The real benefit of running battery-only, though, is an ability to drive around congestion charges and under emissions rules. Nissan is the latest to declare that it will go in the same direction when its GT-R supercar is renewed in about two years.
“There is an inevitability about electrification of all cars in the future, and there is the very real prospect of enhancements coming from this and ending up on a sportscar like the Nissan GT-R,” engineering chief Andy Palmer told British magazine Autocar.
“The electric systems can fill in the gaps in the torque curve and offer genuine performance gains, as well as lowering emissions.”
Nissan has already bet the farm on electrification with dedicated battery cars such as the Leaf. It’s staking its future on the technology.
However, with the GT-R it’s more than corporate strategy. It’s recognition that the GT-R will need a hybrid system to keep pace with the European exotica it’s designed to embarrass. At $182,500, a GT-R delivers ability matched only by Ferraris and Porsches costing multiples more. The next one, due in about two years, will need to repeat the trick. Electro shock therapy is now vital to performance.
Despite being a part-timer in the supercar stakes, it’s more evidence that Nissan understands how the game is played. It launched the GT-R at the 2007 Tokyo motor show to a crowd bubbling with anticipation. They had been waiting six years to witness the revival of the famous nameplate after Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn made a declaration of intent in 2001. The GT-R, renowned here for Bathurst triumph and known as Godzilla by millions of computer gamers worldwide, was back.
The crowd had been led to believe the GT-R would be special, and it was. It features a hand-built 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that sends power to all four wheels via a dual-clutch transmission and unusual all-wheel drive system. The body structure contains carbon fibre and achieves a low 0.27 coefficient of drag. Adjustable suspension and electronic stability control give it a selectable range of set-ups while the onboard telemetry played straight to its nerdy heartland.
It threw down the gauntlet immediately with a lap time for the Nurburgring, the 21km German testbed for every performance car worth the name, that was quicker than almost anything else around: 7 minutes 38 seconds. It was a time that Porsche set out to beat and there were suggestions that road tyres had been substituted by race tyres, or that the lap was not repeatable.
The supercar game involves constant refinement and improvement. Two years after Tokyo, the GT-R took nine seconds off the lap. Last year, it achieved 7:21 and with this year’s improvements it’s a whisker over 7:19. Competition has sharpened the breed and it now incorporates lessons from the 24-hour Nurburgring race.
The most extreme version so far will be unveiled at the Tokyo motor show next week. (See Tokyo show stars in Weekend A Plus, November 23.) Produced by Nissan’s specialist Nismo operation, it’s directly inspired by the motorsport version of the GT-R.