Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Spa-Francorchamps, just inside the Belgian border from Cologne, is possibly the world's most dangerous racetrack. Home to two of the most famous high-speed corners in the racing world - Eau Rouge/Raidillon and Blanchimont, a long left-hander so diabolically fast that even Formula 1 racers pucker their, uhm lips when they dare juke left without lifting throttle - it is the last of the old style Formula 1 circuits.
One approaches Eau Rouge, for instance, with more than a little trepidation. The downhill entry to the shallow left-hander is a little tough on brakes - even Brembo Monoblocs like the GT-R's - and then requires right, all while the suspension is trying to bottom out from the compression forces of being forced back up Raidillon. Get it right and you're Mika Hakkinnen, who famously got up a head of speed so he could duke past Michael Schumacher along the Kemmel Straight in the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix. Get it wrong and you're Jacques Villeneuve - who had bet his BAR teammate Ricciardo Zonta he could take Eau Rouge flat out - and you'll have a massive "off".
And yet, despite it's massive speed, it's a corner that requires delicacy, something that Nissan's GT-R - the car I am piloting around Spa, in the wet no less - is hardly known for. Compared with a Ferrari - or any European supercar, for that matter - the GT-R is bit of a brute. Where, despite all its power, a 488 is all delicate steering and precision, driving a GT-R is like driving a 1000-cc superbike. Virtually every other supercar sweeps round corners in classic sports car arcs; in Nissan's close-coupled little monster, one rushes up to the corner, jumps on those big Brembos with both feet, yanks the steering wheel to the left or right with an indelicacy that would have a Lamborghini twisting itself in knots and then, as soon as there's even a hint of an apex, you floor the throttle, relying on the tractive abilities of that acclaimed ATTESA-ETS all-wheel drive to contain the twin-turbo 3.8 liter V6's 633 Nm of torque. Though this "point-and-squirt" technique is well known in bike racing as the fast way round a racetrack on a powerful superbike, it's almost unheard of in the automotive world. But on wet tarmac with waaaaaay too much horsepower underfoot; it's the fastest (and safest) way round a treacherous Spa. No other supercar on the planet - not even Porsche's similarly turbocharged and all-wheel drive 911 Turbo S - does it better.
Where the GT-R is improved for 2017 is that, unlike previous editions, the 2017 can keep up with Ferraris in those aforementioned classic high-speed corners. Credit the gumminess of those big, at Dunlop Sportmaxx GT600s (255/40ZR20 in front; 28535ZR20 in the rear), a stiffer frame - which chief product specialist Hiroshi Tamura claims allows a softer suspension for better balance - and a new decklid/front diffuser which, says Tamura, amplifies the aerodynamic downforce over the front wheels. But, whatever the case, the biggest improvement to the 2017 version of the GT-R - at least from behind the wheel at a wet racetrack - is that it no longer understeers like the Toyota Camry on ice through high-speed sweepers.
The rest of the GT-R, at least from a performance standpoint, is largely the same. Oh, the turbochargers have been tweaked for 20 more horsepower (now 565 hp) and four more pound-feet of torque (now 633 Nm), but you'll need a stopwatch to tell the difference. If the previous model scorched to 100 kilometers an hour in (a very LaFerrari-like) 2.84 seconds, then the 2017 might do two-point-eight-flat (the Nismo version remains completely stagnant, its 600 hp and 652 Nm the same as the 2013 model).
That said, the GT-R remains otherworldly fast. Though neither 565 horsepower or 633 Nm of torque is extraordinary these days, the GT-R drives as if Nissan has deliberately underreported the GT-R's true output, either because Japanese modesty prevents them from boasting (my guess) or because they want to screw, you, fool with insurance companies (my extremely fervent hope). Ferrari's California T boasts a similar 552 horsepower and, at 755 Nm, even more torque, yet doesn't feel nearly as overwhelming. We pegged the GT-R's speedo at 280 kilometers an hour on one particularly lonely stretch of autobahn and the throttle was nowhere near the floor.
Indeed, despite chief product specialist Tamura's contention/plea that Nissan's supercar is now more sophisticated than ever, the truth remains that the enduring appeal of the GT-R is that it is well and truly a monster. Godzilla may now be dressed up in a tux, but it remains Godzilla nonetheless.
Pros: Incredibly competent and powerful supercar with Japanese reliability
Cons: Still looks like a Japanese version of Ford's Mustang
Rivals: Lamborghini Huracán LP 610-4, Audi R8, Ferrari 488 GTB, Mercedes AMG GTS
One word: brutal
3.8 L twin-turbo V6, 565 hp @ 6800 rpm, 633 Nm @ 3300-5800rpm
6-speed automatic with paddle-shifted manual, AWD
0-100 km/h: approximately 3.0 sec, top speed: 314 km/h, fuel economy 23.9 mpg combined
Weight: 1752 kg