An R35 Nissan GT-R once felt bewilderingly digital and computerised to drive, but after 12 years on sale, compared to most rivals it now feels delightfully ‘analogue’.
It’s clearly time for a new-generation "R36" Nissan GT-R. But as much as we’d love to tell you a carbonfibre monocoque, twin-turbo 2.5-litre V6, twin-clutch, hybrid all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo fighter is secretly en route, all signs point towards that not being the case.
Nissan bigwigs and engineers are often asked about a new GT-R, and the answers are always that they ‘want to’. But the slightly different responses as to what it could be are not very indicative of a car actually being in the thick of R&D.
Sports cars often tumble down the priority list, too, when focus is required elsewhere in the company. Nissan needs to overhaul almost its entire global portfolio before it even thinks seriously about a new GT-R. In late July, Nissan reported a somewhat disastrous first fiscal quarter result, with global profits down a staggering 99 per cent.
It announced 12,500 jobs would be cut at 14 loss-making factories overseas by the end of March 2023, and that global production – and the model line-up – would be cut by 10 per cent by the end of fiscal 2022.
US sales are down, the portfolio is aging, the relationship with Renault is in need of repair and investors are questioning whether new CEO Hiroto Saikawa is the right man for the job. There have also been a series of scandals in the last two years, never mind the whole Carlos Ghosn thing… Plainly, things are a bit rocky at Nissan right now.
While this should be the moment Nissan announces its plans for reinvention as a leader in technology, it would probably be wise to focus on electrification, full autonomy, ride-sharing and other ‘mobility solutions’. Unfortunately, a new halo sports car is not quite the hero Nissan needs right now.
Instead, it sounds like the R35 will kick around for a few more years, judging by recent comments from GT-R Chief Product Specialist Hiroshi Tamura, the father of R35. Tamura-san said Nissan could develop a revised R35 for 2022 or 2023. And what might that look like?
If we had to guess, we’d say new front and rear bars, new wheels, more power and new infotainment. More carbonfibre, too, and further weight saving. Maybe a new ESP system, TFT instruments and, if we’re really lucky, rear-wheel steering. We’re just speculating, but that would mean the R35 would remain on sale until potentially 2025 or 2026. Which is just mind-boggling.
MOTOR features: 50 years of the GT-R in pictures
An R36 could be based on the R35, using the same powertrain, potentially mated to a hybrid system to bring the GT-R back to the cutting edge of tech again. But it could make even more sense to just skip the hybrid stage and go straight to full electric. Acceleration would be unbelievable – as would handling – if Nissan’s engineers harnessed the power of true torque vectoring possible with multiple electric motors.
If such a car does materialise, a concept could appear out of nowhere (much as the R35’s did), but keep in mind the first R35 concept was unveiled in 2001 and a production car not arrive until 2007.
A ballistic electric powertrain would transform the GT-R into a performance pioneer again, and elevate it to another plane of speed and ability. For most other sports cars, we wouldn’t quite like the sound of full electrification, but the GT-R has always been about pushing technology to its limits.
Celebrating 50 years of Nissan's most iconic nameplate
Sweet Dream: What could the Nissan R36 GT-R look like
Heavily restyle both ends. Fit an entirely new interior. Squeeze in some batteries and an electric motor. Gun for 500kW/750Nm.
Call it R36
For cost purposes, keep the existing powertrain (3.8-litre TT V6). R32, R33 and R34 may have all looked different, but underneath they all used basically the same powertrain.
Classic MOTOR: R32 v R33 v R34 v R35 GT-R comparison
Watch the weight
The current R35 Nismo weighs 1720kg. Battery pack and electric motor might add 300kg. Weight is kept to 1800kg thanks to increased use of structural aluminium and carbonfibre, even if there is a cost.
It’s gotta have all the latest stuff. Screens galore inside, active aero outside, electric-only PHEV range, rear-wheel steering, true torque vectoring. And, for relevance, it must debut Nissan’s latest autonomous driving kit.