The current Nissan GT-R (R35) is now 10 years old. It has pushed boundaries beyond the known realms of ‘everyday’ supercars and been a storming success for the company. Today, Stelvio Automotive takes a look at the early representations of its successor, the R36, due in 2020.
By Sean Smith
My second ever Top Gear magazine was from May 2006 and it featured on the front cover the concept image of the upcoming Nissan Skyline GT-R. Unknown to me at the time; that concept was essentially the same as the one released a few years beforehand but regardless it looked awesome to the spotty 14 year old boy who was newly discovering the world of cars and motorsport.
Over the next 12 months that car would change dramatically with major aesthetic reworking to the face and bodywork; as well as the dropping the infamous ‘Skyline’ badge which had adorned the back of the family product line since 1969. Nissan eventually revealed the production version of Nissan GT-R R35 to the world in Tokyo with the first examples hitting the road with their new owners in 2008. The car had a brand new 3.8 litre, twin turbo V8, Nissan’s newest 4WD system, nitrogen filled tyres and (if you were in America) a competitively low price tag of $69,850 for the eager consumer (consider that back then the Dollar was almost 2 to the Pound and the UK had to pay £65,000 for the same model).
Over 10 years of rolling development and upgrades later the Skyline, sorry, GT-R has become lighter, faster and more expensive, being used as a technical platform for its creators breaking records around the Nurburgring and acceleration tests time and time again. There are many videos of it beating McLarens and Ferraris off the line through repeated successful reviews and comparisons it has put Nissan back in the limelight as the company who can challenge the big boys of the supercar elite and still make the Nissan Micra at the same time.
In motorsport the GT-R has spawned a multitude of racing programmes and that is where we reach the beginning of the development story of the upcoming R36.
18 months ago, my first article for SJB Supercars was an in-depth look at the “Nissan GT-R LM Nismo”, Nissan’s return entrant to the Le Mans 24 hrs and endurance racing. The machine had a brand new, highly complex hybrid system paired to a 3.0 litre V6 at the front of the car as opposed to the middle, front wheel drive as opposed to rear wheel drive, air venturis going through the entire car and exhausts coming out the bonnet.
Nissan said with this mad car it was going to be an initial test bed for their future road cars, including the next GT-R. Unfortunately the sad failure of this machine is well documented despite many aspects which were very promising from its one and only race at the 24hrs; thankfully one of those aspects was the engine which is believed to be the unit that will power the R36.
The GTR-LM Nismo’s engine has this year made a return to the world in the ByKolles LMP1 Team’s car and had it not been for a first lap incident, it could have won the race overall. The engine was very fast, relatively fuel efficient and (before debris broke the cooling system) it had been reliable too and if this engine is a test mule its certainly showing solid potential. The hybrid system which was the bane of Nissan’s life back in 2015 though has not made a public reappearance, but the system has been present in the first visual image of the 2020 car concept when Nissan revealed the Vision GT on Gran Turismo 6 in 2014.
This car is the one I have been testing on the game this past week. It should be said first though that the Vision GT programme on GT6 is a pure concept playground for the manufacturers and it is certainly questionable as to how realistic or at least feasible some of the cars on it have been.
The 2020 though is quite a believable concept however. The styling has the car being a lot lower than the current R35 and is much more closely shaped to the current creed of supercars, particularly the Ford GT which has a similarly shaped roof canopy. This car is clearly more track focused as opposed to a road car representation as it features an enormous splitter, diffuser and rear wing which would all certainly make it an oddity on the public roads, but not in-keeping with the GT-R’s 2+2 seater ancestry.
The car is eccentric in its bodywork with a bulbous nose that stretches beyond the front headlights and huge indents in the doors which feature exhaust outlets in front of them similar to that of a Dodge viper. Nissan seem intent on not having an exhaust that goes all the way to the rear of the car judging by this and the LM Nismo. The 2020 is certainly at the theoretical end of the concept car spectrum but nevertheless to can give hints as to the R36’s potential styling.
To drive, the 2020 is very stable and extremely direct in its power application. It’s clearly 4WD with the rear wheels being the dominant two with the hybrid system feeling like it’s on the front axle allowing the car to drift if asked. This configuration can make the car understeer on the higher speed corners but upon releasing the throttle the car pulls into the apex as the hybrid motors go into re-gen and remove the strain on the tyres while charging up the battery.
The 2020 is also very fast. It’s improved on the record breaking acceleration of the R35 doing 0-60 in 2.7 seconds and a top speed of 221mph, which compares with 3.4 seconds and 196mph for the 2017 car. It certainly shows that when working the hybrid powertrain is going to be an effective tool at the traffic lights.
It must be assumed however that much like the concept cars that were shown before the GT-R R35, it’s very likely that many of the striking features of the 2020 will be heavily toned down for any road going version and for the sake of argument there’s already an example of this on the internet for me to discuss.
The above picture is showing one rendering of the R36, in it it is effectively showing the current 2017 GT-R R35 with a new face and a new rear wing added to the rear in what is a very safe visualisation.
Sadly this is a very realistic possibility of what will be launched in a couple of years’ time. It’s worth considering that the GT-R is a rolling test bed and Nissan have changed the car little by little over the last decade, however the base car was fundamentally solid in its aerodynamic properties so there would be bare little reason why Nissan would completely overhaul the shape for the next car. We saw on the R32 through to the R34 Skylines that Nissan evolved rather than restarted so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that the R36 will look very similar to its predecessor.
The new face on this rendering is at least interesting though as it features a detached nose similar to the 2020 which reveals air ducts located underneath the headlights which is not seen on the current R35. This style of face will be aiming to increase downforce and front end grip which could imply Nissan would be looking to take their cornering speed into the stratosphere with this new car.
I personally would expect Nissan to have a few more styling ques from the 2020 than simply the face on the R36 however simply to make the car slightly more dramatic to keep looking impressive when alongside its rivals. When it is launched only a 3 years’ time, I would expect more aggressive under-floor aerodynamics certainly on the Nismo version of the car and I wouldn’t be surprised if those front exhausts were in place as Nissan have been testing them on their previous projects and having them located there frees up a significant amount of room for diffusers and under trays.
Whatever does come to be released though I certainly look forward to seeing the next stages of development of the R36. The new engine and hybrid system that is being developed at Le Mans will make the car faster than anything Nissan have made for the road before and I have no doubt that the R36 will packed with the newest and highest spec technology known to man when it comes to cornering. All together this could make this car an absolute World-Beater on the track and will force the car industry to continue its improvement over the coming years.
Let’s just hope though that whatever they do, Nissan also do the right thing and reinstate the Skyline badge back where it belongs on the rear of the car.