50Years of Performance heritage, superb engineering and Fun – The Nissan Skyline 50th Anniversary Launch Drive.
It’s not often this much anxiety and excitosis gets the better of us, then again we would not be petrol heads or enthusiast if we felt any less. Nissan revealed the 50th anniversary Edition model at a glitzy yet fun affair in Johannesburg recently. This also allowed them to take us down memory lane over the last half a decade of the prestigious car’s history.
First Generation (KPGC10)
A four door salon and coupe derivative was available , front engined rear wheel driven by an inline 6 cylinder engine that generated a claimed 119kw and a deceiving 176nm of torque, shafted through 5 speed manual, only 1945 units were made between 1969 to 1972. Apt named Hako Suka simply meaning Box Skyline, the first in its era to reach 200km/h, it so happens to have an iconic feature into the Fast and Furious movie franchise, when the late great Paul Walker drives it amongst the Favelas in Brazil.
Second Generation (KPGC110)
Produced in 1973 , 197units produced, 2 door coupe which was front engined and rear wheel driven , with a 2.0 S20 inline 6 cylider engine , generating identical power and torque as its fore bearer, aka “KenMeri” after a popular advert involving a young couple named Ken and Mary. I had seen so many of these in my hood however the GT-R was never amongst them, what an honour to see it in the metal at the launch. The last GT-R for the last 16 Years.
3Rd Generation (R32)
With 43 937 units made, several landed here in SA including the hugely popular Des Gudzeit Simola HillClimb assassin as I like to call it, produced from August 1989 till November 1994, a 2 door coupe which was all wheel driven , front engined with a 5 speed manual gear box that dealt with a 2.6 inline 6 twin turbo charged unit with 206Kw and 353nm of torque, the car that earned the name “Gozdilla”. It dealt with the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.7s and went on to lap the Greenhell in 8minutes 20seconds. A true legend!!! At launch a very kind Allan was on hand to share some nostalgia in his highly tuned one during a short ride around the launch venue, an awesome experience.
4th Generation (R33)
16 668 units made between January 1995 and November 1998, designed by Kozo Watanabe, all wheel drive front engined beast with 224 kw and 375 nm from 6 cylinder 2.6L with Twin Turbo charged motor mated to a 5 speed manual. Initially available in 2 and 4 door coupe, sadly I could never picture a 4 door in this stunning shape. The first production car to lap the Nurburgring in under 8minutes. Claimed to move from standstill to 0-100kph in under 4seconds.
5th Generation (R34)
Made from January 1999 till August 2002, 11 577 units came to life from this era, Kozo Watanabe was also instrumental in this design, 2 door coupe with flared wheel arches and a proud boot spoiler. The power plant was governed to 206kw while being able of 244kw with 392nm of torque, this was the marque’s first 6speed manual gearbox in a GT-R, and this had an incredible top speed of 300km/h. In my view thee most handsome of the 5 generations, oozed a lot of masculinity, even boasted some serious tech.
We were fortunate enough to have all the models at launch, seeing them all proved so much about the much loved performance product from the Japanese car maker.
6Th Generation R35
The game changed when this car was launched (2007), my vivid memory was of holding a car magazine reading about a Nissan aimed squarely at a German sports car, I can recall seeing a Japanese racing driver driving both cars at some circuit in Japan. As the story goes a hero was born, sub 4 seconds 0-100, with a topspeed of over 300km/h, with insane 1/4mile time, a tuner’s car. The R35 was initially available with 357kw from a 3.8L V6 with 2 turbos, paired to a dual clutch automatic transmission with a rear biased all- wheel drive system. It was the business, still is actually. In the looks department, simple effective design ,2 door sloping coupe, built for purpose! The Interior was never really impressive. One of the first cars I came across that could possible lead one to have an interest in racing, the on board screen could show you a host of temparatures, and even had a G force metre to boot. It made its mark, heck I still think the first generation R35s are still the most popular.
Fast Forward to 2011, this is one product that Nissan has always fiddled with, since 2007 to date several versions have been introduced, personally I have always felt they should just have a standard one, Track and Nismo. From 358kw the power was increased to 390kw -405kw (2011-2017) with some refinement improvements, the first generation of the 35 was truly hardcore in ride quality. I had a close encounter with several of these, one even had a R200k exhaust system which sounded quite sweet. I have to say the looks had improved as LED daytime running lights, and led taillights made a welcome change. Stunning multi spoke 19” alloys finished the side profile beautifully. The new look leather seat finish took my heart’s content. I was blown away by the performance, especially at the Simola Hillclimb, this was the car of choice time and time again.
By 2017 the R35 had been prancing in the 3.0seconds 0-100 mark, which was no child’s play. Supercar territory as we affectionately call it!
2019 50Th Anniversary Edition R35
Off the bat the best looking without those white stripes, the blue colour really stands out, the headlights have been reworked to have more presence, a sharper front end with horizontal slits, a reworked grille with a blacked out trim. The side profile benefits from bolder wheel arches, slits for better earo-dynamics , diamond cut 19” alloys with 50Th Anniversary edition neatly engraved, these are finished solid black & touches of blue. At the tail end, a tasteless sticker next to a stunning badge signaling the vitality of this special model almost ruins what is classy. Remove the sticker if you buy one, less is more. Blue tipped gigantic quad tailpieces are the highlight! The interior is tastefully done with lovely details, the roof lining now has some stitching right in the middle over the seats, they look and feel lovely, the multi-function steering look a lot better than previous generation which I applaud. It’s a lovely setting!
Powered by the faithful 3.8L V6 with twin turbos doing duty to unleash an impressive 410kw of power and 632nm of torque, this is transferred to all fours via a 6 speed dual clutch automated transmission. How this translates is something quite authentically pleasing. The sound in the cabin is inxoticating with being over bearing thanks to an improved zorst , switch the drive Mode to R and snaps ,crackled and pops will have you giggling like a kid. Boost is insane, above 2000Rpms the torque comes in and surge the Skyline to an impressive sub 3 second time of the 0-100 sprint. The in gear acceleration is in impressive but short lived as one needs to change at 7000Rpms as the rev indicator signals the up change. On down shifts one is entertained by rev matched blips, The gear box does need an extra gear though, a cruising gear per say.
He ride quality is delicate and pleasing in all the modes which left me impressed, how it sticks on the twisty bits has always been its strongest point, the 50th Edition carries that baton with much better poise, dealing with long sweeps at speed is easy. Our launch route was more designed to cater for a high speed drive more than an engaging drive to properly sample the GT-R to the core, having said that it is still an impressive high performance machine. When you are done playing around and realize that the fuel bill needs consideration, you will be glad to know the car is every well equipped with safety and luxury amenities like that impressive sound system.
While this may have been my first supercar launch, I have been fortunate enough to pilot other cars in similar price range and more, power and performance, my conclusion is, it is as brutal as I had expected it to be, Nissan needs to up the ante with a more ruthless version to match the current competition. Priced from R2.250 000 for the entry level premium edition, which is what I would recommend, for an additional R150K you are will be one with decals and marked the 50th Anniversary Edition. The Black Edition comes in at R2.360 000. What is great is that this is a very well specified car with no real options list.
Would I buy it over its rivals, YES YES YES, however a cheaper used model would make a more compelling argument to me.
Thanks to Nissan South Africa, Veralda, Lucky(awesome chap),Alex and her team for an epic experience at launch.
Yours in motoring
Wezile Lorenzio Bonani