Godzilla is a terrifying Japanese beast, and if it comes for you, you should head for the hills as fast as you can. Oh, and Godzilla is also a monster movie. The Godzilla I’m referring to here is the Nissan GT-R. We loved the current generation, though it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. Delightfully, Nissan is set to spawn a GT-R sequel very soon. But will it live up to the hype the same way Godzilla the movie did?
As the release of the next generation of Japan’s leading supercar approaches, we have delved into all the facts, rumor, hearsay, and outright speculation available to try and answer that question. And not to spoil it for you, but we are awfully excited.
Go hybrid or go home
The big news on the next gen GT-R is that it will be packing lightning. Like just about everyone these days – or at least McLaren, Ferrari, Porsche, and Acura – Nissan has decided the future of high performance is in electricity.
In fact, recent reports suggest that the new GT-R will pack a truly insane 800+ horsepower, thanks to a 250-horsepower set of electric motors and a 580 horsepower turbocharged V6. This is a huge jump from the already impressive 545 hp of the current GT-R.
It isn’t clear just what sort of hybrid system Nissan is going to use, but it’s likely to be a battery storage system rather than a flywheel based Flybrid (my word) setup. After all, Nissan is partnering with Williams Formula 1 this year – and it knows a little something about hybrid tech. Add to that, Nissan is already one of the world leaders in battery tech and the next Godzilla should be a mega hybrid.
The real story is going to be the torque. While no figures are available, the real performance benefit of a hybrid system is the ability to flatten at the torque curve. The Porsche 918 for instance never drops below 500 pound feet of torque from 800 rpm all the way to the top of the rev range.
That’s the whole reason for the switch to hybrid systems according to Nissan marketing poobah, Andy Palmer. When talking to Top Gear, Palmer said “Electric systems can fill in the gaps in the torque curve and offer genuine performance gains, as well as lowering emissions and improving fuel economy. It’s win-win. Internal combustion is self-limiting, and the future is electric. That’s sacrilege to some, but it’s engineering fact.”
While we might include ourselves in the group that finds talk of doing away with the volcanic roar of internal combustion sacrilege, we can’t help but agree that the performance gains are there. Besides it is hard to argue with results – and 800 horsepower is one hell of a result. Future GT-R, I dub thee Mecha-Godzilla.
A kinder, gentler monster?
If you are a devotee of the Godzilla oeuvre, as I am not, you probably know that later in his life the man in the plastic suit became the good guy. This transition from destroying a cardboard Tokyo to defending its annoyingly high-pitched children may be something of an inspiration for the GT-R’s design team.
The current GT-R is stunning to drive, there are few cars at any price that can keep up with it. It is not what you would call comfortable, though. The suspension appears to be made from Wolverine’s bones, and the resulting ride can shake your spleen loose. And while there have been big strides in interior quality since the car’s release, it still feels more like a tuner’s 270z than a $100,000 supercar.
New GT-R chief engineer Kinishi Tanuma wants to change all that. Nissan has been a bit disappointed by the cars sluggish sales in America and Tanuma thinks he has the recipe to change that. Speaking with Automotive News, Tanuma said, “We need more of a volume car, not just more horsepower … Americans love this kind of big power, but I want to show more quality, more value.”
What Tanuma didn’t say – but the sales motive suggests – is that the GT-R needs to be aimed at a slightly different market. With the addition of close to 300 horsepower, it is hard to believe that the car is going to become more of a toned-down competitor for the likes of the Porsche 911. Instead, the focus seems likely to be competing with more upscale supercars.
Regardless, Tanuma and his team have their work cut out for them if they plan on selling more than 1,200 cars a year in the United States. The GT-R is going to need to feel like more of a quality luxury product rather than the tuner car to end all tuner cars.
Stepping into a band-saw
When the current-gen GT-R came onto the scene, it blew just about everything else out of the water. Even seven years later, it still stands out of a crowded field for its mind-blowing performance. The new one, though, is going to be facing some tough competition.
Last week we covered the new Acura NSX, which is set to be released in 2016. Like the new GT-R, the NSX is going to be a high-performance hybrid and – with a similar price – a direct competitor. But the NSX isn’t going to be the only competition. A new Audi R8 is due out in 2016, not to mention a possible replacement for the Ferrari 458. There are even rumblings about a rebirth of the Toyota Supra.
Rumor has it that the new GT-R will be arriving on scene sometime in 2016, likely right in the middle of a spate of new supercars. But here is the thing; Nissan knows its business and it is has enlisted the right help.
According to Car Sales, Nissan has enlisted the aid of the Williams F1 team to develop not only the hybrid system but also new composites for the body and frame. With that and 800 electrified horses the GT-R is going to come out swinging.
So while Godzilla may have a tough road ahead, he has beaten everyone from Mothra to aliens, so how much trouble can some pesky little automakers be?