What do the Acura NSX, Mitsubishi 3000 GT VR4, Toyota Supra Turbo, third-generation Mazda RX-7, and the Nissan 300ZX Twin-Turbo all have in common? Each car offers staggering performance, each has a cult following, and none of them have a modern successor since they left the marketplace. With the exception of the NSX (the mid-engine car stuck around a bit longer than the others), it wasn't until early 2001 that Japan showed America it still cared about high performance with the arrival of the Subaru WRX. Shortly after that, Mitsubishi surprised the land of SUVs with its own rally car for the street, the EVO. We then carried on for a while, enjoying Japan's EVO vs. WRX version of the pony car wars - but there was still a certain model that American enthusiasts pined for: the Skyline. This force-fed, all-wheel-drive beast was a car we all wanted to see in places like LA and on Woodward Avenue. Now, after many years of waiting, Nissan fulfills our dream with the launch of the GT-R, due at U.S. dealers this summer.
We've already driven a prototype GT-R on in Germany on the Autobahn and on the modern Nurburgring circuit. But, earlier this week, we had the opportunity to sample a production, right-hand-drive GT-R in Japan. While we aren't able to tell you how the car will feel on U.S. roads, we were able to drive the super Nissan on some excellent twisty, challenging public roads around Sendai Hi-Land Raceway as well as on the circuit itself. But before we get to that, let's look at the impressive attention to detail put into the most important and promising Japanese sportscar since the Acura NSX.
When you see the Nissan coupe in the flesh, you are quickly aware that it isn't just a hopped up version of a pedestrian model like an EVO or WRX. The twenty-inch, seven-spoke wheels look spectacular and fit over fifteen-inch floating brake rotors clamped by large six-piston Brembo calipers. The Aston Martin-style recessed door handles are also a nice touch. While you wouldn't call the overall design beautiful, it carries a perfectly befitting, aggressive Japanese design.
Nissan has gone to great lengths in regards to the build process of each GT-R. Every 480-hp, VR38 twin-turbo V-6 engine is hand assembled in a clean, dust-free room by one of twenty highly skilled technicians at Nissan's engine plant in Yokohama. The facility turns out twenty-seven GT-R engines per day, each taking three hours and twenty minutes to build. This production number will double once a second shift starts before the end of the year. Once completed, the engines are run through both a zero and full load dyno test before shipment to the Tochigi assembly plant for installation. At that plant, the GT-R rolls down the same line as the Infiniti G35 and G37 but, once finished, it is put through a unique, eight-lap shakedown by one of ten trained drivers on a test track situated next to the factory.
According to Nissan, the goal of this procedure is to "ensure circuit driving high performance upon delivery to the customer." Brake pads and rotors are bedded in and the dual-clutch transmission is put through a process to refine the clutch plate surfaces to ensure shift times of 0.2 seconds. Finally, once completed, the chassis alignment of each GT-R is rechecked to assure a perfect setup.