A $200,000 monster.
The Nissan GT-R is so old (how old is it?) that when it debuted in 2008, McLaren wasn't anywhere near the tour de force the brand is currently. These days, the British manufacturer offers two excellent alternatives to Nissan's supercar – the 570S and the 720S – as well as a handful of hypercar and GT options. Meanwhile, the GT-R has barely changed.
There's still something extremely likable about the Nissan GT-R, though, specifically the hardcore, track-focused Nismo model we recently got our hands on. This version, though it debuted more than six years ago as part of a mid-cycle refresh, touts more power, better aerodynamics, and a modern-ish cabin. And for the record, it's still fast as hell despite its age.
But we find fault not with the Nissan GT-R Nismo’s abilities (for the most part), but rather, its price tag. This car cost $149,000 when new. Six years and little in the way of updates later, now Nissan wants $210,000 for the damn thing. That kind of money can get you a lot of car, but we’re not convinced the GT-R Nismo is the one to get – unless you really have a thing for nostalgia.
Godzilla En Vogue
Not much changes visually on the GT-R Nismo for 2020. Updates to the exterior include a new carbon fiber hood, larger wheel arch vents… and that's about it. The latter improves cooling to the new 16.1-inch carbon-ceramic Brembo brakes, while the former, along with the carbon fiber decklid and trim pieces that carry over from the previous model year, help shed 68 pounds over the base GT-R Premium. Still, even as the “lightest” GT-R of the bunch, the Nismo tips the scales at a beefy 3,865 pounds.
But while the vents, scoops, and carbon-fiber bits make the GT-R Nismo an aerodynamic force on the track, this car is pretty impractical on public roads. The massive carbon-fiber wing renders the rear window almost useless (thankfully, there's a good backup camera), the diffusers and side sills make navigating parking lots tricky, and even though the GT-R doesn't sit as low as some supercars, it still scrapes on many entryways. At least the Nismo's outrageous styling means it’s impossible to ignore – one marker of any good supercar.
The GT-R Nismo doesn't have the most modern cabin, either. A modest refresh in 2016 improved things like ergonomics (the Nismo-specific Recaro seats are actually pretty comfy) and added a nicer 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay. But there are obvious cues within eyeshot that the company hasn’t updated since the car debuted more than a decade ago. The analog gauge cluster and orange text, for example, reek of the late 2000s. The nobs and dials feel cheap and outdated. And there are no active safety features. None. The only thing the Nissan GT-R Nismo offers is a standard backup camera, which is a legal requirement.
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But the wild styling and outdated cabin feel less offensive once you gun it. Even after a decade, the GT-R will still compress you and the nearest passenger into the Recaro seats. It's fast; not McLaren 720S quick, but still absurdly quick. The Nismo's twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6, upgraded with two bigger turbos from the GT3 race car, now pumps out a hearty 600 horsepower and 481 pound-feet of torque. That's an extra 35 horses and 14 lb-ft over the base GT-R Premium.
If you use the convoluted launch control system, Nissan says the GT-R Nismo will hit 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds. We opt for the more traditional, “mash the gas-pedal” approach, which induces a slow crawl off the line before an all-out sprint. Even the new track-sourced turbos take forever to spool up; there's virtually no response below 3,000 rpm. This is where the GT-R shows its age most.
If you use the convoluted launch control system, Nissan says the GT-R Nismo will hit 60 miles per hour in 2.9 seconds.
But there is a remarkable response once the car gets moving. Past that 3,000-rpm threshold, the GT-R bites as expected. Exactly 600 horses hurry to each of the new Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tires (255/40 front and 285/35 rear, 11-percent wider than the ones they replace), fastening the car to the pavement. And even though the noise erupting from the exhaust sounds like a mix between a leaf blower and a slide whistle, the pressure bearing down on your face and chest renders that awful soundtrack almost unnoticeable.
The same six-speed dual-clutch from the previous generation carries over, only it's been re-tuned for quicker shifts. And yeah, it's quick. Even without using the paddles, the six-speed gearbox delivers the perfect shift and keeps the revs high. Toggle the R-Mode switch and it all gets a bit more aggressive. But when puttering the city, that same gearbox can be a bit jerky.
The GT-R Nismo conquers the few corners found along our Miami test route. An exceptionally quick turn-in and a lightweight steering rack keep Godzilla competitive against its more modern classmates. It's a little twitchy compared to newer, smoother alternatives – but that's all part of the charm. For 2020, Nissan actually made the suspension less stiff. Damper stiffness drops by as much as 20 percent, which yields a more respectable ride – all without sacrificing agility. That's, in part, what makes the GT-R Nismo an absolute monster, even 10 years on.
There’s no way to temper this – the Nissan GT-R Nismo costs $210,740. That’s a lot of cash for a car that’s just 68 pounds lighter and 35 horsepower quicker than its base counterpart. The GT-R Premium costs just $113,540. In that respect, the GT-R Nismo feels overpriced and outdated, especially among a class of modern, moderately priced alternatives. But there’s still a lot to love about this car, which makes it hard to completely overlook when supercar shopping.
The GT-R Nismo looks outrageous; not pretty, but outrageous. It’s absurdly quick once up to speed, decently comfortable, and can carve up a corner better than a master butcher carves up a piece of meat. And sure, the interior isn’t totally up to date, nor does the exhaust sound good – but the GT-R Nismo delivers a unique driving feel that few cars can truly replicate. We’ll leave it to you to decide if that “feel” is worth the asking price.
Gallery: 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo: Review
2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo