By on March 24, 2016

2017 Nissan GT-R Top Down Front 3/4, Image: Nissan USA

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so, didn’t I? Eight years ago, when the R35 GT-R arrived on our shores, it was widely claimed and believed that Nissan would sell 5,000 GT-Rs a year in this country and that the GT-R would cast an effective halo on the company’s relatively unexceptional product line. As to the first prediction: they didn’t close. You would need to combine four of the GT-R’s best-selling years to break the five-thou mark.

With that said, I was wrong about the GT-R’s lack of appeal as a driver’s car. It just kept getting better and better as it aged and the focus shifted from raw numbers to driving enjoyment. The Track Edition was legit, but the release of the GT-R Nismo, which I drove as part of R&T‘s 2015 Performance Car Of The Year, was the final nail in the coffin of my personal R35 disdain. This was, finally, a big Nissan that I could truly love. The only problem was that it cost as much as a Viper ACR, which goes faster and feels more analog and truly satisfies at every non-cupholder-related level.

There’s a new mid-size Infiniti on the streets now. It’s been here for a few years, actually; we’re just now seeing the facelift and the new turbo engine and all that jazz. So we are long past time for an R36 GT-R, one that combines everything Nissan’s learned about making the Dove-Beauty-advertisement-sized R35 handle and all of the current thinking about right-sized, lightweight construction.

Well, Nissan’s announcement at NYIAS put an end to that speculation. Instead, we have Grandma GT-R.

The comparison to “Abuela Clinton” is deliberate here. In both cases, we have a product — the R35 and President Mrs. Clinton, respectively — that was designed for a 2008 debut but must now face the 2017 model year more or less as it existed in the previous decade. Sure, we’ve had a bit of a facelift and we’re focusing as much attention on the five percent that we’ve changed instead of the ninety-five percent that remains the same, but in both cases I see significant signs of shelf wear.

There’s also a sense of unfulfilled destiny about both. Mrs. Clinton was intended to be the 2008 President until a fellow with very little job experience but a unique set of media-friendly credentials canceled her party and left her in the dust. The GT-R was supposed to reshape our ideas about what a performance car could be, taking the successful Evo/STi formula and super-sizing it, but the rest of the market didn’t pay any attention. The supercars that are getting people excited right now are anti-Godzillas like the Porsche GT3 and 911R, the Corvette Z06, and the rear-wheel-drive Huracan, cars that hide their computerized hearts instead of baring them for the world to see. McLaren will sell you a car with more power than a GT-R and nearly a half-ton less weight, as will Chevrolet and Ferrari.

The 911 Turbo that was supposed to be the GT-R’s natural enemy? It’s been shunted into obscurity by the fan-favorite GT3, doomed to crawl down A1A or Melrose with a greasy-faced arriviste at the wheel until it reaches the discount-supercar brokers in La Jolla. The R35 template of all-wheel drive, twin-turbo six, and all-conquering differentials has been copied by precisely no one.

It doesn’t help that the GT-R once cost less than a loaded C6 Z06 but now costs significantly more than the successor of that car. The minute the MSRP of the base U.S.-market car climbed above $100,000, you could hear the sucking sound as all the interest disappeared from Nissan showrooms. Why pay that kind of money for a car that gets no “house on the boulevard” and has to put its right turn signal on when a Z06 pulls up next to it? Why drop a hundred-plus stacks on a car that looks identical to an ragged-out ’08 model?

There isn’t a single major supercar or sports car on the market that hasn’t been completely revamped since late 2007. Porsche’s had one major model change and three different engine programs for the 911 since then. The Gallardo gave way to the Huracan. My God, the Ferrari F430 was still on the market back then. Even Lotus has updated its lineup. How much longer does Nissan think people will buy a fundamentally unchanged GT-R from the G.W. Bush era? The only way to get anything that feels this old is to … wait for it … buy a 370Z.

Which brings us to the fundamental issue with the mighty GT-R; for Nissan, sports cars are a hobby to be put down and picked back up as the corporate whims dictate. To paraphrase a thousand rap songs, they’re just tourists in the supercar game but Porsche, GM Performance, and Ferrari were born to the life. You can’t compete effectively with Porsche by building a new car every fifteen years. Not even back when Porsche was building a new car every thirty years.

Furthermore, how brightly does the halo of an ancient Grandma GT-R shine in a dealership that makes its living selling the Rogue and Versa? The car should have been given to Infiniti from the start, and should have called it a Skyline GT-R so the regular Q-whatever could be the Infiniti Skyline. But what do I know? I’m just the guy who predicted all of this eight years ago. None of this means that I’m not excited to drive the newest GT-R. They’re good cars and they go fast around racetracks and they make fun noises. But I’m not necessarily excited about buying one, and unless Nissan can find a bunch of people who feel differently on short notice, the next Skyline GT-R will have to be content with being big in Japan.

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53 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Grandma GT-R...”


  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “The car should have been given to Infiniti from the start…”

    Absolutely true. Help Infiniti as premium marque with some cred from a legitimately fast car. Don’t throw it in the same dealer as the Leaf and Altima S and expect people to care.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Don’t throw it in the same dealer as the Leaf and Altima S and expect people to care.”

      This criticism has been conventional wisdom for years with any higher-end car – Kia K900, Hyundai/Genesis, VW Phaeton, etc, but Chevy has been successfully doing just this since 1953 with the Corvette, which once shared a showroom with Cavaliers.

      I think having a better car is the most important ingredient, then the badge.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I think the Corvette gets a pass on that one because of heritage. It’s been around so long, people know what it is. They bought it because of heritage, even when it was relatively crap (C3, right?) They dunno what the GT-R is, and would understand more if it were the Infiniti Skyline, I suspect.

        Brand consciousness is at an all time high, as well. The car matters less than the old days, the grille badge matters more. (eg. CLA/GLA, 2.0t items, etc).

        • 0 avatar
          anomaly149

          The Corvette also starts at 55 grand MSRP, or roughly half the GTR. You can price a non-Corvette Chevy past a base Corvette. Can you do that with a non-GTR Nissan?

          Eventually, it comes down to the price.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        And it’s always been true. Honda and Toyota are the top car sellers and they don’t have any halo cars. You don’t need them when your volume sellers are good.

        In fact I would argue that mainstream brands with halo cars are the ones that tend to be in trouble. Dodge, Mitsubishi (up till recently), VW with the Phaeton, Mazda back when it had the RX-8… it speaks to a poor allocation of resources and a lack of focus. Companies do better when they focus “halo car” energy across the board, rather than making a halo car to help fool people into buying mediocre cars.

        Even with the GT-R- Nissan is not in trouble per se, but aside from the GT-R, Z, Juke and maybe the Murano their whole lineup is average at best. There’s no mainstream Nissan anyone would call the best in class or even a “great” car.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          That’s pretty funny. If Toyota and Honda models all presently share some of the infusion of “halo car” energy, I hate to see what they would look like without it.

          Maybe they’d be available only in silver OR gray, rather than silver AND gray – ?

      • 0 avatar

        1) Corvette has been a part of the Chevrolet lineup for 50+ years from a time when the price disparity wasn’t so great.

        2) Chevrolet dealers are used to selling vehicles in excess of Corvette MSRP, so the customer care angle is fine.

        3) Corvette aligns itself with the Chevrolet lineup more than the GT-R does in a lineup of CVT-equipped rental sedans.

        • 0 avatar
          TonyJZX

          The SKyline obviously has a legacy outside of the US. Problem is the R35 doesnt seek to continue that legacy. Granted there was a 10 yr break from the R34 to the R35 but while I would love to own an r32-r34, I dont care too much about the r35.

          I question if there will be an r36. There is a possible need for such a vehicle as a halo device so Nissan can campaign an R36 GT3 or Touring Car thing but I’m of the feeling that Nissan havent made an profit from the GTR series since the R32.

