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2017 Audi TT RS

2017 Audi TT RS review: flat-out in the junior R8

2017 Audi TT RSLet’s start with a stat: the new Audi TT RS hits 62mph from standstill in 3.7 seconds. That’s quicker than a Ferrari F40, Porsche 959 or Jaguar XJ220. Indeed, the RS can show a clean pair of Michelins to most supercars built before the millennium. It’s also just 0.2 seconds slower than Audi’s flagship R8.

A bona fide baby R8?2017 Audi TT RS

The formula for such savage speed is simple: more power, less weight and, of course, Quattro four-wheel drive. But faster doesn’t always equal more fun, especially when it comes to hot Audis. Is the TT RS a bona fide baby R8, or just a seriously hot hatch? We drove it on-track, then on challenging mountain roads, to find out.

Pricier than Porsche2017 Audi TT RS

You can order a TT RS from late September, with first deliveries due in November. List price for the Coupe is £51,800, while the Roadster is £53,350. That’s pricier than an equivalent Porsche Cayman S or Boxster S, but still less than half as much as big-brother R8. However, this being an Audi, you’ll probably want to set aside at least £5k for extra-cost options.

Power to the people2017 Audi TT RS

In terms of performance-per-pound, though, the TT looks solid value. Its 2.5-litre, five-cylinder engine pumps out 400hp and 354lb ft of torque: more than even the hottest hatchbacks the 350hp Ford Focus RS, 381hp Mercedes-AMG A45 and Audi’s own 367hp RS3 included. It also outguns the aforementioned Boxster/Cayman (350hp) and the outgoing TT RS (360hp).

Rollercoaster racetrack2017 Audi TT RS

We start our test-drive at Jarama, a fabulous rollercoaster of a racetrack just outside Madrid. Used for Formula One until 1981, it offers a stomach-churning blend of blind apexes, off-camber corners and (gulp) short run-offs. It’s the perfect place to put the TT RS through its paces.

Ready for launch2017 Audi TT RS

First, though, we line up to try the Launch Control the easiest way to achieve that headline 3.7sec sprint to 62mph. And it really couldn’t be easier: floor the right pedal, left foot off the brake and wham! the RS rockets down the main straight. It clouts you in the back and strains your neck muscles; the sheer ferocity of its acceleration is startling. God only knows what these full-bore starts do to the clutch.

Straight-line speed2017 Audi TT RS

Still, there’s more to life than straight-line speed. And if the TT RS is truly the pint-size R8 we’re hoping for, it needs to be just as fleet-footed in the corners. Good thing we’re on a racetrack, then.

Keeping it wheel2017 Audi TT RS

One immediate similarity with the R8 is the new steering wheel. Compact, flat-bottomed and Alcantara-wrapped, it adds an authentic motorsport feel particularly with the new ‘satellite’ buttons for engine start/stop and switching drive modes. Shame you can’t have a manual gearbox as well; the RS comes with a seven-speed S tronic semi-automatic only.

Get a grip2017 Audi TT RS

Heading into turn one a hairpin right-hander the Audi’s steering feels light and responsive. There’s barely any body-roll as the front tyres bite and Quattro four-wheel traction catapults us towards the next corner. Scything effortlessly through a tightening corkscrew, then a flat-out, uphill left-hander, the RS feels utterly planted. It simply grips and goes.

Shift into neutral2017 Audi TT RS

As our confidence grows, we push harder, but the TT RS stubbornly refuses to be provoked. Even as grip turns to slip, it remains remarkably neutral. The juddering understeer of Audis past is just that: a thing of the past.

Scorched tyres, baked brakes2017 Audi TT RS

We return to the pitlane with the smell of scorched rubber seeping through the air vents and smoke pouring off the (optional) ceramic front brake discs. Clearly, the TT RS is an easy car to drive very fast. But it’s almost too capable on-track, lacking the poise and throttle-adjustability of a good rear-driver. Perhaps it will be more rewarding on the road.

Going topless2017 Audi TT RS

We swap into a Roadster for a drive into the Iberian countryside. The drop-top is 0.2sec slower to 62mph than the Coupe, but the chance to soak up some Spanish sun seems ample compensation. Besides, the TT RS looks even better with no roof. Hawkish headlights and a gaping grille with ‘Quattro’ lettering provide plenty of rear-view-mirror presence, while twin tailpipes and a fixed rear wing beef up the back end.

