Today, I drove all 530 hp (more or less) of the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged 24-valve V6 engined Nissan GT-R down their test track in Oppama, not too far from the U.S. Yokosuka Navy base, home of the 7th Fleet. In a way, car, neighborhood and situation reminded me of the nuclear weaponry: Have it, but don’t use it. The GT-R is good for a top speed of 196 mph, but I was repeatedly admonished that Japanese road rules apply.
Which means: Don’t go faster than 100 km/h (62 mph). There is no Koban (police box) on Nissan’s test track, and a slight push of the pedal easily brought the car to illegal speeds when going into the straightaway, but the banked corner at the end was coned off, and a speed more suited for a school zone was demanded. I quickly longed for the Autobahn.
“It’s not a Veyron – but for the price …” said my chaperone, while I extracted my body from the low-flung RHD car. Indeed, at an MSRP of $89,950 for the U.S. spec model, the car can be an impulse buy – when compared with the $1.5 million Veyron. But you really want to drive this on the Autobahn. Imagine passing Porsches in a Nissan with a wicked smile. Then, imagine the salt flats.
I traded seats with Tsuigo Matsuda, the unassuming and friendly racecar driver who races the Calsonic IMPUL GT-R for a living. Suddenly, the Japanese road rules ceased to exist, and I was glad for the bucket seats that prevented the lateral g-forces from dumping the bulk of my body in Matsuda’s lap. I was longing for the g-suit fighter pilots have, if only to keep my body from getting bruised. He whipped the car through the “suburban course” that was advertised as “rises and falls with a 5 percent gradient through a series of curves that prevent you from seeing ahead” – but Matsuda must not have read the handout.
When we finally came to a stop, the familiar smell of rubber and cooking friction material wafted into the car. The car was surrounded by techs who made sure nobody would touch the smoking Brembo brakes.
Matsuda-san smiled and said: “You enjoy?”