Here’s Why Nissan Won’t Build Its Next Sports Car With Italdesign or Any Other Firm
Nissan doesn’t seem interested in developing its next sports car in partnership with another manufacturerby Michael Fira, on
We’ve been waiting for years for the folks at Nissan and Nismo to dust themselves off, get to work, and reveal the replacement for either the GT-R or the 370Z. As this isn’t about to happen, we thought that maybe Nissan is preparing to launch a partnership with somebody to piece together its next sports car, as Toyota and BMW did, but this isn’t the case. "It’s in the Nissan DNA and its heritage to keep everything in house," according to a Nissan spokesperson.
Last year, the fruit of the partnership between Italian design firm Italdesign and Japanese automaker Nissan came to light as the 50th anniversary Nissan GT-R concept. The car, painted in grey with some classy gold accents here and there looks like an evolutionary take on the R35’s design and that got us thinking that the next GT-R is in the works and that we may get it as a result of a partnership. Apparently, this won’t happen, or at least that’s what Nissan’s saying right now. Since the launch of the Italdesign GT-R, we saw Nissan release another 50th-anniversary model, namely a 370Z co-developed with Peter Brock’s BRE (Brock Racing Engineering) company that was unveiled at the 2019 New York Auto Show.
Collaborations like that with Italdesign won’t become the norm although we’d like to see more of them in the future
We’d been complaining for years that Toyota forgot that, among its followers, are devoted fans of its once-great sports cars: the Supra, the Celica, and the MR2. Toyota finally listened and delivered on its promises with the A90 Supra, a compact sports car co-developed with BMW that has been since criticized for being just a Z4 in Japanese attire. Toyota answered the critics by saying that, in today’s world, you can’t afford to develop a sports car such as the Supra on your own and that a partnership like the one inked between Toyota and BMW was vital if we were ever going to see the Supra name return in full phoenix bird style from the dead.
Likewise, Toyota cooperated with Subaru to create the 86/BRZ twins, and Mazda did it too, working with FCA to come up with the Mazda Miata/Fiat 124 bundle.
There seems to be some interest from Toyota to continue working with Subaru on the replacement of the current 86 and BRZ (which have been introduced some seven years ago), but Nissan has none of that on its plate right now or in the future, seemingly.
While you could criticize Nissan for not working on the replacement of the decade-old 370Z - that, by the way, got a nicer BRE-liveried version all the way back in 2010 - or the already ancient R35 generation of the GT-R that’s been around since late ’07, we should at least be thankful that these two cars are still around at all.
I mean, Nissan could've just gone all Mitsubishi on us and attach the Z nameplate to a crossover and call it a day.
Nissan’s Chief Marketing Manager, Natalie Roe, told Motor1 in an interview that "we collaborate with the [Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi] Alliance all the time… it’s built in." She then added that "it’s one thing to work within an established alliance versus a one-off project, but beyond that Nissan seems intent to keep things in the family." Later on, Nissan came back to clarify on Roe’s statement by saying that, while Nissan is very much about keeping the development in house, the company isn’t 100% against any kind of future collaborations although "right now we have nothing new to share on the horizon in terms of partnerships or collaborations but never say never, and we are always open to exploring new ways to bring excitement to our performance cars.”
Where does this leave Nissan’s future sports cars? Well, it’s not coming as either a confirmation of the arrival of a future model nor as something that would lead us to believe that any current vehicle is getting canceled. While we haven’t heard much on the future of the Z car - although the 370Z may not be the last in the lineage - we think the GT-R at least will soldier on and, if you were to ask me, I’d bet that at least a few of the design cues seen on the Italdesign GT-R will be borrowed by the new model - let’s hope it’s the taillights.
For starters, it’s certain that the next GT-R won’t cost as much as the Italdesign GT-R (known as the GT-R50.) That car, of which just 50 will be made, will cost little over $1 million. To put it into perspective, a 2019 Nissan GT-R Pure is 10 times cheaper with an MSRP of just $99,990 ($101,685 with taxes). Or, if you want, you could either buy an Italdesign GT-R or a McLaren Senna for the same kind of money.