      • 0 avatar
        319583076

        Corvette has stronger brand equity than Chevrolet – ask an owner, none of them puff up their chest and tell you they drive a Chevy, they drive a ‘vette. Oftentimes clad in various tees, leather jackets and hats adorned with Corvette symbols.

        Your point isn’t a counterpoint, but in fact evidence in favor of Nissan’s failure w/r/t the GT-R.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “…and has to put its right turn signal on when a Z06 pulls up next to it?”

    That phrase instantly created a sad/funny gif in my mind.

  • avatar
    anomaly149

    I’ve never seen one in the wild, only at NAIAS. Not much halo when you can’t move metal, best to go target the 70k crowd than the 100+

  • avatar
    ciscokidinsf

    So, it was very competitive when it came out, but now is well overshadowed by its competition and has barely changed over time…

    Does this mean the GT-Rs will be the Acura NSXs of the future? (in terms of value?) Perhaps GT-Rs will fall down the curve to perhaps to an attainable $30K-40K (Right now the Bay Area has them on the low end at $68K) and then will climb-up in prices over 10 years as the NSX did?

    Probably today’s teenagers who will soon watch F&F 8-9-10 will be paying big bucks in the 2030’s for the Nostalgia on these… thoughts?

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      There’s one running around here in Huntsville being advertised for $70k. While I understand what the GT-R is capable of, I somehow don’t get excited when I see one on the street. Sure, it’s got power, but it seems to be missing a soul…

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        You sound just like Clarkson when he was driving it in Japan. I spent a lot of time during that episode looking in the background at the lovely Japanese scenery and Crown Comfort sedans and whatnot.

      • 0 avatar
        Petra

        To me, the fascination with whiz-bang technology and the obsessive perfectionism and tweaking through the GT-Rs various iterations is the soul of the GT-R. If the Corvette is a symbol of American cars and the 911 is symbolic of German ones, the GT-R is the perfect symbol for the Japanese auto industry.

      • 0 avatar
        srh

        “Sure, it’s got power, but it seems to be missing a soul…”

        What does this even mean?

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          It’s a catch-all criticism when someone can’t really find anything wrong with a car. Suddenly personality becomes a requirement, and surely the machine is lacking in that dimension.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      No… the GT-R and NA1/2 NSX are on opposite sides of the spectrum. NSX is valuable because its driving experience is largely absent from the current marketplace. Only cars that come close are the Cayman and Evora. With the GT-R, there are a lot of cheap imitators, from the WRX up through the S3 and everything related. I would argue that those small turbo 4 AWD cars are the better buy…. the added performance of the GT-R is inaccessible on the street, they are way more practical and have about the same if not MORE refinement.

      Admittedly there may be an uptick down the line as they sold in such low numbers and seem to be modded and abused in high frequency, but I imagine in 10-20 years cars like the Golf R will be on or very close to the GT-R’s performance level. Without that the GT-R doesn’t have much; there are already plenty of cheaper cars that are as much if not more fun to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        When you’re saying “fun to drive”, you are implicitly assuming “at a half sane speed.” The GT-R is plenty fun to drive, but only at speeds that would be way too scary in more traditional “fun to drive” cars. Somewhat similar to the Panamera, just much more so.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      “Does this mean the GT-Rs will be the Acura NSXs of the future?”

      Not likely – the GT-R’s high maintenance costs will prevent that from happening.

      • 0 avatar
        energetik9

        That and I just do not see longevity in the GT-R.

        I just don’t see the GT-R being the NSX of the future, mostly because there is no energy around this car anymore. Other than here in this article, when is the last time you heard someone talk about or compare a car to the GT-R? I would bet money that most people didn’t even know this car was still sold (if they even know what a GT-R is of course).

        • 0 avatar
          Noble713

          “when is the last time you heard someone talk about or compare a car to the GT-R?”

