The Nissan GT-R still looks like a survivor, even after all these years. We are looking for a reason to buy a 15-year-old performance vehicle that costs PS180,000.
It was large, scary, and hard. That’s why they used to call it Godzilla. Now, there is another reason. The Nissan GT-R, like the mythical theropod mentioned above, is bloody old. This car is 15 years old.
For a moment, think about this. At the 2007 Tokyo motor show, the R35 GT-R was unveiled. Since that year, there have been five prime ministers. The current incumbent is likely to be the sixth. In this year, Kimi Raikkonen also won the Formula 1 title Ferrari. Since then, it has not taken another. This was also the year that the iPhone, a small, handy device, went on sale. Also, in this year, the English words ‘hashtag’ and ‘tweep’ were added to the English language. Queues formed outside Northern Rock banks, indicating that things might not be going well for the global economy. It was quite a long time ago.
What else can you purchase today from a major manufacturer that is the same car it was fifteen years ago? Just about the Fiat 500; now I’m struggling.
Over time, the GT-R has changed. But not more than 2013 when the Nismo model was launched with the VR38DETT engine producing 592bhp. It retains that engine to this day. According to a legend, this story is true. This is the car that convinced Kazutoshi Mizuno (GT-R’s chief engineer) to leave Nissan.
According to Mizuno, he argued loudly that his baby was a less is more kind of car and the Nismo flouted the principles by which it was built. He left after his argument was ignored. It is clear that his departure coincided exactly with its arrival.
The Nismo has not changed much since then, but there is something that’s completely different. It cost PS125,000 when it appeared on Autocar’s pricelist in early 2015. This was nearly PS50,000 more than the GT-R which still had 523bhp. Today? The Nismo is priced at an amazing PS180,095, which is very affordable. You can keep up with inflation, premium pricing is available because you can, I know the Nismo’s category. For almost PS100,000. less, the GT-R standard is still available.
The revamp will make the super-coupe from Japan more user-friendly, but it will also allow for more dynamic competitors to still have an edge — if not the speed of Nissan’s unstoppable GT-R.
Both versions are still a huge hit. Nearly 2000 GT-Rs were sold in Europe within its first year of being available for sale (2009). It was 389 in 2019, the last year that sales were not affected by the chip crisis or the pandemic. This is less than nine GT-Rs per country each year of all varieties. The volume of the Nismo is not important, so it makes sense to price it this way.
It’s still almost PS50,000 more than the brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 992-series. It will also cost PS15,000 more that the even more powerful, yet less practical 911 Turbo S. It won’t just be the best looking car on paper if you decide to buy one. There will need to be another reason. It’s my job find it.
Nissan supplied a 2020 model-year car – but it doesn’t make any difference. It has more power than the GT-R base model, and ceramic brake discs as well as carbonfibre panels, seats and wings. To use the vernacular, it is a weapon. A trebuchet is also a weapon. This particular method of throwing rocks at enemies went out-of-fashion almost exactly 500 years ago.
I have never been a Godzilla fan. It was my first encounter with the machine, and I was surrounded by colleagues who were exchanging purple prose in ecstatic screams. My voice was the one at the back, unable to understand why this new machine was better than the previously apocalyptically fast, lighter, agile, and more practical Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution FQNutter, which you could get for half the price. It’s not clear if I ever got an answer.
But that was back in the day. This is now. It feels like I should be testing it for Classic & Sports Cars’ ‘future classical’ slot. It may look old from the outside, but it is actually quite nice inside. In the year that the GT-R was released, the current F1 champion was only nine years old. And boy does it show. The cockpit is not very well-crafted.
Here’s the thing: It actually makes me happy. It’s a far cry from the modern-day cars with their sleek, shiny, touchy, screeny, and almost completely charmless cabins. There’s a warmth and authenticity to all the switches and buttons. It’s almost like the British Airways pilots, who spent their entire careers flying in Boeing 747s powered by cables and rods, now have to retrain on an Airbus that has no face. Toulouse computer programmers.
