Earlier this year at the New York International Auto Show, Nissan put on a spectacular display of what might have been the best lineup of manufacturer cars we've ever seen. Why? Well, there was no boring Versa, Leaf or Sentra in sight (no offense, Nissan), and the core of the booth was filled with nothing but the Nissans that we hold true to our hearts...I'm talking about the GT-R and the Z.
As the self-proclaimed diehard car enthusiasts we are, when we think Nissan, what comes to mind are typically the Skyline, GT-R, Datsun Z, or the 350Z/370Z platform (we can't forget about our S-chassis guys but today is not about you). The New York show reflected just that by showing off a Kenmeri 2000GT-R Racing Concept, R33 GT-R LM road car, and a Calsonic-livery BNR32 GT-R race car, not to mention there was a pristine 1969 240Z on hand. So why go through all the trouble of resurrecting these retired cars for an auto show? Well, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the GT-R and the Z (kind of a big deal!) and over the last five decades these two iconic models have made us all goo-goo-gaga for Nissan. And with so much history and fandom, it was only fitting to celebrate, not just with a breathtaking display in New York, but also the introduction of two limited edition models.
2020 GT-R 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Based on the Premium model, the 50th Anniversary GT-R comes in three different colors (Pearl white, Super silver, Bayside blue) and features two-tone accents, special badging and embroidered seats, stylized wheels, and alcantara headliner. Unfortunately no performance upgrades, but we'll let it slide as we got the opportunity to drive the Bayside beauty recently in Monterey during Car Week, and boy did it feel good to be in a GT-R again...
The Bayside color is really what makes the 50th Anniversary car special (if you want white or silver just get the standard model). It's the first time the color has been brought back since we last saw it on the R34 model (the kids will remember it from Fast and Furious 4). It's also been given a modern update, so you'll notice a bit more shimmer and purplish radiance when you see it in the sunlight. Beware: There's a ginormous white Chevron-shaped stripe that runs across the top of the Anniversary model, which we're told is a design cue from an original '70s Hakosuka race car. We respect the heritage, but honestly could've dealt without the stripe.
If there's anything I learned hopping back in the saddle of the GT-R, it's that the car felt a lot more powerful than I remembered it. The original R35, when it landed on US soil, had 480hp and 424lb-ft of torque. Since 2017, the GT-R packs 565hp and 467lb-ft, not to mention there a ton of other improvements made to the car's drivability, rigidity, and design. I love the fact that all GT-Rs come with a titanium exhaust now (matches Bayside blue perfectly), and it's as easy as stomping your right foot to go 0-60mph in three seconds (I must've done this 15 times!)
So, while the R35 is 13 years old since its birth in Japan (gasp), it still wears the crown when it comes to Japanese sports cars. All-wheel drive, twin-turbo V6, turn-key track performance...it's truly one of the best driver's cars around outside the likes of Porsche. And personally, I'd rather have a GT-R over a comparable 911 any day (but of course, I'm biased). The price of the 50th Anniversary model might be tough to swallow at $123,040 (you can get the same performance for around $10K less with the Premium model) and Bayside blue is undoubtedly a breathtaking color and a very good reason to remember the GT-R for its 50 great years.
2020 370Z 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
Segue to the 50th Anniversary 370Z—this car is either going to be an eye pleaser or an eyesore, depending on your preference in tea. Based on the Coupe Sport model, the Anniversary Z is offered with two different liveries/stripes that pay homage to the BRE Datsun race cars of the '60s and '70s. You'll notice a wreath/crest emblem that's also a cool throwback element, plus unique wheel accents, black mirrors, and embossed leather/suede seats. The red and white version is limited to 50 in the U.S. while the black and silver models will be more readily available.
Okay, I'm personally not a huge fan of how these cars look, and for $36,420 I'd rather just save my money and get a base or Sport model for $30,090 and $33,820 respectively. The NISMO model is sick as hell and has all the goods, including NISMO tuning, exhaust, suspension, aero and RAYS wheels, but that'll run $45,790. I understand the livery pays homage to some very amazing race wins, but for style sticklers like myself, maybe old design cues don't flow well on modern cars? Just a thought...
Despite my unreasonable biases, I'll admit, the Z still lends itself as one of the better Japanese rear-wheel drive coupes you can get today. There's huge aftermarket support for the car and you could pick one up and have plenty of 350Z/370Z buddies in a heartbeat. I wasn't keen on the automatic, but the manual model made me feel right at home as I was banging through gears to redline up and down the twisties of Monterey (oddly, something I wasn't even able to enjoy in the more advanced GT-R). The manual 370Z is raw, fun-to-drive and retains the character of what it meant to be a Z, 50 years later. Just spare me on the livery...