Ah, the R36 Nissan GT-R. For a few years now, Nissan has been mum on the next-generation Godzilla, only telling us that the badge has a future. And, if you take a look at what’s going on in the auto industry and beyond, the carmaker’s silence starts to make sense.
To make a long story short, Nissan is under immense pressure to deliver a GT-R package that remains relevant. I’d argue that the company’s engineers and designers haven’t faced such a challenge since they were preparing the R32 for its 1989 introduction (more on this below).
As such, changes, big or small, are likely to appear along the way, which means communicating a certain direction would be best avoided. Besides, the halo car status of the GT-R would inevitably take some of the attention away from the all-new 2023 Nissan Z that landed in showrooms earlier this year.
OK, Nissan can’t talk about the R36, but what could it have in store for the GT-R?
It’s not impossible to sell an impressive old-school enthusiast car these days. Sure, die-hard aficionados with a bank account the size of their multi-spot garage can look to Koenigsegg for a nine-speed “automatic” gearbox that promises to emulate a manual in the new, self-referential CC850 hypercar, while McLaren’s Solus track-only beast brings the first N/A powertrain (a Judd V10) since the iconic F1 of the 1990s. But a second-gen Toyobaru offers atmospheric power and a clutch for $30,000.
However, Nissan can’t afford to keep it simple with the R36. Well before everybody and their car ride-loving dog talked about intelligent vehicles, the Nissan GT-R established itself as a computer on wheels, especially as far as the now-long-in-the-tooth R35 is concerned.
And so the R36 needs to be a tech masterpiece, which is why the rumors about the GT-R going all-electric seem to make sense. However, to understand what these three letters stand for (after all, the Mercedes-AMG GT R also uses them), we need to quickly go over the heritage of the JDM hero.
How the GT-R went from a JDM pony car to an AWD supercar slayer
The kind of basic RWD+manual approach mentioned above was reserved for the original Hakosuka GT-R (1969-1972) and the single-year Kenmeri of 1973. Those early versions were top-dog iterations of the Nissan Skyline family. However, due to the 1973 oil crisis turning the latter into a flop, Nissan steered clear of creating an all-out GT-R monster for the following three Skyline generations (C210, R30, and R31).
Even so, the R30 and R31 did get noteworthy high-velocity iterations in RWD trim and, as dictated by the company’s M.O. back in the day, these were inextricably linked to racing. In the end, it was this motorsport ambition that pushed Nissan to completely reinvent the GT-R formula for the R32 Skyline.
The said model introduced the legendary, tuning-friendly RB26DETT turbo straight-six that lived on in the R33 and R34 GT-Rs. More importantly, the R32 GT-R made the switch to AWD, employing an electronic torque split system, a feature that has remained a trademark of the performance coupe to this day. And, thanks to its success on the track, the Aussie press came up with the Godzilla nickname that’s so frequently used today.
However, when the R35 left the Skyline family behind (the latter continues to exist) for its 2007 (!) introduction, it came up with a radical, computer-controlled evolution of the said ATTESA E-TS AWD, while employing a larger VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 mated to a dual-clutch gearbox.
Initially, and for a number of years, the GT-R served as a performance bargain, since it could rival the likes of the Porsche 911 Turbo S and Italian exotics for only a fraction of the cost.
Nevertheless, as Mihnea mentioned when talking about a report from Japanese scoop magazine Best Car Web, Nissan is said to be benchmarking the Taycan EV these days.
An all-electric status alone isn’t enough to give the GT-R a boost, so solid-state batteries could be the answer
Of course, the novelty of battery power doesn’t make the R36 GT-R’s job any easier. For instance, as Christian von Koenigsegg explained when introducing the CC850, it’s difficult to justify the price of a hypercar when offerings like the Tesla Model S Plaid bring insane performance and tons of features for much less money. Speaking of which, Lucid just introduced the Air Sapphire, a tri-motor sedan whose 1,200+ hp and AWD mean a 0-60 mph time of under 2s, an 8s quarter-mile, and a top speed of over 200 mph.
And when you consider that the said Japanese report painted the R36 as a sedan, you end up with a machine that would be more or less threatened by the Air, the Model S, and the Taycan.
However, the story also talks solid-state batteries. Being more energy-dense, these allow for greater performance while reducing the serious weight and range limitations of the current lithium-ion hardware.
One may even argue that solid-state batteries are better for the environment, as they require less graphite and cobalt. However, that’s a long chat, one that also involves the mining of these elements, which leads to social, political, and moral aspects alongside the scientific ones—I’ll end this side chat with a mention of the recent talks about billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg and Bill Gates taking to Greenland for mining operations, a move facilitated by global warming.
Now, if Nissan either engineers the R36 platform to cope with solid-state batteries further down the road or waits for these to become available before the release of the next GT-R, the R36 stands a serious chance of keeping its game-changer role.
Of course, specs alone won’t cut it. So, like Dodge is giving up on some range by making the design more emotional and installing a multi-speed gearbox in its 2024 electric muscle car, Nissan will need to come up with a trade-off designed to set the driving experience apart.
This R36 CGI is more of a “Best Of” Remix
Until that happens, we’ve brought along an independent vision on what kind of eye candy the R36 will deliver. This arresting 3D work is the brainchild of digital artists Roman Miah and Avante Design.
And the rendering looks to the past while portraying a potential future. While the silhouette strongly reminds one of the R35, especially in the greenhouse, the dominant styling influence seems to be the R34 (hey, this Paul Walker-driven example is US-legal).
The light clusters at both ends, as well, as the front grille, are the most prominent R34 traits inherited by this unofficial concept.
Those exhaust pipes? Sure, they speak of the good old suck-squeeze-bang-blow. And if Nissan comes up with an ICE (internal combustion recipe) that keeps the R36 on top of the game, I’ll be glad I was wrong to talk about full electrification when showcasing the 3D eye candy.