Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to . . . GT-R Fields. Almost nothing is real, whether you’re talking about the ridiculous Nürburgring-centric engi-marketing, the programmed-to-self-destruct transmissions, or the amazing shrinking customer warranties. Still, there’s nothing to get hung up about (so to speak). The entire concept behind the GT-R—building a car that more or less steers itself for people who can’t drive for shit, live in downtown Tokyo, or both—is stranger than any LSD trip John Lennon could have possibly imagined.
But if a stock GT-R is a strange machine, the Switzer Performance P800 GT-R, with seven hundred and seven horsepower at the wheels and a 10.8-second quarter-mile time, is plain deranged. Tym Switzer, recently notorious in Porsche-tuning circles for his nine-second “Sledgehammer” 997 Turbo, claims his tuned GT-R is “driveability-oriented.” He has dyno charts to prove it, AND the P800 runs on 93-octane pump gas.
Last week, your humble reviewer was invited to attend a “shakedown” for a privately-owned P800 at the BeaveRun road course near Pittsburgh. I know BeaveRun reasonably well, but I’d never run it in the wet— and it was more than wet by the time our test session started.
To warm up a bit, I drove my Audi S5 around the course for a few laps. The track was slick in some places and just plain Teflon in others. With ASR turned off, the Audi, which has nothing like 707 wheel horsepower, cheerfully and dramatically oversteered from each exit. Not good, and not good for our chances of testing the P800. Surely Switzer wouldn’t put a notoriously temper-prone journo behind the wheel of a 700-plus horsepower customer car in the wet, right?
Before I could even have that discussion, the rain stopped . . . and it started to snow. Fluffy little flakes covered the Nissan’s catfish nose and blanketed the visor of my Impact! Air Draft Carbon helmet. The owner was nonchalant about it: “Go ahead and drive it. Try not to bring it back on the wrecker.” So there we go: the most powerful car I’d ever driven, on a narrow, elevation-change-intense track, in the snow.
As the Jalopniks trained their HD cameras in my direction, I found that I could give the roided-up Nissan full-throttle in a straight line. This is a big deal. After all, a 600hp Viper can’t accept full throttle at any speed below 100 mph in the dry without spinning wheels, and this bitch is freight-training ahead with slush on the track.
The front section of BeaveRun is a typical Alan Wilson corner combination with a concrete curb at the critical midsection. I hit the concrete at full chat . . . and nothing happens. The car still steers. The power is, apparently, routed somewhere else. Maybe to a rubber band attached to the nose, because we exit with no drama and barely a smidgen of oversteer. Time for the uphill right-hander. Press the brakes which have very little backchatter in ABS mode, dial the steering, floor it up and over the crest of Turn Seven.
Time for full throttle. The P800 holds the line with no drama and we arrive at the back hairpin with a ton of momentum. At the exit, I yield to temptation and flat fucking floor it. The world goes sideways, I dial in a twist of correction, and we’re Tokyo Driftin’ to the front straight. Nissan’s done the stupid thing and fixed the paddles to the steering column. (Shuffle-steerers of the world, unite! Your time is at hand!)
So I let the car run free a second to straighten out and use full power. Click. Click. One hundred and thirty miles per hour. Plus. In the snow. Easy as pie. In the same space of time it took the Audi to hit 110. Hit the ABS for Turn One and do it all over again.
The snow and sleet bring visibility to a minimum, but we’re alone on a track I can drive from memory now. Faster. Hit the curb harder. More power, earlier. It’s never too early. The GT-R has a disturbing sense of power distribution. It’s in control. Not you. By the seventh lap I realize that I’m starting to risk my passenger’s safety in a search for excitement, so I bring the car in to the pits.
Therein lies the problem with the Nissan GT-R. It’s not exciting enough, not even in “R mode,” not even with 800 horsepower. I never for a moment doubted Switzer’s claims about that power (under twenty grand). The P800 pulls like a porn star at a bachelorette party. But there’s no drama. For me, that makes it a pointless car, because there’s no challenge for the driver beyond basic competence. I’ll take a Viper over this Voltron G35 every day and twice on Sundays. But for the people who really, really want a GT-R, trust me: this is the one to have.
[ Switzer Performance provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, track time and gas.]