Think about this: In 2006 we lived in a world where there was no current model Nissan Skyline GT-R, no current Honda NSX, and no current Toyota Supra.
Moral was low, and in our desperation we sought out and bought into every last rumor that automotive publications and the odd blog were throwing around at the time. We lived in hope and anticipation, deep down wondering if the holy grail trio of JDM sports cars could indeed be reincarnated, and most importantly, without any original spirit loss. Fast forward 13 years, and 2019 is the first year since that the GT-R, the NSX and the Supra are all current models and available to buy new.
But are these true successors or just iconic names resurrected as marketing exercises?
SEMA 2019 proved to be the perfect place to ask this question – the biggest aftermarket show of the year was inundated with A90 Supras. And like colorful selections at a cocktail bar, each had its own distinct flavor.
Then there’s the NSX. With us for a few years now, it’s Honda’s pinnacle, the reinterpretation of a recognized legend, but with none of the identifying aspects that made the original so loved in the ’90s and even more revered today.
From the Nissan corner, we have the R35 GT-R. This is the car that we always knew was going to come, as the 2001 ‘GT-R Proto’ was teased a whole year before production of the BNR34 Skyline GT-R ended.
It’s also a car that I drove for the first time at Nissan’s Hokkaido test facility in August 2007, and was told that it would be impossible to modify. In 2019 – 12 years after its debut – the R35 GT-R is possibly the most modifiable and modified car on the planet.
Oh, and make sure you aren’t caught at SEMA without over-fenders.
But how does this trio stack up? Let’s start with the A90 Supra…
For as long as Toyota worked on the car’s development and teased us with prototypes, the internet has been ablaze with opinions. We’ve heard them all, from the link up with BMW to the fact that the car is smaller, and also the design – you name it.
Realistically, Toyota’s bean counters were never going to sign off on the substantial investment needed to design and develop an all-new straight-six engine along the lines of a 3JZ.
For a low-volume (for Toyota especially) sports car, using a tried and tested technologies from another manufacturer was the only approach that would actually net a production car.
BMW’s DNA is very much present in the car – more so than present actually, as it feels, sounds and even smells like one. This is something you may remember me talking about when I had the chance to take Orido’s car for a ride around Gunsai Cycle Track.
My opinion still stands though – this is the only sort of Supra we were ever going to get in 2019, and I’d rather have this than nothing at all. Plus, it seems as though the B58 is a great platform for tuning.
In my mind, however, a Toyota version of the Lexus LC F would have been better option for a new Supra, but I’m sure there would have been plenty of critics of something like that, too.
Right, so the Honda NSX.
I’m going to keep my opinion very closely related to the experience I’ve had with this new-gen, AWD, twin-turbo, hybrid concoction. I’ve only driven one very briefly, and that was the slammed-to-the ground Liberty Walk demo car.
Much like the Supra, I’m personally very happy the NSX still exists, but at the same time I’m also very sure that Honda have completely and totally missed the point of a car like this. The price is a problem too, something they’ve tried to fix multiple times.
I don’t care about the forced induction, the hybrid drivetrain, the AWD, the paddle shifters – if a base NSX needs to exist in this guise, so be it. But for the love of all that is holy, Honda, give us a stripped-out Type R version that does away with the hybrid system, the driven front wheels, and possibly the turbos and dual-clutch gearbox as well.
The result would be what a true successor to the NSX should be – a range-topper, stripped of all the tech that we are told is needed in 2019 to make a car the best it can be. After all, back in the day the NSX was also offered with an automatic transmission and a lush leather cabin. But there was always the red-blooded ‘R’ for those that wanted it.
The brief at Nissan in the early 2000s was to make whatever would replace the BNR34 the fastest and most lethal supercar-slayer available. It also needed to be affordable and easy enough to drive that anyone could get behind the wheel. Nissan definitely achieved this goal, but to do so the next-gen GT-R was so big and heavy that it required a large capacity twin-turbo V6, and it absolutely needed a twin-clutch for future-proofing.
I don’t think even Nissan knew back then that 12 years after the R35 GT-R’s debut the model would still be on sale, let alone still relevant within the current crop of performance cars. It’s quite incredible.
It also turned out to be the perfect canvas for modifications, just as the entire RB26 generation of the GT-R was. In fact, even more so, with the drag racing world pushing the R35’s VR38 engine to heights that nobody believed possible 10 years ago.
Do we miss the more analogue nature and manual transmissions the BNR32, BCNR33 and BNR34 all had in their heyday? Of course we do, but at the same time it makes me laugh that back in the day these cars were referred to by the international media as technological tour de forces, and cars for the PlayStation generation. Yet here we are now, looking at them like some archaic, hard-to-drive monsters from the past.
And if we take it even further back to the very first generations of the Skyline GT-R, those cars were naturally aspirated and rear-wheel drive, highlighting that as we move from generation to generation it’s OK to up the ante and keep up with the times. Resisting evolution is futile – as long as a recognizable character is still present, we can’t knock the effort to keep icons alive.
But now I hand the debate over to you. What are your thoughts on this? Who wins out of this trio, and do you agree that despite opinions we should all be very happy that for the first time in 17 years you can now go out and buy yourself a current GT-R, NSX and Supra?
Dino Dalle Carbonare
Photos by Mark Riccioni