Cabin fever2017 Audi TT RS

The TT’s exterior is simply an amuse bouche before the main course of its cabin, however. Stylish, ergonomically excellent and beautifully built, it’s one of the finest interiors of any car on sale. The centrepiece is Audi’s digital ‘Virtual Cockpit’, which takes the place of traditional dials behind the steering wheel. Standard-fit on the TT, the RS has an additional screen with a central rev counter and readouts for torque, tyre pressures, G-forces and other such geekery.

Cramped in the back2017 Audi TT RS

You also get Audi’s excellent MMI Navigation system, subtle LED interior lighting and gorgeous quilted leather sports seats. Not that these offer much comfort if you’re seated in the rear. If you thought a Porsche 911 felt cramped, this is the next level of back-bending, neck-cricking claustrophobia. Our advice: consider the back seats a useful extension of the boot.

Playing the long game2017 Audi TT RS

Talking practicality, we should also mention fuel economy: a claimed 34.4 mpg for the Coupe, with CO2 emissions of 187g/km (Roadster: 34.0mpg and 189g/km). Hardly ground-breaking figures, but at least strong residual values – 43% of list price retained after three years/60,000 miles, according to CAP – keep overall running costs down.

Filth and the fury2017 Audi TT RS

We press the red start button and the TT’s five-cylinder engine – an Audi RS trademark dating back to the original 1994 RS2 – erupts into life. Its pulsating growl, which swells into a hard-edged snarl as the revs rise, is amplified by the lack of a roof. With the exhaust in sport mode, it sounds downright filthy.

Jolts and jitters2017 Audi TT RS

Leaving Jarama, the TS RS jolts over speed humps and jitters across broken Tarmac. The optional 20-inch wheels on our test car doubtless don’t help (19s are standard), but there’s no escaping that firm, borderline-uncomfortable ride.

Explosive performance2017 Audi TT RS

The pay-off comes as we head into the hills, switching Drive Select to Dynamic and changing gear manually using the paddles behind the wheel. On sinuous switchbacks that snake through rock-strewn valleys, the uber-TT feels in its element. Magnetic Ride adaptive dampers (another option, naturally) hunker it down deliciously, before another huge slug of turbocharged torque blasts us between the bends. It’s deft and controlled, yet utterly explosive.

Redeemed on the road2017 Audi TT RS

Phew. With exhausts ticking furiously in the heat, we park the TT RS back at Jarama and reluctantly return the keys. After a slightly underwhelming session on-track, the Audi has redeemed itself on the road. Where some RS-badged Audis – latest RS3 included – feel aloof, the TT RS comes alive. It’s a car you’ll genuinely enjoy driving, over and over again.

Porsche is our pick2017 Audi TT RS

However, there is a hulking Porsche-shaped elephant in the room, and its name is 718 Boxster/Cayman. We spent a week with a Cayman S shortly before the TT launch and there’s no question which German sports car we’d spend our (sadly, theoretical) £50k on. Despite reservations about its new, four-cylinder engine, the Porsche is a simpler, purer sports car – and all the better for that.

A kind of magic2017 Audi TT RS

Not convinced? We can agree to disagree. After all, the Audi is quicker, more powerful, better looking, nicer to sit in and will be more exclusive. It even has rear seats… sort of. But in those rare moments when the traffic clears, your focus sharpens and the road becomes a ribbon to be reeled-in, the Audi is merely memorable. The Porsche? It’s magic.

BMW M4 Competition Pack

BMW M4 Competition Pack: Two-Minute Road Test

BMW M4 Competition PackHarder, better, faster and, er, more expensive, the Competition Pack cranks the BMW M4 up to 11. For an extra £3,000, the M4 coupe – and its M3 saloon sibling – gain 19 hp, adaptive suspension, sports seats, stylish 20-inch alloy wheels and a fruitier exhaust. Are the upgrades worth it, or is BMW simply gilding the lily?