          Street car racing scenes like the Texas Mile and in Moscow are dominated by 2000hp GT-Rs and twin-turbo’d “baby Lambos” (the Gallardo/Huracan family). Amongst tuners with nearly unlimited budgets, I think these are the two most popular options for drag racing. And IMO it’s a scene that has evolving largely because of how awesome and dominating the R35 has been over the years. Those hand-made engines are amazing.

          Prices on MY2008 GT-R’s are already dipping below $50k in Japan.

          That said, I’d rather own an Evo as a DD and a Corvette as my fun coupe, but C7 Vettes are ~$100k here. -_- So I’ll probably just keep my Supra. After driving 3 Toyotas, there is no way I’d put up with a GT-R’s maintenance requirements just to occasionally dust some fools stoplight-to-stoplight.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      I dont see that happening. The NSX has classic sportscar looks and very limited production. The GT-R has boy-racer looks and Nissan cant sell them new. I never quite understood the GT-R styling. When you see them on the street, you know they mean business, but I cant get past the slammed Civic / Scion-esque looks…

  • avatar
    energetik9

    I still remember the car reviews stating how incredible the GT-R was when it came out. A few years later, those same publications were talking about how much better everyone else had become and how little the GT-R had changed.

    I do think it’s safe to say that in the early years, the GT-R helped drive those other competitors to get better.

  • avatar
    redliner

    In a world where Corvette, Cadillac V, and SRT can be had for tens of thousands less, the GT-R is just too expensive for a non-exotic exotic, and that’s before even taking into consideration that it’s a least twice as old as all the other competitors.

  • avatar
    forzablu

    For a while Nissan was leasing these to employees at <$650 a month incl. of insurance… almost convinced me to take a role there — and I don't even really care for the GTR…they must be really desperate to move these.

  • avatar
    natrat

    sounds like not fast enough for the go fast crowd and too harsh for the GT crowd so can’t be driven daily

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      Guy at my church is on his second — uses it as his winter car when his ’70 ‘Vette with almost-slicks and tuned 455, and his ’72 Chevelle with Lingenfelter-enhanced something-or-other, are tucked away. His first was a red ’09 with launch control which Nissan disabled at a service to avoid warranty issues; as it was, his brother may have hooned it too aggressively during a run at a nearby drag strip, so the clutch was getting chattery when he traded it on his black 2015.

      Both cars could turn as consistent a drag run as you’d ever want, then will come home and putter around town as docile as a Sentra. I believe his WIFE has a few pink slips of her own, but his son is scared to go near it. (He gets into more than enough trouble in his FR-S!)

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    IF Infiniti still wanted to be the “Japanese BMW” putting a Skyline GT-R at the top of the totem pole might have been smart. Infiniti dealers lobbied for it, but they didn’t get it, and that may not have been the smartest move.

    Nissan, Z aside, generally doesn’t make performance focused cars, and doesn’t have that image like Mazda does. It’s been a VERY long time since anyone cared whether there was an SE-R badge on the back of a Sentra or Altima. The GT-R just really doesn’t fit with their US lineup, which for the most part are like Hondas but not as good.

    Lexus I think did this thing a lot better. The LFA may have been years late, overpriced, underpowered, and kind of a sales flop AFAIK, but it was a good way to introduce the F-sport and F line to the brand, which at the time was not known at all for performance cars either. Now Lexus, not Infiniti, is the closest thing to a Japanese BMW.

    I don’t get the sense that Infinti really wants that anymore. The engineers seem to have spent far too much effort being the first to market with steer-by-wire in the Q50, rather than making it any good to actually drive. Really, the only Infinitis that are any fun at all are the left overs – the QX50 and QX70. There’s nothing BMW whatsoever about the luxed-up Pathfinder that is the QX60, and the hulking QX80 competes with the LX, not the X5 or Q7.

    The “Red Sport whatever” update to the Q50 seems to be a somewhat half hearted attempt to reboot that car into a performance sedan, but how long will it be before that trim gets thrown in the trash, just like the “Infiniti Performance League” (IPL) trim for the G that lasted a couple of model years before being killed off with no one noticing.

