So I drove my 23 Z back-to-back with my 24 R35 and here’s some initial impressions:
- the latest version of the R35 feels noticeably faster than the ‘16 version I previously had. The engine pulls much harder to redline and it sounds more angry and ferocious in either manual or auto mode. My ‘16 sounded pretty quiet in manual mode and sounded more like a vacuum cleaner with a lot of hissing noises. It could be that peak power is 6800RPM now vs. 6400RPM; the higher redline of 7100RPM vs 7000RPM; the full titanium exhaust, and of course the 20 extra HP. Either way, it’s a hell of an aural and seat-of-pants-feel difference. Plus it rides better, the interior is much more high-end looking and feels more luxurious with leather everywhere and it pulls harder, as if Linda Blair from the Exorcist resides under the hood. Nissan has definitely improved the acoustics from the 16 to the 24 models.
- compared to the R35, the Z revs faster to redline. The R35 you can shift manually no problem; you have plenty of time to execute your manual shifts. The Z spins so fast that in manual mode you can hit the Rev limiter much faster, particularly in the first 4 gears. The Z also sounds like it has more artificial sounds being pumped into the cabin. It sounds great, kind of reminding me of my old NA2 NSX at times, but it sounds somewhat artificial. The R35 sounds much more mechanically demonic and authentic in comparison. I don’t mind artificial sounds, kind of like The Matrix, “the less I know the better,”--but on back to back runs, the fake sounds are less desirable to the ear.
- The 9 speed auto in the Z has one key advantage on the freeway: there’s no drone sound. With 9 gears you can be at 65MPH at like 1400 RPM, whereas with the R35 you would be at like 2600 RPM and higher as the GR6 transmission could use as least one more gear—not for acceleration, but for cruising on the highway.
- The GR6 transmission in the R35 executes shifts with much more conviction. Every shift is met with a definitive hard punch as you move forward to the next gear. The Z, using a Benz automatic *without* the AMG wet clutch, feels more like what is it, a standard automatic. I still think Nissan should have licensed the AMG version of this transmission because it definitely makes a difference in a C63.
- The VR30 runs hotter than the VR38. The Z will get into engine fluid temperatures well north of 200F but the R35 stays in the 170-180F range. The Z also has a differential temperature digital gauge, which the R35 does not, which I find odd.
- The R35 feels much more mechanical than the Z. Of course there’s the ATTESA all-wheel drive system but the controls and the way it goes about delivering speed are much more “brute force old school wrath of God-type” raw power. The Z sounds great, particularly from 5K RPM to redline, when the engine starts to howl, but the R35 sounds much more mechanically angry and terrifying in its power delivery.
- The Z is running an open deck VR30 and the R35 is running a closed deck VR38. Looking at the two engines, driving them, and reading about them, there’s no discernible similarities. In auto mode the Z can, at times, sound like ~1/4 of a R35. The VR38 visually looks more like a VQ37HR in the lower 1/2 with an all new intake runner and turbo set up on the top 1/2 of the engine. The VR30 is completely obscured by plastic shrouds. The old 90s 300ZX I had with the VG engine looked better from a visual standpoint.
- The digital cockpit in the Z is obviously much more advanced than the analog gauges and dot matrix-looking digital info pod in the R35 dash. That being said, I stare at a computer screen all day so I prefer the analog GT-R gauges to more digital sensory overload.
- The GT-R has a relatively massive trunk, you could fit a golf bag and several medium-sized suitcases in it. The Z has, well, storage for nothing. However, surprisingly the Z has more interior storage room. Whereas the R35 center console is microscopic, in the Z you can actually fit more things in it. The Z also has USB adapters in front of the automatic gear selector, while the USB adapters for the R35 are way behind the automatic gear selector, which means you have to turn around to plug your phone in.
- Both cars use the same exact dark metal shift paddles AFAIK. The 16 R35 had these gigantic leather-coated shift paddles which were unique but also kind of odd, especially over time as the leather gets dated.
- The seats in the R35 with the semi-aniline leather feel way more softer and comfortable. Sitting in a R35 is no different than sitting in a Maxima, with the seats all the way down. When sitting in a Z, you are literally on the ground. Not like a C7 vette, but perhaps a level or two higher than that. The Z also needs more damping; the suspension is under-damped and jumps up and down when the road is anything but smooth and perfectly paved. The R35 has Bilstein dampers, so of course you have multiple suspension settings from R mode to Comfort mode.
- The stock Bridgestone tires on the Z are really bad. I replaced them with PS4S and it makes a 180 degree difference. The stock Dunlop tires on the R35 are closer in performance to the Michelins, but still not quite in the same league. For whatever reason, Nissan uses Bridgestone and Dunlop rather than Michelin and Pirelli, like other high performance car manufacturers.
- In the end, I can see what Tamura-san is referring to; the R35 is like strapping on a mobile suit (Gundam). You get into it and it makes you feel bionic. The Z is more like an old school rear wheel drive “dance partner” of sorts, in that you still need to do the work, and balance the rear end to try and extract its full performance. At least from my POV, the Z could use better damping, at least a few different suspension settings and more comfortable seats. There are dealer markups on both of these cars these days, but obviously the Z is the better value, while the R35 is more than twice the car that the Z is, in many ways.
- From my POV, the Z is the prettier car, while the R35 has a more substantial, imposing presence; it’s basically an all-out Japanese muscle car, with an unbeatable rear-end view. I applaud Nissan for still producing these cars. If you think about it, Nissan has been producing the R35 for 16 years. In that time, Honda came out with another “NSX,” it failed for multiple reasons and was subsequently killed off. The fact that the R35 was faster than the much more expensive and overly complex NSX--and is still in production--is such a great achievement for Nissan, and a testament to the legacy of the GT-R. And the fact that the RZ-34 was even made with all the changes going on in the industry with electrification and Nissan’s internal drama are just a reminder that Nissan’s car guys are fighters and wouldn’t give up, no matter the odds. Get either one of ‘em while you can, as both are already banned in Europe and who knows how much longer Nissan can produce them for the US and Japan before being forced to pull a Tim Kuniskis…and make electric sports cars that require a reboot and a charge every other day…