Twenty-three turns isn't enough.
But that's the number of corners we had to flog the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo at the tiny Sodegaura Forest Raceway outside of Tokyo. Unsurprisingly, it's an inadequate number to come to terms with a 600-horsepower fire-breathing supercar on a chilly morning.
So we did exactly what you would do: pinned the throttle and let Nissan's all-wheel drive sort out the physics, a task it did by squirming sideways at every corner exit. We tried to assess the Nismo's stiffer, Nurburgring-bred suspension as The Beast From the East rocketed from apex curb to apex curb with eye-bleeding fury.
That the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo brings a new level of awesome with more power, extra downforce and revised suspension is obvious. Whether these tweaks will be enough is less clear. After all, the 2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition recently got whipped when we pitted it against the all-new, but less powerful and much less expensive 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.
And the Stingray is far from the quickest car the Nismo GT-R is facing.
Nissan is so confident in the new GT-R Nismo's abilities that it used "#ZeroCompetition" Twitterspeak during the car's launch at its headquarters in Yokohama, Japan.
For now, the numbers support the hubris. In September a GT-R Nismo with "track options" set a volume production car record around the famed Nurburgring racetrack with a time of 7:08.679, according to Nissan. That's 10 seconds faster than the previous GT-R mark.
More Power, Similar Experience
For sure the GT-R Nismo has plenty to brag about. There's an extra 55 horsepower on tap versus the already-potent standard GT-R, thanks to larger turbos, optimized ignition timing and a larger fuel pump. In Nismo form the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 cranks out a whopping 600 hp at 6,800 rpm (up from 545 at 6,400) along with 481 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm, an 18 lb-ft increase. It's paired to the same six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
Did we feel the tingle of every last one of those 55 newly found horses? Uh, no.
Especially since we didn't do back-to-back laps with the standard car. But we can tell you that leaving the pit lane in anger in the Nismo Ballistic Missile is what we imagine being shot out of a cannon feels like, except in this case all four tires are spinning, and you can't grab the paddle shifter quick enough.
Despite the angst, this GT-R still sounds like a sewing machine. Though its mechanical whirrings and whooshings don't sound bad, they certainly don't inspire. It would be nice if Nissan had finally given the GT-R some real exhaust crack.
When we asked an engineer about giving the Nismo more bark (its muffler is identical to the standard GT-R), he looked at us blankly while mumbling something about sound restrictions. Clearly these guys have never heard a Jaguar F-Type.
Firmer, Lighter, Stiffer
The GT-R Nismo is part of a big-picture strategy for the GT-R brand. Standard GT-Rs will get a more compliant suspension for 2015, which left room for the Nismo edition to be the most aggressive version of the car ever sold.
Tuning of the Bilstein dampers came from Nissan's exhaustive work at the Nurburgring. Like the standard GT-R, the Nismo uses a three-mode driver-adjustable setup. Except the Nismo is stiffer across all three settings, though engineers refused to give us the actual percentage increases. Springs and stabilizer bars are also stiffer, plus there are new front suspension links and more rigid bolts for the wheel hub attachment area.
The Nismo also uses 10-inch-wide forged-alloy front wheels versus the standard car's 9.5. Both cars share Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST tires — 255/40ZRF20s up front and 285/35ZRF20s at the rear.
Thanks to adhesive bonding of the body shell, particularly around the door openings, the Nismo is the most rigid GT-R yet. In fact, it's 8 percent stiffer than the original GT-R.
It's also 66 pounds lighter than the GT-R Premium, thanks to a carbon-fiber trunk lid (half the weight of the aluminum version) and bumpers, a hollow rear antiroll bar and the elimination of 22 pounds of sound-deadening material.
It's a Real Driver's Car
Out on track the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo felt as capable and driver-friendly as ever. And fast. Damn is it fast. It'll top out at a claimed 196 mph.
And yes, #GT-Rhaters, it's fun. Whether you're coming into a turn hard on the brakes or pegging the throttle early on corner exit, yes, it will oversteer. The difference between the GT-R Nismo and many ultra-high-performance cars, though, is that it's eminently catchable.
Set to the sportiest R suspension mode, the GT-R Nismo didn't feel worlds stiffer than the regular GT-R, although the smooth Sodegaura surface wasn't the best for testing at-speed compliance. Still, the Nismo took the track's one surface irregularity in stride, a midcorner bump in a flat-out left-hander. The GT-R would step the rear out slightly, but then gather itself back up as we dialed in full-throttle countersteer with the grippy Alcantara wheel.
That Nurburgring Time Seems Suspect
With 600 hell-raising horses on tap, it takes more than just an extra-stiff platform to keep a car this fast on the road. In the case of the GT-R Nismo, Nissan says it has an additional 220 pounds of downforce over the standard car, albeit at a lofty 186 mph.
New body bits include a carbon-fiber front airdam and bumper, side skirts, rear fascia and racer-ready wing. And unlike the bodywork on the Nismo Z, these carbon-fiber parts on the GT-R Nismo don't look tacked-on.