Sure, the R36 most likely won’t have 709 horsepower and 575 pound-feet of torque from the get-go since that’s more than what you get in a $180,000 2020 Nissan GT-R Nismo, but it should be quite quick. The latest Nismo-tuned GT-R is already a beast with 600 horsepower and 481 pound-feet on tap, 35 horsepower and 14 torque on top of what a base GT-R cranks out. The Nismo version is also able to reach 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds, 0.4 seconds than a standard GT-R, but probably slower still than the Italdesign GT-R.
|Engine||VR38DETT, V6 twin-turbo charged DOHC|
|Torque||481 lb-ft /3600-5600 rpm|
|Overall length||184.6 in. / 4690 mm|
|Overall width||74.6 in. / 1895 mm|
|Overall height||53.9 in. / 1370 mm|
|Wheelbase||109.4 in. / 2780 mm|
But this doesn’t mean the next GT-R will be slow. We know it won’t be and as the latest news suggests, it probably won’t be a hybrid as Andy Palmer would’ve probably liked back in the days when he was a big supporter of the GT-R from his position as the Executive Vice President. The Briton even declared at the time "We’ve registered the trademark ’R-Hybrid,’ so I guess you’d have to say there’s some logical thinking there. But look, I think if you look at a hybrid through the lens of a performance enhancement, rather than as a pure means of saving fuel, it actually makes a lot of sense."
Palmer, though, left to become Aston Martin’s CEO and, while it was a great move for both Palmer and Aston Martin, it may have slowed down the development of the GT-R, as we’ve detailed in our 2018 piece on all the things we know about the R36. We even heard back in 2015, when Nissan debuted its ill-fated LMP1 racer, that the front midship-mounted engine of the prototype racer is "truly an early ancestor of what will be a future Nissan GT-R engine," according to Ben Bowlby, the head of the project and the man behind the Nissan DeltaWing co-developed with AAR.
Flash forward to this year, and you’ll find that the GT-R’s Chief Product Specialist, Hiroshi Tamura, was quite blunt at the 2019 New York Auto Show, asking rhetorically, "Do you really, really want a hybrid for the GT-R? Ninety-nine percent of our customers say, ’No, thanks,’" Natalie Roe also touched on this saying that "I think you have both, a ’purist’ and an ’EV’ [performance car]. I don’t think we’re going to completely get away from the internal combustion engine, at least for a while." Also, for the sake of Nissan’s ’purist’ clientele, the company apparently won’t get rid of manuals completely.
Then there’s the fact that a hybrid GT-R would be very expensive to make and it would also cost a lot. Tamura reckons that a hybridized GT-R could easily surpass the $200,000 mark. Already, Honda’s own hybrid supercar, the NSX, is selling for $157,500 and, with the GT-R offering supercar-esque performance today, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think of a +$200,000 MSRP for the R26. But there are certainly many fans that won’t be able to buy it, and that’s something that Nissan doesn’t want to see happen. Also, Tamura is against adding weight which is what a hybrid system will surely do, his estimation being in the region of 440 pounds over the R35’s curb weight of 3,840 pounds. That’s a lot when you consider that the NSX weighs in at just 3,803 pounds with the hybrid system onboard.
Finally, Tamura said that Nissan is designing a new platform for the GT-R once every two decades. As such, the R32, R33, and R34 all shared a somewhat similar architecture that was finally ditched with the R35. The R35 will turn 12 this December, so that means we’ll have to wait another eight years to see another all-new GT-R. In the meantime, though, the R36 should be unveiled in the early ’20s, but it will still be relying 100% on its front-mounted gas-powered engine - probably an evolution of the current 3.8-liter VR38DETT.
Read our full speculative review on the next-generation Nissan GT-R.
Read our full speculative review on the next Nissan Z.
Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan 370Z.
Read our full review on the 2018 Nissan GT-R50 by Italdesign.
Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan GT-R.