Nissan GT-R Club Sports. Sounds good, doesn't it? Like a regular GT-R only lighter, faster and somehow more exotic. And it's all of those things, but we're talking slim margins here. After all, the GT-R is already a mighty performance car and improving it is an unenviable task. Look no further than the wildly expensive SpecV for proof of that; despite being neither significantly faster nor significantly lighter than the freakishly capable car on which it's based, the ultimate factory GT-R is twice the price. In light of those facts, the Club Sports looks like a bit of a bargain. Developed by NISMO in Japan and sold exclusively through Middlehurst Nissan in Europe, it costs around $130,000 (£88,000 in Europe). Add it to the list of yet another special-edition vehicle we won't be getting here in the U.S.
That's an entire hill of money when you consider a standard GT-R costs $80,790. The extra $50,000 buys four lightweight alloys taken from the SpecV, which save about 13 lbs in total. You also get the SpecV carbon-fiber seats, saving another 26 lbs. A full titanium exhaust system shaves another 11 lbs away from the GT-R's hefty 3,836-lb curb weight and it's shrouded in a new rear diffuser that aids cooling. The final change is to the suspension - new stiffer springs and reprogramming of the usual Bilstein Damp tronic shocks. Like the standard GT-R, there are three modes to select from: Comfort, Normal and Race. And that's it. No crazy power upgrades, no silly performance claims (well, no sillier than the standard car). Just subtle tweaks here and there and the satisfaction of knowing you have an official NISMO-developed GT-R and retain the full Nissan warranty. For all that extra cash it's going to need to be frighteningly good to justify the price.
For the test drive, we brought a standard GT-R along just to make sure we could put the Club Sports into context, and it took about 10 minutes behind the wheel to be reminded why it has become the benchmark performance car, regardless of money. It's the relentlessness of the GT-R that you struggle to come to terms with - the sledgehammer power of the 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, the black-out brakes, the immediacy of the 6-speed twin-clutch gearbox and the composure of the chassis. Perhaps a new 911 Turbo could trade punches with the GT-R, but that's about the only car that would keep those four round taillights in sight across your favorite stretch of road. And the Porsche would be no more entertaining. The GT-R might have more computing power than a NASA satellite, but its real genius is in how it buries all that tech below a rich stream of conventional information. It seems odd to be talking in terms of steering feel and old-fashioned adjustability about the seemingly digital GT-R, but it really is a tactile, predictable and highly engaging car to drive at any speed.
Weaknesses? That's a tricky one. The ride is very, very stiff even in Comfort mode. That's about it. Not much for NISMO to work with. However, they have found another one that's not really apparent on the road. During extreme track use, the car will lift its rear wheels under heavy braking, causing instability. The Club Sports eradicates that by increasing the travel of the rear dampers. Nice to know. But in the real world, can the CS really improve upon something so formidable? Well, yes, actually. It's subtle, though. Really subtle.
Despite stiffer springs, the CS's ride is flatter and more comfortable, thanks to the retuned dampers. We're not talking Cadillac-style levels of comfort, and at very low speeds it feels just as lumpy as the standard car, but things do smooth out as speeds increase. The net result is that you can travel even more quickly and securely. And the CS also hides its weight better than the standard car, resisting roll more determinedly. Perhaps the most marked change is that the bespoke suspension geometry and those lighter rims combine to lighten the steering a little, making the GT-R feel keener to change direction. And the messages gently percolating up through the steering wheel seem cleaner and clearer.
Of course, the SpecV seats are very lovely indeed and they sit you lower in the car so you feel better connected to what's going on underneath the wheels. The titanium exhaust sounds great, too. It's not a great deal louder, but the slight decibel rise and the more high-pitched howl combine to make the GT-R seem just that bit more special. The CS is a fantastic, devastating, crazy, addictive and wonderful car. But then so is the standard GT-R. In isolation does the CS feel like it's worth $130,000? Absolutely. In fact, you could easily argue that it feels every bit a rival for the much more expensive Ferrari 458 Italia or Porsche GT2. It's a different experience, of course, but no less enthralling. It really is that good. The problem is that the standard GT-R is perhaps 95 percent as capable and as enjoyable for less than 70 percent of the cost of the Club Sports. By any rational argument the CS just isn't worth the extra outlay. Great car all the same.
Specs & Details
Nissan GT-R Club Sports
Engine 3.8-liter 24V DOHC V-6, twin-turbo
Horsepower 478 at 6400 rpm
Torque 434 ft-lbs at 3200 rpm
Transmission 6-speed Dual Clutch gearbox, 4WD
MSRP $130,000 est. (£88,000, please visit middlehurst.com for more details)