Nissan GT-R NISMO (2020 - 2022) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

RAC Breakdown cover from just £7 a month*. Plus FREE Battery Replace!^  

*New, single vehicle-based cover. £7 a month for Basic cover. ^For 1 nominated vehicle when added to Extra or Complete cover. New customers only. Ends 26/02/24, 7am.

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

As production of this 'R35' series version of the Nissan GT-R high performance sports car drew to a close in 2020, sales focused on the glorious highly tuned Nismo version. Here, you got a real feeling for just how far Nissan had evolved this design since it was first launched way back in 2007. It remained in this form a supercar for the PlayStation generation, but it was still astonishingly accessible and frighteningly quick.

Models

2dr Coupe [Nismo]

History

Produced from 2007, the 'R35' generation Nissan GT-R turned out to be one of the industry's longest-running super sports cars and even near its end in 2020, it was still one of the rawest, most authentic and most exciting cars in its segment. It was fast. Very vast - as all previous GT-R models had been. Motorsport engineering was embedded into the very genes of this car.

Tucked away amongst the cane fields of Hokkaido, Japan's north island, is test track that is itself a tiny piece of Germany. Signs point to Cologne and there are perfect replicas of autobahn rest stops. The road surface is Germanic and if you wait a while, you might hear the ballistic roar of a turbocharged Porsche 911 flying past at three miles a minute. Creating a supercar to beat Audi, Mercedes and, yes, Porsche requires nothing less than this kind of attention to detail. And the result, launched back in 2007, was the very first version of this 'R35'-series GT-R.

Prior to this model's launch, the Japanese brand had brought us Ferrari-baiting supercars with 'GT-R' badges but they'd all been called Skylines, the original 'R32' model of 1989, then the ones we saw in Britain, the 'R33', launched here in 1997, and the 'R34' which followed it in 1999. With these cars, Nissan was learning: with this 'R35' design, which didn't make it to the UK until 2009, the gloves were off: no more Skyline references to cheaper mass-market models. This model instead was just badged 'GT-R', purpose-built for 200mph Porsche performance - at a fraction of the price.

In the following years, the GT-R package was gradually evolved, with subtle updates nearly every year, but the same basic recipe remained, based around brutal styling and a rumbling 3.8-litre V6 beneath the bonnet. By 2020, this car was no longer selling at a fraction of Porsche prices - well not in this Nismo form anyway - but in performance-per-pound terms, what you got here was still pretty impressive. The Nismo model, flagship of the GT-R range, was first launched in 2015 and by 2020, as production wound down to its inevitable end, remaining sales were based around it. Lots of brands claim to offer 'a race car for the road'; but this Nissan really is; let's check it out as a used buy. Here, we focus on it for examples made between 2020 and the 2022 model year.

What You Get

There's nothing subtle about this shape, clearly not Italian, German or American, in every way the definitive Japanese supercar for the X-Box generation. It's an interesting approach, given that Nissan started here with a clean sheet of paper; this was the very first GT-R not based on a mass-market vehicle. The muscular body structure with its perfect 50:50 weight distribution drapes a body structure variously made up of carbonfibre, aluminium and steel that's slipperier than you might think, the 0.27cd drag factor matching that of a sleek Toyota Prius. It might not be pretty but purposeful? Oh yes. Just watch the dawdlers scuttle out of your way.

We mentioned carbonfibre. For the money being asked here, you'd probably want that embellishing the bodywork, creating the kind of look that premium supercar rivals charge extra for - and, sure enough, that's what you get. Carbonfibre features for the roof, for the air scoops in the bonnet and for the deep front spoiler, which features red-themed air intakes either side of the lower grille. The upper grille is flanked by LED headlamps. There's more carbonfibre on the huge rear wing and on the elaborate deep diffuser, with its huge twin tail pipes each side. Distinctive 4-ring LED tail lights add a finishing touch.

The profile perspective's dominated by huge black diamond-turned 20-inch 'RAYS' forged wheels which feature yellow Brembo carbon-ceramic rotors and calipers and are clad with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600 ultra high performance run-flat tyres with rubber curated to a NISMO-specific compound. Red-trimmed carbonfibre lower side sills, slash-like GT-R slots on the front wings and black mirrors complete the effect.

