Tom Gidden ©2019, courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2017 Nissan GT-R NISMO
Years Produced:2014–present (GT-R NISMO)
Number Produced:1,095 (GT-R NISMO, through model year 2017)
Original List Price:$176,585
SCM Valuation:$154,322 (this car)
Chassis Number Location:Left hand corner of the dashboard
Club Info:GT-R Owners Club
Alternatives:2015–present Audi R8; 2016–19 Porsche 911 Turbo; 2015–19 Corvette Z06
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 192, sold at $154,322, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s auction in Paris, FRA, on February 5, 2020.

When the R35-generation Nissan GT-R debuted for the 2009 model year, it became an instant icon.

Underneath its subtly styled hood lived a 480-horsepower twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter, hand-built V6 that — along with its complicated all-wheel-drive system — propelled the Japanese monster to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds on the way to its 185-mph top speed.

It was undeniably special. At stoplights, workmen would practically climb out of the windows of their white Ford vans to get a better look. They’d pump their fists in the air and cheer.

In 2009, the GT-R was your plumber’s favorite car.

Even if regular blue-collar folks couldn’t afford one, it was their hero. How could it not be? It was a Nissan that was quicker to 60 mph than Italian supercars three times its price. And it could be had for just over $78,000.

Sure, the GT-R had eardrum-shattering levels of cabin noise. Going over even the slightest roadway imperfection felt like getting thwacked in the spine with a hammer. The all-wheel-drive system groaned, whined and cracked as if it were tearing itself apart — even under normal operation. And the steering was simultaneously shoulder-achingly heavy and frighteningly twitchy.

Enthusiasts looked past all those issues because it’s a Nissan that can do 0–60 mph quicker than a Ferrari for the price of a used land-yacht RV.

Even when it was new, I didn’t particularly like the GT-R — inside or out. But I respected it. I couldn’t hate a car as technically advanced and as affordable as the GT-R.

The rise of Mechagodzilla

Fast forward eight years. Nissan refreshed the GT-R for the 2017 model year. And atop that mildly revitalized heap resides the GT-R NISMO — right from Nissan’s in-house tuning division. NISMO engineers took the already uproarious GT-R and made it, well, more.

If the GT-R were the Son of Godzilla, the GT-R NISMO is Mechagodzilla.

The 2017 NISMO variant’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 grinds out 600 horsepower. What’s more, it includes aerodynamic improvements, stiffer springs (God help us), 16 fewer dash buttons (the 2016 GT-R NISMO had 27), hollow anti-roll bars, RAYS forged alloy wheels, and a carbon-fiber rear wing. These changes slashed Mechagodzilla’s 0–60 time by an entire second — down to 2.5.

But it also increased the sticker price to $176,585 — hardly a figure even the most well-heeled plumber can afford.

Is it worth it?

Our subject 2017 Nissan GT-R NISMO crossed the auction block at RM Sotheby’s Paris auction. Although the car was virtually new — with a scant 90 kilometers on the clock — it sold for $154,322. That was around $22,000 less than when it was new just three short years ago.

Even in the face of its equilibrium-rending performance, I have to wonder if the GT-R NISMO is worth the price.

Going that fast is pointless.

There is no reason to go 0–60 mph in 2.5 seconds. None. Do you need to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife in 7.08, as the GT-R NISMO — although that was a pre-production N Attack Package car — ­did in 2015? No, no you don’t. So why would you buy a car that can, especially a car that sacrifices everything that should be enjoyable about a $170,000 sports car in pursuit of that goal?

The GT-R is not that good-looking by 2020 standards; its lines haven’t really aged with grace. It’s loud. It’s harsh. It’s frightening to drive on anything less than F1-race-quality tarmac.

Despite the lack of refinement, you don’t feel particularly connected to the driving experience. It’s both harsh and aloof — the worst of both worlds.

Peak car?

For me, the GT-R NISMO marks peak car. It is the first car that was so successful at achieving its goals that it made those goals irrelevant. The GT-R NISMO can demolish most anything else on the track — and would likely do so reliably for the next 100,000 miles with few, if any, required repairs. But is that any fun?

Think about it. The Lamborghini Diablo was (and still is) pretty awful to drive and deeply unreliable. But it was a laugh. It’s amazing to look at and makes a tremendous noise to boot. It’s a car that children and investment bankers alike can get excited about. It might be bad, but it’s aspirational — in a fun way.

Lunacy and style were the driving forces behind the creation of the Diablo. The GT-R NISMO has none of that. Its development was influenced by too many engineering achievements and not enough red wine and recreational drugs.

The GT-R, and especially the NISMO, is an appliance. You aren’t a part of the driving mastery so much as you simply strap in, push the gas pedal into the economy carpet and feel the Gs.

For that king’s ransom, you’re not buying a track-day tool, you’re buying a front-seat ticket to the race.

Based upon the mileage, I’d wager the GT-R NISMO that crossed the auction blocks in Paris had been driven just one time. I bet I know why.

I imagine the first owner excitedly taking Mechagodzilla for an inaugural drive into town.

On the way, every divot and imperfection in the asphalt was transferred straight into his vertebrae, sending shooting pains up his spine. His ears rang with the groan of the labored V6 engine and clackity AWD system, accented occasionally by the plinking of stones as they skipped off the sound-deadening-less underbody.

Then, when he finally rolled into the center of town, people grimaced at the sight of the hulking Japanese monster.

I picture him beelining it for home right then and there, face bright red with embarrassment. He parked it in the garage and never looked back at his $176,585 Nissan.

I don’t blame him. ♦

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