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Old 07-17-2008, 06:15 PM   #1
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Default Sport Compact Car - Night Kids R35 Review


writer: Joey Leh
photographer: Barry Hathaway

There's just no stopping the new 2009 Nissan GT-R. Bearing the chassis code CBA-R35 (R35 for short), the new GT-R has surpassed even the mighty R34 in terms of media hype. As the first GT-R to ever be sold on US shores, the R35 has managed to clinch the cover of almost every car magazine that isn't solely devoted to pushrods and carbureted 'Stangs. Every single auto show for the past two years has also been the scene of chaos, with journalists trampling each other left and right to snap a shot or grab a brochure.

After Nissan declared that the Porsche 911 Turbo was the benchmark 'rival' for the R35, publications rushed to set up comparisons, flowcharts or tests pitching the two force-fed machines against each other. If you ask us, Nissan probably helped sell a few 911s from the extra coverage. We don't remember reading so much about the 911 Turbo's track prowess until the R35 puffed out its chest.

On paper, the R35 has all the necessary ammo to get the automotive world in a stir. Under the hood is an all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 with two turbochargers, and such details as a semi-dry-sump oiling system and plasma-coated cylinder bores. When it shows up in the US, it'll be making 480bhp and 430lb-ft of torque, sent to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission complete with paddle shifters. The Bilstein shocks are electronically adjustable, the massive Brembo rotors are large enough for most of us to use as wheels and the car has more buttons and displays than a misguided ice cream truck that came out of Pimp My Ride.

Some of you may be thinking: "So what? How is any of this new?" The 300ZX Twin Turbo has a twin-turbocharged six-cylinder, the VW GTI comes with a dual-clutch transmission and the Corvette can be had with an infinitely adjustable magneto-electronic suspension. But no other car has ever wrapped all this technology and capability into one package and made it so accessible. The price of admission is high, yes, but there's no other car for this money that does zero-to-60mph in the low three-second range-day after day-and is so easy to drive. And then there's the GT-R nameplate's past success with Group A and Super GT racing.

We were dutifully impressed and excited after driving the new GT-R for the first time (SCC, March 2008), but we had to fly to Japan to get behind the wheel of that one. As of a few months ago, we were still interested in seeing how the R35 would fare on US roads. The only problem was, the R35 wasn't on sale here yet. In fact, the car still won't be available by the time you read this.

And then, just a few months into 2008, we caught wind of the first R35 to reach America. Our good friend, Steve Mitchell of M-Workz fame, gave us the lead on a new GT-R he had just re-assembled. And when we say re-assembled, we mean just that.

The right-hand-drive R35 GT-R seen here was imported by Daryl Alison of Jspec Connect, an online community website dedicated to bringing together enthusiasts of Japanese performance cars. The car was purchased in Japan (where they're already on sale) as a body shell and then shipped to the US as a 'drivetrain delete'. Alison then separately purchased and shipped in a complete R35 engine, transmission and suspension, and had M-Workz re-install all the parts. Nissan had originally designed the R35 to be a one-world, one-platform car. During the re-installation process, Alison and Mitchell found out that the JDM R35 has all the necessary US DOT equipment and is even EPA emissions-compliant.

One thing's for sure, Alison is a die-hard GT-R fan. He's owned multiple Skylines in the past and knows the names of pretty much every GT-R owner in the US. Half of them are probably programmed into his cell phone. So it didn't take much convincing to make him agree to a drive. Unfortunately, having the first R35 in the country tends to draw quite a bit of attention and Alison's new ride had been driven harder than he would have preferred when he loaned it out previously. Due to an understandably large dollar investment, we agreed that we wouldn't be running the car through our usual gamut of testing and wouldn't be making the long drive out to the track. But we still wanted to see what an R35 felt like on home pavement, so we headed for the next best thing: mountain roads.

We wouldn't be driving like we were in the Monte Carlo Rally, but the undulating mountain roads that curve above Los Angeles are a good way to find a rhythm and get a feel for how a car behaves. To make the comparison complete, we called in a white R33 GT-R, owned by Import Tuner editor, Carter Jung, and a blue R34 GT-R belonging to private owner Willy Tseng. The AE86 and S13 kids on the mountain had no idea what was coming for them.

Each of the GT-Rs give off quite a presence, but there's nothing quite like power in numbers. We've seen Jung's white R33 before, but after receiving huge crimson AP Racing front and rear brakes (and a fresh wash), it doesn't appear like the leaking beater that has commuted to our office. Jung is set on entering this year's Ultimate Street Car Challenge with this very machine. He has a ways to go with his near stock engine, but the car could be built into a suitable candidate.