Prices and dealsBMW dealer

At the time of writing, the M4 Competition Pack costs £60,065, or £62,560 with the DCT semi-automatic gearbox as tested. That’s about £500 more than an equivalent M3, or £3,000 less than the M4 convertible. However, we found discounts of nearly £10,000 on M4 DCTs via ‘reverse auction’ website, AutoeBid – so expect similar savings on Competition Pack cars.

What are its rivals?Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe

Until the new Audi RS5 arrives, the M4 has one major rival: the Mercedes-AMG C63 coupe. With 476 hp from its 4.0-litre V8 (or 510 hp in full-fat ‘S’ spec), the muscle-Merc trumps the M4 for outright power – and has a better soundtrack. However, the BMW is a more satisfying steer on a twisty road. You could also consider the Lexus RC F and Porsche 911 Carrera.

What engine does it use?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The BMW can’t match the C63 for cubic inches, but its 3.0-litre twin-turbo straight six develops a stonking 150 hp per litre. For those who struggle with maths, that’s a grand total of 450 hp – up 19hp on the standard M4. Maximum power arrives at a heady 7,000 rpm, meaning you need to rev this engine hard to get the best from it. Note the carbon fibre strut brace to stiffen the chassis.

How fast?BMW M4 Competition Pack

You want figures? How about 0-62 mph in 4.0 seconds for the DCT version? Choose a manual gearbox and you’ll lag 0.1 seconds behind at the lights. Which serves you right for trying to save money, frankly. Either way, the M4 Competition Pack is 0.1 seconds quicker off the line than the standard car. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

Is it comfortable?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Those 20-inch machine-polished alloy wheels look fantastic, but they don’t do ride quality any favours (the regular M4 has 19s). Even in Comfort mode, you feel every ripple in the road surface. That said, the M4 doesn’t thump and bang through potholes like some sports cars. And its race-style seats are supportive and well-padded. Full marks for the M-striped seatbelts, too.

Will I enjoy driving it?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Oh yes. The M4 has faced criticism for being too soft, but the Competition Pack sharpens up its edges. It’s ferociously fast, and the chassis is a textbook example of rear-wheel-drive adjustability. Well-weighted steering and a flawless semi-automatic gearbox complete the package. Compared to the C63 AMG, you work a bit harder to experience the BMW’s ample rewards. But that’s hardly a chore, right?

Fuel economy and running costsBMW M4 Competition Pack

The most efficient non-hybrid BMW 3 Series – the 320d EfficientDynamics auto – returns fuel economy of 74.3mpg. The M4 manages less than half that, with official figures of 32.1mpg for the manual and 34.0mpg for the DCT. CO2 emissions of 194g/km mean you’ll pay £500 car tax in the first year and £270 per year thereafter.

What’s the interior like?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The interior of the 4 Series dates back to 2012. Compared with the latest Audi A4/A5 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the plastics seem a little cheap and the design a little dated. We can’t fault the ergonomics, though. Traditional BMW white-on-black dials and a centre console angled towards the driver were supplemented by an £825 head-up display in our test car. There’s also the excellent iDrive media system, which we’ll come to in a minute…

Is it practical?BMW M4 Competition Pack

For anyone who’s ever squeezed into the back of a Porsche 911, the M4’s two proper, adult-sized rear seats will be a revelation. It’s a little dark back there, and access is awkward behind the bulky sports seats. But if you regularly carry passengers, you could always buy the M3 saloon instead. The M4 also has a decent 445-litre boot – about the same as a Nissan Qashqai.

Tell me about the techBMW M4 Competition Pack

We rate BMW’s iDrive media system as the joint-best available, along with Audi’s MMI. Its widescreen display is mounted high on the dashboard, and the ‘clickwheel’ controller is easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. It’s far superior to Mercedes’ Comand, and we prefer it to the various touchscreen systems available, too. Standard kit includes Bluetooth phone connectivity, DAB radio and in-car wi-fi. We’d also be tempted to splash out £675 on the premium Harmon Kardon hi-fi.

What about safety?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The closely-related BMW 3 Series scored a full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, and there’s no reason to think the M4 would be any different. All cars come with side and curtain airbags and advanced stability/traction control. Even so, with 450 horses on tap, the biggest threat to your safety (and driving licence) will be your right foot…

Which version should I go for?BMW M4 Competition Pack

The obvious question here is: should you go for the Competition Pack? We certainly would, and BMW expects 70% of buyers to follow suit. With improvements to performance, handling, noise and appearance, the Competition Pack simply makes for a better M4. And its £3,000 additional cost looks modest in the context of a £60,000 car. The only downside is the firmer ride, but we think that’s a fair trade-off for improved agility.

