Which letter defines the best GT supercar: R or S?
It’s pretty striking, the sheer number of alternatives those with £100,000 to splash out on a sports car have to pick from. It’s also with an air of inevitability that one of the cars we’ve picked for a twin test here is a Porsche: the ubiquitous 911 appears yet again. Only this time with a refreshing curveball of a rival – the Nissan GT-R, in upgraded MY17 spec.
In a sense, two more different cars you cannot choose. Both are tech-fests, but somehow the GT-R feels more old-school than the effortlessly sophisticated Porsche. Whereas the new 911 is all turbo efficiency and electric power steering, the Nissan’s about massive turbos and good old fashioned hydraulic assistance. We love the approach of both, frankly. But which do we love more?
NISSAN GT-R RECARO
Engine: 3.8-litre, V6, twin-turbo, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 2.8 sec
Top speed: 196mph
Weight: 1,752kg (minimum kerbweight)
Ecnomy: 23.9 (NEDC combined)
After a genteel drive up the M4, enjoying the Porsche’s serenity, the first contrast arrives with a bang: we hear, then see, a bright orange GT-R thundering into view, all aggression and mean intent instead of the Porsche’s relaxing sophistication. It’s too much for so early in the morning, so we stick with the Porsche, savouring the 450hp, rear-wheel drive and seven-speed manual gearbox of this GTS edition.
It’s a lush car to drive. It’s elegant and purist, benefitting from gradual evolution that, for example, has seen Porsche improve its manual gearbox immeasurably from when it was first launched. There’s enough traction despite the lack of all-wheel drive, but not enough that means you can’t have a bit of fun and, overall, we begin to question why the Nissan is actually here.
Particularly when we climb in and the sanctity of the Porsche’s interior is ruptured by too-high seats, shiny dash plastics and the general air of an aged Nissan taxi. Maybe that’s unfair: the GT-R has always been like this. It’s just the presence of the 911 that shows it up. So it’s time to deploy the Nissan’s party trick so it can fight back – simply, the most brutal and vicious sort of acceleration imaginable.
It’s intoxicating in a way the GT-R’s unfair reputation as being a bit soulless leads you not to expect. It’s impossible not to start quickly bonding with this charismatic, demanding supercar, whose abilities and general prowess are also growing year upon year. In areas such as steering feel and brake pedal sensitivity, it shows the Porsche the way to go.
Clever new Bilstein dampers give this big car uncommon agility, making the sheer intensity of the experience that bit easier to compute. It’s a hard-charging, slightly old-school experience, with more than the odd mechanical clonk thrown in for good measure, but the thrills it gives you are on another level compared to the Porsche. It’s absolutely heroic, and mind-bogglingly talented with it.
So it’s back to the 911 with disappointment? Not a bit of it. Even after the bombastic GT-R, the GTS still stacks up. It too has a brilliant engine, perhaps not as thrilling for purists in the final clicks of its rev range, but far more capable for the vast majority of people who don’t constantly drive near the redline.
PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 2 GTS
Engine: 3.0-litre, twin-turbo, flat-six, petrol
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Top speed: 193mph
Weight: 1,525kg (EU including 75kg driver)
It’s easier to sense what the 911 is like near the limits for more people as well. Whisper it, but previous non-turbo Porsches could feel like they had more rubber than engine power; the extra muscle of the turbo engines now makes it easier to sense what it’s like when pressing on harder – the 911 feels more alive than before, which isn’t perhaps what you’d expect, but is a degree of extra adjustability and excitement that’s nevertheless welcome.
Dropping back into the Nissan will instantly remind you the 911 hasn’t turned into some sort of rabid monster, of course. The GT-R remains the angry alternative of the two here, more than capable of out-pacing the 911 pretty much everywhere. If you’re good enough, so too is it: there’s no hand-holding here, unlike the Porsche, and it will happily devour you with sensations if you’re not quite man enough for the job.
The Nissan is thus the double-edged sword of the two. For a very select few, it’s brilliant, all the car they’d ever need. For most, though, the negatives won’t offset the sheer blissful exuberance it can exhibit. Quality isn’t good enough. The interior’s too dated. It too often can feel like a bit of a dinosaur.
The Porsche, in contrast, takes the 911 to a new high. Tireless evolution has turned the latest GTS turbo into something that’s thrilling when you want it to be, bit also easy to live with and genteel in a way the Nissan can’t even begin to emulate. Yes, it’s very much a case of as you were: the 911 remains the best place to put your £100,000 earmarked for a sports car. Only now, that place is perhaps better and more secure than it’s ever been.