Still one of the greats, very visceral to drive quickly, masses of grip and ability. Deserves the ‘icon’ tag
Not as fast as you think these days, those super-cool graphics now look a bit Game Boy. If you know what that is
What is it?
The Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R (1999 - 2002). Fifth and last of the Skyline GT-Rs (the R35 dropped the ‘Skyline’ part of the name), poster-child for a generation weaned on the likes of Gran Turismo, Fast & Furious and a host of other digital dreams. An angry-looking four-seat coupe so full of Japanese technical brilliance that back in the day it could carve out a laptime that belied its apparent lack of power.
A lack addressed post-haste by a myriad of tuners who - primed by the ’32 and ’33 - knew that the basic GT-R package was fertile soil for boost and trickery. And over the years, as with every generation of GT-R, there have been some monster meddled-with specials - 400bhp with a vague re-map, 5-600 with some relatively minor internals, 800 -1000bhp if you go the whole hog and start forging things and walloping about with monster single blowers.
The basic car is still an impressive bit of kit, mind. The legendary 2.6-litre RB26DETT straight-six twin-turbo motor (2.8 in some variants) apparently put out a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ 276bhp from the factory - though they rarely did in reality. Most were tested in the 330bhp range, though no one ever admitted anything officially, so maybe the horses were simply breeding on the ship from Japan.
Plenty of interesting acronyms, including Super-HICAS four-wheel steer, ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain) four-wheel drive and a limited-slip diff at either end, the rearmost being active on the V-Spec cars. It’s a six-speed manual, now relatively small compared to modern gear, full of attitude.
It’s also a car that carries with it a weight of expectation, mostly borne of rave reviews from the contemporary motoring press, a technological marvel that could beat up supercars for a third of the price back in the late ‘90s/early 2000s.
It also was one of the first cars to really embrace the ‘special edition’ model of marketing embraced by many supercar manufacturers since, birthing a host of Nismo (Nissan Motorsport) versions, V (Victory) and M-Spec (Mizuno, the chief engineer), Z-Tune, Nür (Nürburgring) and others, including a host of market-specific cars. It’s also got a long and proud history in motorsport from Touring Cars to Pikes Peak, drag to drift. It’s a bit of a hero.
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
They say you should never meet your heroes, or revisit past glories. But in the case of the R34, there’s no problem with either. Strange how the car feels very different now to how it did 20 years ago - put into stark context by modern fast cars.
It’s visceral, fun, engaging on a level a Golf R can only dream about, even though the VW has more power, more traction, more torque, more of everything you think you want - apart from character. Prices are rising, and justifiably so.
Finding a standard example is hard, and the temptation to modify when they accept fettling with such grace is difficult in the extreme, but as far as a classic of its era, the GT-R stands tall even in 2019. One of the best cars we’ve driven in a long time, even at nearly a couple of decades distance.