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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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A week ago, I was invited by Nissan South Africa to drive the all-new Nissan GT-R. I feel privileged because I’m the first journo in South Africa to drive it and I can finally scratch it off my bucket list. You see, two years ago I unluckily missed out on a drive in the first-generation GT-R and the grasp of its steering wheel has eluded me up until now. All I can say is that it was well worth the wait. There aren’t many differences between the face-lift and the older specification GT-R but those with some motoring knowledge will know that it’s exterior sports several new appointments. The front bumper has been redesigned, with double rectifier fins which increases front downforce by around 10%, while reducing air resistance inside the engine compartment and also increases the air flow through a radiator which cools the front brakes. Each side incorporates an LED daytime running light emitting a high-intensity white light. A newly-designed rear bumper incorporates an extended rear diffuser, an LED rear fog lamp while the four tailpipes boast larger tips.

The arches are filled by 20-inch Rays Engineering Lightweight alloy wheels and are clad in a bespoke run-flat tyre compound from Dunlop called SP SPORT MAXX GT 600 DSST CTT – quite a mouthful, I know.

The engine has received a bit of attention, too, and is arguably the most exciting part of the car. Like the older spec GT-R, the 2011 version employs a 3.8-litre twin turbocharged V6 but the ECU has been re-programmed, the boost pressure increased, valve timing adjusted and larger turbo inlet pipes installed. This culminates in a power output of 390kW and 612Nm – quite an improvement over the previous generations 357kW and 588NM.

Switching the drive train and suspension to Race mode and activating launch control means that the new GT-R will reach 100km/h from stand still in 3 seconds! That’s almost a second faster than the older model. Although these figures are claimed by the manufacturer, the GT-R certainly does feel fast and is undoubtedly the fastest car I’ve ever driven. What makes this car special is the fact that you can drive it to the shop, take your kids to school and then knock out an impressive lap time at the track.  I wont say how fast I drove it and what speeds I reached up in Johannesburg but let’s just say it’s as fast as Nissan claims. So, how much will it set you back? The price tag of R1.4 million might sound a little steep, but it’s a whole lot cheaper than its rivals. When compared to cars like the Lamborghini Murciélago, Ferrari 458 Italia and it’s long-time rival, the Porsche 911 Turbo,  the smaller-engined GT-R will – quite literally – drives circles around them….especially at altitude.

Although not as loud or as exotic-looking as other supercars, the GT-R nameplate, its origami-like styling cues and the heritage it brings to the table makes it the ultimate performance bargain.

Be sure to read my full report and road-test video in an upcoming issue of GQ magazine.

FAST FACTS

Engine: 3.8-litre V6 Twin turbo

Power: 390kW and 612Nm

0-100km/h: 3 seconds

Top speed: 315km/h

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The ever-popular Nissan Navara

Nissan Navara 2.5dCi LE
Undeniably one of the most popular double cabs around, the Navara continues to build a cult following. It possesses an unmistakable road presence, peppered with a collection of polished chrome hardware on the grill, bumpers and side mirrors – enough show and shine to turn heads wherever it goes. It also appears bigger than it actually is, thanks to its high stance and widened wheel arches. Even though it’s not as economical as the others, it’s emission discharge is pretty decent (224g/km) and its class-leading towing capacity of three tons has to count for something.
The space under the bonnet is occupied by an up-rated 2.5-litre turbodiesel unit, and with power figures set at 140kW and 450Nm, it’s the most powerful bakkie in the group. Couple these figures with a six-speed manual drivetrain with overdrive function plus four-wheel-drive, and you’ll soon find out that there is no situation it can’t torque it’s way out of. All this comes at a premium, though – it costs R404 150.

DID YOU KNOW: The Navara is also available in 3.0-litre V6 TDI guise, the V9X, boasting 170kW and 550Nm

Price: R404 150
Engine: 2.5-litre turbodiesel 140kW and 450Nm
Consumption: 8.5l/100km
Emissions: 224g/km

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Originally designed as a roadster, the 370z looks as burly as the hard-top variant

by Aaron Borrill

The 370Z Coupé is one of the best roadsters I’ve ever driven. Although I expected more noise from its brawny 3.7-litre V6 engine, I was contented by the notion of its topless sister that was shortly to be released. Unlike the 350Z, the 370 was originally designed as a roadster, so it isn’t as awkward looking as the 350Z version. It retains none of the typical compromises you would associate with a convertible. With the added weight and unwelcomed chassis-twist of an open-tourer, you’d expect a poor track performer, but the 370 silences its critics by deftly finessing each bend like a middle-distance athlete. It goes like stink in a straight line, too, crossing the 100km/h fence in 5.5 seconds and going on to reach a top speed of 250km/h. It boasts a choice of either a seven-speed automatic transmission with paddle shift or a six-speed Syncro Rev match manual transmission made famous on the coupé variation. What’s good to know is that this little sports car, handles amazingly at the track, too. Putting it around the local race track revealed just how competent it is in a race environment, hurtling down not only the main straight but through the corners as well. Being rear-wheel-drive, the 370 can drift and power slide comfortably and accurately, but what sets it apart from every other sports car is its versatility to perform both on and off the track. The V6 motor – just like in the Coupé – is brilliant, but now we get to hear every piece of its engine turning. The coupe’s engine sounded very subdued from within the cabin, but in comparison, the Roadster makes amends with a perpetual roar every time you squash its accelerator pedal into the carpet.
Overall, the 370 isn’t as composed as the Z4 or as polite as the MX-5, but what it lacks in grade it makes up for in sheer heart. Out on the open road there’s only one car you should be driving, and that’s the 370z Roadster.

Engine: 3.7-litre V6

Power: 245kw and 363Nm

Acceleration: 0-100km/h in 5.5 seconds

Top speed: 250km/h

Price: R 543 000 (manual)

The interior is furnished with a compendium of gauges and buttons

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