Review: 2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition
50 being the years past since the “GT-R” name first appeared on a car with 1969’s boxy “Hakosuka” GT-R.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Bonkers yet manageable performance, eye-catching looks, cultishness
- What’s Bad: Is aging a little, could do with a few more fireworks to go with the performance
When the Skyline debuted in 1969, I doubt Nissan had any idea about just how legendary it would become. How it would be an accomplished racer, first on various Japanese racing circuits and eventually earning spots in racing leagues the world over, from the V8 Supercar Championship in Australia, to the Nurburgring VLN Series in Germany.
Decades later, it’s all led us to this: the Nissan GT-R “50th Anniversary Edition” – 50 being the years past since the “GT-R” name first appeared on a car with 1969’s boxy “Hakosuka” GT-R.
“50th Anniversary” designation adds two-tone wheels (with matching stem caps!), badging and special paint (an additional $1,000 gets you an even shinier hue). In addition to the legendary-but-new-to-the-current-GT-R Bayside Blue seen here, it’s also available in silver and white. For me, blue is the way to go especially with the striping seen here, on-hand to recall the liveries used by the racing Hakosukas. The only details missing, really, are the door stripes and number stickers – I might just add those if I had one of these and indeed, I’ll bet I wouldn’t be the only 50th Anniversary Edition owner to do so. That gawky “50th Anniversary” script on the back has to go though. It looks temporarily slapped on as if it were a promotional tool, and little else.
The theme continues inside, adding a special steering wheel, diamond-print Alcantara headliner, exclusive seat colour and embroidery and kickplates. Plus, various 50th Anniversary badges throughout, of course – after all, even when inside, you want to know you’re driving something special, right? The face of the gauge cluster, meanwhile, is finished in carbon fibre and reminds me of the ultra-rare 1995 R33 GT-R LM. As a result, it’s a feature that’s not actually unique to the 50th Anniversary that I kind of find the most appealing, because that LM may just be the coolest GT-R ever. The “Hand Crafted Stitch” labels attached to the seats are a nice touch, too – it’s often all in the details with special editions like this, so I find those labels to hold more importance than their size suggests they should.
Having said that, though: a feeling of old-school-ness permeates, and that caught me off guard. I’ve always seen the GT-R as the digital sports car, but here’s the thing: it was, but the big boys from Porsche, McLaren, Ferrari and even the new Corvette have all gotten on the digital bandwagon and it seems Nissan hasn’t really allowed its technology bandwidth to be used up by the GT-R, deciding to focus more on stuff like the Leaf.
You know right away that you’ve happened on something special, though, once you’ve settled into the perfectly-shaped driver’s seat and started the proceedings with a jab of the start/stop button. Remember the Gran Turismo video game series? Well, Gran Turismo is developed by a company called “Polyphony Digital” and their logo appears on a banner at the base of the screen on start-up, because they had a hand in designing it. Talk about worlds colliding.
The system tracks a total of 18 parameters, from the Gs undertaken during braking, to the boost level, to engine oil pressure and more; you can even customize your displays across five menus. Somehow, the fact that modifiable displays are a dime a dozen these days in the car world doesn’t change how cool this is one iota.
When sat in the cockpit with the windows up, though, the sound coming from those bloody great big quad tailpipes is present to be sure, but nowhere near as belligerent as what you might get from, say, the new Shelby GT500 Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. Thing is, those ‘Muricans – while much more precise than they were a decade ago – will still sledgehammer you into submission, while the GT-R is much more scalpel-like in the way it operates. Of course, if you want to dial things up a few notches, there are a set of toggle switches mounted at the base of the centre stack which modify your traction control, your powertrain and your suspension. With the powertrain set to “save” (unclear on what that means, exactly), the suspension set to “comf” (yes, “comf”) and TCS in its strictest, you could argue that the GT-R exhibits some proper grand touring chops. Switch each to “R”, however, and all that goes out the window because it’s supercar time.
Power from the twin-turbo 3.8L V6 is rated at 565 hp and 467 lb-ft of torque. The 0-100 km/h time? In and around three measly seconds thanks to the ultra-smart ATTESA AWD (don’t ask us what that stands for – oh, you are? OK, then: Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All-Terrain All Wheel Drive. Happy?) and an ultra-fast paddle-activated six speed auto that goes about the business of swapping cogs with a satisfying ka-CHUNK – just like a race car. Would a manual be nice? Maybe, but much as the old-school cog-swapper than I am, even I have to admit that it’s just not as fast as an auto.
Which is an even bigger problem in the GT-R because everything is so sharp and precise that the act of rowing a lever would just fly too much in the face of progress. The GT-R is super wide but acts a taut and nimble machine with crisp steering inputs and pretty much zero body roll that will still give those newfangled McLarens and Ferraris a run for their money once the chips are down, and none of them are available with a manual, either.
The GT-R is massively fast but it’s also quite insulating and if I’m honest, could use a few more fireworks to go along with the speed. Maybe a slightly louder exhaust report, perhaps some sound augmentation through the speakers like so many manufacturers building fast, turbocharged cars are doing these days? Is that heresy? Perhaps, but it doesn’t change the fact that unless you’re really caning it – like, on a track – there’s just not as much drama as you’d expect. Still, though; I emerged from every drive with a big, gaping grin on my face and electricity fizzing through my veins and you can’t really ask for much more than that from you performance car, can you?
It does mean, though, that you have to be careful because you could find yourself travelling at some downright illegal speeds before you know it. Not to mention that since the speedo goes up to 340 km/h, 100 km/h sits at the 7 o’clock position on the gauge. That means if you were to take the numbers off the speedo but leave the needle, what looks like 100 km/h in a Shelby GT500 (yes; I know that car has a modifiable digital gauge cluster, but each screen choice you get includes an analogue speedo) is actually 220 km/h in the GT-R, at which point you’re only about two-thirds ‘round the dial.
That being said: the only thing as impressive as how the GT-R accelerates is how it stops thanks to big brakes with 15.35” rotors at the front and not-much-smaller 15-inchers at the rear. The brake pedal is boosted just enough to help you maintain smooth inputs, progressively shaving off speed as you depress the pedal.
It all adds up to another dimension of motoring that provides astounding kilometre coverage without batting an eye. So dense is the engineering that noting short of a racer’s license will ever get you to within 7/10ths of what this car is capable of. It’s a clinical, precise, powerful, and rock solid take on the sports car, yes, but one that makes dizzying motoring heights more accessible to the everyman. Assuming they’re well heeled, of course; one of these will run you about $140,000 – a $10,000 jump over the standard GT-R.
Is the 50th Anniversary Edition worth the extra cake? Indeed, I’d say that even at this level, $10,000 would be considered a pretty big chunk of change for most prospective buyers. Whether it’s worth it or not depends fully on just how much you’ve bought into the “cult of GT-R”. If you’re a died-in-the-wool member, then the extra-specialness – the extra Bayside Blueness – will absolutely be worth it. Or, if you want your GT-R to be a collector’s item garage queen, then go for it.
If you’re in it for the performance, though, then I’d say save the 10 grand here, and spend it on what so many GT-R owners have done over the years: make their cars faster in the aftermarket.
2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition
BODY STYLE: Two-door sports coupe
DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, all-wheel drive
ENGINE: V6 twin-turbo, 565 hp, 467 lb-ft of torque
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
Pricing: $129,998 (base); $138,998 (as tested)
WEBSITE: Nissan GT-R