What’s the used alternative?BMW M3

If you don’t have £60,000 to spend on a new M4, the E46 M3 offers just as much fun – perhaps more – for a fraction of the cost. Built from 2000-2006, it’s powered by a 343 hp naturally-aspirated six redlined at 8,000 rpm. Responsive and rear-wheel drive, the E46 remains one of our favourite BMW M cars. Prices start at just £7,000, although we’d budget at least five figures for a good one.

Should I buy one?BMW M4 Competition Pack

Cards on the table, we prefer the titanic torque and aural drama of the Mercedes-AMG C63 to the subtler charms of the M4 Competition Pack. The BMW would best for a track day, but the more exciting Mercedes has the edge on the road. There’s also a BMW M2-shaped elephant in the room. Smaller, cheaper and more fun, the new M2 is our current favourite M car.

Pub factBMW M4 GTS

Even the Competition Pack enhancements don’t make this the hottest M4. That honour goes to the M4 GTS: a lightweight, 500 hp rival for the Porsche 911 GT3. With two seats, a front splitter that doesn’t do speed humps and a price tag of, ahem, £122,000, the GTS gives two fingers to everyday usability in favour of track-focused performance. One for the lottery-win garage, perhaps?

Bristol Bullet

New Bristol Bullet supercar revealed

Bristol Bullet

Bristol is back! The Bullet is the first car from the British marque for 10 years. And this V8-engined roadster marks 70 years since the birth of Bristol Cars in 1947. Only 70 will be made, at a price of ‘less than £250,000’.

Return of the tailfinBristol Bullet

Designed in Britain, with help from an unnamed ‘Italian styling house’, the Bullet bears more than a passing resemblance to the iconic AC Cobra. Bristol’s traditional tailfins make an appearance at the rear, along with speedster-style humps behind the seats.

Muscle from MunichBristol Bullet

The Bullet’s heart is a 375 hp 4.8-litre BMW V8. In a car weighing just 1,250 kg, it provides 0-62mph in 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. As our brief ride in the Bullet proved, it also sounds like a TVR that’s had elocution lessons. Fantastic.

Carbon fibre compositesBristol Bullet

Bristols were traditionally made from aluminium, but the Bullet is carbon fibre composite. This provides high strength and low weight – and the panel gaps and paint finish on this ‘near production’ prototype look excellent. No visible carbon fibre weave here…

Hand-crafted cabinBristol Bullet

The interior of the Bullet mixes traditional materials with up-to-date technology. Bristol describes it as ‘perfectly suited to the modern age’. Apart from, er… the complete absence of a roof. We’ll come to that shortly.

Luxurious leatherBristol Bullet

The seats are trimmed in soft British-sourced leather and are said to be ‘contoured for support and comfort over long distances’. The car’s suspension has also been tuned for road-biased comfort, rather than ultimate track-day agility.

Space for a caseBristol Bullet

In keeping with its ‘grand touring’ premise, the Bullet has a leather-lined boot big enough for a couple of small suitcases. Note the beautifully-scripted Bristol badge.

LED lightsBristol Bullet

No premium car is complete without an LED light signature, and the Bristol doesn’t disappoint. But why not a single spotlamp in the middle of the grille – in trad Bristol style?

Slippery when wetBristol Bullet

As noted previously, the Bullet is somewhat lacking in rain protection. There isn’t even a tonneau cover for when the car is parked. This half-height windscreen is optional, too. Owners can have no ’screen at all if they prefer.

Connected classicBristol Bullet

An eight-inch touchscreen controls ‘infotainment’ functions, with smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth or wi-fi. It can mirror your phone screen for instant familiarity, and even has a button to contact the Bristol showroom in Kensington, London.

Delicate detailsBristol Bullet

Some of the detailing on the Bullet is exquisite, such as these flush-fitting door handles that pop out from the bodywork when the button is pressed.

