On the sidelines of the Nissan GT Academy International Race Camp, we got an opportunity to pilot two track-focused machines. So, how does it feel to actually drive something as extreme and track focussed as the Nismo GT-R and 370Z on a racetrack?
British weather, as most of us know, can be a rather fickle thing. One moment, it’s bright and shiny and, in the matter of a few minutes, it’s dark, overcast, and threatening to pelt down with rain. Now this is something I normally wouldn’t care about, but it does tend to become a tad worrying when – in the next few minutes – it’s your turn to take a 591bhp monster out onto a racing track.
Being at the famous Silverstone circuit complex for a few days to watch the GT Academy finals, now was our opportunity to get some seat time in the ultimate Godzilla – the GT-R Nismo, which is the most extreme sports car Nissan has ever sold. And, with that amount of power at my disposal – despite the car being all-wheel drive – I wasn’t really looking forward to driving on a wet, slippery track.
However, perhaps for once, my luck played out and the weather held – remaining as menacing as ever visually, but not resulting in rain, as I left the pit lane of the Stowe circuit (which uses parts of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit) for my handful of laps in Nismo’s monster. I’ve driven the standard GT-R on the track in the past, but immediately the Nismo version feels far more ferocious. The engine features bigger turbos and improved breathing, and while it remains as linear as ever in its power delivery, it delivers gobs of power that can quickly take the car up to silly speeds – as you get pushed back into your seat by the sustained thrust. The gearbox remains as brutal and efficient as ever, and, with all-wheel drive, traction is almost never a problem. However, the lasting impression of the Nismo GT-R is its track-tuned suspension – which makes the car even stiffer and sharpens the handling further for track use. So, I think it would be fair to say, having sampled the Nismo at the circuit – albeit briefly – it’s easy to see how it could have set a record breaking time of 7’08 seconds. It truly is an unhinged beast.
The other track special at our disposal was the 370Z Nismo, which, fortunately, was quipped with a manual gearbox. Naturally, for a keen driver, there’s nothing better than a rear-wheel drive car with a manual transmission out on a racetrack. However, add rain to the mix and things can get a bit tricky. So, as I went out for my longer stint in the 370Z, it started chucking down, which made things a tad more interesting – and, dare I say, fun! The bare basic, raw appeal of the 370Z, compared with the much higher-tech GT-R, means that your own skills are take greater precedence – especially in conditions such as this. So, if you’re brave enough, it’s an easy opportunity to power slide the car out of corners and make the drive even more fun.
So, the obvious question is, which one did I prefer? Well, I loved the 370Z for its manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive simplicity – a combination that brought driver skill into the equation. But, honestly, after having experienced the brutality of the GT-R and the sheer depth of its ability it’s impossible not to pick the GT-R Nismo over its smaller brother – or pretty much any other car on sale today. After all, while the conditions may have been tricky, there’s no such thing as too much power in my book!