Twin Test: Nissan GT-R Vs McLaren

The Macca meets Godzilla – which will emerge King of the Kalba road?

By Shahzad Sheikh

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

Japan versus Britain, six cylinders versus eight, front engine versus mid-mounted, four-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive, four seats versus two, coupe brute versus svelte supercar, and one is about half the price of the other. The ultimate mismatch? Ultimate twin test we reckon

It all started off with a hypothetical challenge. Out of any current car, which would you choose for a run on one of the best driving roads in the UAE? Without hesitation Imthishan Giado immediately opted for the Samurai road-slayer, the Godzilla of the car world, the legend that is the Nissan GT-R.

Good choice, it had to be conceded. The four-wheel drive Japanese road-rocket is an undisputed speed merchant that can scythe through a set of corners quicker than anything this side of a full-on race car. In fact it would probably embarrass some of those too, as it is indeed essentially a race car, dressed up in civilian fatigues.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

For a moment it appeared that he had crossed the finish line, before I’d even bolted out of the box. I had personally experienced that car on that very road, and combined sensations of awe and terror had overwhelmed me. Awe, because it was so stupendously quick and accomplished, and terror, because its supercomputer brain appeared to be able to sustain velocities that yours truly could barely comprehend, let alone cope with.

However outright speed and the fastest way to execute point A to point B on a delightful mountain pass was not the point of this particular hypothesis, especially if you want to savour the sensations not savage your senses.

In response to my opponent’s selection, a different tact was required, my choice would be something that was, from the very start of its development, engineered to satisfy the instincts of a keen driver. A car created by a team of engineers and test drivers including the finest minds from the world of motor racing and two Formula 1 world champions, Jensen Button and Lewis Hamilton.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

The first full production-series road-going sports car from the legendary British racing team, McLaren, the MP4-12C is the newcomer rival to the likes of the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Lamborghini Gallardo. And it boasts some truly exotic tech such as the one-piece carbon fibre tub that forms the central passenger cabin.

A 3.8-litre V8, fitted it with twin-turbochargers endows it with over 600bhp. It is light weight (1434kg) boasts a top speed of 333kph and a 0-100 time of 3.1 seconds. It also has very clever suspension that was originally designed for luxury cars. It has ‘brake steer’ to get it tight into corners, an air-brake and a snappy double-clutch gearbox.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

The Nissan is bigger and heavier, but is loaded with technology that turns mere mortals into driving gods, and despite less power, is actually a fraction quicker to 100kph than the McLaren. The argument waged on for most of the afternoon, and there clearly was only way to settle this.

So here we are, the hypothetical made real, two duellers ripping over the Hajar Mountains, mechanical mayhem echoing back from the forbidding rock-faces lining the route, heated tyre rubber adhering to the tarmac, gearboxes clicking and clanging through ratios.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

Frankly though, it’s all going to script. The mere act of swinging up the butterfly doors, crouching down low and sliding across those wide sills into those thin but incredibly supportive racing seats, into a cabin that is at once both business-like and exotic, confirms that even standing still the McLaren is special, and therefore more satisfying than its honourable Japanese protagonist. Inside the steering is bereft of buttons, the jutting instrument panel reminds you of what’s important, the slender centre console is spartan, and the cosy cabin is a result of moving the seats as close to the centre of the car as possible.

It may not match the aural drama of the Lambo or Ferrari on start-up and it will manoeuvre and roll off in a perfectly civilised and composed manner. Make no mistake though, the first time you find a clearing and floor the throttle, you will literally stop breathing as the g-force snaps you back into your chair, and you’re catapulted at the horizon. Despite its refinement there’s a real sense of phenomenal speed.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

This is not a race. I ease off the tail of the Nissan and instead relish the perfect weighting of the steering wheel, the positive response to my inputs, the incredibly tidy handling, the grip, the delightful way this car sweeps into corners and writhes out. It relishes the road and we both end up enjoying each other’s company.

Predictably as I roll up to our destination, Imthishan’s already arrived and had enough time to cool down. Me? I’m relaxed and beaming as we swap cars for the return leg. But, as soon as I climb into the more saloon-like GT-R, fiddle with the toggle switches, scroll through the telemetric screens, engage the drivetrain and storm off, my demeanour transforms.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

It’s more serious, more business-like, there’s a sense of purpose (to not be beaten by Imthishan) and a demonic possession occurs that transform me into racing hero. Momentum builds, the ferocity of this thing is intense, and apart from a pinpoint of sharpness dead ahead, everything else is just a blur of lines and colours – it’s all gone very Manga now. I’m grinding my teeth and my eyes are bulging from their stalks.

The grip is extraordinary, the handling is unerringly accurate, everything about this car is fashioned for a purpose – to pulverise distance whether it be in a straight line or through a set of tight twisting corners. You begin to believe that this car is pure genius and implicitly end up trusting your life to it, right up to the point that you realise you’re trusting your life to it and acknowledge that it’s not so much you driving it, as it is the car making up for your incompetencies, until, without warning, it might actually run out of ability and kill you both.

Driven by a professional the McLaren could stay with and maybe beat the GT-R, but piloted by mere mortals, the GT-R is definitely the quicker car. It’s also much cheaper, more practical, carries a road-racer’s heritage, boasts a tough mucho stance, and it’ll hardly ever break down. Yet I maintain I brought the better car to this road, because whilst the GT-R left me exhausted, the 12C left me elated.

McLaren MP4-12C Vs Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R Tech data:
How much? AED445,000
Engine: 3.8-litre, V6 Twin Turbo, 550bhp @ 6400rpm, 472lb ft @ 3200-5800rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 11.8L/100km
Performance: 0-100kph 2.8 seconds, Top speed 315kph
7m 24s Official GT-R time around the Nurburgring in Germany
Weight: 1740kg

McLaren MP4-12C Tech data:
How much? AED923,700
Engine: 3.8-litre, V8 Twin Turbo, 616bhp @ 7500rpm, 443lb ft @ 3000-7000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy: 11.7L/100km
Performance: 0-100kph 3.1 seconds, Top speed 333kph
7m 28s Unofficial time by German car mag, Sport Auto at the ’Ring
Weight: 1434kg

One response to “Twin Test: Nissan GT-R Vs McLaren”

  1. Dwayne Hill says:

    That was agreat read. I have had a 911 C4S and I have had 2 Maserati Gran Tourismo,s so I am now looking for my next supercar
    and I now believe that to be the GTR………

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