The Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R - does it live up to the hype?
I had a ride in one that churned out some considerable power...
I don't know whether it's just me, but I am against the idea of hype. I'm not a fan of everybody making a buzz for an event or something new coming out. Especially in COVID times when we were waiting for things to open up, people became increasingly excited for pubs reopening, restaurants, and the ability to mix with multiple people.
Whilst I was missing old times during lockdown, I was also increasingly anxious towards the dates in which places did open up. A bit of that still retains now that the UK is on its way to opening up completely. But when pubs opened up on 12th April, I remember going to one at around 8pm... the temperature must've been minus-40! It was slightly awful.
I then realised that the excitement for going out to bars and the like was a massive hype train. Looking back now, I would've preferred to go back to them at the right time and place to suit me, but it was probably quite trendy to socialise as soon as possible.
It made me think: it's healthier for my brain to disconnect from hype and go about things with my own sense of judgement. I don't drink alcohol which probably explains why I'm not as fussed as others about going on nights out. When the time comes that me and my friends do head back out to an environment of loud music, shots, and 4am McDonalds trips, I will try as much as possible to not follow the herd of hype.
This neatly brings me onto what many would call the king of the Japanese performance car movement of the 1990s: the Nissan Skyline GT-R. For as long as the internet existed, this car alongside a few others has been the subject of hype as large as Godzilla himself.
All over social media, you will find emoji-filled accounts which post modified cars like these every 5 minutes. Usually, they're titled 'TOP OR BOTTOM' or '1000HP GTR VS 1200HP SUPRA, LIKE COMMENT, IGNORE' and I'm staggered they're even posted by human beings.
I have a car spotting, photography, something-or-other account on Instagram and was invited to shoot this 1993 R32 GT-R alongside a rather mental R35. In my mind, I would never act like one of those 'JDM NATION 4EVER' accounts, so I kept my post quite casual. While shooting, I then got asked if I wanted a ride in the 28-year-old beast. I was due to meet my friends at the pub for the Euros final in less than 10 minutes and this would make me embarrassingly late to the party.
In the end, I decided I needed to be late.
The R32 next to the R35 tuned by Kream Developments.
So, what exactly are we dealing with? Well as I'm sure you know, the R32 generation GT-R was released in the summer of 1989 and lasted until 1994. It was designed to compete in Group A racing and Nissan came up with a more competitive car than the existing GTS-R. It was then found that the GT-R was too competitive.
In Australian Bathurst racing, it became unbeatable thanks to its all-wheel-drive system and stonking power from the turbocharged engine. The governing bodies at the time weren't keen and banned AWD and turbocharging in the motor racing series, thus ending the GT-R's dominant time on track. As for the road car? Well, it went on to become a living icon that offered blistering supercar performance without the vulgar expenses.
This one lived its life in Japan until 2011 when it was imported over. It's far from standard as several Nismo upgrades have been installed as well as a new exhaust system and some other bits fiddling around under the bonnet.
As a result, the 2.6 litre twin-turbocharged straight six doesn't develop the circa 280bhp it came with from factory. Instead, it's running 600.
And trust me, you can tell.
In this review, it would be pointless to tell you how the car behaves because it isn't how the car would've behaved from factory. My experience is irrelevant if I were to tell someone what a Skyline GT-R feels like on the road. So, my words will only be fitting to this example.
But what I will say is this: it makes you believe it's sucking out your heart and lungs before firing them through an air lock. This car is seriously, seriously fast. I won't mention how sprightly we were moving exactly, but at a point where it seemed like my buttocks would take off, we were then passed by the dust-sweeping, flame spitting R35 (which I should state, is running close to 750bhp). I hate to use a cliché, but I genuinely felt like I was a passenger in a Fast and Furious film. The atmosphere was something worth dreaming about - and I'm not even the largest fan of the Japanese car scene!
The owner tells me that, albeit on a phone app, he's clocked this thing running from 0-60 in just 3.5 seconds. And if you're not entirely clued-up, that's dangerously close to modern GT-R standards.
I cannot recall experience of any other car feeling quite like this one.
Following on from my buttocks, the seats weren't bad either. I imagine this GT-R probably has some suspension upgrades, so it's irrelevant as to how comfortable it is in relation to other examples. But the original seats were kept in this car and even for a skinny guy whose just under six foot, I felt fairly snug in them.
And props to whoever set up the coils as well, because while it was firm and you could feel more-or-less every bump, it wasn't uncomfortable in any way. Instead, it felt supple. Bearable like riding on a well-behaved Labrador.
The handling, as a result of this setup, is only comparable to a wasp or electrical current. The way it darts around corners is so sharp, that your heart and lungs are instead shoved from side to side after they've found their rightful position again. The relationship between the tyres and the road are very much like your feet in your favourite shoes; snug, tight, perfect!
The sheer brute force of this GT-R obviously cannot be said for all examples, but it made me wonder whether the hype around EVs is really necessary?
Let me explain: so, I've experienced a Tesla Model S before which has received a lot of fuss due to its instant torque and blistering performance, blah blah blah.
Well, I can confidently tell you that this GT-R felt quicker than it. And if you ask me, that's a testament to how relevant the internal combustion engine still is given the weird digital world we now live in. The EV instant torque fuss is a bit overrated, don't you think? Especially as proven in this GT-R and other examples like it, the same level of pull can be achieved in a 30-year-old car.
But that's just my brain having an epiphany. In reality, you could never really compare a screen-driven electric saloon to a far more analogue 30-year-old sports/supercar. But I know which I'd rather have...
Does it live up to the hype?
I hate to be brutal, but despite thundering down the road at silly speeds with a thumping heart, I couldn't really find any aspect of the GT-R which made me think "ohhh, so that's why everyone raves about it!"
I love and respect the car massively as a machine, but the level of sheer lust that fanboys give it and other cars alike couldn't be determined by myself. I think it's mainly down to the nostalgia that a lot of people experienced via Gran Turismo and Fast and Furious; and I'll state right now that I didn't really catch onto that back in those days and couldn't draw much of a correlation with the GT-R - which probably explains my stance on the car.
Still though, I can't think of anything else that provides this level of grip, offers this amount of hilarious performance and is as effortlessly reliable as a GT-R - of any generation from the R32 and after, hence why so many refer to this as the leader of the Japanese performance car movement. Many will look at this car and think of Paul Walker, but I approached it with a great deal of respect based off its Group A racing heritage.
But above all, it's a heck of a lot of fun!
Should you buy one?
That's a silly question, isn't it? I dislike when car journalists put that as a question in road tests because you should only buy what you are impressed with and not be dictated by others' opinions.
If you don't fancy an R32 GT-R, fair game. If you want to buy one one, also fair game. Prices for the things are slightly extortionate these days and I personally don't believe they're worth as much as people are paying for them and the R33 and 34 counterparts. But clearly, there is a strong market for those willing to pay.
But then again, there isn't really anything like a GT-R - especially from the 1990s and despite other manufacturers coming up with their own rivals at the time, they weren't quite the same. After a bit of thought, it's easy to see why so many people hail this as the king of the Japanese performance car movement. They're just good at anything and everything!
While I don't lust after such a thing myself, this one gets my upmost respect. What a thing!
I just need to find out what a standard car feels like.
a league of its own
- this one is neck-breakingly fast
- great racing heritage
- AWD and all-round usability makes it great for a variety of situations
- really REALLY good fun!
- bit pricey for what it is (in my opinion)
- can't relate to the hype
Owner's instagram: @davidskyline_r32_gtr
My spotting account: @midlands_car_spotter