Birthday presentBristol Bullet

Bristol started life building buses in 1908, then moved on to aircraft engines and finally – in 1947 – cars. The first Bullets should reach customers in January 2017, marking 70 years since the original Bristol 400 left the factory.

On sale nowBristol Bullet

However, you can place your order now. We were quoted a price of ‘less than £250,000’, although the final figure depends on personalisation options – such as custom paintwork or interior trim. If you can afford it, the factory in Chichester will tailor the Bullet to your individual taste.

Bullet timeBristol Bullet

We attended the UK unveiling of the Bristol Bullet at Coworth Park, near Ascot. The car was displayed alongside several of the high-points from Bristol’s history – including one of the first 400s.

Production-ready prototypeBristol Bullet

This isn’t quite the finished article, but it’s not far off. Bristol is still fine-tuning some details to meet production regulations. Thankfully, despite ominous grey clouds overhead, the rain steered clear of Bristol’s priceless prototype.

Won’t get fuelled againBristol Bullet

That prominent fuel filler is one of the details that will be changed. In production cars, it will sit flush with the bodywork. Thankfully, the voluptuous curves and twin exhausts are staying.

Traditional meets modernBristol Bullet

Here’s another glimpse of the Bristol’s rather inviting interior. Note the exposed carbon fibre on the dashboard. ‘Classic wood’ is also an option.

Pap starBristol Bullet

The Bullet was swarmed all over by the UK press, before being shipped off to London’s famous Dorchester hotel for a formal premiere. Today, the car really is the star.

Ready to rumbleBristol Bullet

We had a very brief passenger ride in the Bullet around the Coworth Park estate. The engine’s ample torque was obvious – along with its great soundtrack. The ride felt well-damped over various speed humps.

Bristol 400Bristol 400

Here’s the car that started it all: the Bristol 400. It’s essentially a licence-built BMW 328, hence the oddly familiar kidney grille.

Bristol 400Bristol 400

The link between Bristol and BMW persists to this day, as evidenced by the Bavarian V8 in the new Bullet. The 400 was no slouch, though – it’s engine actually came from the racing version of the 328.

Bristol 400Bristol 400

The dials in the the 400 are scattered – seemingly at random – across the dashboard. Later Bristols would take their cues from the company’s aircraft heritage, with a more structured and ergonomic ‘cockpit’.

Bristol 404Bristol 404

Built between 1953 and 1955, the 404 was known as the ‘Gentleman’s Express’. This stylish two-door coupe was impressively aerodynamic for its day – again, influenced by aircraft design.

Bristol 404Bristol 404

The 404 was powered by a free-revving 2.0-litre Bristol engine. It’s a beguiling, and uniquely British, alternative to Italian grand tourers of the day. Spot the tailfins, also seen on the new Bullet.

Bristol 404Bristol 404

The 404’s dashboard is much closer to what you’d find in a modern car, with clear, white-on-black dials. And the classic wood-and-leather combo never goes out of fashion.

Bristol 405 Drophead CoupeBristol 405 Drophead Coupe

Wow. This soft-top 405 really is something special. One of just 43 built, its sleek bodywork was designed by Abbotts of Farnham and looks resplendent in deep blue.

Bristol 405 Drophead CoupeBristol 405 Drophead Coupe

The 405 was first launched as a saloon, which remains the only four-door Bristol ever made. The Drophead boasted an extra 21 hp from its 2.0-litre, six-cylinder engine – bringing its grand total to 126 hp.

Bristol 405 Drophead CoupeBristol 405 Drophead Coupe

How inviting does that soft red leather look? The 405’s thin-rimmed steering wheel is still rather bus-like, but its short gear lever offers snappy shifting. Front disc brakes were an option.

Bristol BulletBristol Bullet

Lastly, here is the car that inspired the new Bullet. This one-off Speedster was discovered under covers in a dusty corner of the Bristol factory. Details of its past are sketchy, but the ‘Bullet’ nickname has stuck.

Bristol BulletBristol Bullet

Looking at the original Bullet, it’s easy to see where the new car got its looks. It’s simple, sleek and utterly gorgeous.

Bristol BulletBristol Bullet

The Bullet might look like a racing car, but its well-appointed interior suggests otherwise. Like the modern car, the half-height windscreen wraps around into the front half of the doors. Good luck getting a replacement from Autoglass for that one.

