Nissan Skyline (R34) Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October


What is it like to drive?

The car we tested for this revisit is a low-mileage (38k) V-Spec R34 GT-R, and it is completely standard. Which is the equivalent of saying that we’ve saddled an actual unicorn and are using it for commuting.

V-for-Victory means we get the UK specific set-up: three extra oil coolers (for sustained high-speed running), revised map, a swathe of slippery leather, even stiffer suspension than standard, an active rear diff (the front is still dumb), a couple of extra screens for the display that show intake/exhaust temps and a proliferation of diffusers.

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There’s an old-school touch-to-disarm immobiliser, and an actual key. No keyless go or starter buttons. And it fires immediately and quietly, settling into a slick, smooth burble - a mile away from the cannon-shot procedurals of most GT-Rs with the almost-inevitable straight pipes.

The gearbox is sweet and short, the clutch easy (if a bit worn), the steering wheel perfectly placed, just the right size and thickness. That might sound silly, but it matters. Within a mile or so, I’m in love again. The funny thing about driving an R34 is just how immediate it feels, how connected, and… grainy.

The controls are well-weighted, the car doesn’t feel very heavy (though it’s not exactly featherweight at 1,560kg), the boost smooth and consistent. In fact, it’s a doddle to drive. I remember thinking back in 2000-ish that the R34 was absolutely spine-cracking, but it seems to have mellowed immeasurably. That’s not down to this particular car either, just in context of what we’ve come to expect from ride quality.

Push a little bit, and the engine responds with more urgency, boosting through standard twin ceramic turbos without a huge step. In fact, it’s got more to do with a naturally-aspirated motor than the turbo tag would have you believe, and it revs cleanly right through to the redline. The gearshifts are snappy and precise, and it tracks straight and true even on bumpy backlanes - no torque steer, no feeling of disconnection.

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The only really startling thing? It isn’t actually that fast anymore. It’s rapid, no question, but when hatchbacks run to 350bhp and AWD, an R34 GT-R almost feels civilised. There’s also a remarkable natural feeling to it - you can feel the HICAS rear-wheel steer at higher speeds, but it’s not crazy - and you never really get the impression of the AWD going bonkers. Until it rains and you realise that there’s a lot of rear-bias, and if you stay on throttle, the GT-R will pull its nose straight.

It’s a car that makes you realise just how much we’ve lost in nearly 20 years - steering feel, notions of what the tyres are actually doing through your bottom, mechanical awareness. This is a proper driver’s car, even if it does have quite a lot going on underneath - nimble, happy, exciting. And yes, you tend to get a lot of positive attention, and not in the same way that a supercar might. It’s ace.

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