Once out onto the highway, however, I quickly start acclimatising to my surroundings. We decide to amble around town a bit, just to see what kind of posing power these two possess, and on the way I discover that the GT is actually pretty docile. I mean, it’s noisy and crashes over bumps, and it doesn’t have any kind of luxury tech save for a McIntosh stereo, but I don’t mind. I’m enjoying listening to the booming engine noise and watching the gawps of other motorists. No one seems to be looking at the GT-R, even though it looks pretty mean in my mirrors. At least, I think it does. Each wing mirror on the Ford is the size of a letter box, and through the rear-view mirror I can only see struts and supercharger.
We reach old Dubai, the slightly shabby district of Karama, chosen because it’ll hopefully make some nice photographs. As snapper Arun hops out and instructs us to drive around, we ask a bunch of workmen which car they like the look of. Surprisingly, they go for the GT-R to a man. Perhaps there’s more to its anime lines than I anticipated. Or perhaps, given the number of GT-Rs in Dubai and the lack of GTs, it’s the go-to dream car for many.
Snaps completed, we head out of town to give the fleet a proper workout. And just in time too – although the GT isn’t terrible around town, it’s not too fond of speed bumps and the engine temperature is creeping up. The Ford is craving some cold air in its intakes, and who are we to deprive it?
I’m still marginally terrified of unintentionally spinning up the rear wheels and careering into a sand dune, so I leave the flattening of the gas until third gear on a completely straight and deserted piece of road. Rather than the savage, dragster-like roar and thrust I’m expecting, the laying on of speed is more linear, pushing me towards the distance. But it’s quite a push, the replacement exhaust building a bellow and the supercharger transitioning from a whine to a scream as the revs build. At 6500rpm the redline arrives and there’s a deep breath as I hit the clutch and snick down into fourth. Then the bellow builds once again. Fifth and sixth seem like cruising gears – even in fourth I’m past licence-losing territory and into the risk of jail time. I feel like it could pull further though. In theory, the GT will keep going to 330kph in standard trim, and presumably faster with the upgrades on this car. I don’t get to those kind of speeds, but the faint wobble that arrives towards the end of the run reminds me and my overactive imagination that I have no electronic crash pads to help if a camel runs into the road.
Still, I’m intrigued to know how it matches up to the slightly less powerful but much more technically advanced Nissan. The GT-R boasts all-wheel drive, so I expect it to have a better start from standstill, but surely pure grunt has to count for something.
Only one way to find out. With the road deserted, an impromptu drag race takes place. On the count of the three I drop the clutch of the GT and feed in the power as much as I dare, which as it turns out is less than I could have gotten away with. The big rear tyres grip the smooth, new asphalt very well indeed and send the Ford lurching forward with barely a trace of squat. James in the GT-R reacts slightly later than me, but still pulls out a lead of several car lengths before I feel confident to floor it in the Ford. Still, once opened that gap didn’t extend further, so we try another experiment. Rolling at 80kph in third gear, we countdown again and punch it. This time, it’s a different story. The supercharger whines, the exhaust roars and the Ford piles on that acceleration once again, compressing my lungs. And with close to 650bhp heading rearwards, it pulls away from the GT-R, slowly but surely. Even with the GT-R whipcracking its way through instant gearchanges, and the GT taking big deep breaths between cogs, the Ford’s extra grunt ekes out a lead up until the point where we decide the speeds are getting silly.
Such has been my enjoyment of the Ford that I’ve not yet sampled the joys of the Nissan, so we swap. I have plenty of time for the standard GT-R. It’s never really captured my imagination, but the performance it provides is undeniable and contrary to its digital, technology-driven reputation it’s always had a mechanical feel to it on the move. I’m intrigued to know what the Track Pack changes bring to the table.
Hopping into the Nissan from the Ford feels like leaping from a Lotus into an SUV. I never thought of the GT-R as particularly suffering from the high-seat syndrome that plagues so many modern cars, but compared to the floor-scraping hammock behind the wheel of the Ford, the Nissan’s Recaros are seriously lofty. They’re comfortable though. As part of the Track Pack the seats get a special non-slip material, but it’s more the shape and support that I like – my back feels like it has a pillow behind it.
The rest of the interior couldn’t be more different from the Ford, with barely a trace of anything mechanical on show. The screen, designed by the chaps behind the Gran Turismo series of computer games, has a bajillion different settings. Want it to show the G-force levels and how much you’re hitting the accelerator, with some info on turbo pressure to go with it? Not a problem. The wheel is covered in buttons, as is the centre console. The gearbox is automatic, a dual-clutch affair controlled through paddles behind the wheel.
Driving the GT-R in anger is a completely different proposition to the Ford. Confidence comes as standard in this machine, there’s no pansying around wondering if it’s going to kill you for trying too hard. I flick the suspension, ESP and transmission control buttons to R for Race, and mash the right hand pedal. The response is as digital as the technology controlling the car, like flicking a switch from off to fast. There’s no scrabbling, no pause, just an instant leap forward that would be impressive in itself, but its soon surpassed as the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 spools up and fires the Nissan forward. It’s very, very easy to go very, very fast in this car. The noise is more of a whine than a howl, but it’s sensual in the literal meaning of the term, resonating through the transmission and into the body. There’s no let up in the push, no breaths between gears, just more and more speed.
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