Skidding around a Nissan GT-R on ice is ridiculous fun
The Nissan GT-R is an incredibly complex driving device. But nothing scrambles the brain quite like its 4WD system. Even its name is hard enough to get your head around; Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-terrain with Electronic Torque Split. Or, ATTESA ET-S for, erm, short…
Normally I’d recommend a track in order to pull back the curtain on such a car’s cleverness – somewhere you can push the limits, make mistakes. Not for the GT-R, though. The bar is too high. You need to put everything in slow-mo so your brain and bum can keep up with what’s going on. What you need is a Swedish ice lake.
Luckily, we had just that for TG’s Winter Games issue. The GT-R became an instant hit as it could magically turn even the hammiest-fisted drivers into drift heroes. This voodoo is down to how the 562bhp from the V6 is distributed. And its balance.
See, the engine is up front. While the twin-clutch gearbox and limited-slip diff are behind the rear seats. Plus there’s a supercomputer for both the engine and gearbox. These analyse slip, yaw, what you had for breakfast (among other things) 10 times per second to work out how much power to shove around the car, and when.
Normally the car is mightily rear biased, something R mode enhances by sending torque rearward. But it’s the speed and efficiency with which up to 50 per cent of the power is sent back to the front – as well as being shuffled from side to side – that makes the GT-R a cut above everything else.
Manufacturers have dissected the system and tried to replicate it, but no one has succeeded. The Honda NSX with its clever hybrid system and torque-vectoring is the closest thing on ice, but not much fun on the road.
With 4WD the new favoured flavour of performance – just check out the RWD stalwarts like the E63 and M5 switching sides – fun is something engineers need to think of. Ultimately, 4WD provides safety as well as performance. Too often makers go for sure-footed security rather than using the benefits of all four corners for enjoyment. Take Jack’s quattro-equipped RS4, for example; it’s incredibly capable but infuriatingly emotionless. Not the GT-R. It’s still one of the best AWD cars on the planet. Ice lake or not.