The Nissan R35 GT-R Turns 15 Today. Here’s a Look Back at Our Supercar Teenager
The GT-R may not be old enough to drink or vote, but it is old enough to talk back to us at the dinner table.
On Dec. 6, 2007, the R35 Nissan GT-R officially launched in its home market of Japan. Fast forward 15 years, and the GT-R is still technically part of Nissan's new car repertoire, still having a spot on its official website right next to the new Z and everything.
If the GT-R were a person, it might not be old enough to drink or vote just yet, but it is just old enough to start using words you don't understand and sullenly roll its eyes when you ask it to explain. Fifteen years is a long time for a car to be in production, is what I'm trying to say. Let's take a look back at the GT-R's decade and a half on our planet.
At launch, Nissan's so-called "supercar slayer" was powered by the same 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 that it uses now but producing only 480 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. That's about the same grunt as the base BMW M4 today. Still, the GT-R's acceleration was stunning. Using a relatively new piece of tech called "launch control," this new, internationally destined, Skyline-less Godzilla hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. Using launch control eventually proved to be a bit problematic warranty-wise for some owners, but that's a saga for another day.
The car also logged a Nürburgring lap time of 7:38, beating the then-current 997-generation Porsche 911 Turbo. That pace was basically unheard of in any production car that costed less than six figures. Oh, yeah, when it first debuted, this car cost $69,850. (For the record, that price remains five figures even adjusting for inflation, equating to about $94,000 in today's money.)
A mild update for 2010 gave it 5 more hp and a reconfigured launch control program that was gentler on the transaxle, but 2012 was when the GT-R saw its first big refresh. The trim inside the grille area was tweaked, new wheels were fitted, aerodynamics were improved, and power was upped to 530 hp. A 600-hp Nismo version came on the scene a year later that weighed 38 pounds less than the regular GT-R, wore stickier tires, and a whole lot of carbon fiber.
It wasn't until 2017 the car got its next big update. This one received the biggest styling tweaks yet, getting Nissan's corporate V-motion grille and a new interior. The V6 now makes 565 hp, and the zero-to-60 time is down to 2.7 seconds. Its gearbox—initially reported to be a quick but mechanically noisy affair—was refined to be smoother and quieter. Another small revision came for 2020 involving a slightly quicker-shifting transmission and new wheels, but the GT-R has gone largely unchanged since.
Even though it might feel a bit tired and old hat at this point, the R35 GT-R's impact on the performance road car world is hard to overstate. It essentially led the way for the relative democratization of supercar-grade, headrush-inducing speed. Its performance may have been earth-shattering 15 years ago, but since its introduction, pretty much all performance-ish cars above a certain price have become able to at least keep up with it in a straight line. Even stuff outside of the realm of purpose-built, two-door sports cars. BMW M5s, Bentley Continental GTs, Mercedes-AMG SUVs. These days, they can all hit 60 mph in the 3s, and I have a feeling this wouldn't be the case if it were not for the Nissan GT-R.
Here's a clip of it merely hanging with a BMW M4 Competition and Audi RS5 in a drag race, two cars that are much newer but notably more pedestrian in spirit than the mighty GT-R.
What's next for the GT-R? Electrification, probably. Nissan recently confirmed that it's working on a future sports car slated to release in both hybrid and pure electric forms, a natural fit for a theoretical R36 GT-R.
Whatever form the next version takes, we look forward to seeing it set the car world on fire once again as a new performance benchmark and proceed to hang around all casual-like for another 15 years or so afterward. Happy birthday, GT-R.
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