    Every now and then Infiniti and Acura seem to make rather lazy and timid attempts at performance focus with IPL and Red Sport or A-spec, Type S, etc, but for whatever reason they always chicken out. Lexus at least seems to be in it for the long haul, though they desperately need a new V8. That Yamaha left over from the first gen IS-F is getting pretty stale.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Infiniti already took the Skyline, I don’t see why they should have had this too.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Jack, do you get a bonus for every Clinton reference you can shoehorn into a piece?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Yeah. The checks come from a guy named Ben Ghazi.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Is it a check, or an email?

        • 0 avatar
          mshenzi

          That joke has been around the block so many times, it could be picked up for stalking. The follow-up is funny, though.

          • 0 avatar
            mshenzi

            On the other hand, I think the Clinton/GT-R analogy basically works. I’ll vote for her anyway, though I wouldn’t get the GT-R if I were voting with my wallet. The difference: the Nissan is up against more impressive competition.

          • 0 avatar
            Shawnski

            Spoken like a true democrats mshenzi. It’s easy to vote when someone else is paying the bill, but when it comes to your own wallet; cheeeeap.

          • 0 avatar
            mshenzi

            Shawnski :

            The only problem with your comment is that it makes no sense.

            1. If I were spending GT-R cash for a sports car, I’d spend it on something that I figure I’d like better. That’s not being cheap, it’s choosing what you think best for the same money.

            2. Same goes for the election. I pay taxes like everyone else. If I only wanted the cheapest tax bill I’d vote Republican nearly every time instead of occasionally. I’m not crazy about Clinton’s candidacy for a number of reasons, including Jack’s too-long-on-the-shelf analogy. But if she’s a GT-R, nothing left on the cross-shopping list looks to me like a Z06 or GT3.

  • avatar
    Chan

    I honestly think the GT-R would have more lasting appeal by continuing its heritage as a top trim for the Skyline / G35 / Q-whatever it is now, and selling in the $50-70k area. The Skyline has always been a lean, athletic-looking car that never tried to be a world beater but always excelled in its niche.

    Rather, Nissan made the R35 a standalone supercar and now it’s having trouble continuing a legacy that has ballooned to $100k+.

    • 0 avatar
      qwerty123

      Agreed. A Infiniti G35/G37/Q50 (V35/V36/V37 Skyline) with a VQ35HRTT/VQ37VHRTT/VR38DETT/VR30DDTT/VR35DDTT & a further improved ATTESA E-TS Pro would have worked better.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I thought that’s what the Q50 Eu Rouge concept was trying to be — a bespoke Q50 with the heart of Godzilla.

        • 0 avatar
          qwerty123

          Sort of. We’re talking about continuing the Skyline GTR into the V35 – V37 generations & not branching it off as a separate model. In our universe, the VR38DETT would have been a mass produced engine.The Eau Rouge didn’t have ATTESA E-TS Pro & they couldn’t get the GT-R transaxle into the Q50.

  • avatar

    Throughout most of its history, the Skyline GTR was just a souped-up version of of a regular Nissan. You could buy the the R34 Skyline, for example, in a range of products that included everything from the mighty GTR all the way down to a fairly stripped out, and I think fairly ugly, 4 door sedan.

    Then Nissan bought into the Gran Turismo-generated hype and decided to change from the old, predictable pattern by divorcing the GTR from the Skyline line. The Skyline lives on in Japan, and also went to the US as the Infiniti G series, but even though these are well-regarded cars, I think some of the magic is gone.

    Although I am loathe to admit it, I know that the only way I’ll ever own a $100K+ supercar is if I hit the Powerball. As a result, I’ve never clamored for one, never drove one, never sat in one, never gone to the dealer to see one, and never even touched one I might have seen parked on the street. And now, because Nissan split the GTR model off of the top of the Skyline heap, cheap old me can’t buy a downmarket version that at least sorta looks like one – and that, friends, is something that I, and maybe others like me, might have done. Now our money goes elsewhere…

  • avatar
    raph

    Maybe the GT-R missed it’s generational category. Most of the drivers I see are in their early 30’s and late 20’s if they can,afford one. Where anybody older was raised on a rear wheel drive diet typically with a big ol- honk’n V8.

