The all-conquering Nissan GT-R, though of minority interest in Ireland, is constantly being fettled by Nissan. This GT-R Track Edition is the latest, bridging the gap between the range-topping Nismo model and the regular production cars. The middle ground, it seems, is very much the sweet spot, and not just on track.
In the Metal:
It has been around since 2008 and changed very little; some additional vents here, a few LED driving lights there, but essentially the same GT-R shape. No bad thing, as Nissan got the fundamentals right when it launched it, and the GT-R's relative rarity means it's still going to turn heads. There's little to denote the Track Edition over its lesser GT-R relations, though the Nismo GT500 six-spoke forged aluminium wheels in gloss black do give a better view of the gold brake callipers behind. Only on the wheel spokes is there any hint to Nismo's involvement, the Track Edition taking elements from the range-topping GT-R Nismo and applying them at a slightly more affordable level. The changes relate to the stiffness, as the body in white gains extra welds and bonding to increase rigidity, while the suspension, hubs and anti-roll bars also have been specified by the Nismo engineers. Visually then it's all but identical, but it's underneath where the changes are most significant.
The cabin betrays the GT-R's age the minute you get in it. It never felt that special eight years ago, and it has not aged well. Yes, it's been improved through time, but the dials ahead of you would look cheap in a Qashqai, let alone Nissan's giant-killing sports car. The fundamentals are correct though; those instruments might look old, but they're clear, while the Recaro seats achieve the sort of hold you want in something with such performance potential.
There's never been any doubt in the GT-R's ability to cover ground; its speed and ability are relentless, its giant-killing status as universally recognised amongst those in the know as its Godzilla nickname. For all its undeniable, eye-widening pace, the GT-R has always been a car we've walked away from impressed, but not stirred. The Track Edition changes that, so much so we kept going back for more. The engine remains the same as in the regular GT-R, with 550hp from a twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6. Its note is muted, despite four exhaust pipes out back so vast in diameter that they wouldn't look out of place feeding a hydro-electric plant. The pace that engine delivers is, as ever, incredible. That 2.7-second 0-100km/h time was officially recorded on a 2013 model year (standard) GT-R, so it's likely to be a little bit quicker still. The way that the four-wheel drive system can exploit all that power remains staggering, too, but the real difference with the Track Edition is the way it delivers messages to the driver, and the incisiveness of the steering.
We cannot recollect the standard GT-R giving so much information to the driver. Nismo detail changes to the suspension, which include stiffer wheel hub attachments, a hollow rear anti-roll bar, specially developed links in the front double wishbone suspension to increase castor and, of course, those light, forged alloy wheels are transformational. The GT-R feels sharper to turn in, the steering delivering some real feel along with its quick, predictable response. Grip levels are high in the dry on the Dunlop tyres (with a Nismo-specific compound), though in the damp or wet they can be 'interesting', thankfully in an entirely enjoyable way. The ride, while firm, isn't harsh, so the GT-R Track Edition, despite its obvious focus, is very well damped. Saying that, you'll be doing well to find a piece of tarmac without kerbs, Armco and marshals' huts on the corners that's smooth enough for any of the other two suspension modes besides Comfort.
As ever there's the option to fiddle with the various settings, with R modes on offer for the more lunatic fringes of the Track Edition's capability. On the road they're just not necessary. There's some clumsiness to the transmission at low speeds and chuntering from the differential, too, but it all adds up to remind you that the GT-R is a car of huge capability. It really is inconceivable that you'll want any more cornering speed; the way the GT-R holds its line is surprising, only here there's a greater degree of feel, the big, usually brutish GT-R revealing a more delicate side in Track Edition guise. Thank the drop in unsprung weight, the custom-developed Bilstein DampTronic dampers and the other small, but wholly significant, changes to the suspension, allied to the stiffer body. The GT-R Track Edition makes for the best GT-R we've driven. Until the next one comes along...
What you get for your Money:
For about a ten per cent premium over the standard GT-R you get near flagship Nismo GT-R specification without the huge leap in price. The interior is, frankly, appalling, but you'll be having too much fun to care. The GT-R was always a fast car, and now it's a better one, with performance and capability that's more super- and hypercar than its price tag would have you believe.
Audi V10 R8: a more exotic supercar proposition, with an interior that utterly eclipses the GT-R, but with a price tag to match.
Jaguar F-Type R AWD: Jaguar's bonkers, outrageous sounding F-Type R barely tamed by the addition of four-wheel drive. Lots of drama, but the GT-R is more controllable.
Porsche Carrera 4 S: the benchmark, but the GT-R Track Edition should really line up alongside a Turbo for the rear-engined car to stand any chance.
In car years it's ancient, but Nissan, and more importantly, Nismo's constant fiddling with the GT-R continues to make it better. The Track Edition is arguably the very best yet, if you can live without the extra power of the GT-R Nismo. We could, this middle-ground GT-R the best we've driven, which puts it right up there among the very best, fastest and most capable cars you can buy. Its clear focus is its draw, but with it the GT-R retains a usability that's extraordinary when you put its performance potential into context.