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Review

First Drive: Nissan GT-R Track Pack car review

06/07/12

IS THERE always room for a little bit more? Can the no-compromise sports car have compromises removed from it? Sounds like an impossible task but it is one that Nissan set itself when it decided that the GT-R needed to be a bit more aggressive. The supercar bargain of the decade has already been upgraded twice since it first appeared in 2010 but that hasn't stopped the super-geeks taking it to one side and looking at how it could be made harder and quicker than before.

The result is the GT-R Track Pack, and if the name didn't give it away this particular version is designed for owners who want to take their cars on track; and not to do so would be to miss out on the GT-R in its element. So you get the 2012-spec GT-R as the starting point which means you get the outrageous 542bhp twin-turbocharged V6 engine under the bonnet, the whip-crack seven speed dual clutch gearbox and a four-wheel drive system so sophisticated that you'd need a PhD in computational physics to understand it. Needless to say then it has the basic ingredients to devour any kind of challenging road at terrific speeds.

The Track Pack adds £9,970 to the price of a GT-R, which is hardly chicken feed for anyone. But you need to bear in mind that the standard car costs £74,480 and as such competes on price with cars that can't hold a candle to it in terms of performance or handling – and that's before you add the Track Pack's bits.

So what do you get for your extra cash? From the outside the only difference you'll spot is the new wheels; six-spoke black RAYS (a famous Japanese brand) alloys that not only look sharp, but also shave an impressive 10kg from the car's overall weight. And as any car geek will know, wheels count as unsprung weight and the less of that, the better. Step inside and you'll notice a complete absence of rear seats, which of course makes it slightly less practical although this is unlikely to be an issue for someone wanting to park a GT-R on their drive. That helps to shave weight too, while at the front there are new sports seats. These lighter chairs are designed to hold you more firmly in place, partly down to a new 'magic' fabric that is high friction, thereby minimising the amount you slide around under heavy cornering G-forces. More than anything else, it’s a signal of intent.

The real changes are elsewhere however, as the GT-R Track Pack has had its suspension worked over by development driver Toshio Suzuki. His extremely demanding day job involved pounding around the Nurburgring in Germany in order to come up with a stiffer set up. Additionally Nissan claims further stiffening of the chassis itself, all the better to resist the demands of the track.

And the track is where we got to drive the Track Pack, appropriately enough, although for much of the morning the biblical amount of rain meant you felt like a baby duck trying to cross a frozen pond. But later on the conditions started to improve, and the GT-R Track Pack started to reveal its talents. For starters, the 2012-spec engine is preposterously powerful; even very quick cars can feel a bit slow on track, especially one as fast as Silverstone – but the GT-R didn’t. The instant punch continues regardless of revs, speed or gear, and every bend is approached with absurd amounts of speed. Thankfully the brakes are very strong and extremely reassuring, and even after a dozen laps refuse to wilt.

As for the suspension changes, they add capability to the GT-R where it almost did not need it. Only an idiot would complain that the standard car was too soft, yet that didn’t mean there wasn’t room for further tweaks. From behind the wheel you notice that the GT-R Track Pack feels immensely well tied-down, an iron-fisted approach to keeping the wheels in contact with the road. You feel even less of the sensation of the car moving around under extreme loads, and that means you can get on the power harder and earlier than before. You get the same adjustability in the suspension and transmission as the standard car, so you can switch everything into ‘R’ mode for maximum attack. Do so and it’s hard to believe that any mere mortal could go faster in anything else.

Need proof? For the last three laps a 2010 GT-R pulled out of the pits and began some six or seven car lengths ahead. The instructor sat in the passenger seat became animated and encouraged later braking and more commitment. By the end of the three laps the gap was down to three car lengths. And who was driving the car in front? Martin Brundle. And you can take it as read that the catch up was down to the car, not me.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Nissan GT-R Track Pack, £84,420 Engine: 3.6-litre petrol producing 542bhp and 465lb.ft of torque Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch gearbox driving all four wheels Performance: Top speed 196mpg, 0-62mph in 2.8 seconds Economy: 24mpg Emissions: 275g/km of CO2

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power5 (high performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy2 (worse than average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups1 (very high costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats2

Motors.co.uk value verdict:    stars

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