With the introduction of the R33 series in 1993, Nissan continued the approach it had started with the R32 in 1989. Throughout its history, the Skyline had always been quite sporty. Even though, the R30 and R31 series had emphasized luxury rather than sportiness, so with the launch of the R32, Nissan set out to resurrect the Skyline's old virtues. With better looks, engines, and handling, the R33 series was predestined to take the Skyline to a level it had never reached before.
Looking rounder overall, the R33 appears even more pleasant and balanced in design than the R32. With slightly bigger exterior dimensions and unfortunately also a bit more weight than the previous generation, the R33 sedans look more understated and grown up than their predecessors. Gone is the conspicuous rear wing we saw on the R32 sedans. Early versions featured decently shaped front bumpers, which after the 1996 facelift had to give way for an aggressively styled spoiler with large air inlets. The R33 keeps the characteristic round taillights, although these take on different looks for the coupe and sedan versions. Still, with quite unspectacular looks and hardly any exaggerated trimmings to hint at the car's performance, it seems the R33 wants to hide its potential from possible contenders.
Under the bonnet of the R33 worked inline six-cylinder engines only. The base engine was the RB20E of the R33 GTS, which produced a maximum of 130 hp at 5,600 rpm from 2 litres of displacement. Next was the RB25DE, a 2.5l engine with 190 hp at 6,400 rpm, powering the GTS25 and GTS4. Top of the line was the RB25DET of the GTS25t, a turbocharged 2.5l inline-6 with 250 hp at 6,400 rpm and 217 lb-ft. (294 Nm) of torque at 4,800rpm. Just like the R32, the R33 sedans came in rear- and all-wheel-drive forms, with 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual transmissions available.
The car retained the suspension layout of the R32 series, with double wishbones up front and a multi-link setup in the rear. ABS-brakes with discs all-round were standard across the line.
Choice of the bunch is the R33 GTS25t. It came in sedan and coupe forms, which basically differed only in that one had four doors and the other two. Of course, the coupe was the sportier version, thanks to its lower weight and more compact dimensions, but apart from that, the sedan fared quite well.
Powered by the RB25DET, the R33 GTS25t is all but underpowered. In comparison to the previous top-of-the-line RB20DET, the 2.5l is way more flexible. The turbo still does not start working until about 3,500rpm, but thanks to the healthy displacement of 2498cc and a relatively high (for a turbo) compression ratio of 9.0:1, the engine does not suffer from too much lag below that. Thus, although the car has gained approximately 150 lbs. (70 kg) over the R32 GTS-t, the 250 turbocharged horses still make for a more than adequate acceleration of 7.1 seconds from 0-60mph for the automatic version. The quartermile is reached in a tad under 15 and a half seconds, which is quite remarkable for a family car.
But traffic-light showdowns are not what the Skylines of this generation were aimed at. From the basic R33 GTS up to the fabulous GTR, these cars lived for the twisty stuff. Thanks to an enhanced R32 suspension and the stiffness settings of the coupe, the R33 GTS25t in effect feels smaller than it is. The steering is a bit too light at low-to-medium speeds, but otherwise the car shines with an excellently balanced chassis and feels stable and secure at all speeds - in contrast to the R32 GTS-t even at high speeds. Still, throttle-steer is well possible and oversteer easily induced.
The interior is kept simple and clear. All instruments are well placed and easy to read. Unfortunately, airbags were standard only from the 1996 facelift on and not available before that. In line with the sporty layout of the whole car, the front seats offer good lateral support, without compromising comfort. Knee-room is still rare in the rear-compartment, but head and shoulder room have grown compared to the R32 sedans. Boot space is also limited in comparison to other sedans, but thanks to a deep and geometric form better useable than before.
So, are the R33 sedans better than their predecessors?
No, because they have gained in all departments where a sports car generally acts with restraint. The R33 is bigger and heavier than the R32, and as a result not quite as agile and quick in a straight line anymore. The R32 is definitely the less compromised of the two.
Yes, because in general the R33 keeps all the good traits of its predecessor and combines them with better looks, more and better useable power and more comfort. In the world of sports cars, a difference of 0.2 seconds from 0-60mph decides between winner and loser, but we're not talking about sports cars here. If you want brute force and handling, don't bother with the Skyline sedans and get a coupe for pretty much the same money - or go for the GT-R right away. For everybody else, the R33 sedans offer a unique blend of sportiness, styling, and every-day usability that hardly any other car in this price-range can match.