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Nissan GT-R – long-term review

How to make a Nissan GT-R faster

Specification:
Nissan GT-R
Engine:
3799cc V6 twin-turbo, AWD, 562bhp, 469lb ft
Claimed MPG:
23.9mpg, 275g/km CO2
Performance:
0–62mph in 2.8secs, 196mph
Weight:
1752kg
Price:
£83,875 OTR/£85,650 as tested

The GT-R is a fast car. But for some, well, actually a lot of owners, 562bhp, 469lb ft and a 2.8sec 0–62mph time is not enough. They want more. Whether it be more power, more compliance, more speed or more flames out of the exhaust.

So I went to Litchfield. The infamous tuning outfit which has spent the last 10 years exploring how far you can push the R35’s performance. Offering everything from a simple service to complete billet engines, five or six GT-Rs come here for tuning or servicing every day.

Initially, Nissan claimed that the R35 was “untunable”. That claim didn’t last long. It was just that the tuning community had to change its tactics. Unlike the old, legendary RB26DETT that could be manipulated into 1,000bhp guise with a set of spanners, the new 3.8-litre VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 was shrouded in a straitjacket of computer coding. But it didn’t take the code crackers long to unlock its brain and start to mess with its mind.

“They are super-easy to tune,” boss Iain Litchfield says. “To hack into it was nothing – it was like Nissan left it all open with no security whatsoever. The performance was hiding in plain sight.”

At the back of the shop is a very visual demonstration of how far the R35’s envelope can be pushed. It’s a street-legal carbon-bodied Godzilla shooting for a sub-seven-minute Nordschleife lap time. It’s the most extreme GT-R makeover I’ve ever seen. An overhaul that may, in fact, make it the fastest street-legal circuit-going GT-R on the planet, if not one of the fastest cars on the planet, period. It’s got 1,100bhp, 800lb ft, an Öhlins overhaul and every body panel (apart from the rear bumper) has been binned and replaced with carbon copies (including wheels and brakes) while panelling and aero from Nismo’s GT3 car was robbed and thrown into the mix for good measure.

But you don’t have to go that far. Case in point, the LM20: a £96,995 GT-R that’s had all of Litchfield’s nous thrown at it including a satanic 666bhp upgrade, new Akrapovič exhaust, Bilstein suspension, better brakes, Michelin rubber and carbon kit. Not cheap, but given Nissan charges £83,875 for the latest version of the GT-R (which has over 100hp less) it makes sense. Especially when you drive it.

A standard GT-R has organ-warping performance but also a benignity that can leave it feeling a little flat. The LM20 isn’t. It’s more eager and competent in every area; its power is more addictive and exciting, damping and suspension exceptional, brakes more bitey and dependable, it grips better, sounds angrier and looks cooler. It’s a work of art. Especially when wearing bronze Volk Racing TE37s.

 While I was out in the LM20, the kind chaps put my GT-R on a ramp. It’s been pulling left at a cruise and violently while braking. A quick alignment check found that it was completely out of whack. But that’s now all been ironed out. Now I just need to have more power. Better suspension. And bigger brakes. It’s easy to see why people get hooked.

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