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King of Monsters
‘GT’ represents grand tourer, while ‘R’ signifies crazy performance.
Haven’t heard of it before? Allow me to enlighten you. It’s a quaint little town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, with around 90 percent of its population comprising farmers who are busy growing Areca nut a.k.a betel nut. Surprisingly, India is the largest producer of Arecanut in the world, accounting for nearly 50 percent of its world output. But as you know, we aren’t in Yellapur to sample the finest of betel nuts. We are here to put the GT-R through an India specific, real-world torture-test. Before I share more on our expedition to Yellapur, here’s a little backstory. At TopGear, we love partying when someone is paying, so we decided to celebrate TG’s 12th anniversary in the partying capital of India, Goa. No, not the kind of celebration you would normally associate Goa with, but the kind of carnival you would generally associate petrolheads with- the ones that involve leaving your sorrows and worries behind, and embarking on a journey of soul searching. Okay, a drive from Mumbai to Goa can’t be labelled that. So to spice things up, I have chosen to drive down in a Godzilla, something that would be as extraordinary to spot in the by-lanes of Goa as it would be to find a Goan beach without skimpily clad Russian on it. So, a road trip in an amazingly fast car with ground clearance only as high as a Koala bear’s IQ level- sounds interesting. To make it even more challenging for the GT-R and myself, I decided to take the more illustrious National Highway 17. A big blunder on my part, I must say. I did expect this scenic route to have taken some beating at the hands of heavy showers, but I wasn’t expecting it to be as smooth as a kid’s face who has just hit puberty. Surprisingly, the GT-R soaked up the pressure of dealing with cavities with great poise- just switch to comfort and let the intelligent dampers take care of the rest. And despite being a dual-carriageway, my pace is good - thanks to the boost that kicks in around 3800rpm, leaving others eating the GT-R’s dust.
The next morning, I took the risk, turned towards the Hubli-Karwar road, and I’m glad I did that as it turned out to be exactly that - a driving nirvana. It’s a beautiful stretch of highway that comes out of nowhere. Leaving from Panjim, as you head towards Ankola for about 130km, you will have to turn left towards Hubli, which then opens up to this hidden jewel. With dense tree cover on either sides, and small pockets of human settlements every 30 kilometers, this 140km stretch from Akola to Hubli via Yellapur was much beyond my expectations. It looked as if the road cuts through a wildlife sanctuary, which it surprisingly doesn’t. And the surface itself is as smooth as you can find in India. Time to unleash the GT-R and the monster in you. With everything switched to the sportiest mode, the Godzilla comes into its own around this beautiful setting. The gearbox that felt a bit floppy in Comfort, came alive with the reaction times falling drastically. The ‘box isn’t R8-quick, but the flappy paddles do take good care of your needs. And then there’s the masterstroke, the twin-turbo V6 that awakens to light up the experience. It doesn’t do that on its own though - it needs a good amount of assistance from its smarter - than - a - dolphin AWD system, a responsive steering wheel, and a capable chassis to make the most of the conditions.
Elevating the overall experience is the scarcity of other road users that lets you push the GT-R to its limits. And push you will as the grip from the softer Continental rubber combined with mechanical grip is leech-like, and the Godzilla aptly shrinks itself into a sports car much smaller in size and darts in and out of corners like a jackrabbit. There’s so much grip I would find myself oversteer around corners on more occasions than one. The GT-R doesn’t boast rear-axle steer like the newer Porsches, but even without that, it is tremendously nimble around a series of tight bends. And if you decide to give it a whack while exiting a corner, the Godzilla will momentarily wag its tail before the electronics get things under control. Ankola to Yellapur is a good 70-odd kilometer stretch, which is also the mid-point on this route. But if you wish to stay in luxury around this small little town, there aren’t many options, apart from one forest resort that’s 2km off the NH52. and that’s exactly what it is - a resort that’s 2km off the NH52. And that’s exactly what it is - a resort built in the middle of the forest with broken, mucky approach roads, and a group of monkeys keeping a close watch as you make your way through wild shrubs and areca nut trees. Wondering how the GT-R fared? Well, it managed to tread this difficult course with just a few minor bruises to the underbody, with every bit of carbon-fibre intact. After all, it was a Godzilla in the jungle - it couldn’t have gotten worse, but we wouldn’t encourage you to drive your sports car in there.
If you do not wish to get your boots dirty, you could continue driving towards Hubli on NH52, but be warned, the highway gets narrower and even tighter than before, with quite a few speed bumps as you approach smaller towns. You do have to crawl sideways over a few, blocking the traffic behind, and frankly speaking, that’s the only thing stopping the GT-R in it’s tracks. Oh wait, there were the annoying local paparazzi, too, either capturing the Godzilla on their phone cameras, while riding dangerously close to it, or even worse, stopping you around a corner to take a selfie. Yes, it has happened to me more than twice. And that makes me realise, although the R35 GT-R is celebrating its 10th birthday this month, it has gracefully aged over the years. It isn’t the most beautiful sports car I have ever driven, and I don’t expect it to be either, it’s called the Godzilla for crying out loud. All the design elements are purely functional and they still attract a lot of eyeballs. Think of it as the George Clooney of sports cars - gets more attractive with age perhaps, and that’s one of the reasons why it turns heads wherever it goes.
At the end of this three-day expedition that actually took me five days to complete, I’ll put my money on it when I say this, the R35 Nissan GT-R has been one of the most comfortable, practical and easy-to-drive sports car I have driven till date. Forget the low-slung carbon-fiber skirts, forget the 20-inch wheels, forget the long-ish wheelbase, nothing could slow me down on this epic 1800 km drive. Yes, it looks a bit plain Jane compared to its modern rivals, but I have loved and cherished all the attention I have got, only because of the GT-R. Some may say it feels Spartan on the inside, which it does, but I can challenge you, very few of its rival can do what the GT-R did on this trip. It ferried me to places I had never been to before, took care of our nation’s worst roads and brought me back home in extreme comfort. And although I was bleeding money feeding the Godzilla every 250 kilometers, it was all worth it. The R35 Nissan GT-R may be a 10-year-old car, but it’s so strong mechanically, it can give modern day sports car a good run for their money. And after literally spending a week with the Gojira, in its absolute stock avatar, I can now understand why it’s fondly called the King of Monsters.