For a V6 to exceed the performance of some of the world's fastest and most exotic cars, it need to be something special. The GT-R, however, is truly incredible.
2009 Nissan GT-R
For a V6 Nissan to exceed the performance of some of the world's fastest and most exotic cars, it needs to be something special. The GT-R, however, isn't just special; it's truly incredible. The long, greedy swoop of the bonnet says it all, for it houses the 3.8L twin-turbo unit that is capable of pumping out 480hp in the best possible way. This engine took the GT-R into the history books when it was launched last year by propelling the car around the Nürburgring in under seven minutes and 30 seconds, making it the fastest mass-production vehicle to take on this fabled track. Only the Porsche Carrera GT and Pagani Zonda had made it around the twisting 21km track in faster times.
Back then, I had the pleasure of sitting alongside Tochio Suzuki, Nissan's chief test driver, as he hammered home the GT-R's potential through the corners, straights and chicanes of the Estoril Formula One circuit in Portugal. Surrounded by digital dials, dynamic graphs and G-force counters on the digital display, it was clear to see how this man, who had been involved in every stage of the car's development, was eking out each ounce of its promise.
A great deal changes in the car world over the course of a year, but the mighty Nissan GT-R hasn't changed a bit. Transferred from track to tarmac, from Portugal to the UAE, the GT-R is equally as impressive. What is most amazing about this rocket is its behaviour. While many manufacturers claim their supercars are simple to drive in traffic, the Nissan is in a whole different league. Possibly from the Japanese car maker's background of producing nimble little numbers meant for ease of use, the GT-R is more akin to a hot hatch than a hotrod on city streets.
One of the big problems of driving a supercar through heavy traffic is its potential to go ballistic at the drop of a hat. As a result, you have to feather the gas, hit the brake, feather the gas, hit the brake: it's hard work. The GT-R, however, will switch off the performance until you really want it. It will idle comfortably and plod along as if it were a little four-cylinder drone. The balance is sublime, among the best in the business. Nissan has taken the gearbox and moved it to the rear axle, balancing out the weight of the engine. The improvement this configuration offers is evident across every surefooted swoop, turn and charge.
And even mundane aspects like visibility, interior storage and luggage capacity - criteria you really wouldn't bother with when judging a supercar?are excellent. The cabin is a wonderful place to be, with its ample leg and lateral space. Some materials do verge on the slightly unsightly, with plastic merging with leather wrappings on the fascia and yet more plastic. However, the effect is functional and sporty, as are the body-hugging leather-and-fabric sports seats. The rear provides a home for massive Bose speakers and a hint of seating that is more cosmetic than it is practical.
Facing the driver is a colony of instruments from the oversized central rev counter to digital display with 10 pages of settings and read-outs. Indeed, this telemetry feature gives one clear indication of the GT-R's racing spirit. Another hint is the sound of the V6. Coaxed into life with a push of the red Start button, the noise it generates is more Formula One than Touring Car Championship. It is unusual to have so few cylinders in a car with such performance, and the difference in decibels is immediately apparent. Given some hefty revs, and augmented by the twin turbochargers, the GT-R screams at you whereas a V8 would bellow.
And the sound matches its ability perfectly. Taking just 3.3 seconds to accelerate to 100kph and with immediate pickup on acceleration, the engine provides the soundtrack for an explosive action thriller. With such amazing balance, the Nissan feels like an overgrown go-kart, and precise steering and tyres with barely an inch of rubber surrounding oversized, black rims really enhance this impression. You can feel - and hear - every pebble and grain of sand on the road surface, something which would be tragic were it a Tiida, but perfectly suiting of the GT-R.
It absolutely sticks to the road, corners and all, capable of ridiculous speeds around the apex of butterfly junctions. The all-wheel-drive adds further to the GT-R's surefootness and perfect balance, allowing you to believe that everything is possible in this car. What is perhaps most impressive, though, is the price: while it is not cheap at Dh350,000, it still costs a fraction of the price of other cars with similar specifications. Put simply, it offers poise and performance with exceptional value for money.