It’s heavy and it makes rattling sounds from its gearbox at low speeds and gives you the jarring, weighted sensation of piloting a jaeger—you know, those gigantic robots saving our planet from kaijus in the film Pacific Rim, but the Nissan GT-R (R35) is still a Japanese engineering marvel on wheels considering today’s standards of performance cars. Introducing the GT-R, even to the non-enthusiast, is like saying that the earth is round.
Though the GT-R has evolved in several ways since I sat in one over a decade ago, its imposing character and exhilarating spirit remain the same. As a witness to the world shifting toward electrified mobility and as a father, I felt the urge of having my kids experience this machine in a way that they will appreciate and remember for the rest of their lives.
With 565hp and 633Nm on tap from the GT-R’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 and delivered to the asphalt by an ATTESA E-TS all-wheel-drive system through a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, it surely is no slouch especially in the hands of an experienced driver. On the other hand, you can’t help but feel that the days of its takumi-built internal-combustion core is numbered.
With word on the street of the R36 replacing this generation in the presumably near future, one can’t help but ponder how that will compare to this car. As I got my feet wet with electric vehicles this year and seeing the rate at which the industry is shifting to electrification, it won’t be far-fetched to think that the next GT-R will be a different character, but still an impressive machine for sure.
That said, I feel so fortunate to be placed at this specific point in history to have experienced cars of old, present, and the incoming future. In my opinion, the next generation of earthlings must have a taste of cars of the past to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for how mobility has evolved.
The R35 GT-R, being one of the best sports cars from the land of the rising sun, is a great candidate for an experiential dive for the kids. Since Godzilla was in the home garage, I made arrangements with the safety head at our local airport where I could push the GT-R harder than usual on a 2.12km runway without any issues.
My son is crazy about Godzilla (the fictional monster), and when I woke him up for breakfast, I whispered to him that Godzilla on wheels is parked outside. He hopped out of bed immediately to see the Bayside Blue beast in the driveway, glistening in the sunrise. I told my son and daughter that we would be taking the car for a few runs at the airport runway with them onboard. They were thrilled.
That afternoon, we arrived at the airport after a short heavy downpour that cleared up the air for a perfect golden-hour photo shoot. First on the agenda was to have the kids experience this car’s amazing acceleration, which I had performed several times over the years (and which never gets old).
With all three of us strapped in, I explained in simple terms the remarkable engineering that went behind the three switches of R mode found in the lower center console. Basically, optimizing transmission, suspension, and VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) for the best takeoff possible. I engaged all three switches, firmly placed my left foot on the brake pedal, shifted to drive, depressed the accelerator pedal all the way down, and let go of the brakes.
The surge of power was intense with almost no wheelspin as g-forces planted us further into our seats. Even the sound of the powertrain and the vibrations from the chassis delivered a rush unlike any other sports car I had driven. It’s as if we were in a fighter jet being launched into battle, sound and all. What a feeling!
The moment we went beyond 100km/h (which only took around three seconds), I let go of the accelerator to check on the kids. The silence in the cabin was immediately replaced by awestruck shrills. My wide-eyed daughter mentioned how the sensation of acceleration made her heart stop for a moment, while my son excitedly requested to do it again.
I also demonstrated the handling dynamics of the GT-R as we moved from one end of the runway to the other. Despite the car’s considerable weight, you feel how the vehicle uses this to its advantage along with the all-wheel-drive system, keeping the car planted even when hitting sharp turns at speed. It doesn’t take much to realize why this car is still well-loved and respected by enthusiasts to this day.
As the afternoon came to a close with a load of photos to remember it by, I envisioned my kids all grown up in a high-tech world filled with electric cars. They would walk into a car museum where an R35 GT-R is proudly displayed alongside a lot of relics from the automotive past.
I can almost see them smiling, looking back at the memory of what they had just experienced with their father, and saying: “That was one awesome car.”