Introduced on June 15th, 2001, the V35 Nissan Skyline series marks a radical step away from previous Skylines with extensive changes in the design and engineering departments.
The new car is available in four versions: 300 GT, 250 GT, 250 GT-Four, and 250 Gte, with the 250GTe being the least expensive model and the 300GT marking the top of the line. Nissan finally plans to bring the Skyline to international markets, where it is to compete against the Lexus IS 300, BMW 3-Series, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class primarily in the form of the Infiniti G35.
Hence, originality and quality were high on the list of requirements for the new series. As a result, the rather edgy design of the R34series was dropped in favor of a design with smooth and understated lines and an ultra low co-efficient of drag (cd) of 0.27. Shorter front- and rear-overhangs make for a more dynamic appearance. With 184.1 in. (4,675 mm) of length and a wheelbase of 112.2 in. (2850 mm), the V35 Nissan Skyline is among the largest cars in its class, although it is about 1.2 in. (30 mm) shorter than its predecessor. Also gone are the characteristic round taillights, which are replaced by rather BMW-like items. Although very different to previous Skyline generations, Nissan hopes the new look will appeal young customers and old Skyline-fans alike.
Additionally, instead of the earlier inline-6 engines, the V35 now boasts 2.5 and 3-litre V6's, featuring the latest in engine development like E-VTC (Electro-magnetic variable valve timing control - similar to Toyota's VVT-i) and Nissan's newly developed direct-fuel-injection for improved responses and better fuel-economy over the previous inline-6 RB-series. All of this tech works out to 215 hp and 200 lb-ft. (270 Nm) for the 2.5-liter VQ25DD and 260 hp and 239 lb-ft. (324 Nm) for the 3.0-litre VQ30DD, making the Skyline's engines the strongest of its class. As nice as this increase in power for the normally aspirated (NA) engines may sound; there also is a bad side about it. Now that the NA engines almost reach the output of the previous turbo engines, the turbos have become unnecessary, and are no longer available.
All engines are either mated to a five-speed (300 GT) with manumatic function or a four-speed automatic transmission, but a manual transmission is planned to come with the US introduction of the G35. Similar to previous generations, the V35 Skyline is available with both rear- and all-wheel-drive.
But, as we have seen particularly with American muscle cars of old, it needs more than just a great engine to build a good car, especially if the Skyline and its sibling the Infiniti G35 are to stand out in the highly contested market of near-luxury sports-sedans. Due to the car's heritage, one of the main objectives when designing the V35 series was sportiness. That is why Kazutoshi Mizuno, Nissan's former Le Mans and Group C team Manager and today's head of the Skyline design team, took a totally new approach on the car's dynamic layout, which Mizuno now refers to as the FM (front-midship) package.
Similar to genuine sports cars like the Honda S2000, the engine is placed behind, instead of above the front-axle to accumulate weight as near to the car's center as possible. Further weight enhancements include a lightweight aluminium bonnet for all models and a petrol tank that is placed under the rear seat. Weight distribution now is at an almost ideal 52% up front and 48% at the rear, whereas the R34's was 54:46.
In addition, the suspension has undergone a comprehensive redesign. Up front, alloy arms and a double pivot system reduce unsprung weight by 25% compared to the old car, whereas in the rear new attachment points for the springs and shock absorbers help reduce friction by 70%. In correspondence with “ripple control” shocks, these enhancements make for a better tire contact with the road and improve ride quality significantly over the previous R34 sedans.
The 3.0-liter V6 provides superbly progressive acceleration and strong low- to midrange torque. Thanks to its long-wheelbase and zero-lift aerodynamics package, the Nissan Skyline convinces with excellent stability under braking and at high velocities. The rack-and-pinion steering is well weighted and precise and in correspondence with minimal body-roll makes the car superbly adjustable during hard cornering, although some understeer is dialed in for safety. Overall, "the ride and handling capabilities for the new car are outstanding" (C&D).
After the model change, the Nissan Skyline might not be the car as it was known before, but this does not mean the V35 series cannot live up to its heritage. Just about all the characteristic features of past Skylines, like the RB engines, the round tail-lights and in some cases even the place where the steering wheel sits, changed, but all these differences rather sum up to one conclusion: The Skyline has become a better car. The R34 series was dropped after only 3 years of production, because it sold badly. With the new car and ambitions to sell it internationally, Nissan has finally assured the survival of the Skyline and its derivatives like the GT-R.
Through the decades, the Skyline has seen many new, totally different designs - and chances are high we will see many more. The Skyline has always been a trendsetter for the automotive scene - if not in standard form, at least in GT-R disguise. With the introduction of the V35 sedans, a new time has started. Never before has a Skyline Sedan been as competitive and innovative as this car. Of course, many of us will miss the characteristic features seen on previous Skylines and especially the R32 - R34 versions, which had somehow become synonymous for the Skyline Legend throughout the last decade. But finally, the Nissan Skyline has the chance to extend this reputation internationally.
For more information on this car, please have a look at our road test of its American sibling, the Infiniti G35.