    The torque vectoring AWD DSG crowd ( 18-30 somethings ) drool over the GT-R and even when they don’t care for the Nissan badge and/or styling want their favorite car to emulate it (like the AWD GT powered GT500 rumor making the rounds)

    Right car wrong time and I agree a bit long in the tooth.

  • avatar
    Eiriksmal

    San Diego has quite a few, far more than the Louisville from whence I came.

    There’s a Sony employee around the corner who drives one, I think, and another one in the bio-sciencey building next door to them. I still get excited whenever I see a GT-R because they sound delightful and still look butch. Its competition gets ever-more-sculpted by CAD wind tunnel simulations while the GT-R still weighs three tons and is shaped like a brick.

    Somewhere in San Diego my wife saw one with the classy plate (forgot the exact digits) spelling “Ferrari Eater.” Clever.

    Though La Jolla has both a Maserati AND Ferrari dealership across the street from each other, I can’t say I’ve seen enough supercars around there for my liking. More of a SUV crowd there, apparently. Big ol’ Land Rovers and Gelandewagens? They’ve got ’em in spades–you never know when your cliffside mansion will fall into the Pacific and you’ll have to drive your way out, right?

    Also a LeMans Sunset colored GT-R? Nissan’s back at it again with the perfection that is their metallic orange. <3 <3 <3

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Yep its the correct color alright :) LeMans Sunset 350Z owner here.

      Godzilla turns heads at the track but I’ve seen 2 of them go home on a flat bed. The group I run with has Miata and ‘Vettes as loaner/rentals for track days. Those two can take the abuse and then some.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    “Dove-Beauty-advertisement-sized R35”

    WELL EFF YOUR HETEROFASCIST BEAUTY STANDARDS DAD!

    This is why you’re always a treasure to read, Jack.

    Btw, how about that Hulk verdict? Denton will slither away somehow, but it still feels like a victory.

  • avatar
    Serpens

    Eh. I found this to be a bit unfair. Aston Martin’s offerings have been similarly iterated over time to far less great effect than the GT-R. While this next generation GT-R taking an enternity, I think its pretty awesome the car is still very competitive in its old age. Nissan’s choices (as you can see by their lineup) is very clearly profit driven- they’re OK with not coming out with the next GT-R until 2020 (it was delayed) if it means it’ll pad their profit forecast in the long run.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    Jack: What’s more surprising that it’s barely changed since 2008 is that it ever came to the USA in the first place. Neither Nissan nor Infiniti is know for high-end stuff here/

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    All Nissan needs to do is rebody this car with some retro Kenmeri Skyline styling.
    The front end of the current car is so hideous, I can only look at the back of it to convince my subconscious that I’m not looking at a Kia. What is the term for that design language there? You know? Where it looks like a high school kid cut a bigger opening in the bumper cover with a razor, and then neglected to modify the support beam behind it.

    All automakers please stop.

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    To play counterpoint to the author’s contention, Nissan’s GT-R – computerized, fat, old, and corporate – is still fast as or faster in real world than anything else stock this side of a million bucks. Why fix what is not broken?

  • avatar
    stanczyk

    Previous generations had nice, clean and simple classic 2-door design , this new one is a different, more muscular(“bulky”) approach – it’s got “interesting” side and rear view, but “the face” of this car is rather blunt and lacks personality ..

    Yeah, this car needs replacement, not refreshment ..

    Nissan is the only one japaneese automaker that still tries sth in “sporty-car department” …
    They would need new Godzilla, new Zet(370) model .. and maybe that sweet-little IDx concept(turned into reality) .. and than a little bit of NISMO-marketing noise .. and their cars would be loved and bought (.. > heritage not required .. >)


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