Inside, as you'd expect, there's a very driver-oriented environment. And there's more carbonfibre - around the centre console and even in the instrument binnacle, where the big rev counter dominates the conventional dial layout next to a speedometer rather gloriously calibrated up to 220mph. You sit comfortably on red-trimmed race style bucket seats and there's red-stitched red leather for the gear stick and the door pulls, with further red stitching for the meaty three-spoke sports steering wheel.

You'll need to spend ages with the handbook while you figure out all the various buttons and switches but once familiarity dawns, it all works well enough. And the sports seats are brilliant, adjusting amply, like the steering wheel, for both reach and rake. Not so impressive is the old fashioned centre stack screen, which has dated graphics and can also be operated by a rather after-market-looking lower controller.

The rear offers seats that even Nissan admitted were best left to kids - with the front chairs set normally, there's virtually no leg space at all. And those adults banished to the rear will be virtually clamped into place by the rear screen above their heads. Still, there's more space back here than you'd find in a 911. And more trunk room too, the 315-litres on offer being nearly three times as much as that Porsche. It's a deep boot too, which makes up for the very high lip you have to lump your stuff over. There are even 6 tie-down points. And there's even carbonfibre-style trimming for the inner part of the boot lid. Unfortunately though, you can't extend the space available by folding the rear backrest.

What You Pay

Please fill in the form here for an exact up-to-date information.

What to Look For

Given the performance on offer here, the GT-R has proved surprisingly well built and dependable - and reasonably easy to repair. Be aware though, that many cars will have been used on circuits and though that's not necessarily a problem, you'll need to make sure that if the car has been regularly used on track days, it's been serviced regularly. Very few engine issues were recorded in our survey - even amongst those models tuned to deliver between 600-750hp. The main reported fault is what's known as a 'bell housing rattle' - something Nissan never really resolved. This was caused by a bearing at the end of the flywheel shaft moving around in its casting. You get this rattle with all GT-Rs but in some cases, it's more intrusive than others and can cause vibrations if the bearing has become badly worn. That issue was usually fixed under warranty. If the car is out of warranty, then companies like Lichfield Imports will fix it (for around £800) with another upgraded item.

We've had very few reports of clutch issues, the standard one being reliable and durable. This Nissan is, predictably, very hard on its brakes and tyres. You'll be able to tell if it's been used extensively on track as the brake discs will feature cracks around the drilled holes and the tyres will show signs of wear on their outer edges. You'll need to allow a little over £1,000 for new front discs and pads - and around £1,500 for a set of tyres. Insist on a full service history.

Replacement Parts

You really need to go to a specialist for parts prices for a GT-R. We based our figures around prices from Lichfield Imports (lichfieldimports.co.uk) and tyre prices from blackcircles.com. Allow around £354 for front tyres and around £429 for rear tyres - Bridgestone Potenza RE0 70 rubber. A clutch will set you back around £1,320; an exhaust (Milltech) will cost around £1,417; a set of 6 spark plugs costs £172. A front pair of brake discs costs around £700 and a front pair of brake pads around £270. Servicing will set you back around £200 for an interim service (every 6,000 miles or 6 months), with a main service (around every 12,000 miles or 12 months) in the £450-£800 bracket.

On the Road

This car really shouldn't work. It's too big, too heavy and far too complex, plus of course, there's the vexing issue of paying supercar money for something with a Nissan badge. But it does. Oh, it does. Press the big red start button and the 3.8-litre hand-assembled twin-turbo V6 springs into life, accompanied by a rather alarming clatter. It feels like a race track refugee. It is.

As you discover once underway. First the figures: 62mph from rest is barbequed in just 2.8s, 100mph flashes by in under 8s and if you have an airport runway on hand, you'll hit 196mph before the electronics prevent you reaching the magic 200mph mark. If you need a frame of reference, that's roughly the same as a Ferrari 812 Superfast - a car that from new cost nearly £100,000 more. That gives you some idea of the scale of Nissan's achievement in creating this car.

