First Drive: 2017 Nissan GT-R

– Francorchamps, Belgium

“That river is getting big enough, it has fish!” My driving instructor pointed at a wide, dark swath of water crossing one of the low spots at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps that was fast approaching. “Sharks, not fish. If you don’t slow down they’ll bite you!” The Belgian chuckled and I slacked on the throttle a degree, trying not to grit my teeth as we splashed through the water. There was a feeling of the front tires coming unstuck from the tarmac for an eye blink before the rears, then traction again, then more throttle and a walloping crack of exhaust, and thwacking windshield wipers far slower than the drum of my heart. Of course, it had to be raining.

This isn’t what I pictured, a month before, when the email came through from the Nissan PR team to come out to Belgium – to one of the greatest racetracks in the world, and one that I’d never driven – for a test of the 2017 GT-R. I imagined charging up Eau Rouge, deftly deploying all 565 turbocharged horsepower as the car gripped hard and pulled me rightward up the hill. There may have been a sunset in my mind, framing the galloping Godzilla at that storied curve, but instead I saw a dense corona of fog around yellow flag lights, several times over the course of a stirring afternoon.

2017 Nissan GT-R

 

The GT-R has mellowed way out.

The good news was that I’d already learned the biggest part of what separates this GT-R from the now outgoing car – a vehicle gradually evolved each year since it launch for the 2008 ...