Nissan has been selling the Skyline in Japan for almost 20 years, long enough that the first one to make it to the U.S. officially is the fifth generation. This fifth-generation of the affordable supercar comes to America as the Nissan GT-R, retailing for about $70,000.
The Nissan GT-R boasts performance of far more expensive cars. Its super slick, all-wheel-drive dutifully and invisibly channels the engine's 480 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque to whichever tires offer the most grip. This is most remarkable when enlisted in the Launch Control algorithm, which lets drivers make like Michael Schumacher in their own Stop Light Grands Prix. A twin-clutch, sequential-shifting, six-speed manumatic transaxle is competitive with the best prancing horse logoed car's and the equal of or better than the best of either Stuttgart or Munich.
This car is so good, so much fun to drive, whether slogging and, when the opportunity presents, darting through rush hour traffic or blurring telephone poles on empty back roads.
The GT-R comes with every comfort and convenience a driver and passenger need, and most of what a driver and passenger could want. The sports car-like cabin is climate controlled. The navigation system responds to voice commands. Behind the navigation system's LCD lie 11 pages of data, graphs and virtual gauges that tell the tale on more of the car's dynamics than most drivers can, or want to, be bothered knowing. All this makes even the infernal red start/stop button that takes the place of a perfectly functional key tolerable. At least, most of the time.
Nissan plans to sell about 2400 GT-Rs through 700 specially certified Nissan dealers, a super car fully homologated and certified to U.S. safety and emission standards and ready for everyday use just like any other Nissan the dealer sells. But that's about the extent of the similarities between this ultra-refined supercar and the Altimas, Versas, Maximas and, yes, 350Zs that yearn to share a little of the GT-R's glow. The time may come, if Nissan survives as a major player in the U.S. market despite the shrinking new car market and some not-so-minor missteps by its French management, that the GT-R will be seen not just a stupendous achievement as a legitimate entry in the supercar ranks, but also as nothing less than the salvation of the brand. One car gave that kind of spark to Datsun. The GT-R may for Nissan.
The Nissan GT-R comes in one body style, a two-door, 2+2 quasi-coupe. There's also but one powertrain offered, a twin-turbocharged, 3.6-liter V6 driving all four wheels through a six-speed, twin-clutch, sequential-shifting, automated-manual transaxle. Shifts are managed either by computer or by steering column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters.