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Review

R34 Nissan Skyline GTR

Ride & Handling

Regarding the outside dimensions of the GT-R (it is as big as a Subaru Legacy and almost as big as a VW Passat), one can hardly imagine that this car is sporty. Of course it looks evil with all those aerodynamic add-ons, but taking the weight of about 3,400 pounds into account, this vehicle appears too large to be quick.

Getting into the Skyline is easy and the inside is quite comfortable - at least in comparison to others of its kind. The bucket seats hug the driver like a second skin and hold him tight even during fast cornering, but are still very comfortable. The seating position could be better, but otherwise ergonomics are fine, with all controls in easy reach of the driver. But honestly - this is a sports car, so who really cares about ergonomics and comfort here.

This car is supposed to entertain!

And the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R brings all the guts to do so! Start the engine and you soon notice this is a direct descendant of the 1995/96 500+hp GT1 engine. The redline is at an astonishing 8,000 rpm, which promises a lot of fun. Press the accelerator though, and the RB26DETT will need at least 3,500 rpm until it really gets going - before that it is flat and lifeless.
Still, keeping the engine in its best power-range is quite easy with the perfect 6-speed Getrag gearbox. The new transmission is precise and offers good feel, with a clutch that is light, sharp and progressive. Thus, launching the car is quite easy: Drop the accelerator and dump the clutch at 8,000 rpm. 1st gear goes until 44mph, so one shift is necessary until 60 mph is hit in 2nd gear after 4.9 seconds. Keep the pedal planted and the Skyline passes the 100 mph mark in 12.3 seconds - both times faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera.

The R34's ride is quite firm (even more so in V-Spec form), but not uncomfortable. When really pushing this car hard, one comes to admire this setup. The state-of-the-art suspension makes sure the Potenzas touch the road with maximum efficiency, although, especially in V-Spec form, the wide tires tend to tramline. But generally the Skyline feels extremely planted, almost glued to the ground and instantly generates respect and extreme confidence.

Part of this confidence can be attributed to the pin-sharp steering, supported by the Super-HICAS all-wheel-steering system, which converts the driver's inputs the moment he does them. Once driven, the car does not seem as large anymore, thanks to all the technology that effectively helps to fight physics. One is still aware of the car's size, but that does not at all hinder in exploiting its advantages. It just prevents from going to far.

What really distinguishes the Skyline from any other car though, is ATTESA, the GT-R's all-wheel-drive system. ATTESA-ETS usually operates in rear-wheel-drive setup, but when necessary (i.e. when a wheel spins), it can electronically shift up to 50% of the engine's torque to the front wheels. In effect, the GT-R behaves like a RWD rather than an AWD car, just with some more front-end bite. Even drifts are possible with ATTESA, which is usually almost impossible in AWD cars. Actually, during drifts, the system tries to distribute the power in a way that even supports the drifting rather than hinder it. But even more so, ATTESA helps stabilizing the car, which is especially helpful on bad B-roads. And those are where the Skyline really shines. Hardly any car feels as planted here and makes you feel as much a hero as a Skyline GT-R does - especially in the wet. You are always aware of the car's mass and its desire to oversteer, but where other cars start losing their grip (i.e. other cars like the Impreza WRX and Lancer Evo), the Skyline still keeps its composure and inspires confidence.

There might be other cars with lots of grip, but hardly any of these will respond the way a Skyline does. Driving hard into corners one can feel the all-wheel-drive system distributing the torque between the wheels for maximum stability. Any driver input is converted into action immediately without delay. In correspondence with the 56% stiffer bodyshell over the R33, the GT-R communicates with the driver as if it was one with him.

This responsiveness is even more amazing considering the Skyline's uneven weight-distribution of 57% in front and 43% in the rear. Usually a layout like this would be expected to be dominated by understeer, but due to ATTESA's intervention, the car is given a more sportive, rather oversteering character. Be careful though, pushing the car to far to its limits may result in a sudden loss of grip at the rear wheels - partly because of the uncompromising Bridgestone tires.

But where the Skyline cannot hide its nose-heavy layout is on the skidpad, since ATTESA does not help much here. The behavior is dominated by understeer, although with the right balance between smooth driving and aggressive throttling, the GT-R still reaches a road-holding of 0.88g.

Godzilla's active ability is rounded up by a standard-setting Brake system. The Brembo brakes offer good feel and bite instantly, but unlike most other cars, the ABS does not intervene immediately, but lets the tires lock for a moment before it cuts in. The result is a braking distance of an overwhelming 151 feet from 70-0mph - over 10 feet less than a Porsche GT3.

Verdict

Concerning the design, it is to consider that the R34 GT-R is a pumped-up version of a family sedan, not a fashionable piece of automotive-design-art like Italian supercars. On a GT-R, every scoop and bulge has its function intended to form a piece of technical art and to increase its efficiency as a street rocket.

This car is a technology showcase trying to make head-turning technology and performance available for everyday-use. And with all its gadgets, it offers a very involving driving experience, but at the same time fulfills the requirements of a daily commuter. The Skyline GT-R shines as a good compromise between a pure sports car and a sedan, almost as radical and edgy as the former and almost as useful as the latter. And it makes this compromise as convincing as hardly any other car does.

This is why the Skyline is not only, as the American “Road & Track” magazine wrote, “The best Gran Turismo to ever come from the land of the rising sun”. It is “The Real Supercar” - maybe a bit overstyled, maybe senselessly fast in a time of rising fuel-prices and ever increasing traffic jams - but certainly entertaining!

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