Nissan and Volvo Step Up their Performance Game

Written by Brian Makse on .

NissanGTRNismo

There are a couple of pre-production cars that I tested last year that were really unforgettable. Following the Tokyo Motor Show in November, I tested the 2016 Nissan GT-R NISMO at the small – and decidedly safe – Sodegaura circuit about an hour outside of Tokyo. I’ve always respected the GT-R’s formidable performance and every time I get behind the wheel, it blows my mind. I love the styling and the technology is amazing, but it’s never been a car I’ve dreamt about.

This GT-R NISMO, on the other hand, is my kind of supercar. The suspension is set up more to my liking, and it dials up the existing tech and leverages NISMO’s go-fast knowhow, which results in the most desirable GT-R in history.

NissanGTRNismo 001The NISMO connection does a couple of very special things for this GT-R. First, NISMO specified a more rigid bodyshell and that’s done during the manufacturing process. That’s something no tuner can ever do. Second, this tuned GT-R comes with a factory warranty. Is Joe Tuner Co. willing to warranty your GT-R after dialing the boost to eleven? Didn’t think so.

Power numbers are up to 600 horsepower and 481 foot pounds of torque, accomplished primarily by the addition of the turbos from the NISMO GT-R GT3 racing cars. There’s a touch of turbo lag if you don’t stay on top of the throttle, but when all of those six hundred horses are galloping in unison, you’ll forget about that little bit of lag.

It’s apparent that this GT-R looks a little different from standard and that’s due to this car’s aero package being optimized for more downforce. Nissan’s official numbers of +100 kilograms at 300 km/h are great for high-speed stability, but I’m looking for a little more usability. Even at the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife, you’re not turning into corners at anywhere near 300 km/h, so that’s not exactly usable anywere but in a straight line.

NissanGTRNismo

NissanGTRNismo

Now, to point out what may not be obvious, the camo car that set the unofficial production car record at the Nordschleife of 7:08.679 has a couple of different aero bits that are part of a yet-to-be-determined “Track Pack”. Thus, if you want your fastest GT-R to really be the fastest GT-R, you’ll need this mystery “Track Pack”.

There are NISMO-spec springs and anti-roll bars, along with a set of electronically adjustable dampers from Bilstein. The NISMO is the first GT-R that I could really get on top of and was able to hustle it aggressively through corners. I could balance the car easily through corners and pick up the throttle as early as I wanted. That’s something I’ve never been able to do with any previous GT-R. Colour me impressed.

Also worth a mention are NISMO-only alcantara-covered steering wheel and a pair of aggressively bolstered Recaro seats, both of which remedy my criticism of the GT-R’s interior.

The GT-R NISMO will arrive on Canadian soil later in 2014 as a 2016 model. If you’re even just thinking about it, place your order straight away. Quantities are bound to be limited and I think this is one car that will become an instant collectible. Pricing hasn’t been announced, but an educated guess might be in the $140,000 range.

PolestarBM 002

The other machine that still has me reminiscing about a great drive is the Volvo S60 Polestar. If you don’t recognize the Polestar name, you will soon. The company started as Volvo’s official racing partner in 1996 and has slowly been developing products for road cars. This S60 is their first engineered road car.

They swap in a larger intercooler and an uprated twin-scroll turbo, as well as a Polestar-specific exhaust. Power is up modestly to 350 horsepower and torque is a claimed 369 foot-pounds, but it’s actually more like 405. Don’t ask me how I know. The company quotes zero to 100 km/h times of 4.9 seconds, but I bet my mom could pull a 4.9 on her first attempt. This car is faster than the published numbers.

PolestarBM 035 PolestarBM 035

Both the six-speed automatic and Haldex all-wheel drive system are recalibrated to performance-oriented specifications. The transmission shifts faster and gets a launch control function, while the all-wheel drive system distributes more torque to the rear axle.

For me, the most notable changes are with the what’s underneath the car. The S60 Polestars are coming with model-specific 20-inch wheels and underneath are lightweight, two-piece brake rotors and six piston Brembo calipers. We haven’t seen a Volvo with brakes like this since the R models in the early 2000s.

PolestarBMSpring rates are 80% firmer than the R Design and shorter, of course, for a lower, sportier ride height, and Polestar redesigned the anti-roll bars, but the most impressive part of the suspension is the new set of dampers from Öhlins. I found these dampers to be among best I’ve ever driven. Wheel and body control are top notch, and so good that I could confidently hustle the S60 Polestar rather quickly over unfamiliar Swedish back roads.

For the most part, a car’s dynamics are key for me, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I was impressed by this car. It’s a real alternative to Audi’s S4 and an all-wheel drive BMW 335, but it’s got that unique Volvo character that you can’t get anywhere else, and in a dark colour, it’ll definitely be a real sleeper. Oh yeah, there’s also a V60 Polestar wagon coming to our shores. Now that’s a car.

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