powerful. To achieve this, the ECU has been reprogrammed, the boost pressure increased, valve timing adjusted and larger turbo inlet pipes installed – all of which not only improve fuel economy and emissions but culminate in a power surge of 390kW and 612Nm.
Tipping the scales at 1 740kg, you’d expect the GT-R to be a little cumbersome but the performance testing data suggests otherwise. Launch control ensures a phenomenal 0–100km/h time of three seconds – almost one second faster than its predecessor – and if you find a deserted road, you’ll easily see the top speed of 315km/h.
Punch the loud pedal in any gear and all 612Nm of rotational force will pound your neck, back and arm muscles – a feeling that only gets worse on the track. Mid-range acceleration is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from a road-going car before. It’s a strange feeling to describe, but the last time I endured this sort of numbing euphoria was when Lucas di Grassi took me for a ride around Kyalami circuit in his Renault Formula 1 car. The all-round Brembo braking system makes sure it stops fast, too.

The GT-R steers almost telepathically. The car handles exceptionally well and returns a considerable amount of steering feedback when powering through sharp corners. No doubt its 53:47 weight distribution has something to do with it but it also uses an advanced vehicle dynamic control (VDC), a rear limited-slip differential and intuitive all-wheel drive system to help harness its power delivery and keep it planted to the road.
The Bilstein DampTronic suspension offers three modes: normal, comfort and race – each of which help maintain a high level of control for straight-line driving, cornering, and braking. Even the wheels are specially designed 20-inch lightweight composites wrapped in bespoke Dunlop rubber.
My only issue with the GT-R is the paucity of engine noise. Don’t get me wrong, you still get enveloped in a guttural cacophony every time you send the rev needle into the red-numbered digits on the tachometer – it’s just lacking a few decibels.
Surprisingly, it isn’t very difficult to drive. It’s so versatile that you can take it to the mall, enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive and set a lap record at the race track. It also makes less experienced drivers look good. The six-speed sequential double-clutch transmission provides all the perks of a manual drivetrain without the burden of a clutch pedal. In race model it takes just 0.15 seconds to swop gears and if you listen closely you can hear all the mechanical bits of the transmission turning and grinding.
The cabin isn’t lavish but still flaunts a comprehensive list of luxuries. There are two trim levels on offer: the Premium Edition and Black Edition which simply offer different colour schemes. Still, both editions come with navigation, sports seats (the Black Edition offers red-stitched leather Recaro seats, too) and the renowned Playstation-like interface that monitors everything from engine coolant temperature to steering angle and longitudinal and lateral G-Force.
Admittedly, the GTR isn’t as pretty as some of its Italian and German rivals but it’s just as quick. I think it will give the Ferrari 458 Italia a proper run for its money in all departments if driven properly. The GT-R wasn’t just made to embarrass the rich guy in his Porsche; it was made to give the upper-middle-class man a chance at owning a veritable supercar, and that’s why I love the GT-R – it’s got all the embellishments of a supercar but costs just a fraction of the price.

SPECS

Price: R1 314 000 (Premium Edition), R1 364 000 (Black Edition)
Engine: 3.8-litre V6 twin turbo
Power: 390kW and 612Nm
0-100km/h: 3 seconds
Top speed: 315km/h

Watch the road-test video here:

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