By on April 15, 2009

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.]

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28 Comments on “Review: Switzer Performance P800 [Nissan] GT-R...”


  • avatar
    sean362880

    Is your S5 really lime green? I tip my hat to you sir. And may the resale gods have mercy on your soul.

  • avatar
    dilbert

    If a car that has higher limits than you do is boring and no fun, then F1 cars must be absolute doozies.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Mr. Baruth, I have to disagree with you here a little bit on the GT-R’s limits. This is definitely a car that you will not master in a 7-lap run. You need days, weeks even, on track to fully learn the car’s abilities.

    The car is fast, no question there. I never doubted Nissan’s claims as King of the ‘Ring because the car’s all wheel drive and electronics allow you to higher entry and exit speeds than any Corvette, 911, etc.

    Yes, the car would be complete overkill as a commuter car. On track, you probably need more time to learn the car and push it to the edges of its performance envelope.

  • avatar
    Nicodemus

    sean362880

    “…And may the resale gods have mercy on your soul.”

    More so since he paid a premium for the colour.

  • avatar
    brndn81

    “Yes, the car would be complete overkill as a commuter car.”

    If it got better gas mileage, I think a GTR would make a great commuter car. Hell, even my grandma could drive one—and there’s the problem.

  • avatar
    nk

    “If a car that has higher limits than you do is boring and no fun, then F1 cars must be absolute doozies.” –dilbert

    How misguided you are. An F1 car is challenging because it does not have driver aids, the limits are provided by downforce and chassis dynamics.

    I had the awesome pleasure of taking a Formula Dodge car around Road Atlanta for an hour and a half last week, and let me tell you, your limits are pushed further and further each lap, its exhausting and incredibly rewarding. It’s not something everyone can do, its definitely not something many can do well.

    A car that does the steering for you? That’s no fun. That’s not rewarding. You will not be pushed to the limits-if you want that you get the GT-R track car (which is an awesome RWD v8!) but not the 3700lbs daily driver model designed for smoking people in Subarus on the highway.

    Don’t get me started on cars that load and unload the transmission for you too :P

  • avatar
    ambulancechaser

    Still don’t want one. The GT-R has all the visual sex appeal of a ham sandwich.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    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.

    …and that pretty much sums up the GT-R on a whole.

    Give me a Corvette ZO6 or Dodge Viper anytime.

  • avatar
    carguy

    When you design a car with the sole purpose of getting better numbers than the competition you run the risk of neglecting some of the more subjective qualities of the car – such as making it fun to drive. While performance is important, fun is essential.

  • avatar
    John R

    Whatevs, Jack. I know there isn’t much love lost between you and the Japanese/Korean makes so this is a damn near glowing review.

    In any event, I know I can have fun in this whip. I wonder if Voltron G35 (G38?) can fit on a vanity plate.

  • avatar
    DearS

    The GT-R is such a great car for many of the wrong reasons. I still think most all companies neglect chassis dynamics for affordability and compliance. An E46 M3 and 911 GT3 look like some of the best sports cars ever, cause they talk to the driver. Communication is the key.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Switzer to Nissan (in Borat voice) “No! I am loco-ist! Fucked to you!”

  • avatar
    26theone

    Lime Green?

  • avatar

    I can’t speak for the track, but on the street I much prefer shift paddles fixed to the column. Always know where they are.

    Ferrari does them this way. Without reason?

  • avatar
    NickR

    RE: the A5

    “I knew HemiCuda, HemiCuda was a friend of mine, and you sir are no HemiCuda.”

  • avatar
    niky

    I can never find the paddles in a turn if they’re mounted to the wheel… but then, that’s autocross, where you’ve got the wheel turned further over than you would on the racetrack.

    And… a car that goes sideways is not fun? Not challenging, maybe (definitely maybe)… but not fun?

  • avatar
    DeanMTL

    Who decided to paint the A5 that horrific green?

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    That is one soylent green Audi. I like it.

    Oh yeah uh, nice GT-R. Someone should paint one up in a driving fast for dummies livery.

  • avatar
    Matthew Sullivan

    “sean362880 : Is your S5 really lime green? I tip my hat to you sir. And may the resale gods have mercy on your soul.”

    I’m just repeating that because it’s one of the funniest damn things I’ve read in a long time!

  • avatar
    AllStingNoBling

    The GT-R needs to be painted the same color as your S5!

    By the way Jack, great article. I really enjoyed it. I am really fond of the idea that a car just does what it is supposed to do, which is why I really am fond of the GT-R. I maintain that if sensory fidelity is paramount, get a motorcycle. Either way, nice work.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    For sheer driving enjoyment, an Ariel Atom or a Caterham will beat any Corvette, Viper, or Porsche. The more weight and creature comforts you add, the more you take away from the experience.

  • avatar
    kurtamaxxguy

    This review’s been helpful in helping define what an auto enthusiast truly is; someone who wants a car to be “exciting” and challenging to drive.
    On a race track, there’s a lot of fun of rowing your own and doing drifts with abandon (provided you don’t pile into barriers or other cars).

    My hunch is for those reasons, RWD cars w/ maximum horsepower will always be the enthusiasts choice.

    However, in real world driving, unless you like exciting, unexpected surprises like the rear end spinning out on a wet road, an AWD makes more sense. And this GT-R’s ability to handle bad weather and roads, and take advantage of boosted horsepower, makes it all the more impressive.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I like the hot chartreuse. The GT-R says “overbite” to me – I think it still would even without the upturned ends on the “grille” bar. Maybe it’s meant to, as in “I can hold the road like a bulldog can hold your ankle.”

  • avatar

    @ Michael:

    In my opinion, paddles should be fixed to the wheel. Doing it any other way encourages shuffle-steering…

    In reality, you shouldn’t be upshifting or downshifting with any steering cranked into the car; but sometimes a brother’s gotta do what a brother’s gotta do.

  • avatar
    grifonik

    I think an article detailing how the choice of color for the audi is in demand!

    There has to be several reasons behind it. Lets hear ‘em!

    (one of which has to be the color upstages an 800HP GT-R)

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Rather nice review from a VAG fanboy :)
    GTR is everything that the 911 Turbo wants to be and now gets judged because of it.

    First GTR was compared to the Turbo, but when the Turbo didn’t hold up in any circumstances, then German car fanatics turned to stripped down GT2 and GT3 track cars so they could talk in more subjective terms – about driver involvment and “feedback” of the car.

    So Nissan needs to make a 550hp 1400kg rwd manual gearbox version of the GTR to finally shut everybody up? :)

    PS! quote: Therein lies the problem with the Nissan GT-R. It’s not exciting enough, not even in “R mode,” not even with 800 horsepower. But there’s no drama.

    Interesting points coming from a guy who drives a vague handling nose heavy AWD car instead of lets say 335i rwd manual :)

  • avatar
    agenthex

    So Nissan needs to make a 550hp 1400kg rwd manual gearbox version of the GTR to finally shut everybody up? :)

    That’s unpossible because they won’t ante up for the magically German pixie dust that apparently costs many thousands of dollar per application*.

    *application of magical dust may adversely effect reliability


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