The Nissan Skyline GT-R: It’s the Limit

For years now the rumor mill has been buzzing like an overcrowded apiary in July heat: when is the Skyline finally coming to America?

The legendary Nissan Skyline, which debuted in 1969, has never been sold in the U.S. – unless you count the quasi-legal sales of right-hand-drive crash-test guinea pigs. Well, after a bit of a false start the car’s itinerary now appears to be officially booked, once and for all, and Uncle Sam will soon get his chance to slip behind the wheel (on the left side, thank you) and push 180.

After speculation that the car would be released as a 2008 Infiniti in the U.S., Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn announced a year ago at the New York Auto Show that it will in fact be called the Nissan Skyline GT-R. Alas, things always change, and now that date has been crossed out and moved futureward once again. It will now be a 2009, with the projected availability date now autumn of 2008. Those of you with the big bucks burning a hole in your checkbook are just going to have to be patient and keep believing that it’ll be worth the wait.

Although the Skyline has enjoyed decades of respect and popularity in its native Japan as well as the other countries in which it has been sold, it wasn’t a hit right out of the gate. But various incarnations of Skylines began to take much of the world by storm, rolling out with more and more state-of-the-art improvements and innovations until it became the host of Japanese performance cars.

Aside from the ol’ switcheroo with the driver’s seat, there shouldn’t be many changes for the U.S. market. The same twin-turbo, 3.7-liter V6 will power it over here – and that means 450 horses, so saddle up! We’re talking about the fastest Nissan ever.

Perhaps the best news about the Skyline GT-R is that it will be based on a unique chassis, all its own, rather than a sedan derivation. Spy photos confirm that this is one sexy body that just screams performance. (Can you say 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds?) The deep rearward pitch of the roof toward those tight C-pillars and the broadening toward the back end confirm that the car is built for speed. A great deal of air-flow analysis and research went into the final design decisions, and rumors hold that some of the brains behind Lotus may have been consulted.

The car’s “face” is dominated by a unique headlight formation and prominent grille whose field of blackness is interrupted only by its shiny brand-badge. The taillights appear as two pairs, offset in a slight diagonal with the top one larger than the other. Below each set is a pair of titanium exhaust pipes that look formidable enough in a still photo – so imagine how they’ll look and sound while they’re doing their thing.

So what else is behind all that sexy sheet metal? This upcoming GT-R should become the first ever with an available 7-speed, paddle-shifted automatic transmission. Its twin turbochargers are fed by a single, centered air intake for maximum efficiency in powering the V6 that won out as the engine of choice over the too-heavy V8 of earlier consideration.

All-wheel drive comes courtesy of Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS system, which uses a microprocessor to continuously monitor the driving situation to determine how much torque to distribute to each axle. In a relaxed cruising situation the function is basically rear-wheel drive, but up to 50% (the smartypants system determines the appropriate ratio) of the power can be transferred to the front axle when the system detects rear-wheel slippage. Are you excited yet? Then you’ll really be tickled to hear that this car will likely have four-wheel steering to boot.

So if you’re considering, say, a brand-new Porsche 911, you might want to think it over some more. Just hold your horses (yeah, all 450 of ’em) and wait ’til next year, when you can reach the Skyline.

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