2017 Nissan GT-R first drive review

I’ve just snaked through legendary Eau Rouge and Raidillon S-turns at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, careful not to drive over the rumble strips because, in the rain, their paint has a different traction coefficient than the asphalt and that could send the 565-horsepower 2017 Nissan GT-R off into the trees. At the urging of my instructor, I put my right foot to the floor a little earlier than I wanted to as I approached the Kemmel Straight. The speedometer keeps climbing: 200 kph, 210, 220. And now it’s time to brake hard for the right-left-right combination of Les Combes at 230 kph. That’s 143 mph to us Americans. I absolutely have to brake in a straight line here or, again, it’s off into the trees. Formula 1 drivers can enter this turn at more than 200 mph in the rain, but I’m no F1 driver and this is both terrifying and intoxicating.

Let’s back up a bit. How did I get here? What did I do to deserve such bounty? And who invented liquid soap and why?

To show off the performance and improved refinement of the 2017 GT-R, Nissan invited Motor Authority to Belgium by way of Germany to drive the car on the autobahn, through quaint European villages, and on one of the world’s most storied racetracks: Spa.

The GT-R, affectionately known as Godzilla, has been my white whale. It’s a car I’ve always wanted to drive and drive hard, but it’s eluded me. I’d heard the performance was phenomenal, but the car had a digital feel that took away some of the fun for the driver. I’d also heard that it was raw and harsh, and the interior was rather cheap.

2017 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R, Spa, Belgium 2016

2017 Nissan GT-R, Spa, Belgium 2016

Refining a supercar

Nissan is aiming to change that latter perception for the 2017 model year by taking Godzilla to charm school, with improved interior materials, a quieter cabin, and even some dynamic refinements.

The most obvious changes are the interior updates. Soft-touch Nappa leather now adorns most of the interior touch points. An 8-inch center screen replaces a 7-inch screen, Nissan adds a Display Commander dial on the center console to control the functions on that screen, and the button count is down from 27 to 11.

An acoustic glass windshield, a dashboard insulator, rear fender insulators, and improved sound deadener behind the instrument panel work with the carry-over Bose active noise cancellation system to limit interior noise, and owners can press a button to activate a valve in the exhaust system to reduce engine noise by 10 decibels upon startup. The seats are also revised for greater comfort.

The refinements don’t end with the interior. The adjustable Bilstein DampTronic shocks have been tweaked to be slightly softer, the 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox has been adjusted to deliver smoother shifts, and the steering has been revised to reduce the number of small corrections needed at speed.

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