Fantasy ‘Stock vs Aftermarket’ Shootout: Nissan GTR SpecV vs Switzer GTR “Track Animal”
The Nissan GTR has become an icon. It’s hard to think of a car that has been followed with more anticipation. When it was announced that the newest Skyline would be offered in the U.S., people smashed open piggy banks to call “dibs.” The tests confirmed what the press had predicted; it was incredible. The aftermarket pounced. COBB was so eager and sure of the GTR’s future, they shipped a GTR over from Japan to get the jump on cracking the ECU. Since then, a new 10-second, high-powered GTR pops up almost weekly. But it wasn’t just guys with laptops in their garage working to unleash the essence of Godzilla, Nissan was busy too. In early 2008, only 1 year after the GTR went into production, the rumor mill started about development of a hard-core GTR Spec V.
We met the specs of the upcoming V with a cynical wrinkle of the eyebrows, “Sooo it’s twice as expensive, has the same horsepower, and no back seat? Tell me again why this is exciting?” As fun as that sounds, I’d rather buy a normal one, modify it, and still have $60k left to enroll Nissan’s execs in Econ 101: Cost vs Return. Basically, with the aftermarket developing insane performance from the GTR with a simple ECU program, why would anyone buy a Spec V? Our attitude was simply that the tuner world could provide a better car for less money. Instead of spending valuable time praying for a head-to-head comparison to grace the pages of our favorite ‘zine, we decided to create our own. In one corner we have the lighter, nimbler, factory-forged Nissan GTR SpecV. In the other we have an old friend of ours; the Switzer Performance GTR P800 “Track Animal.” Nissan gave us the supercar at a bargain, let’s see if Switzer beats them at their own game.
Nissan GTR Spec V
It didn’t come as a suprise to anyone that Nissan was building a special version of its new R35 GTR. Previous generations have been offered with special edition trim, called “V Spec.” In the R34 Skyline, this meant stiffer suspension, an active LSD, a carbon hood and extra aero bits. A similar formula is used for the R35. Re-named the “Spec V” the goal was to harness the essence of the GTR and improve upon it. As much as we all love horsepower, what has made the GTR such an incredible performer is its handling. Its prodigious grip and brainy differentials can turn your mom into Michael Shumacher.
Nissan could have given the GTR the Porsche GT2 treatment: bigger turbos and more boost. Instead looked for ways to turn the grip dial up a notch. Chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno said the goal was not for more power, but to take handling to the next level. So it will handle better than a stock GTR, how can I even describe that? Is “land-magent” a word? They went about it using the old formula of less weight, sticky tires, better supsension, stronger brakes. Simple right? Hardly.
Let’s start with the easy parts. New run-flat Bridgestone RE070s were wrapped around super-light RAY’S wheels, reducing rotational weight and increasing grip. Carbon fiber was used for the hood, body panels, rear wing and front diffuser and the rear seats were taken out. All told Nissan cut 132lbs from the GTR, for a curb weight of 3,704lbs. It’s not a Lotus Elise, but with a starting weight of 3,800lbs the Spec V is like Alec Bladwin losing 15lbs; he won’t have a 6-pack but I’m sure his heart is grateful.
Speaking of the heart, let’s take a brief moment to talk about the Spec V’s. I say brief because the increase in power from a normal GTR is…0. Yes, the $167,000 2010 Nissan GTR SpecV makes 480hp. Quite a marketing idea, “Same power, now twice the price!” Imagine that at McDonald’s, “Our dollar menu offers you those same dishes you love, for just $2!” With the reduced weight it reaches 60mph in 3.4 seconds and crosses the 1320 foot mark in 11.5 seconds, no slouch, but nothing new. You do get 14 more torques…for 80 seconds.
Let me explain: The Spec V comes with an over-boost function, similar to the KERS systems in F1 or the Porsche system. When you’re in 3rd gear (or higher) you can hit a switch on the dash and send 14 more lb-ft. to the wheels. This broadens the torque-band between 3500 and 5200rpm. The problem is that to arm the system the computer has to agree that the engine and tranny temps are just right. Once “Goldilocks” decides it’s ok to activate the system, it gives you an 80 second window to use that boost.
Now, the annoying part is after those 80 seconds are up – whether you use the boost or not – it makes you wait 80 seconds to arm it again. SO, if you’re entering a corner and arm the system to use on the straightaway, you better make that pass. Otherwise you will have to wait almost 1 1/2 minutes before you can even ask the system for extra boost. I understand the idea of over-boost, but this sounds like it would just be a big, frustrating headache. I don’t know why they wouldn’t simply turn the boost up, like COBB’s Stage 1 system. More power, no new parts, done and done. Nissan’s system would have me contemplating kamikaze into the wall…if the computer says it’s ok.
So far it doesn’t look good for the Spec V. Where has Nissan spent your extra $80,000? On the brakes? Actually, yes. The brakes are special 6-piston carbon-ceramics by Brembo. While that’s nothing special, this is; these brakes resist fade, dissipate heat, and stop better than the brakes on the Ferrari FXX. That seems like overkill for a car with less power than a Corvette Z06, but late-braking is just as valuable on a racetrack as horsepower (to a point). Just make sure you take good care of them, because a set will cost you $50,000. At least we know where the money went…
The 2010 Nissan GTR SpecV is not a sledge-hammer, because that’s not what Nissan wanted. The changes Nissan has made seem small, but the result is a car that is more balanced, tossable and agile. You don’t get a 700hp car built to chase GT2s and ZR1’s…or do you? Mizuno was quoted saying the ZR1’s ‘Ring time of 7:26 is “not hard to beat.” An official time has yet to be laid down, but Nissan doesn’t go around making bold claims it can’t back up.
So the Nissan GTR Spec V weighs less, turns and stops better, and is marginally faster than the regular GTR. But are those changes really worth the price of 2 stock GTRs? It doesn’t even have more power! Surely the aftermarket can build something better for less…
Switzer Performance Nissan GTR “Track Animal”
We brought you the story about this incredible GTR, dubbed The Switzer GTR “Track Animal” and built by our friends at Switzer Performance, back in April. The goal was simple: The customer wanted a car he could drive the 3 hour commute to his local track, destroy all the GTR records at said track, and then drive home in a comfortable air-conditioned breeze. He wanted what we all want, a car that can perform the double-duty of comfortable cruiser and track-ready bruiser.
However, the question today is not whether or not someone besides Nissan can build a race-ready GTR, it’s whether or not they can do it cheaper than Nissan. We now know the 2010 GTR SPec V will cost you $167,000, and comes fitted with the same engine as a base GTR. Now we’ll find out if Switzer was able to build an equal-or better-car for less.
Let’s start with what was done to this this car. If you are building a car that is track-oriented, the first thing on your mind will be suspension. Improving the handling of your car means higher cornering speeds, quicker directional changes and more grip, all translating to faster lap times. Tym decided a set of fully-adjustable coilovers from JRZ would perfectly suit his client’s needs. Next were the brakes, from AP racing. They aren’t the made of unicorn like the Spec V’s, but they’re still carbon-ceramic and thus shaved both unsprung and rotational weight from the GTR.
Speaking of weight, did I mention Tym is being cast as the next coach for Biggest Loser? Not really, but he should be, because he found a way for this GTR to drop 200 pounds. Along with the brakes, light-weight CFRP Bride seats, a carbon hood, carbon wing and titanium exhaust all replaced the units from Nissan. The final weight for this car is 3,600 lbs. That’s a full hundred pounds lighter than the super-duper Spec V. The Nissan engineers are nothing short of automotive masterminds, but I have to wonder why they couldn’t get the Spec V lighter, especially since Tym didn’t even have to chuck the back seat.
And then there’s the final ingredient for this Ohio-enhanced Godzilla, a healthy scoop of Switzer P800. Think of it as a GTR accidentally drinking Barry Bonds’ “milkshake” and you’ll know what I’m referring to: power. The P800 kit from Switzer uses bigger turbos and intercoolers and new ECU programming to extract a hyper-drive-capable 720AWHP (800 at the crank) from the GTR. And because all of Switzer’s parts weigh the same as the stock parts, unlike Barry there’s no unwanted weight gain. The result is hyper-car thrust with back seats and air conditioning.
So if you take your car to Switzer you get car that weighs less than the Spec V, has seats in the back and enough power at your right foot to test the absorption power of your passengers’ undies. But how much does it all cost? We did some investigating and here’s how it broke down:
* The P800 Kit= $19,000.
*AP Brakes= $15,000.
*JRZ Suspension= $25-40,000 (Street/track spec or race spec).
*Aeromotions Wing= $3,000.
*Carbon Fiber Hood= $2,000.
All told you’re looking at between $59,000-$84,000 for all the goodies on this car. That means that even if you get your GTR for the MSRP of $80,000, and you order the “cheaper” JRZ suspension, you’ll be spending $140,000 without tax and installation. Never mind the hours and money you’ll spend at a track dialing in those fancy shocks. When it’s all said and done, the prices of the Spec V and the Switzer GTR are practically identical. But as we’ve seen, the cars are as identical as Schwarzenegger and Danny Devito were in Twins.
With the 2010 Nissan GTR Spec V you get the name, the exclusivity and brakes that will make Ferrari throw a fit. But most importantly you get a GTR that has been honed by the very people that created the GTR. No one knows this car better, and Mizuno and his team have proven they know how to make a car great. The standard GTR was faster than opponents boasting more power and less weight. This was achieved using F1-inspired chassis balancing and weight distribution, and giving this monster a CPU that would make Bill Gates blush. But outside a race track or car meet, few people will be able to separate the Spec V from a crowd of base GTRs, and it’s questionable whether this will be able to perform that double-duty of commuter/race the GTR does so well.
And let us not forget the absence of extra power. As much as we love a balanced car, nothing makes us smile as easily as that feeling of getting hit in the back by a charging rhino. You may not notice a Spec V’s 2g’s of stopping power on the way to work, but big power can be felt at the first on-ramp.
With the Switzer Nissan GTR “Track Animal” you get that power, and then some. 720AWHP is a lot, some may even say it’s too much. But if you look at the cars in the unlimited time-attack classes, you will see that harnessing giant power can provide phenomenal reward. It’s lighter than the Spec V and the brakes won’t require you to sell your own heart to replace them. What you don’t get is that pre-approval from Mizuno himself. We’ve driven both hand-built and factory-built cars, and there’s a sense of trust that comes from having only Nissan’s name on the car. With aftermarket projects there’s always a tiny question mark. Did we forget anything? Is the suspension set right? Will it explode? Switzer is a fantastic builder, but it’s like having a different contractor build each room of your house, all coordinated by one manager. With the Spec V there is peace of mind that everything is balanced and perfect.
At the end of it all it’s about personal preference. The SpecV is a special-edition Nissan R35 GTR, and that is something very special indeed. It may not win a drag race against a Koenigsegg, but it will take you around the ‘Ring not only faster than anything else with 480hp, but faster than cars 200hp more. It will be a perfectly balanced track star and because the engine is still stock, it will be making hot laps for years. It just lacks that “wow” factor that comes with 800hp. Me? I’d take the Switzer.