Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 7, 2019
It’s been half a century since the original GT-R graced the shores of Japan, and five generations later, we have the R35 GT-R singing its swan song with the 50th Anniversary Edition. Celebrating its storied history, this limited edition model commands $9,000 over the base Premium model ($129,998), and costs $138,998. That gets you a choice of three two-tone paint combinations, meant to represent the GT-R's liveries from the Japan GP series: Bayside Blue (with white stripes and blue wheel spokes), Super Silver (with white stripes), and Pearl White (with red stripes). Furthermore, you will find a 50th Anniversary badge neatly embedded onto the center console, tachometer, trunk lid, and front seats. Inside, the interior is wrapped with hand-stitched semi-aniline leather in a new smoky gray colour that shimmers with a tint of blue. That exclusive-colour leather also makes its way onto the steering wheel and shift knob, with beige stitching on the Alcantara headliner as well.
While the 50th Anniversary Edition is an aesthetics-only package, it joins the subtle yet meaningful updates for the 2020 GT-R lineup, including new turbochargers that produce less turbo lag and offer sharper low-rpm response, a new titanium muffler and exhaust with burnished blue tips, and a new 20-inch wheel design wrapped in the familiar Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT 600 rubber. Power remains the same at 565 hp and 467 lb-ft, though Nissan says they have reconfigured the “R” driving mode for even more aggressive shifts. Slight revisions have also been made to the steering and suspension for a more cohesive and responsive personality.
But whichever way you spec your GT-R, I have but two words for you: Bayside Blue, one of the most iconic paint colours from the last-generation R34, and they have finally brought it back for the R35. Nissan says their Bayside Blue even utilizes a four-coat, double-heat treatment process to ensure a vivid blue with striking highlights and deep shadows. It joins the GT-R’s iconic pencil sharpener taillights and flared nostril front end. Personally, I could do without the white stripes running along the center, but let’s not complain too much about a good thing.
Nissan granted us a short 24 hours with this newly minted GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition, and it allowed us to reacquaint ourselves with its unflappable ATTESA all-wheel drive system, otherworldly hand-built VR38DETT 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine, and explore its street limits and the minor revisions that Nissan has employed onto their flagship sports car.
The first thing you notice when strolling around town is how much more polished and refined that 6-speed dual-clutch transmission is. The shifts have been massaged out, and are cleaner and smoother than before. There is less lugging in first and second gear during low-speed creeps, and it only adds to Godzilla’s everyday civility and road mannerisms. I can’t detect if there is less lag than before, because I never really detected much to begin with in the 2018 GT-R we drove last year. There is instant power wherever you need it, and the only time it’s not is when you catch the gearbox napping.
There is just so much performance packed into this thing that it’s incredibly difficult to summarize in just a few short paragraphs. Everyone knows about the GT-R’s relentless launch control and straight line speed, but it’s equally as insane how much speed you can carry into corners, and how early you can get on the gas after changing directions. Nissan has never claimed an official 0-100 km/h time, but we’ve had fellow pundits peg it at around 3.0 seconds, and judging by how fast our necks snapped at wide open throttle, we believe it.
Due to its high-up stature and substantial weight, the GT-R exhibits mid-heavy lean when pushing it hard around corners, but that margin of neutral balance is wide, and it’s easy to learn just how much grip you have before Godzilla tips into oversteer. And despite its feather light steering, the GT-R boasts razor sharp reactions and rotates faster than your Playstation controller’s joystick. Feedback from the front tires is plentiful, as the steering favours tramlining grooves on the road, forcing you to correct your trajectory every now and then - not the greatest for grand touring but the resulting feedback is priceless and worth the minor inconvenience. This is a sports car, after all. The GT-R’s compliant ride quality is a pleasant addition to the arduous commute and though firm, the ride is not overly taxing to the point where you’re running out of expletives.
One of our biggest criticisms of the R35 has always been the exhaust noise, and while the mechanical symphony is iconic and unique, the GT-R never had the vocals to match its bewildering straight line acceleration. The new titanium exhaust with its burnished tips give it some visual back-end flair, but the notes are still not thrilling enough to detract buyers from seeking augments from Armytrix or Meisterschaft. There are more backfire and popping noises whenever you shift much like the AMG GT C and M850i, but they are shorter in duration, more deliberate, and not as lairy or as excessive as its German counterparts. Luckily, the exhaust isn’t the only thing giving off some auditory bliss. Revving to the 7,000 rpm redline delivers a whirlwind of satisfying sounds, from the clinking and clanking of the DCT, the spooling of the turbocharger, to the whine of the hand-built V6 as it reaches peak intensity.
When parked next to its modern competitors, the GT-R’s interior begins to show its age, and that six-figure price tag may be a hard pill to swallow for those who consider interior atmosphere to be as imperative as driving performance. The new smokey gray interior leather is a neat touch but the 8-inch infotainment unit developed with Polyphony (makers of the Gran Turismo video game) is beginning to look dated. It’s also odd that the non-linear speedometer goes up in 20 km/h intervals until 100 km/h, then suddenly skips to 30 km/h intervals. Beautiful analog gauges, though. The seating position in the GT-R is quite high up, almost sedan height, which is off-putting for a sports car, but it also means getting in and out of the vehicle won’t trigger your osteoarthritic flare up. It’s got four seats too, though the back row is mainly for infants or adults under the 2nd percentile. Still, the fairly sizable trunk, cozy seats, and unhindered sightlines makes it easy to forget that this civil GT-R eats supercars for breakfast.
Godzilla turns 50 this year. Its teeth are as sharp as ever, and its skin as tough as nails. Age has made this ancient dinosaur friendlier, but not domesticated, as the GT-R is still able to keep up with competitors dripping in the latest engine and chassis technology. When the R35 was first launched back in 2007, it embarrassed and decimated rivals that cost twice as much. Ten years later, it’s just as eye-wateringly impressive, a feat that few sports cars can manage. And with a retro coat of Bayside Blue, the GT-R receives some nostalgic glamour for his special year. Happy Birthday, Godzilla.
Model: 2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition
Paint Type: Bayside Blue
Base Price: $138,998
Price as Tested: $138,998
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,710 / 1,895 / 1,370
Curb weight (kg): 1,784
Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 (VR38DETT)
Horsepower: 565 hp @ 6,800 rpm
Torque: 467 lb-ft @ 3,300 - 5,800 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 14.5 / 10.7
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.7
Tires: Dunlop SP Sport MAXX GT 600; Front 255/40ZRF20; Rear 285/35ZRF20