I have no idea how I found myself in the driver’s seat of an early nineties, Japanese-spec Nissan Skyline, but I’ll never forget driving it, mainly because it was such a unique experience.
Engine: 3.8-liter Twin Turbo V6
Torque: 467 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: six-speed dual clutch
Weight: 3,929 lb. (1,782 kg)
Fuel Economy MPG: 16 City, 22 Highway, 18 Combined
Fuel Economy l/100kms: 14.3 City, 10.5 Highway, 12.6 Combined
Price (USD): $111,585
Price (CAD): $127,631 CAD
It was about ten years ago, when I was still an excitable young automotive enthusiast and was still learning my way around swapping gears with a manual transmission. A friend had one of the first models imported into the country and the details of that situation were sketchy at best, but he gave me a go around in the Skyline, and it was an interesting drive to say the least: not only was I changing gears from the wrong side of the car, but the amount of power from the car’s turbocharged inline-six was definitely memorable.
Around the same time I was driving that old Japanese coupe, Nissan dropped a crazy car called the GT-R on the world, and it redefined what a sports car could do. As the successor to the mighty Nissan Skyline GT-R, this vehicle could do 0–60 mph in about three seconds and was the king of the Nurburgring for a short period of time. It set a whole new benchmark for performance cars, and supercar makers had to scramble to deliver faster cars than this Nissan.
It’s hard to believe that nearly ten years have passed since the GT-R first debuted, and since it arrived on the scene, so many other awesome performance vehicles have set their sights on the car known as Godzilla. Until 2017, Nissan hasn’t been particularly generous with the updates doled out to its super sports car, but this year the automaker is promising that the vehicle has received the most significant refresh yet.
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Hey there, Godzilla
But let’s start with the sensory overload you experience when you put your foot down. The twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 gets the message with a limited amount of lag. Once those turbos spool up, there’s this immense surge of power and thrust. The back end hunkers down as most of the 565-hp and 467 lb-ft of torque hits the rear axle, but then the front wheels start spinning and clawing at the asphalt for grip as the advanced all-wheel-drive setup sends power up front to improve the acceleration. The dual-clutch transmission quickly snaps into the next gear as you start to reach criminal speeds. It’s awesome, amazing and absolutely addicting.
Give it a full dose of throttle, and your passenger will suddenly stop talking and focus on the quickly approaching horizon. I know this for a fact, as I was given the prestigious responsibility of delivering a bride to her wedding venue. Every time she started whining about how the centerpieces weren’t perfect or that the groom’s shirt better be tucked in, I could just stomp on the pedal and GT-R’s incredible performance transformed her griping into giggling. I think she had as much fun arriving to her wedding as I did dancing the night away.
How it moves
Let’s forget the matrimonial memories and talk about mass… The GT-R’s mass I mean, which wasn’t concerned with slimming down to fit in its best dress for this wedding. Weighing in at just under 4,000 pounds, the Nissan is heavy, which makes its speed such a surprise. Helping to move this car so quickly is that advanced all-wheel-drive system that balances the power as needed. While power delivery is typically sent to the rear wheels, the system will constantly monitor the car’s speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle, tire slip, road surface and yaw rate. When the situation calls for it, up to fifty percent of the power will go to the front wheels. This also enhances grip and traction, with the most noticeable benefit being the speeds achieved by this big car.
The six-speed dual-clutch transmission is a huge deal in moving this car, too. It’s very quick, although using the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters is sometimes not as quick as I would have hoped. Nissan says they aimed to improve the refinement of this unit and it’s definitely a smoother unit. However, in comparison to Porsche’s PDK, it’s not as perfect as it could be. Still, it swaps gears quickly and since speed is this car’s main objective, there’s no complaining about that.
Further augmenting that traction-targeting all-wheel drive setup is a stiffer body and adjustable suspension. The suspension, along with the transmission and traction/stability control, features three settings. In the case of the suspension, it gives it a more compliant ride that isn’t as focused on generating the most g-force, as it is in the hardcore R mode. Steering is well tuned, with a speed-sensitive rack that provides a good amount of feedback.
The limits of the GT-R are incredibly high, so if you’re looking to buy this car, then a trip to the race track should be on the to-do list as well. With this much grip and speed, the GT-R can only really be experienced in a safe, controlled place like a track. However, if you are doing some lapping, pay attention to the brakes of the big car. Based on my experiences with other big, fast cars, bringing a car this heavy to a stop repeatedly isn’t going to be easy and all that pressure on the brakes will cause a lot of heat and wear. It’s interesting the Nissan doesn’t offer higher performance carbon-ceramic brakes on this car, which would alleviate that concern.
But refinement is a major point of emphasis with the GT-R. The interior is quieter thanks to active noise cancellation. There are other upgrades that cater to improving the liveability of the car, like the new titanium exhaust system’s electronic control valves that help reduce droning on the highway. More sound absorbing materials are used throughout the car, and now the car is so quiet that Nissan had to start piping some of the engine and exhaust noises into the car through some digital trickery. To be completely honest, the engine doesn’t sound that impressive or distinctive. The main defining sound of the car is the subtle whoosh of the turbos, and it’s not nearly as dramatic as the noises coming out of cars like the Chevrolet Corvette Z06, Porsche 911 or even those awesome Dodge Hellcat models.
Improved Interior but Missing Features
The final point in the GT-R’s quest to become a liveable and refined car is its interior. The cabin is much improved. Our model in particular had a very attractive, creamy interior and Nissan has redesigned the center console, reducing the amount of buttons from 27 to just 11. The dash is covered in leather, too, and it’s plushy and soft to the touch. Even the seats are comfortable and not at all fatiguing for longer trips.
While the interior feels modern in terms of design, there are a few critical things that are lacking, especially with Nissan’s push for refinement and even luxury in this model. For example, there’s no advanced smartphone support, like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Additionally, while other high-end performance cars offer safety aids and driver assistance features like blind spot assist, lane departure warning and forward collision alert, the GT-R has none of that. Not even adaptive cruise control. All these features are available in other, lower Nissan models so why aren’t they here too? And how about head-up display? Seems like that should have been added to a performance car of this caliber long ago.
That’s a disappointment when you consider that the GT-R isn’t as cheap as it used to be. When it debuted back in 2008 the price was around the $70,000 mark. The new model comes in at $111,585 USD and $127,631 CAD. The only extra package is the Premium Interior Package, which adds $4,000 to the cost of the car in either region.
The Verdict: 2017 Nissan GT-R Review
The GT-R is a pricey sports car, but one that backs up the price with impressive performance. While it lacks the fancy features of other supercars, it can still hang with the best of them in terms of speed.
But I brought up that early experience of the Skyline for a reason. That old car was a completely different beast, something that commanded respect, not just from others on the road, but from the driver as well. This new GT-R is much more accessible and easier to live with in comparison, while still delivering the thrills and looks.