This is not a car feature per se. It’s an opinion piece, or possibly just me rambling on… But fear not, there is a reason, and it all spans from finally having a drive of Nissan’s hottest current-model Skyline.
The 400R is the Japanese domestic version of the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, and although it’s only been on sale in Japan since late last year, it’s already turned out to be a hot seller for Nissan.
More to the point, it’s been an unexpected success. The overly conservative lean that most Japanese car manufacturers take, led to the assumption that there wasn’t much of market for a 400hp sedan.
The order book filled up quickly, and the only press car Nissan had was booked solid for months. Now they have two of them on the press fleet, and I was able to secure one for this past weekend. I took it up to Tsukuba for Attack (coverage coming soon), and spent the weekend enjoying its comfort and hidden personality – one that’s there to be discovered at every enthusiastic stomp of the gas pedal.
Under the hood is where the 400R hides its party trick. The VR30DDTT is possibly the least talked about engine in Nissan’s current line up, but I don’t think it’s going to be like this for long. For me, this twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 is not only an explosive powerplant, there’s a lot of potential for even greater things. The VQ is now past its sell-by date, so this is the engine that – in various states of tune – will end up powering most of Nissan’s gasoline range for years to come.
And the best thing is, if the rumormill is correct, it will end up driving the rear wheels of the next generation Fairlady Z. Four hundred horsepower – and possibly more – in a production-spec Z is not only going to redefine what the Z-badge stands for, it’s going to reinvent it completely.
Finally we’ll be taken back to those glorious boosted years when the Z32 300ZX reigned supreme, or further back still with the Z31 200ZR and its RB20DET power.
You can probably see where I’m going with this – but wait, there’s more. While this engine has been used Stateside in the Q50 and Q60 since 2016, it’s still very much new and unexplored in Japan. But with only a few months of development time, those few tuners that have given it a shot are discovering the VR30 is a lot like the VR38 – immensely modifiable.
Phoenix’s Power recently released their first stage of modifications for the 400R, an EcuTek tune that lifts power to 520hp. This is with everything stock and the injectors running at maximum duty cycle.
In the States, where tuning shops and parts manufacturers have had four years to play around with the VR30, the power figures being realized are higher. Even in stock form this engine pulls with an unrelenting pace; it’s effortless and full of torque from any engine speed. In fact, I’d say it pulls almost the same as a stock 2007 R35 GT-R, meaning that 400hp figure may be a tad conservative.
What it lacks is a good transmission. The old Nissan 7-speed feels quite outdated, with curiously-programmed shift patterns and far less response and control than what the ZF 8-speed fitted to so many cars out there manages to do. And then there’s the steering by wire. It feels like something you’d plug into your games controller; overly light with no feel or feedback. Actually, I think the force feedback in gaming steering wheels might even feel more realistic.
That said, for the 5-million yen the 400R sells for domestically, it’s an absolute performance bargain; a proper sleeper that from the exterior could be any other current-gen Skyline. It’s got enough grunt to see off some of the more powerful German performance cars, and in the process cause some confusion. That’s something I experienced firsthand during a little run in with a Mercedes-AMG C63 on the highway. Let’s just say it was very satisfying.
If anything could be improved, it’s the cabin, which feels a little too run-of-the-mill Skyline. While the quilting on the seats is a good try, it all just disappears in the sea of blackness. Seriously, would a little color hurt?
But for how much I came away loving the 400R – and yes, I know the name is slightly hard to swallow for hardcore Nissan enthusiasts – I just can’t help but think what the new Z will be like if it indeed ends up with the VR30. Let me know what you’d like to see in the next Z…
Dino Dalle Carbonare