Best of BritishBristol Bullet

The 2017 Bullet is a confident return for a once-great British brand. We’re not totally sold on the styling, but quality seems very good – and the driving experience promises much. Motoring Research will be getting behind the wheel later this year, so stay tuned for more Bristol news soon.

Nissan GT-R

2017 Nissan GT-R track-test review: Godzilla bites back

Nissan GT-REau Rouge, Raidillon, Les Combes, La Source… The list of Spa-Francorchamps’ corners reads like a motorsport greatest hits. Nestled among the lush green hills of the Ardennes, Spa is widely regarded as one of the best circuits in the world. Legends have been born here, and lives have been lost here. Today, I’ll be driving it flat-out in the new Nissan GT-R.

If the car in these photos doesn’t look entirely ‘new’, that’s because it isn’t. The current (R35) GT-R was launched way back in 2007, but – like smartphone technology or the common cold – it has evolved constantly, with annual updates to keep it competitive.

This 2017 version, known as the ‘MY17’ by GT-R geeks, is the most comprehensive update in the car’s history. And frankly, with rivals like the Audi R8, Mercedes-AMG GT and Porsche 911 Turbo, it needs to be.

We can pore over spec details later, though. Right now, the electronic gates have swung open and, with sweaty palms and 570hp under my right foot, I’m about to unleash the GT-R on an empty racetrack…

Nissan GT-RA relaxing Spa break? Not exactly

Entering the circuit at La Source, I dive downhill and straight into Spa’s most famous corner: Eau Rouge. This tight left-right-left kink bottoms out and then climbs sharply, making the front end of the car go light as I surge forward into the Kemmel Straight.

Along here, the GT-R accelerates relentlessly, its twin-turbo V6 blasting us beyond 150mph before you can say “Les Combes”. Braking hard, you can really feel the car’s 1,752kg weight, but it tracks straight and feels stable. Thank mammoth cast-iron discs (there’s no carbon-ceramic option) and Brembo six-pot calipers.

Turning in, the car feels planted and precise, but I overcook this tricky series of three bends at the first attempt and it bumps uncomfortably over the rumble strips. The rear-biased four-wheel-drive catapults us away again without even a chirrup of wheelspin, but it’s clear the GT-R isn’t averse to understeer (running wide) if you push too hard in slower corners.

As I’ll discover, taking faster bends too quickly has the opposite effect…

Nissan GT-RHolding on for a hero

As Spa’s rollercoaster ribbon of asphalt plunges downwards, I enter the more open corners at Pouhon and Blanchimont. The GT-R is so fast, and throttle response so instant, that it’s easy to carry far too much speed here. And being a reckless amateur, that’s exactly what I do.

As your velocity increases, so the Nissan’s cornering attitude shifts from understeer to tail-twitching oversteer. Being a higher, heavier car than many of its rivals means this transition happens more slowly and predictably. Nonetheless, the slight wriggle from the rear end as we approach Blanchimont at over 100mph is enough to make me wish I’d packed my brave pants.

Of course, even a car with as much traction and grip as the GT-R can be provoked into going sideways if you so wish. But we didn’t come to Spa for showboating. As as racing driver will tell you, smoothness is the key to speed. Well, that and the small matter of 570hp.

Nissan GT-R‘The ultimate performance super-sports car’

Yes, ‘the ultimate performance super-sports car’ is the modest claim Nissan makes for the GT-R. But you know what, they might just have a point.

With 570 hp from its 3.8-litre V6 up 20hp on the MY16 car the GT-R will explode to 62mph in “about 2.7 seconds” (it hasn’t been officially timed yet, apparently) and keep going to 196mph. The standard car last set an official Nurburgring lap time in 2013, a 7min 18sec result making it one of the fastest production cars ever. Unless you enter the rarified world of six-figure supercars, there’s little to match it.

That said, the GT-R isn’t the bargain at once was. When first launched, it was barely more expensive than a BMW M3. But prices have crept up over the past decade, with the cheapest version now starting at £79,995. The ‘engineered by Nismo’ Track Edition will be £91,995, and the forthcoming full-fat GT-R Nismo is likely to be north of £100k.

For that kind of money, Nissan’s flagship needs to offer premium-feel as well as performance. That’s why the biggest changes are inside the car.

