Nissan Pulsar GTI-R: Sweet Dream

Ageing Gracefully!

THE NISSAN GT-R is ageing gracefully, but with no replacement for the 370Z on the horizon there’s precious little for Nissan’s enthusiastic performance fan base to get excited about in the near (or even distant) future.

This needs to change, lest this iconic sporting brand be relegated to nothing more than an SUV company – it might be where the money lives, but it’s not where the excitement is. And sorry, we’re sure the Juke NISMO is not without its charms, but we’re talking serious performance here.

Thankfully, Nissan has no shortage of hits in its back catalogue to revive. Yes, we’d all really like another 200SX, but bespoke platform blah blah, too expensive blah blah, so why not dive head first into one of the popular modern performance segments – hot hatches?

The Pulsar GTI-R mightn’t have enjoyed the popularity of the likes of the Subaru WRX or Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, but it was potent enough in the early-1990s to develop a cult following and earn the nickname ‘Baby Godzilla’. Here’s how we’d build it.

Here’s how we’d do it:

Heart Transplant

There’s no current engine in the Nissan family capable of hot hatch performance, however, thankfully Nissan’s sister company Renault has the perfect option sitting under the bonnet of its forthcoming Megane RS. Whether it’ll be a 1.6 or 2.0-litre turbo four is currently unclear, but around 200kW/350Nm should be plenty for our needs.

’Box, ’Box, ’box

As the new Megane RS will come in both manual and dual-clutch guises, so will our hot Pulsar, as the only other self-shifting alternative is to use a tweaked version of Nissan’s CVT – no thanks.

Want it all

Anyone who’s driven the current Pulsar SSS will be aware of how much work would be ahead of Nissan to turn the GTI-R into a benchmark hot hatch. A rear-biased Twinster-style all-wheel drive system would be a good start, but injecting some feel and accuracy into the dynamics should be priority number one. We want the grip of a WRX, the adjustability of a Megane RS and the ease of use of a Golf GTI – not asking too much, is it?

Price is right

Lobbing the GTI-R in at a low-$40K price point should throw the cat amongst the pigeons, offering 0-100km/h in 5.6sec and 240km/h flat out to give a performance uppercut to established players like the WRX and Focus ST and go toe-to-toe with the new Hyundai i30 N.

Let’s go racing

A return to the WRC would be great, but Nissan would be better off following the money, eyeballs and its competitors (Subaru, Honda, VW) into the Global Rallycross Championship with a factory-backed effort from NISMO. It would also provide Nissan with the perfect opportunity to launch an off-road version of its GT Academy.

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