MY2011 – first thoughts from Auto-journals.com
Thanks to David Yu and Auto-journals for this write up and to Dean Smith for the photo (www.deanphoto.co.uk). More photos from dean can be found in the GTROC Flickr feed.
There have been a few reviews of the new 2011 GT-R (known internally as the DBA-R35), but none have been written by a current GT-R owner. Until now.
So in this review I will describe the differences/improvements Nissan have crafted into this “enhanced” GT-R, coming from the viewpoint of someone who has owned a 2009 GT-R (CBA-R35) for the last two years.
Firstly, the obvious exterior changes:
On the Nissan UK press car, (the very same car I had an amazing passenger lap with senior test driver Toshio Suzuki at the Nürburgring back in October http://www.auto-journals.com/features/238 ), the most obvious new feature is the stunning metallic Daytona Blue paintwork. Now sadly looking a little worse for wear, having done duty as Ring lap record setting car (currently 7:24.22 in less than perfect conditions) and European press car, the colour still dazzles with a prominent, almost candy, metallic flake and an ability to notably change shade depending on the light..
There is also a new metallic black that I had a good look at in the Nürburgring showroom and it looked a lot more special than the often criticised gloss black it replaces.
Nissan claim to have improved the paint process for the new GT-R as well as tightening up on the fit and finish of panel gaps etc..
The front bumper/nose cone is all new with a much wider grill and bigger air intakes for the intercooler/radiator/oil coolers.
There are also LED daylight running lights as standard to comply with new EU lighting regs which are neatly integrated into a second set of canards that contribute to both a 10% increase in downforce and a reduction in drag coefficient from an already remarkable 0.27 to an even more slippery 0.26.
The improvement in airflow management is also claimed to improve engine, gearbox and brake cooling by creating low pressure areas in the required zones to evacuate hot air quicker.
Speaking of brakes, the 15 inch front discs have now been enlarged to 15.4 inches, but with no increase in weight and a much lower propensity to start cracking around the cross-drilled holes, following design input from Mizuno-san himself.
The wheels are a new 10 spoke design, still made by Rays in Japan, but now a fraction lighter and stiffer than the earlier models.
Tyres, despite looking very similar, are a completely reworked Dunlop run-flat with the designation SP Sport MAXX 600 DSST, featuring both a new compound and structure.
The rear of the car has also been redesigned with a prominent carbon fibre diffuser complete with integrated LED foglamp jutting out to balance out the increase in downforce.
There are also small vents behind the rear wheels that aid both rear brake and exhaust cooling.
Finally, the already outrageously oversized rear tailpipes have grown still further by another 10mm.
Having driven to Nissan GB HQ in my 2009 GT-R, settling behind the wheel was, of course, instantly familiar. However everywhere I looked and touched there were little improvements to surprise and delight.
With my own car being a Premium Edition, I liked the way the press car’s Black Edition red leather seat bolsters and door grab handles lifted the interior, as did the red flashes on the side of the gearshift lever.
The new Recaro seats exclusive to the Black Edition have significantly more lateral support than the Premium Edition, almost approaching those of a genuine race bucket. They do restrict the ability of the seat to fold forward though, making ingress to the rear seats a bit more awkward.
Nissan had obviously listened to criticism about the sheer acreage of matt black plastic on the centre AC/stereo console as it was now finished in an attractive genuine matte carbon fibre, along with the panel where the CDs/DVDs go.
Every surface that was matt chrome silver on my car, was now a classy matt smoked chrome, a lustrous gun metal.
Even the revised rotary knobs for adjusting volume and AC temperature have been replaced with nicer, more tactile versions.
The unique 7″ Multi Function Display has been further upgraded with a higher definition screen and an improved Sat Nav and the little display inset in the rev counter now has a soothing blue background rather than the dull orange of the earlier ones.
So, what was it like to drive?
A press of the familiar START button and the uprated VR38 V6 fires up much as before.
From outside, the exhaust revisions lend the GT-R a meatier roar, but from inside the car, it is not noticeably more vocal.