On the flipside, Tseng's R34 GT-R is the definition of a strong contender. We first spied this blue monster during a track day at The Streets of Willow, where Tseng was putting his claimed 716 wheel-hp (on C16 race gas) monster through its paces. Aside from a lower ride height and some 18x11 Enkei RPF1s, the car looks almost factory. That's not downplaying it much, as a factory R34 is still a vicious-looking, butch and boxy machine.

As overtly aggressive as the R33 and R34 are, nothing stops traffic like the first R35 GT-R on US streets. Black and sinister, Alison's car causes heads to turn and gazes to gather when it arrives at our rendezvous point. At first, many bystanders are thrown off, not sure what the machine before them could be. Some are left in the dark (no doubt later recounting stories that they spied a 'monster Lambo'), while others widen their eyes even larger after catching a glimpse of the red-and-silver GT-R badge. Never before have so many cell phone cameras emerged so quickly.

The cars are all different in terms of color, generation, power and modification, but there's something so right about seeing three GT-Rs prowling together. The lineage and history between them is apparent-you can see Skyline GT-R DNA oozing from every panel and seam.

As we get closer to Mt. GT-R, traffic begins to die off. Civilization is left behind and we grow closer and closer to the winding, twisty roads that scare off banal Camrys and Explorers. There's no Starbucks out here, just mile after mile of driving enjoyment. We can't help but push a little harder.

With the deep roar of the R34's titanium exhaust and the Jspec Connect R35's factory wail bouncing off the cliffs, we proceed nose-to-tail along the ever-tightening two-lane road. The front-running R35 sets the pace, using its immense powerband and all-wheel drive system to hustle through the corners like no other 3800-pound car should be capable of doing. Jung's R33 follows suit and the R34 closes up the rear with 275-width Nitto NT01 R-compound tires, monoblock Brembos and an expensive, imported Aragosta suspension.

Mt GT-R holds some of the most technical and low-speed roads in the area, on account of its design. Snaking through the high-altitude maze created by Mother Nature, instead of blowing a tunnel straight through it, the road jukes left and right with plenty of blind apexes and deceptive corner exits. There are even a few surprise elevation changes, with sudden dips and climbs so steep that AE86 Corollas have to go up them in first gear. Only a fool would push harder than 30mph through these parts because the cost of a mistake is so high. Get it crossed up and you're either going into oncoming traffic, into a rock wall or falling 200 feet.

Mt. GT-R also happens to be a popular weekend cruising spot for those with gear oil in their blood and a fun car in the garage. With the sun setting, it's no more than 15 minutes into our drive before we cross a 'peanut-eye' WRX STI and a BMW 5 Series going the opposite direction. They both make sudden U-turns to hitch onto the back of our GT-R wagon train. Again, a flurry of cell phone camera activity follows us. Soon we will appear in numerous internet forums and MySpace pages, with cute little avatar pictures below such names as 'GTKillaz423'. Sweet.

We come across a Highway Patrol officer and decide to cool it down at the next turnout until some of the attention subsides. The STI and BMW peel off into the distance as we make our stop, no doubt eager to find the closest internet cafff, for a quick upload. A red Chevy Camaro Z28 convertible bombs by and disappears over a hill before we hear the tell-tale screech of a slowly processed double take.

"Oh great, here we go" flashes through all our minds as we prepare for the unnecessary bombardment of a domestic-loving mindset. Strangely, the Camaro pulls up, stops, then the driver-doing his best Vanilla Ice impression-creeps away without saying a word. He re-appears minutes later, driving slowly, pointing a video camera at us with one hand and steering with the other. Again, he remains silent. Anything can happen on Mt. GT-R.

As Hathaway prepares to take under-hood shots, it's readily apparent that the variation between these cars extends to more than just age. Tseng's R34 pushes more than 700 wheel-hp on race gas and the engine bay has been fully outfitted to support it. We spy a pair of HKS turbochargers bolted to the RB26; Tseng tells us the motor is built with a combination of Tomei, HKS, Crower and CP Pistons parts. The jury-rigged Monster energy drink oil catch can points toward the daily use and abuse this R34 sees. This is no garage queen; Tseng tracks the car at least once a month. With a flurry of polished red, blue and green parts, this R34's engine bay could probably clean up at a local car show (catch can aside), and do 10-second passes on the way home.

The R35's engine bay looks antiseptic and boring by comparison, which is exactly the point. The area under the hood is 100 percent factory and re-installed by M-Workz to be just that: stock. Only in this crowd does a 480bhp engine look boring.

With the photos done and the engines fired up, we head for the mountain's downhill section. As we come around the third bend, we see a familiar face. Camaro-man has camped out on a later turnout with his video camera in hand. He doesn't follow us down the road, but we're pretty sure his day has been made. Three GT-Rs in one go, it's enough to make any enthusiast crack a smile.

The story is echoed for the rest of the drive. We don't catch any FC3S or S13 mountain-running kids betting for pinks this time around. But we do come across scores of old Toyota pickups, monster trucks and quite a few Subarus who gasp and mouth "Oh, my god" behind closed windows at the sight of The Night Kids. And so they should.

