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Nissan GT-R 3.8 Black Edition

Click to view picture gallery“The first — and probably only
Nissan GT-R test drive.
  Just 1,250 of the long-awaited
  and sought-after Nissan GT-R
  models will be available to the
  UK in the first full year of sales,
  and all are already sold

TO PUT ITS PERFORMANCE IN PERSPECTIVE one only needs to look to the lap time achieved by the GT-R on the demanding Nürburgring Nordschleife on 23 April (2009) — a fraction under 7 min 27 seconds. That's one of the fastest times ever recorded by a production car around the demanding German circuit.

The brief headlines for this 195mph 2+2 supercar are: blistering, accessible performance underpinned by confidence-inspiring handling enabling it to be driven fast and skilfully by just about anybody; unrivalled performance and price combination (from £56,800); the hand-built (one craftsman hand-assembles the entire engine) 478bhp/433lb ft 3.8-litre twin-turboed V6 petrol engine; and the world-first paddle-shift sequential 6-speed dual-clutch rear transaxle layout (engine at the front: gearbox and axle at the) with an advanced all-wheel drive system.

The GT-R is no temperamental sports car — it offers everyday practicality and driveability suitable for the daily commute through to high-speed motorway cruising or for track-day use by enthusiasts. There is a very comprehensive standard specification and, should you wish to place an order for delivery next year, the GT-R is available from a network of 11 UK Nissan High Performance Centres. And because Nissan is changing its headline image from 'small, medium everyday cars and 4x4s' to a sporting pedigree with the arrival of the GT-R and the new rear-wheel drive 370Z coupe, the number of UK Performance Centres is set to increase to 20.

Nissan say the GT-R is a global car so the specification remains constant worldwide; only the steering wheel and controls differ for left- and right-hand drive markets. From September, UK versions gain a very advanced navigation system as standard.

In stark performance terms, 62mph from a standing start appears in a very quick 3.5 seconds, while its potential top speed is 195mph. But it is the GT-R's astonishing ground covering capabilities that mark out the new Nissan flagship, ably demonstrated by the Nürburgring lap time. On my drive at the Millbrook test track, driving the GT-R on the high-speed bowl or the steep and dauntingly twisting hill route, I never got close to finding the car's limits — it is just so capable. As a point-and-shoot 'missile' it just goes and as a well-balanced high-speed cornering machine the all-wheel drive system provides ample traction for most drivers. For a long-legged cruiser it makes a refined everyday car.

The Nissan GT-R has
a clear advantage
over most rival supercars
on a racing circuit or
at high-speed
on the public roads
Behind the statistics lies a technologically-advanced specification. The Nissan GT-R's unique driveline comprises a 478bhp twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 engine, a world-first rear transaxle with a sequential dual-clutch, paddle shift and very fast-changing transmission and full-time four-wheel drive. Underpinning them are sophisticated electronic controls designed to make best use of engine output in all conditions without diluting either driver enjoyment or involvement.

As one of the world's fastest production vehicles, the GT-R is also probably the world's easiest and most secure high-speed car to drive quickly. Key elements behind its immense flexibility and accessible performance are the tractable nature of the engine — even on moderate throttle openings it typically generates about 288lb ft of torque — and perfect weight distribution across all four wheels that allows for stable, predictable and readily-intuitive handling characteristics. Plus the constant reassurance of four-wheel drive.

So while the Nissan GT-R has a clear advantage over most rival supercars on a racing circuit or at high-speed on the public roads, its superiority in difficult conditions — ice, rain, slush, snow — will be far more noticeable.

And while many supercars can feel like caged animals in the city — ill-tempered and frustrated by traffic and poor road surfaces — adaptability is central to the everyday nature of the GT-R. Set-up switches in the centre panel allow gear-shift characteristics, damper settings and stability control settings to be adjusted to suit the driver's mood and driving conditions. This extraordinarily fast vehicle can be turned instantly into a supple, comfortable coupe, with the choice of fully automated gear changing for an even more relaxing experience.

The efficiency of the engine and the car's aerodynamic qualities means the GT-R is also one of the world's most effective supercars in balancing performance and fuel consumption, recording 22.8mpg on the combined cycle (15.4 urban; 31mpg extra-urban) and a CO2 emissions figure of 298g/km. The automatic gear-shift mode is also programmed to offer optimal fuel economy, so the car cruises in as high a gear as possible, helped by the flexibility of the engine.

Despite delivering race-car thrills, every GT-R comes laden with luxuries. Reflecting the GT-R's 'softer' side are power-adjustable front seats (eight-way on the driver's/four-way on the front passenger's) trimmed in leather with perforated suede inserts, dual-zone automatic climate control and cruise control. The standard radio/CD audio system comes with six speakers, RDS and MP3/WMA CD playback capability, and features an HDD Music Box system capable of storing 9.4 GB of your favourite sounds.

A unique multi-function LCD screen (developed with the designers of Sony PlayStation's Gran Turismo game) provides an instant indication of a range of vehicle dynamics such as lateral G-forces which, if you prefer, can be stored for later analysis.

There are also special wide-beam xenon headlamps, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, Intelligent Key, 20-inch RAYS forged alloy wheels finished in gunmetal and a Thatcham-approved anti-theft system.

Move up from the standard car to the GT-R Premium Edition and you get automatic headlights and wipers, auto-dimming mirror and a specially-designed digital Bose audio package (optional on the standard model) matched to the acoustic requirements of the cabin. The 11-speaker system features two tweeters, two squawkers and four woofers including two in the rear centre armrest directed forward. These, plus the door speakers, are mounted in rigid aluminium diecast panels which improve sound quality, especially with tight bass sounds. Completing the model line-up is the GT-R Black Edition with an exclusive Kuro black paint job, a striking black leather interior with red highlights and black RAYS alloys.

For the record, a £100,000 GT-R high-performance lightweight version even more biased towards motorsport and track-day use will also be joining the line-up.

Desirable? Oh yes! Reasons to buy one include the GT-R's supreme technology for power supply, delivery and traction, its overall handling balance and control and the good looks. Despite a £60,000 price tag the GT-R is, at this price and for what it offers and delivers, a bargain. What's not to like? Only the fact that Nissan is not yet considered a premium sports car brand. Who cares? Go ahead, punk, eat my dust! — David Miles

an GT-R 3.8 Black Edition | £59,400
Maximum speed: 195mph | 0-62mph: 3.5 seconds | MPG: 22.8mpg
Power: 478bhp | Torque: 433lb ft | CO2 298g/km | Insurance group 20