Under the bonnet, the thundering 24-valve V6 of the final Nismo models generated 600hp - quite a change from when we first tested the standard version of this car in 2009, which put out 'just' 478hp. In this later Nismo model, as in that earlier one, it drives all four wheels via a dual-clutch six-speed semi-automatic gearbox with leather-fringed steering wheel paddles for rifle-quick 0.2 second changes. The transmission can adapt itself depending on your mood via this dash-mounted toggle switch, with the best all-out driving options being 'Manual' (for when you're using the paddles and don't want it kicking down) or better still, 'R' or 'Race' (which lets the engine run to the limiter, while firming up the dampers and offering more leeway with the stability control). If you leave it be, the transmission sends 97% of its power to the rear wheels but within just a tenth of a second, all that can change, up to 30% of torque heading frontwards if you're cornering vigorously, so that there's exactly the right amount remaining to light up the rear wheels and slingshot you forward to the next bend.

You can understand why at its original launch, this car embarrassed Porsche by lapping their backyard, Germany's Nordschliefe Nurburgring racetrack, faster than a 911 Turbo costing nearly twice as much. Even when you're not on track, the whole experience is addictive in the extreme. And 'extreme' is a word you keep using with reference to this Nissan. No attempt has been made to refine or culture its sensibilities; if a British Touring Car Championship driver were to lend you his race car for a quick blast up your favourite B road, then this, you feel, is the kind of experience you'd get. A rigid body structure and race-tuned suspension give confidence-building stability through quick lateral transitions and high overall cornering speeds. Providing the grip are sticky 20-inch tyres, wrapped around smart "RAYS" machine-finished forged aluminum wheels.

Apart from this Nismo version's extra power, in its last form it featured some subtle tweaks. Like bespoke Dunlop front tyres; and turbochargers taken from the GT3 race car with fewer, thinner vanes. At this level in the GT-R range, you also got lighter weight - this Nismo version tipped the scales at 1,703kgs - plus revised damping and carbon-ceramic brakes. Otherwise, it's pretty much the standard GT-R recipe.

Sony were involved with this Nissan's original development but at least the steering isn't games console-like, quick-witted and communicative, which is useful on tight twisties when you're away from this Nissan's natural habitat of fast, flowing roads. The Brembo brakes are suitably awesome too, stopping this still rather heavy hot rod dead in just 40.9m from 70mph. In the final years of production, Nissan added a special brake booster which increased the initial braking response by engaging with less pedal stroke, resulting in enhanced stopping power and feel.

The ride isn't actually as stiff as you might be expecting - and you can tailor its tautness via a dash-mounted switch. There's another button to alter stability and traction settings too. You'd be well advised though, to decide upon your various drive selections before really starting to flex your right foot because once you do, your eyes are going to need to be glued on the road ahead if you're to stay out of the hedge and/or on the right side of your local magistrate; and that's in the dry.

And refinement? Well the thundering engine certainly makes its presence felt, but not to the point where you'd be shy to take this car on a cross-continental journey. But that would be a waste of its talents. It's a supercar accessible to almost anyone, yet rewarding enough for the most demanding enthusiast. It's still an astonishing achievement.

Overall

You buy a GT-R for what it can do, not for what it represents, and in this final Nismo form, this 600hp monster of a supercar does incredible things. Other exotic brand models from the 2020-2022 period promise this, but often require F1-style driving skill to realise the potential on offer. In contrast, this Nissan is accessible to almost all with an empty road, a racetrack and a petrol-fuelled personality.

There will be those who decry the GT-R as a one-trick pony, a vehicle that can shine on a lap of the Nurburgring but which possesses an otherwise narrow band of talent, even in this highly evolved Nismo guise. But those who doubt this Nissan are usually those who have never properly driven one. This GT-R is a car that, more than ever, appears to bend the laws of physics to its own will, defying conventional measures of power to weight and generating traction where none apparently exists. In short, this remains an exhilarating redefinition of what supercar motoring should be, still priced (almost) within reach of those who really, really want one. Drive one and you really, really will. Let the badge snobs sneer. Germany has its Porsche 911, the US has the Corvette but in the GT-R, Japan has its own performance legend.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get Breakdown Cover. Our patrols fix most breakdowns on the spot, with repairs done in just 30 minutes on average.

RAC Breakdown Cover
RAC Breakdown Cover