Godzilla isn't dead yet. But here's what could be improved.
Time waits for no one. Or no car. Now in its 12th model year, the 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo (the most hardcore version yet) finds itself competing against cars that are a decade newer with more advanced technology and hybridized drivetrains. Since there hasn't been any credible information about the next-generation GT-R, this current R35 generation car is all we have at the moment. So how has Nissan managed to keep the car relevant in 2020?
While the car is certainly showing its age in some areas, Japan's legendary Godzilla should not be considered dead and buried. It can still keep up with up with more modern sports cars and in some capacities, it's even more enjoyable. Here's what we love about the GT-R and what we look forward to in the next-generation model.
The GT-R's styling hasn't changed too dramatically since it was first revealed. When you see those quad taillights ahead in traffic, you know it's a GT-R. In its latest Nismo guise, Nissan has added an aggressive body kit, massive rear wing, and tons of carbon fiber to create a touring car-inspired style. It may be a decade-old design but it still manages to turn plenty of heads.
The GT-R is also pretty tall so has relatively decent interior space and a reasonably-sized trunk. Even though the rear seats are as useless as most two-door coupes, we found the GT-R to have more livable space than most mid-engine supercars. We hope the next-generation model keeps the two-plus-two layout with useable storage space.
Almost like an American muscle car, the GT-R was never heralded for its luxurious interior. The 2017 facelift brought with it a massively improved cabin that punched above its Nissan badge but failed to match the best from Audi and Porsche. This Nismo variant features some premium suede material on the dash, seats, and steering wheel with red accents adding to the sporty vibe but there is still some evidence of Nissan parts-bin sharing here, which is unbecoming in a car with a $212,000 price tag.
To be fair, the Acura NSX suffers from this as well but at this price point, buyers demand an interior that feels completely bespoke. The gauge cluster, in particular, feels its age with a monochrome information screen that looks mismatched compared to every other display in the car. We hope Nissan borrows from its Infiniti luxury division for the next GT-R, giving it an interior that can attract buyers away from the major luxury brands.
Powering the GT-R Nismo is the same 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 that debuted in the original model. But while this engine originally produced 480 horsepower, it now produces 600 hp in Nismo guise. For 2020, Nissan has even added new turbochargers, which are derived from the GT3 race car. This has a dramatic impact on performance with zero to 60 mph now taking just 2.5 seconds with launch control. There's nothing outdated about the way this car takes off from a standstill. In fact, we found the GT-R's launch control to be more thrilling than supercars like the McLaren 720S. When the R36 GT-R finally arrives, we expect it to offer a similarly crazy launch control system.
While the GT-R has dominated most supercars off the line since it arrived 12 years ago, its cornering ability was always paramount. This Nismo version is the most track-capable yet thanks to aggressive aero, weight reduction, and new Dunlop run-flat tires that keep it stuck to the pavement. With the addition of hybridization, we predict the R36 could be an even quicker car around a track.
We enjoyed the race car turn of speed but the GT-R's race car clunkiness makes it a difficult car to drive everyday. The six-speed trans-axle dual-clutch feels its age when driving slowly in traffic and even in R Mode, reacts with the alertness of an old-school slush-box. Taking manual control fixes the issue but if left to its own devices, the GT-R exhibits '90s-era turbo-lag when you mash the throttle. You'll find yourself counting down from five before the transmission selects the appropriate gear and the turbos spool up. By then, the gap in traffic will be gone.
Despite wearing a titanium exhaust, the GT-R's engine note disappoints unless you enjoy the sound of turbo induction, something you can hear in the cabin even at idle. Then there's the ride, which is firm enough to warrant a trip to the chiropractor. We hope the addition of an electrified drivetrain will smooth out the GT-R's rough edges in the next-generation.