Nissan GT-R, Closed Course, Unprofessional Driver

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

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?”

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

More by Bertel Schmitt

Join the conversation
3 of 11 comments
  • John R John R on Nov 06, 2011

    Its a shame they ditched Skyline name. Every once in a while Japan nails it when coming up with names for their cars - Legend, Integra, Skyline, Elgrand, Silvia. Other times (Fuga??), eh.

  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Nov 07, 2011

    I've seen one GT-R in my area, in the showroom at my local Nissan-Kia dealer. It had very prominent signs all over advising, "DON'T TOUCH". As I looked inside one of the salesmen looked at me and said, "you'd look good driving that." Maybe I would, but I wouldn't spend that much on a car, even if I could, and I wouldn't want to see the insurance bill on it. EDIT: It had already been sold, hence the warning not to touch. I realize it would be daft not to allow potential buyers to look at it and sit in it.

    • USAFMech USAFMech on Nov 07, 2011

      Bah! I'm tighter than a duck's butt and I would consider buying a GT-R at retail. There can't be much margin in this car for Nissan. It'll match or beat a Veyron 0-60 with simple bolt-ons. This is a metric-crap-tonne of car for the money. Edited for 1 extraneous word.

  • Ted Lulis Head gaskets and Toyota putting my kids through college👍️
  • Leonard Ostrander Plants don't unionize. People do, and yes, of course the workers should organize.
  • Jalop1991 Here's something EVangelists don't want to talk about, and why range is important: battery warranties, by industry standard, specify that nothing's wrong with the battery, and they won't replace it, as long as it is able to carry 70% or more of its specified capacity.So you need a lot of day 1 capacity so that down the road, when you're at 70% capacity with a "fully functioning, no problem" car, you're not stuck in used Nissan Leaf territory."Nothing to see here, move along."There's also the question of whether any factory battery warranty survives past the original new car owner. So it's prudent of any second owner to ask that question specifically, and absent any direct written warranty, assume that the second and subsequent owners own any battery problems that may arise.And given that the batteries are a HUGE expense, much more so than an ICE, such exposure is equally huge."Nothing to see here, move along."
  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.