The 2020 Nissan GT-R 50th Anniversary Edition Celebrates A Legend’s Enduring Nature
Nissan is celebrating five decades of the GT-R with a special anniversary edition GT-R R35.
Fifty years ago, Nissan introduced the GT-R to the world, and since then, each successive generation of the car instantly earned cult status among automotive enthusiasts immediately upon debut. The 2020 50th Anniversary Edition GT-R is meant to be a celebration of decades worth triumphs on the track and the road.
The thing is, the current generation of GT-R R35s is turning 13-years-old this year, and the 50th Anniversary Special Edition is unintentionally reminding everyone how little the car has changed in a decade. At the same time, it’s also showcasing just how wildly ahead of its time the R35 was in 2007 when it was announced and unveiled.
Thirteen Years Ago, It Was A Decade Ahead Of Its Time
What the GT-R accomplished when it was new is astonishing because those decade-old capabilities are still keeping the upper echelon of sports cars honest.
For a little perspective, the GT-R boasts more torque than a 2020 Lamborghini Huracán Evo Spyder (read HERE) and will beat the Italian to 60 mph by 0.2 seconds, getting it done in 2.9 seconds. All in a car weighing 3,840 lbs., which is about 440 lbs. more than the Huracán Evo Spyder. And, according to more technical tests, the two cars can achieve the same max lateral acceleration of 1.03g. The 13-year old Nissan almost makes the brand-new $360,000 Lamborghini look obsolete.
Even in the abstract world of numbers and graphs, the GT-R’s 13-year-old stats have stood the test of time.
Stats on the Street
It’s one thing to read a stat sheet, see numbers on a page and compare them side-by-side to another car in the next column. Putting those stats to the test on the back roads of upstate New York and the track at Monticello Motor Club paints a very real, awe-inspiring picture of how inspiring the engineering is under the GT-R’s sheet metal.
With the GT-R, the form is clearly several laps down on the function. You won’t find large crowds of people rushing to the GT-R’s defense if someone calls it ugly, but the beauty of the car lies in how it dispenses speed and g-forces with so little drama.
Don’t get me wrong, the way the GT-R gathers speed is violently quick. It is instantaneous.
And the manner in which it can change direction defies convention. It is as if it achieves its performance with incredible ease. Like the ease with which you or I take out the garbage or do the dishes.
Feeding the car through a corner, the steering is direct, connected to the road. There’s no guesswork at where the GT-R’s front tires are pointing. And although the GT-R is famously computerized and laden with engine management, chassis, and traction control systems, there is never a sense they’re slowing you down and acting as a safety net.
The brain of the car is ever-present, especially when diving on the breaks or getting on the throttle a fraction too early. But unless you’re a Nissan development driver, you can’t help but think you’re the one slowing the car down.
The feeling of commanding all that engineering around Monticello and the surrounding backroads was nothing short of confidence-inspiring. Throttle response, and the feel through the brake pedal, it can only be described as surgical. Admittedly, with me behind the wheel, as capable as the car felt, it was more like playing a game of Operation. But in the right hands, the GT-R is capable of brain surgery.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 20th Anniversary
Japanese engineering didn’t garner its reputation for being so damn precise because of the Nissan GT-R. Efficiency and exacting standards are ingrained into the country’s ethos, and the GT-R is just one high profile example. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive is another prime ambassador for Japanese precision.
The Spring Drive recently celebrated its own milestone, so the two Japanese titans of industry partnered up to collaborate on the proximate 20th and 50th anniversaries of their respective machines.
Where the GT-R relies on a handbuilt 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, the Grand Seiko is powered by Seiko’s own innovative Spring Drive movement capable of a 72-hour power reserve and is accurate up to ± 0.5 seconds per day.
The special edition watch takes inspiration from the equally special car, borrowing its blue and white color scheme. The white dial features multiple sub-dials, including for the stop-seconds and power reserve, not unlike the digital dash display in the GT-R showing boost, lateral Gs, and lap times.
When you consider the practical performance, precision and, everyday usability of both these high-performance machines, the partnership makes much more sense than simply two coinciding birthdays.
Godzilla, The Dinosaur
Back to the car. There’s no avoiding the big green monster in the room when talking about Godzilla – a nickname the GT-R R35 inherited from a predecessor, the R32, which, in the 1990s, was effectively banned from competition by the Japanese and the Australian Touring Car Championships due to its overwhelming dominance.
Sure, the GT-R has seen a few minor visual updates since it launched in 2007. And also gained nearly 100 more horsepower until, as of 2020, it is now cranking out 565 hp. But outside of that, the GT-R R35 is showing its age.
It’s quite jarring to walk up to a car you know is laden with terabytes of technological capability, only to slide down into a driver’s seat and stare at an analog dashboard clearly developed in the early aughts.
The infotainment screen and driver interface only add to the Rip Van Winkle effect. If the said time machine was only capable of traveling back 20 years. And just as the unfortunate Van Winkle slept for 20 years, if you’d like to remember what a picture taken by a Motorola RZR flip phone looks like, use the GT-R’s back up camera.
Are these outdated faults a total deal-breaker? Not at all. But they are simple hardware issues that should have been updated over the years.
The Test of Time
The GT-R made headlines in 2007 because its capabilities were, as we’ve seen, more than ten years ahead of the competition. And although Nissan’s halo sports car hasn’t changed in the past decade, it is because it didn’t need to.
Like the Grand Seiko Spring Drive, the GT-R R35 introduced a level of performance ahead of its time and maintained its relevance over an entire decade.
Yes, the interior and driver interface of the GT-R R35 is, by definition, behind the times, but no one buys a “Godzilla” caring that the backup camera looks like it came from a RadioShack.
They say the astronauts who landed on the moon did so with less computing power than a basic modern-day Texas Instruments calculator. And I’m sure the interior of the space capsule is ancient by today’s standards, but that doesn’t negate the fact the power on hand on that day got them to the moon back. It’s been 50 years since the original Nissan GT-R, and we’re now just getting around to going back to the moon.
It’s over ten years later, and cars like a V10 Lamborghini are now just catching up to the GT-R. Today’s rapid pace of technological advancement is such that obsolescence often happens in weeks, not months or years. “Staying power” or “timelessness” is rarely achieved, so when it is, we have to acknowledge and applaud it.
– Engine: 3.8-liter Twin Turbo V6
– Horsepower: 565
– Torque: 467 lbs./ft
– 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds,
– Top speed of 196 mph.
– MSRP: $113,540
– Price as tested: $125,160
Special thanks to our friends at Monticello Motor Club for hosting Watchonista for this special track day!
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)