The GT-Rs display frightening speed and incredible composure. The R34 Skyline has easily the most horsepower, but the huge HKS turbos need more room to be wound out than can be had on these tight roads. The R34 falls out of its narrow powerband too easily. When the boost finally hits, it spikes with a surge so sudden, it's difficult to contain in such a narrow space. In contrast, the R35 has abundant torque seemingly everywhere and an all-wheel torque distribution system that is light years ahead of its predecessors. The R35 has the power and the grip, inspires confidence and, most importantly, is very forgiving. If there's any car you want on your side over a twisty road, it's this one.

The R35 never puts a wheel wrong and is so easy to drive-yet still so fast that it's downright scary. Never before has technology been so well integrated into a car that the electronic aids are helpful rather than obtrusive. So helpful that some purists might complain that the R35 is robotic, detached and too easy to drive when compared to something more raw, like a Lotus Elise.

Japanese R35 GT-Rs are electronically limited to 180kph (111.85mph), measured by GPS satellite. The limiter is removed remotely only when visiting a select number of 'Nissan-approved' circuits and an expensive service visit is mandatory after hitting the track. Nissan is serious about this machine. Alison reports that his JDM-spec model has its speed limiter in full effect in the US (and speaks toll booth warnings in Japanese at random moments). Because there are no approved Japanese tracks in the decidedly un-JDM US, the car is stuck at that top speed. You'd be a madman to even think of attempting a kiss above 110mph in the mountain, but once we reach the bottom and follow the coastline back toward Los Angeles, there's more temptation.

Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and the random Aston Martin litter the streets of money- and fame-hungry Hollywood, but nothing is slowing traffic quite like the pack of GT-Rs. As we go our separate ways and watch three Godzillas scream off in unison, we can't help but recall a video game-inspired Gran Turismo moment. There's something undeniably cool about seeing three different GT-Rs blast through a freeway tunnel together. Led away by the latest and greatest hot-shot R35, the cars streak home to gather more stares on another day.

The amazingly quick Nissan GT-R will soon be available for sale in dealerships across the US, ready to be released onto the streets and into tuning hands. We can't wait until the first 700 wheel-hp R35 GT-R debuts. Our radar gun will be ready.

Driving The R35 On Track
Nt long after we got this story together, Nissan called and asked if I would be interested in putting the R35 GT-R through its paces on track. Of course, I said yes and was soon on my way to Reno-Fernley Raceway, deep in the heart of Nevada's wild, wild west.

A relatively short configuration was used, only about 1.4 miles in total, but the GT-R still had the corner exit speed and power to push into fourth gear on the straights. The VR38DETT never missed a beat, pushing about 12 to 13psi of boost (according to the in-car LCD display) through the V6 and rocketed at every opportunity. There's minimal lag and the boost threshold is low, but once the engine builds to full boil, the R35 pulls away with force. The car was producing an impressive amount of thrust, but I could swear it was making more than 480bhp-because if this tank weighs 3800 pounds, it scoots far faster than its power-to-weight ratio should let it.

If anything could have used some adjustment, it was the electronic Bilstein suspension. On the street, the setup felt about as comfortable as an Evo or S2000, not harsh, but pretty firm and taut. In 'R' mode, the R35 would pick up more bumps and imperfections in the road. On track, though, R mode felt over-damped. Damping over apex curbing wasn't as soft as I would have expected, given the spring stiffness, and the car seemed to have some instability wiggles as the suspension unloaded over the backside of bumps under full throttle.

The final verdict? The R35 GT-R is fast, really fast. So fast that, even if you don't know what you're doing, chances are you'll set the quickest time of the day at an open track session. All-wheel drive, traction control and vehicle stability translate into a car that can do things you wouldn't think possible. The only problem is, those same systems largely remove you from the driving equation. The R35 is a bit Gran Turismo-ish in a way-with buttons, switches and paddles-but a strange, almost out-of-body driving experience. Think of it as the Lancer Evolution syndrome, times 10. It's the polar opposite of being in a Honda S2000, but that's a driver preference issue.

The R35 is at its best when attempting to harness all those electronic systems and drive the car hard-really hard-and try to cross the border from bravery to insanity. You'll find yourself giving the car more hard steering input than you'd think necessary, and the brakes and gas require a heavy foot with lots of prodding. The car will dial itself in easily and handle whatever is thrown at it. If you're a novice driver, you'll look like Senna reborn; if you're a pro driver, start making some space in that trophy cabinet.-JL
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Last edited by ATLsupra; 07-17-2008 at 06:19 PM..
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Old 07-18-2008, 02:35 AM   #2
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Old 07-18-2008, 06:28 PM   #3
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wow thats long and ont got time to read right this second i will get back to this article

i bet its juicy
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