DRIVE: NISSAN SKYLINE GT-R
FOR most people the name Godzilla relates to a rather corny film about a gigantic, angry lizard. In the motoring world, Godzilla refers to the Nissan Skyline GT-R. The name was originally attached to the R32 GT-R from 1989 and petrolheads have continued to use it to label each generation of GT-R, right up to the present day. For Nissan, it’s come to be something of a badge of honour.
Having spent many hours driving GT-Rs as a kid on video games, getting behind the wheel of a real one has always been a dream of mine. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I was handed the keys to three different versions of the Japanese supercar for a few hot laps of Silverstone.
First up was the R34 Skyline GT-R. Launched in 1999, it went on to star in the
Fast and Furious movie franchise, as well as the popular Gran Turismo video games.
Under the bonnet, there’s a 2.6-litre twinturbocharged straight-six engine churning out 276bhp and 392Nm of torque, with power being sent to all four wheels.
Considering the R34 is nearly 20 years old, the way it drove was seriously impressive. Not only was it incredibly quick in a straight line, its four-wheel-drive system meant it was no slouch through the corners either.
The only problem with the R34 was me. I’m an average driver at the best of times, and cars this age don’t have the same levels of technology on board to stop you from making a fool of yourself as modern cars do.
You can probably guess what happened next. A bottled attempt at some heel-and-toe downshifting saw me lose control of the car and spin out going into Stowe Corner at the end of the 120mph Hangar Straight.
Thankfully, the only thing damaged in the accident was my pride.
The arrival of the R35 GT-R in 2007 saw Nissan drop the Skyline name and establish the GT-R as a model line in its own right.
This time a 3.8-litre, twin-turbocharged V6 sends 562bhp and 673Nm of torque to all four wheels. I thought the R34 was quick, but with a 0-60mph time of 2.5 seconds, the R35 was on another level. There’s all sorts of wizardry going on behind the scenes, too, all of which is intended to provide you with as much grip through the corners as possible. There’s so much grip, in fact, that it actually becomes uncomfortable at points.
At the speeds this thing allows you to corner at, you can feel gravity tugging at your lower back, trying to pull the base of your spine away from the rest of your body towards the side of the car.
As if the R35 GT-R wasn’t bonkers enough already, Nissan’s in-house performance division Nismo felt it was necessary to squeeze even more out of the Japanese supercar. The GT-R Nismo is the end result. Power has been boosted to 592bhp thanks in no small part to turbochargers from the GT-R GT3 race car, and carbon-fibre body panels help to keep weight down. The suspension and anti-roll bars have also been modified to make the GT-R Nismo even faster through the corners.
While the Nismo is an absolute weapon on the track, at £151,525 it’s the best part of £70,000 more than the standard model. If it were my money, I’d opt for the standard R35 and use the change to pick up a second-hand R34 Skyline GT-R as well.
The Nissan Skyline GT-R is put through its paces at Silverstone in three guises: clockwise from below right – the R34, R35 and the Nismo