However within a few yards, it’s clear that the “totally unchanged” gearbox (as told to me face to face during the launch event) was smoother in operation and the steering was lighter too.
Warming the car up, the most dramatic immediate difference was the ride quality.
Having recently put my own car back on OEM Dunlop runflats, I was shocked by how hard the ride was, but the DBA’s new Dunlops combined with the revised damping on the Bilstein Damptronic shocks were a revelation.
Small road imperfections were neatly and quietly dealt with and the real proof of the improvement was that I did not feel inclined to perpetually use Comfort mode on the suspension settings, something all previous model GT-R owners do as a matter of course.
The change I was most interested to experience was in the handling. As already mentioned, the steering was a bit lighter than in the earlier car and not quite as razor sharp in the first couple of degrees either side of dead centre.
However once turned into a corner, there was noticeably more composure and the front tyres bite into the tarmac with far greater tenacity. Revised suspension arms, settings and the extra shell stiffening braces are presumably the heroes here.
Despite greater compliance over bumps and imperfections, roll is even better controlled than on the 2009 GT-R and the car feels more tightly damped. Iron-fisted body control but with a velvet glove ride.
The new Dunlops have huge grip pulling an easy 1.2g on the Multi Function Display around a big roundabout.
In steady state cornering like that, eventually it is the front tyres that start to slip, but in tighter corners, they are locked on course and it is the rear tyres that can be coaxed gently out to play with some throttle.
Given more room, for instance on a track, I have no doubt the DBA is a far tidier, faster and yet more playful handling car than the original CBA.
This GT-R now handles like the world’s best sorted RWD supercar, but with otherworldly traction and catchability should the tail break loose.
Once thoroughly warmed through, it was time to try out the engine improvements that now net a claimed 530hp compared to the previous claim of 485hp (you can see my Journal entry to see what a rolling road recorded a standard 2009 GT-R at here: http://www.auto-journals.com/journals/Nissan?model=R35&journal=111&entry… ).
Surprisingly I thought the part throttle response below 3k rpm was noticeably softer than on my own car, which positively snaps forward at the slightest tickle from any revs.
But once the 2011’s rev needle sweeps past 4.5k revs it rushes round with real vigour all the way to the 7,200rpm redline (raised slightly from the earlier models).
The extra punch is very noticeable and quite intoxicating. Very similar to how a 2009 GT-R feels with a Stage 2 Cobb remap.
This is now very senior supercar type performance. In fact in one well reported measure, 0-60mph, possibly only the £1 million Veyron has been proven to beat the 2011’s official 2.88 second time.
That figure is partly attributable to the new “R mode start” feature, something other manufacturers would refer to as Launch Control.
As the name implies, it only works with the VDC button in R mode and as the video below shows, it doesn’t limit traction at all, so matching the 2.88 second time would be dependent on the surface as much as anything.
Unfortunately our Performance Box failed to record the acceleration times we achieved, but on the cold tarmac we had available, I don’t think they would be in the record setting range.
So in conclusion then, what do I think of the new 2011 DBA-R35 GT-R?
I was surprised by how different it was to drive. More refined, yet sharper handling and devastatingly faster.
It is in every measurable and discernible sense superior to the earlier model. It is clear how much dedication the GT-R team have applied to refine and improve what was already the new benchmark supercar.
Is it worth the extra money over its predecessor?
Well ignoring some of the lazier journos who have declared the DBA “£10k more expensive” than the 2010 model, it is worth mentioning that a 2010 Black Edition listed at £61,245 and once you take into account the 2.5% increase in VAT since January, the 2011 model at £69,950 is effectively only £7,401 more.
For the improvements offered, it’s the bargain of the century.
The only sad personal footnote, is that the cost to change from my (fairly gently) depreciated 2009 is too much to currently justify, so I won’t be able to take delivery of the example I’ve had on order ever since it was announced.
But for you lucky people who are either trading up, or buying a GT-R for the first time, sleep well knowing you will own the most complete performance car this side of £200k, and possibly beyond…