If you look closely at one of the four GT-R Nismos Nissan used for its attack on the Nurburgring lap record, you'll notice some differences versus the production cars. First, there's the considerably larger rear wing. But there are some other, much more subtle aero tweaks that Nissan is claiming as "track options." Some of these looked, and felt, literally like taped-on pieces of plastic, such as the small air foil flap that runs the length of the hood just below the windshield. The cars also used "racing-style" suspension (meaning not the three-mode setup on the production cars) tuned specifically for the Nurburgring.
We're not saying these "track options" won't ever see a dealer list, but we'll believe it when we actually see them on a production car.
As we situated into the Nismo prior to our track laps, it was like slipping on a favorite pair of broken-in tennis shoes. Comfortable and instantly familiar, and with the paddle-shift gearbox, the fact that this was a right-hand-drive model barely mattered. Unfortunately, we won't be getting the heavily bolstered, carbon-fiber-backed sport seats. They're only for Japan and Europe.
The rest of the interior is classic GT-R, from the 7-inch center screen to the large steering-column-mounted paddle shifters to the central tachometer. Aside from the steering wheel and seats, the Nismo treatment is mostly red stitching on trim pieces and a red-faced tach.
Surprise! It'll Cost More
Sure, we wish we had more than 23 turns to evaluate the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo. It is, after all, scorching good fun pushing this car to its limits and reveling in its feedback and oh-so-precise steering.
More laps will have to wait until we get the car on our home turf. But this certainly feels like a new level for the GT-R, one that should give it a fighting chance again versus the new Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 Turbo and Viper.
Nissan has yet to release pricing on the 2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo, since it won't arrive in the States until summer. But converting yen to dollars tells us that it'll likely fall somewhere between $130,000 and $150,000.
A lot of money, yes, but this certainly seems like one ferociously fast GT-R. We'll tell you for sure after a few more laps.
|Year Make Model||2015 Nissan GT-R Nismo (3.8L V6 Twin-turbo AWD 6-speed automated manual)|
|Vehicle Type||AWD 2dr 4-passenger Coupe|
|Assembly location||Tochigi, Japan|
|Configuration||Longitudinal, front engine, all-wheel drive|
|Engine type||Twin-turbocharged, port injected V6, gasoline|
|Valvetrain||DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, variable intake + exhaust-valve timing|
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm)||600 @ 6,800|
|Torque (lb-ft @ rpm)||481 @ 3,200|
|Fuel type||Premium unleaded (recommended)|
|Transmission type||Six-speed automated manual with column-mounted paddles and Sport/Competition modes|
|Transmission ratios (x:1)||I = 4.056; II = 2.301; III = 1.595; IV = 1.248; V = 1.001; VI = 0.796; R = 3.383|
|Final-drive ratio (x:1)||3.7|
|Differential(s)||Front: open; Center: multiplate electronically controlled clutch with variable torque split; Rear: 1.5-way clutch type|
|Suspension, front||Independent double wishbones, coil springs, driver-adjustable three-mode variable dampers, stabilizer bar|
|Suspension, rear||Independent multilink, coil springs, driver-adjustable three-mode variable dampers, stabilizer bar|
|Steering type||Speed-proportional, rack-and-pinion power steering|
|Tire make and model||Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT|
|Tire type||Summer performance|
|Tire size, front||255/40ZRF20 (97Y)|
|Tire size, rear||285/35ZRF20 (100Y)|
|Wheel size, front||20-by-10 inches|
|Wheel size, rear||20-by-10.5 inches|
|Wheel material||Forged aluminum|
|Brakes, front||15.4-inch two-piece ventilated cross-drilled discs with six-piston fixed calipers|
|Brakes, rear||15-inch two-piece ventilated cross-drilled discs with four-piston fixed calipers|
|Fuel tank capacity (U.S. gal.)||19.5|
|Audio and Advanced Technology|
|Stereo description||Eleven-speaker Bose audio system with two subwoofers|
|iPod/digital media compatibility||Standard iPod via USB jack|
|Satellite radio||Standard Sirius/XM|
|Hard-drive music storage capacity (Gb)||Standard 9.3GB music storage capacity|
|Rear seat video and entertainment||Not available|
|Bluetooth phone connectivity||Standard|
|Navigation system||Standard with traffic/weather and 7-inch display screen|
|Smart entry/Start||Standard ignition, doors|
|Parking aids||Standard back-up camera|
|Blind-spot detection||Not available|
|Adaptive cruise control||Not available|
|Lane-departure monitoring||Not available|
|Collision warning/avoidance||Not available|
|Night Vision||Not available|
|Dimensions & Capacities|
|Curb weight, mfr. claim (lbs.)||3,793|
|Track, front (in.)||63|
|Track, rear (in.)||63|
|Turning circle (ft.)||36.6|
|Trunk volume (cu-ft)||8.8|
|Ground clearance (in.)||4.3|
|Bumper-to-bumper||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain||5 years/60,000 miles|
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.