Nissan GT-RMore premium, less Playstation

When the R35 was born, Tony Blair was still prime minister and nobody knew what a ‘credit crunch’ was. At the time, its tech-heavy cabin including a media system designed by Polyphony, makers of the Gran Turismo games – was futuristic and impressive.

However all those buttons look dated in the iPad era, so Nissan has fitted a new eight-inch touchscreen that de-clutters the dashboard (a bit). There’s also a rotary controller on the centre console, so you can keep your eyes on the road – rather than on your G-force meter, gearbox oil temperature gauge or real-time braking pressure graph. Yes, this is still a car to delight data nerds.

Whether its upgraded cabin will delight the rest of us is debatable. Nissan has swathed the dashboard in hand-stitched leather and fitted plusher, more comfortable seats (electric Recaros are a £2,000 option). Yet there’s still an awful lot of hard plastic, plus a random scattering of switchgear that will be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Note or Qashqai.  

On the plus side, the GT-R remains quite practical. Its two rear seats are fine for kids – albeit hopelessly cramped for adults – and its deep boot is big enough for a week away.

Nissan GT-RIron fist in a boxing glove

The changes on the outside of the car are less obvious. Only dedicated GT-R spotters – and plenty of such folk exist – are likely to notice the V-shaped front grille and new front bumper with LED daytime running lights.

At the rear, the Ferrari-aping round taillights are still the car’s most distinctive feature, although a closer look reveals a new silver-finished diffuser, plus side air vents next to the titanium-tipped exhaust pipes. You wouldn’t call the GT-R beautiful, but it’s brawny and utterly purposeful.

As we leave Spa through the local town of Francorchamps, it’s time for the acid test. A group of school children is being marched along the pavement by a flustered-looking teacher. The boys at the head of the queue stop suddenly as they point and stare at our rumbling, growling GT-R. The teacher shouts and gesticulates. Our work here is done.

Nissan GT-RGran Turismo for the road

It’s ironic the GT-R found fame through the Gran Turismo racing game, because it’s brilliantly capable GT. And we mean that in the old-fashioned sense: a car that could whisk you to the south of France without breaking sweat.

If anything, the uber-Nissan is even more impressive on the road than on the track. Through the tight turns of Spa, it feels heavier and less agile than some similarly-powerful sports cars. Yet on the road, it’s crushingly competent, with acceleration, braking and cornering abilities so far beyond what you can safely – or legally – achieve that you never want for more.

Unlike many rivals, the GT-R is also very easy to drive. You don’t have to clamber in and out, the seating position is upright, ride comfort is better than you might expect and the control weights won’t scare somebody more used to a Micra. With the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox in auto mode, its a refined and relaxing way to travel. The sheer size of the car is the only potential stumbling-block.

Nissan GT-RGodzilla still has teeth

One comment you’ll occasionally hear about the GT-R is that it lacks character, or that it doesn’t have the soul of a sports car.

I don’t buy that, though. The car the Japanese call ‘Godzilla’ may not be as fast as a Ferrari, or as head-turning as a Lamborghini. Its interior may still look a bit downmarket and its V6 doesn’t sound special enough. But Nissan’s fast and furious flagship has a depth of ability that trancends virtually anything else on sale – especially if you’re just an ‘average’ driver like me.

It takes time to fully appreciate the GT-R’s talents (a track session at Spa helps, admittedly) but it will confound expectations and, ultimately, get under your skin. As I handed the – cheap, plasticky – key back at Dusseldorf airport, all I wanted to do was carry on driving. And what better testimonial is there for ‘the ultimate performance super-sports car’ than that?

Nissan GT-R2017 Nissan GT-R: Early verdict

For:

Gobsmackingly quick

Formidable traction and grip

Practical for a supercar

Cheaper than its rivals

Against:

Interior not worthy of an £80k car

Engine doesn’t sound special enough

2017 Nissan GT-R: Specification

Price: £79,995

Engine: 3.8-litre V6 twin turbo

Gearbox: six-speed semi-automatic

Power: 570hp

Torque: 470lb ft

0-62mph: 2.7 seconds (est.)

Top speed: 196mph

Fuel economy: 23.9mpg

CO2 emissions: 275g/km