"They are faster in every imaginable way than anything else with four wheels.", said a father to his 8 year old son who looked ever so curiously at his die-cast model Lamborghini.
He went on to tell him that all the money spent to purchase something like a Lamborghini Countach or a Ferrari Testarossa went to the research and development of building a car that dreams of flying, yet never leaves the ground. And that there's so much more to it than speed alone. There's the unmistakable noise, the sensuous curves, and the Italian supercar flair that added to the mystique. Doors opened for you at the Ritz Carlton and champagne seemed to fall from the sky. Perhaps, these car makers no longer make them like they used to.
There's a very good reason for that. For the most part, the build quality and the experience was awful. After an hour of driving a Lamborghini, you'd find that your left calf was now bigger than the right, the interior is bathed in sweat, and it broke down so much that your wife despised you for being perennially late. Thankfully, you wouldn't have to hear her nag because you'd be deaf by the time you hopped out of the car. For all its supercar woes, there was still an allure to it, a sense that you weren't just driving the fastest car on the planet, but a rolling piece of kinetic art.
"It's like a teacher who looks pretty average, until you find out that she's a listed sexual predator. You proceed with caution."
And that's why when Japanese rally heroes like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution or the Subaru WRX STI started running rings around the now adolescent boy's Ferrari dream car, it gutted him so much - because for a pinch of a Ferrari's price tag, you could have its levels of performance. Supercars were no longer, shall I say, very super. Like a Lamborghini Diablo for instance - it was fast, but more than that it was a car for the poseur with its impossibly flashy scissor doors.
Eventually as history will tell us, the supercar makers pushed their game forward and built cars that completely destroyed the Eastern opposition like flies on a wall. It was a glorious time for that once heartbroken little boy who was able to revel in his teenage years that the supercar as he knew it, was alive and breathing. Until the rebirth of a car from the land of the rising sun that they fondly call, Godzilla. Yes, I'm talking about the Nissan GT-R.
Now that the boy is 28 years old, is he in for a heartbreak?
The answer is an astounding YES. Of course, that boy I'm talking about is me. And yes, I do not like the Nissan GT-R. If there was anyone who was most curious about it, it was my nephew, Stefano. For obvious reasons. He is a professional race car driver and a car's fit and finish is as important to him as the shampoo his mom buys and leaves in his bathroom. For him, speed and pace is everything. Miguel, our other partner, was fairly curious as well. You see, he was raised with a Datsun in the garage, so his biases are there.
His father, Joseph Olfindo is some kind of a car crazy person and that's rubbed off on him quite a lot. I can understand their interest in the GT-R, yet they couldn't understand my distaste for it. Prior to this, I hadn't driven a GT-R. I've only ridden in one, and while I do agree that it's face-meltingly fast, it never really stirred my soul. Isn't that part of the supercar allure? So when Nissan Philippines announced that they were bringing in the newly refreshed 2017 GT-R, my partners decided that I needed to have a go at it.
"I do feel defeated in a way, that regardless of what exotic car may be in my garage someday, it will always, always be eaten alive by a Nissan GT-R."
My very first impression of the car is that it's huge. It's a lot more cumbersome in the flesh than it looks in photos. When parked next to a Ferrari, it almost looks like a mid-size sedan. It made me wonder how this thing has so much grip in a package that's so damn big. While the overall look of the car doesn't intimidate so much, the data on the spec sheet does. It's like a teacher who looks pretty average, until you find out that she's a listed sexual predator. You proceed with caution. As I circled around the car, I found that it has a lot of presence. There is no doubt about its fabled cult following as it didn't take long before a group of ten people swarmed and swooned around the car with their smartphones. It is a crowd pleaser and a dream for many, many people.
As soon as I entered the car, I noticed that it's a lot smaller than I expected. For something so huge outside, the interior space wasn't as impressive. Albeit, it's a lot more modern and far more plush than its pre-facelifted predecessor. Although, I must say that with all these updates and upscale materials, it felt less of a beast and more of a GT. It still has the Playstation graphics that display all sorts of data like boost and G-force. It is also blessed with a stunning Bose audio system. After fiddling a bit with the interior, I pushed the start button and the engine came to life. It makes a substandard noise for the kind of performance it puts on the table, and on that alone, I was happy. After all, I was here rooting to justify my supercar dreams, and as far as noise goes, this doesn't come close.
One man, one engine.
I decided to cruise for a good 20 minutes on full automatic mode. My foot feathered the throttle, and I found that it's quite decent around the city. There was an impatience with its transmission that is so reminiscent of a Ferrari 458 Italia, that gave me an idea of just how much performance I wasn't extracting. Finally, I decided to put my foot down. From a measly speed of 40 km/h, and after two blinks, I was past 120 km/h. I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Embarrassed. I had never been in something so savage and brutal that I couldn't explain the sensation of speed. I exited to the South Luzon Expressway, and as I went around the loop, I saw a very quick Hyundai Genesis Coupe, which was obviously hauling.
His headlights grew bigger and bigger in my side view mirror as he was ready to zoom past me. In a split second, I thought to myself that this would be the ultimate test. As I exited the ramp at 60 km/h, his headlights were bigger than ever as he approached me at full highway speed. I punched the throttle as deep as it could go, and my body dug deep into the seat. The force of the acceleration disfigured my face, as the Genesis Coupe's nose reached until the side mirror of the GT-R, until Godzilla stretched its legs. And ever so quickly, the Korean car seemed to have mashed his throttle on reverse. It's the stuff you see in cartoons.
More than just muscle.
The way the GT-R gathers speed is unlike anything else on the road. And launch control? It's something you need to experience to believe. If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to be a bullet fired out of a barrel of a rifle, it's the same in the GT-R, only a little bit faster. I don't care what kind of Ferrari or Lamborghini you own, you will not get close to this car in real world situations. You only need the smallest of gaps to overtake a car in a two-way road.
Its all-wheel-drive system is stellar too. Granted, it will never be as fun as a rear-wheel-drive car, but in the pursuit of speed regardless of weather conditions, it is king. The GT-R is a fantastic supercar. Yes, it is on all counts, a supercar. However, above and beyond all of that performance, it never feels like it wants to kill you. It is confidence inspiring, actually. It just nudges you to go faster and faster, so in the end, it really is all up to you.
Here's a taste of launch control. Stefano Marcelo took his household staff for the ride of their lives.
I still cannot get over the way it builds up speed, because there isn't any build up at all. You just put your foot down, and instantly, you're already there. It feels no different from Gran Turismo, except you're in a tangible simulator. The speedometer reading always feels like a joke, but the rate at which you pass cars tells you that it isn't. It is like astral projection. You can literally be in two places at once, I kid you not. I can't believe that anyone with money can just walk into a showroom and buy one without a driving course of some sort. It boggles my mind.
So is there still room for an Italian supercar that costs three times the price? The answer is yes. In art, soul, sound, and ecstasy, a Ferrari will always be a Ferrari. Is it going to be three times the car? No. Nothing is even double a GT-R. Even a LaFerrari that costs more than twenty times the price will not even be three times the car. I do feel defeated in a way, that regardless of what exotic car may be in my garage someday, it will always, always be eaten alive by a Nissan GT-R. It's a loss for the supercar dreamers, but a win for the truly afflicted petrol heads. I am left in absolute awe.
God of war.