The Nissan Skyline, or the Prince Skyline as it was once known donkey’s years ago, is to Japan what the Alfa Romeo Giulia is to Italy and the BMW M3 is to Germany. It’s the car that showed the world that the Japanese could make a sports sedan. More specifically, racing bred sports sedans. Skyline history.
It was the success of the Skyline in the infant days of Japanese motorsports that really put its name out there. The GT-R badge was born and well, you know the rest of the story. Nissan made two generations of the Skyline GT-R between the late 60s and early 70s until something bothersome called the Oil Crisis came and spoiled everything. After a near two decade absence from showroom floors Nissan brought the GT-R name back in 1989 with the R32 generation of the Skyline. They followed up the so-called ‘Godzilla’ with the R33 and R34 generations before once again retiring the name in 2002. The next GT-R, the R35, would no longer bear the Skyline name as the two had branched out separately. The Skyline became its own luxury focused model while the GT-R would be stuck in hibernation until 2007.
The current Skyline dubbed ‘V37’, no longer referred to as R, moved the Skyline name from sports sedans to sporty premium sedans. While Nissan, or rather Infiniti, teased us with the epic Eau Rouge Concept, which was basically a R35 GT-R underneath the subtle body of the V37, a production version was never made. This then, is the hottest Skyline we have. The return of the 400R name is a nice nod to the coloured history of the Skyline but also feels like Nissan jumping on the nostalgia bandwagon. With prices for these older Skyline reaching stratospheric levels perhaps there was some hope that would trickle down with this 400R.
Either way, Nissan Japan kindly gave me this car to test for a few days and I wanted to find out what the most powerful modern Skyline was like and if this engine will indeed be found under the bonnet of the upcoming Z what it’d be like.
Five Things I Like About The Nissan Skyline 400R
Mighty twin-turbo V6 engine
The main reason why I wanted to try the 400R is because of its engine. The 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 ‘VR30DDTT’ engine made its debut in 2019 and in one form or another will be found under the bonnet of the upcoming Nissan Z. With 298kW and 475NM of torque the 400R packs more punch than rivals such as the Mercedes-AMG C43, BMW M340i, and Audi S4. Only the Volvo S60 T8 by Polestar trumps it in this price range with its electrically assisted 310kW.
I’m happy to report the VR30DDTT engine is a peach. It almost feels like a baby R35 engine, it’s that punchy. You mash the right pedal and it reminds you also immediately that this is no ordinary Nissan. You get a very R35-esque wail from the exhaust and it just reels in the horizon in a similar manner to its much more powerful sibling. It feels fast, but not in such a way it encourages you to drive around like a yobbo.
There certainly turning potential to this engine too, it feels like it could give so much more than the conservative 298kW Nissan has it producing. In that sense it’s a worthy spiritual successor to the RB engines of old that once graced Skylines.
Rides surprisingly well
For a supposedly sporty sedan the 400R dealt with bumps rather well. A lot of that, I assume, is thanks to those electromagnetism dampers, which are magic. No seriously, even with 19 inch wheels on and low profile rubber the 400R tippy toed over Japanese roads in a very pleasant way. Certainly had a more forgiving ride than say a C43 or the M340i.
Plenty of space for four adults
We’re now in a time when midsize premium sedans are as big as full sized cars 10 years ago. The Skyline is a victim of the constant fattening of modern cars. It measures in at 4800mm long and as near as makes no difference 1800kg. It’s a big car so it’s no surprise four adults will fit in comfortably inside. Just don’t expect to use the middle seat much.
One of the reasons why people used to buy a BMW 3 Series back in the day was because it was somewhat exclusive. Now that they’re around every street corner like an unused phone box, anyone who buys one today is doing so to keep up with the Joneses. The 400R packs 300kW but doesn’t shout about it. Apart from the subtle 400R badge on the boot lid there’s no indication of the beast that lies beneath. It’s a proper sleeper car and far from the obvious choice. I like that a lot.
Great bang for buck
This is what fast Skylines should be all about. With prices in Japan starting from ¥5,625,400 (approx $72,000) it undercuts the Mercedes-AMG C43, BMW M340i, Audi S4, Lexus IS350, and Volvo S80 by almost $50,000. That’s a massive difference for a 300kW rear-wheel drive sports sedan. I think with recent prices for R32, R33, and especially the R34 reaching stratospheric levels people forget the appeal of these fast Skylines was the accessible performance they offered to the masses. This new 400R is a return to that with proper sports car baiting performance for the price of a crossover.
Five Things I Dislike About The Nissan Skyline 400R
Steer-by-wire is still weird
I had the same complaint when I first drove a V37 generation Skyline way back in 2016. I understand that the steer-by-wire system helps with fuel economy and yes makes it very light and easy to use but in something with sporting aspirations it left me disconnected from a lot of the driving experience. It’s really what stops this from being a great sports sedan. The chassis is great, balanced and predictable with plenty of grip. I’ve already sung praises for the engine and even the 7-speed auto isn’t that bad considering its age. But my god, the steer-by-wire was so devoid of feeling a PlayStation controller has more feedback.
Double stacked touchscreen an odd choice
Likewise one of the things that confused me with the Skyline was the choice for a double stacked screen solution on the centre console. The top screen is strictly for your sat-nav or Apple CarPlay. The bottom screen displays the audio, climate control, home, and settings menu. This is where you can set up the drive mode of the car, the sensitivity of the steering, and other things. Funnily enough when you have CarPlay plugged in and displayed on the top screen, the audio screen in the bottom you have four are given different ways to skip tracks. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Interior is looking dated
Okay, so I guess it’s not fair to complain that a 7 year old car’s interior looks and feels 7 years old but it is what it is. With a Nissan badge I can forgive some cheap feeling materials inside but as this car is primarily sold with a premium Infiniti badge overseas, this interior doesn’t feel up to Lexus or Audi standards.
Give me more 400R badges
This is one of the few instances where I’d like the car to be a bit more proud of what it is. As I mentioned before, the only telltale sign this car is a 400R is from the tiny badge on the boot. There’s no 400R badging on the seats, on the dash, or even on the gauges. Hell I’d take 400R branded floor mats at this point. It’s almost as if Nissan weren’t all that confident giving this car the 400R name.
You won’t be able to buy one new in New Zealand
Infiniti pulled out years ago and I doubt Nissan would sell this under their own badge there. If you want one desperately, and there are many valid reasons for wanting one, primarily that engine, then you might be able to find one on the used market as a grey import. If you do and if it’s priced accordingly, you’ll nab yourself a discreet and rather quite powerful bargain.