It sounds very angry when it is idle. This is promising. The Nismo doesn’t sound like a Jekyll and Hyde 911 Turbo S. It’s not a Jekyll and Hyde vehicle. From start-up to shut down, it’s all Hyde. But he’ll be arriving at your house with an apocalyptic hangover and a baseball bat. It will require some management. It was so bad that I looked instinctively to see if I had accidentally left the dampers in their super-stiff R mode. I didn’t.
After a while, I was able to drive the car again for the first time and wondered what all the fuss was about. This car weighs more than 1700kg. While its power output used to make people gasp, there are now SUVs, estates, and even EVs that can match it. It was once a huge deal, but I doubt it is still popular today.
It was still a pleasant experience, even though I had to walk a bit to get to the mountains. The 3.8-litre V6 was a great sounding engine.
Sometimes, small boosts were delivered to indicate that this was still going be a strong force to be reckoned. Unexpectedly, the steering was also very good: it was precise, well-weighted, and offered a feeling of connection that is rare these days. I set everything to R, and let the car go.
It all happens in a flash. The engine is roaring, and the steering is writhing. The engine is roaring, the steering wheel is wobbling. Even for a front-engined car, there’s a lot of grip. It has incredible traction and once you have filtered out all the chaos, it is quite normal to behave when it begins to lide. You’re overwhelmed with thoughts and noises, and your head is filled with ideas. Your hands are full of trying to guide this thing in the right direction.
It seems at first like an assault on your senses, and all very alien. You begin to get used to the Nismo way. You are now dialed in. Although it’s not subtle, it keeps you busy. This carto keeps you perpetually enpointe. It’s a full-body exercise that challenges your brain as well as your limbs. It’s way more fun than I can remember.
I was intrigued by the reason for this, and it wasn’t long before I found out. The GT-R has remained steadfast, even though the world is constantly changing. Even though it was a throwback, the Nismo made it a classic. But cars like this don’t get manufactured anymore. Modern people are smart, intelligent and clever. Are they less engaging? It’s not. I believe that the enjoyment of a car is directly proportional with how involved you feel. This observation applies equally to a vintage Bentley and a hypercar. Or a GT-R.
This car is not for everyone, even though it was brand new. It has outlived all other cars that were even close to it. It probably should have been buried a long time ago. It survived, which is a good thing. It was like a grand old galleon kept on the fleet as an attraction. It was wonderful to go aboard and have a look around.
The (Skyline GT-R) Potted History
In 1969, the first Nissan Skyline GT-R was introduced. It was a boring-looking saloon, but it produced a slightly more exciting coupe in 1971. They were powered by a straight-six 2.0-litre engine that produced 158 hp through a five speed gearbox and to the rear wheels via limited-slip. differential. It was roughly equal to its V12-engined Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona’ in terms of output per litre.
The 1973 second-generation, similarly-powered car was not mentioned here. It was scrapped by the oil crisis after less than 200 were built. That was it. The next Skyline GT-R would not arrive until the end of the tenth decade.
The 1989 R32 model was the first to be built and remains the most beloved. It was equipped with a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine that directed its power to all four wheels. However, the standard version had 276bhp, which is less than half of today’s GT-R Nismo. It was also the first model to have a Nismo edition, but this was a homologation special that allowed specific parts to be legalized for racing.
In 1995, the fourth iteration (R33), arrived. Although it was heavier and had less power from the littlechanged motor than the previous iterations, it was definitely faster and became the first car to lap the Nurburgring circuit in under eight minutes. It was probably due to the fact that Japanese manufacturers reached an agreement in late 1980s that reduced the power of any engine sold to the domestic market to 276 bhp. This is what it looks like. Some went further, as was almost certain in this case.
For the R34 Skyline GT-R, which was released in 1999, the agreement was still in effect. Anyone who had driven one will be aware of how meaningless that number had become. There were many variants of the R34 Skyline GT-R, just like the previous two versions. Some had significant specifications and others carried V-Spec II or V-Spec II names. In 2002, the R34 was killed. This happened two years before the 276bhp deal, which was more honored for the violation than it was for the observance.
This explains probably why the R35 GT-R, which isn’t a Skyline but should never be called such), has ever produced less that 480bhp.