It’s an argument that has been levelled at the Nissan GT-R ever since it was launched. “It’s all just computers,” the haters moan. “You can just steer and the software will sort everything else out.”
Having driven a few over the years the team at CT can collectively tell you that these words are slurry. They stink, and they’re about as accurate as a toddler with a machine gun. The GT-R is a fabulously mechanical-feeling thing, all chuntering differentials and violent conversion of super-unleaded into brute force.
No computer-neutered, software-tamed car could ever feel as edgy as a GT-R approaching the limit. In any spec it’s such an outrageously uncompromising and exciting car that any human being whose pulse isn’t raised just by being in it should check whether they have a pulse at all. The angry whump of each gear change, the heft of the chunky steering wheel and the endless chatter from the turbos all speak volumes about how old-school this thing is. We love it for that. It connects the Japanese performance car glory days of the 1990s with a world knocking on the door of an electrified 2020s.
And yet, because it does have some clever electronic performance aids, some people will always call it out as some kind of traitor to its own kind, despite plenty of Ferraris, Aston Martins, Porsches and more boasting much more complicated – and driver-flattering – computers. It makes literally no sense.
Anyway, even the most staunchly anti-GT-R gearhead might have to change their tune before long. News this week suggests that the GT-R as we know it could continue until it’s 20 years old, which would be around the 2027 mark. Around it its rivals are fast exploring hybrid or even fully electric replacements for current models, with many due before the predicted end of the R35’s life. We could easily end up with a scenario where the GT-R is the only fast car left that embodies the double-decade at the start of the fast-changing 21st century.
We know we’re coming to the end of the petrol age. We’re beginning to understand the frightening amount of damage human activity is doing to the planet, but the jury is still out as to what is the best transport solution for the next 100 years. I imagine the accepted wisdom will end up changing about as frequently as the British Prime Minister.
So think for a moment about how glorious it will be to be sitting in the middle of a host of electrified and sanitised sports cars, still with an option to buy a brand-new R35. What a staggering, joyous two-fingers it will present to the establishment. Like an old rogue cop who still deals with bad guys the old-fashioned way despite daily warnings from his protocol-obsessed boss, the GT-R will be the hero the fading analogue ICE landscape needs.
That it will have got there through two decades of unjustified abuse from the uniformed, misinformed and just plain malicious only sweetens the mental flavour. We can only hope the GT-R lasts through the inevitable waves of legislation until then.