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This just in… Germany is not the only nation on earth capable of building a swift, desirable, six cylinder, rear-drive compact saloon. Cue this all new V36 Nissan Skyline, which might indeed put the frighteners on one or two in Munich.
While the Skyline you see here is Japan only, it’s a close cousin to America’s new Infiniti G35 and Nissan’s also tipped to make a Euro spec version of the car when Infiniti finally goes live in Europe in 2008.
What’s it like?
Drive the best Skyline, this 350GT Type SP with Nissan’s strong, high-revving 3.5-litre V6 and clever new four-wheel active steering, and you discover a car that has the dynamic talent, performance and handling credentials necessary to cut it at the top of the class. No kidding.
What’s special about the Skyline is not just its speed, of which there’s plenty. It’s the chassis, the instant turn-in, the balance and grip, the way it can go around corners at absurd speeds without breaking a sweat, and flatter its driver greatly in the process.
The key to this is surely Nissan’s take on the modern art of four-wheel steering. In standard trim, the Skyline will corner flat and fast and is hard to throw off line (unless you deactivate the VDC in which case it will happily and luridly then spin its rear wheels). The 4WAS four-wheel-steer system simply raises the bar, making the well-judged steering more incisive and the Skyline more agile and fun without also making it feel darty and unnatural.
With a sporting career stretching back almost 50 years, the Skyline’s a cult hero in Japan like no other, and this latest V36 marks a return to the kind of engineering culture at Nissan when the formidable R32, R33 and R34 GT-Rs were on the drawing board. Ergo, a lot of work went into developing this new FR-L rear-drive platform and making the Skyline body and double wishbone front, multilink rear suspension as rigid as possible. And yes, it was tested exhaustively at the Nurburgring.
The Skyline also rides well, is plush and comfortable inside, refined, with good space and plenty of kit. Unfortunately, its five-speed auto only in Japan but still this is slick enough and top versions get excellent paddle shifters.
The only real question mark, perhaps, is whether the Skyline looks special enough, both inside and out, but at the least the classic four round tail lights that are part and parcel of Skyline legend are back (Nissan shocked the Skyline faithful by leaving them off the previous V35).
Should I buy one?
If you can’t or don’t want to stretch to a BMW 335i, this Skyline 350GT makes a pretty compelling alternative. Its £17k equivalent price tag will be considerably inflated before it makes it to the UK as an Infiniti – of that you can be sure.
However, if the new Lexus IS leaves you still wondering if Japan really can build a small saloon with the quality and the character to rival a BMW 3-series, the Skyline might just be good enough to convince you.