The Truth About the Nissan GT-R and the Nrburgring Lap Record

James Ansell
by James Ansell

I agree with TTAC reviewer Stephan Wilkinson : the new Nissan GT-R is the old Honda NSX. Once people actually start driving Nissan’s “everyday supercar”– as opposed to simply jumping on the hype bandwagon and bench racing numbers supplied by Nissan– they’ll appreciate the parallel. Although I'm still looking forward to my first hands-on experience with the GT-R, the reality of the car’s true nature and importance in automotive history is right under the fan-boys’ noses.

The GT-R allegedly 'outperforms' thoroughbred supercars at a fraction of the price. Yes, but what price? The sticker price, or the in-your-garage price? Considering the hype surrounding the car and the limited production numbers, it will be years before a single new $70k GT-R will be sold for under $100k. At the moment, comparing the Nissan to say, a Corvette Z06, obfuscates the truth. But what the [Green] Hell…

No small part of the current GT-R lovefest can be attributed to the car’s 7:38 Nürburgring lap time. As TTAC has pointed out, there are real questions about the Green Hellmobile’s qualifications for the title “second fastest production car around the ‘Ring.” The GT-R's suspension was modified from the current Japanese production model, supposedly to reflect the American and European spec. Supposedly. Will anyone get a chance to compare the fabled ‘Ring runner and a final production car? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, the YouTube video of the Nissan’s “historic run” clearly shows that the GT-R had a flying start. All other manufacturers testing at the ‘Ring use standing starts for published lap times. The video also proves that the car's lap time was not measured at the exact same location (start and stop). Take these two factors into account, and the 7:40 claim seems highly dubious.

The icing on the cake: GT-R chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno’s subsequent admission from that "We used cut slick tyres." If that doesn’t cancel their claim, nothing does.

In fact, a regular Corvette Z06 would probably beat the GT-R on the Nürburgring. When Road & Track tested the GT-R against the Z06 on a track much smaller than the ‘Ring, they concluded that the GT-R was fast in the corners, but they didn't shed a whole lot of light on how the GT-R performed on the straights. Although the ‘Ring has an enormous amount of corners, it also has some of the longest straight-aways in the world.

In Road & Track’s technical comparo, the GT-R was just as fast to 60mph as the Z06 (despite being less powerful). What many have over-looked is the trap speed at the end of the 1/4 mile. The Z06 is about seven mph faster than the GT-R. When you look at the graph that accompanies these numbers, the GT-R’s AWD system gave it a clear advantage– but only at the start. Applied to the Green Hell, the Z06 would outpace the GT-R on the straights.

The Z06’s fastest recorded lap time at the Nürburgring is 7:42.9 This lap was driven in 2005 by Jan Magnussen in 'muggy' conditions. Last year, Chevy revised the suspension on all Corvette models including the Z06. In theory, the new suspension and better weather conditions should be enough for a Z06 to equal or even better the Nissan GT-R's true time of +7:40. When you consider that the Z06 can achieve this time with a GM-standard standing start and production tires, it seems obvious that the GT-R is no match for the Z06 around the ring.

But what does it all mean? Well, not much actually. Every racetrack is different and some cars are suited to some tracks while others are not. The GT-R is suited to smaller tracks like the one R&T used, and the Z06 is suited to longer and faster ones like the ‘Ring.

So why did I bother ranting about this? Nissan has chosen to flaunt its Nürburgring lap times to show the world that their new, high-tech Nissan GT-R is the new bang-for-the-buck Alpha. But it’s not true. The cheaper Corvette Z06 is still the worlds best [unmodified] performance car bargain. What’s more, if the GT-R cannot handle a stock Z06, then how will it fare against the upcoming ZR1? Never mind the 'almighty' spec V model.

Given the GT-R’s looks and oft-reported lack of driving feel, there’s only one reason anyone would buy the uber-Nissan: to own the fastest thing on the road. In the corners, maybe. If you were committed enough to drive at 10/10ths (never mind how “easy” it is), you could probably blow-off a 911 or similar. Down the straights (the great American pastime), there are faster and cheaper choices– and that’s without exploring relatively inexpensive modifications.

In short, the GT-R is an awesome achievement, but Wilkinson’s right: it’s not all that.

James Ansell
James Ansell

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  • El scotto I look forward to watching MTG and Tommy Tuberville when the UAW comes to their states.
  • El scotto Vehicle company white collar (non-union) engineers design the parts and assembly procedures. The UAW members are instructed on how to install the parts. Engineers are also in charge of quality control. The executives are ulimately responible for the quality of their products.
  • Chris P Bacon I don't care either way, the employees have the right to organize, and I'm never going to buy a VW. But.... It would be interesting if the media (HINT HINT) would be able to provide a detailed look at what (if anything) the VW workers gain by unionizing. There will be dues to pay. How much? I bet the current policies, pay and benefits mirror other auto companies. When all is said and done an the first contract signed, my money is on the UAW to be he only ones who really come out ahead. That leads into my next comment. Once a union is voted onto the property, it is almost impossible to get rid of them. Even if the membership feels the union doesn't have their best interests in mind, the hurdles to get rid of them are too high. There were a lot of promises made by the UAW, even if they don't deliver, they'll be in Chattanooga even if the membership decides they made a mistake.
  • 1995 SC How bout those steel tariffs. Wonder if everyone falls into the same camp with respect to supporting/opposing them as they did on the auto tariffs a few weeks ago. Doubt it. Wonder Why that would be?
  • Lorenzo Nice going! They eliminated the "5" numbers on the speedometer so they could get it to read up to 180 mph. The speed limit is 65? You have to guess one quarter of the needle distance between 60 and 80. Virtually every state has 55, 65, and 75 mph speed limits, not to mention urban areas where 25, 35, and 45 mph limits are common. All that guesswork to display a maximum speed the driver will never reach.