By on November 5, 2011

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?”

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11 Comments on “Nissan GT-R, Closed Course, Unprofessional Driver...”

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Love it Bertel. Wonder how fast Baruth would have gotten himself kicked off the track?

  • avatar


    Is there any difference between GTR & Skyline other than LHD & RHD?

    • 0 avatar

      The GT-R is no longer called Skyline GT-R in Japan, only GT-R.

      I must admit cars sometimes have strange names in Japan.

      I sat in a nice Nissan 370 Z (after I was warned that it was a manual, I said “doitsu jin des” – I’m German! – and received an all-knowing “sou ka!” – I see). Then I found out that the car is marketed as a “Fairlady” in Japan.

    • 0 avatar

      If my memory is still good, the Skyline is finally being brought to America. Only we get to buy it as the Infiniti G35/G37.

      And I was at an Z gathering at the local Nissan dealer last summer where a guy had an original 240Z, RH drive, in the original Fairlady trim. I seem to remember stories about Nissan originally wanting to use the Fairlady name in the US, too – and were fortunately talked out of it.

      • 0 avatar

        Not so much “is finally” as “has been”. The G37, and G35 before it are basically rebadged skylines with updated interiors and some other minor tweaks to fit Infiniti’s luxury image. The Skyline and GTR are now completely two different cars.

  • avatar

    in my fantasy world where I’d even have this choice, I’d pick the GT-R over the Veyron for a spirited drive.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll take the original Skyline (inline 6) over both the GT-R and the Veyron. The reason? Anyone can drive a car with the video game-like paddle shifters. And the juvenile boy-racer styling of the GT-R is a definite drawback. The true essence of driver vs. machine interaction is with 3 pedals, a stick shifter, and a clutch.

  • avatar
    John R

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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