On the road, power is easily metered by your right foot. Go easy on the throttle and the GT-R acts quite civilized, shifting smoothly and dawdling along with traffic. If you neglect to exercise this car, it almost seems like Godzilla has gone soft. Put the hammer down, though, and the 565 horses team with the AWD system to put the power down as efficiently as physically possible. Zero to 60 mph arrives in less than three seconds, and the 3.8 keeps pushing all the way up to a drag-limited 195 mph.
The GT-R’s track beast is just as easily unleashed. Flip the toggles for the transmission, shocks, and stability control into the R mode, point the car on a path, and it eats up tarmac with the hunger of a giant Japanese monster. The tires bear hug the pavement, the 6-speed dual-clutch transmission provides right-now shifts, the front end turns in with verve, and the car stays flat through corners.
Meanwhile, back at Spa
And that takes us back to turn 7 at Spa: Les Combes. If you are going to get rain on a track day, there are few, if any, cars better than the GT-R, thanks to its smart all-wheel-drive system.
Even in the rain, the GT-R's big, honkin’ Brembos (15.35-inch two-piece rotors with 6-piston calipers up front and 15-inch two-piece plates with 4-piston calipers out back) scrub away the speed confidently, and the car’s aerodynamics and inherent balance (53 percent front/47 percent rear weight distribution) keep it straight and steady both at speed and during hard braking. That's important stuff when you are scrubbing off momentum from 143 mph in the wet on an unfamiliar track.
The balance is evident in Spa’s Les Combes turns, and later in the Luxelles carousel and the Pouhon double-apex left-hander. This car reacts according to the way you drive it. Push it too hard into the carousel, especially in the wet, and the front end of this 3,862-pound monster wants to wash out. Slow it down enough, though, and the front end tucks in and the car rotates nicely, without the aid of a torque vectoring system.
The AWD system tries to stay out of the way, too, only helping when needed. Power is sent almost exclusively to the rear wheels in turns, with torque only going to the fronts when the car steps sideways or when you kick the hammer down to take advantage of the full wind turbine effect of those turbos. Few cars on Earth can accelerate in the wet like the GT-R, and the others that can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars more.
After a couple hundred miles through the German and Belgian countryside, and 10 laps around Spa, I’ve learned that today’s Godzilla is somewhat domesticated. The GT-R is now a car that balances true track capability with a livable, if not quite relaxed, street demeanor. The interior is now far from cheap, befitting the car's $111,585 price tag. Performance truly is phenomenal, and those bits of digital feel are just fine for this analog kid.
I waited years to get behind the wheel of the GT-R, but if the reward was this latest model on the track at Spa, it was worth the wait.
These driving impressions are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle, the racetrack, and executives. Nissan covered our overnight accommodations, meals, and transportation costs.