Forget the Countach. In 2007, Nissan dropped the poster car which defined a generation. This burly silver coupe tore down the establishment, lit the rubble on fire, then paved the way forward. With news that the Skyline GT-R namesake is dead—at least on our shores—it felt an appropriate time to take stock.

Indeed, the R35 Nissan GT-R arrived with a boom that very year. For a middle-class Millenial kid like myself, the R35 seemed as though it'd crawled from a sizzling impact crater like some gleaming alien mech. Those core memories remain. But the GT-R left us with something far more important when the dust settled, a performance-car formula that would dictate everything hence, from Bimmer to Tesla, even as the R35 faded into obsolescence itself.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

Maybe that first bit, the one about the alien mech, that feeling, is hard to remember now. After all, it was 17 years ago. Or perhaps it's because the GT-R has undergone so little change since it bowed. The R35 feels like old wallpaper. But if you adjust those rose-colored Ray-Bans just so, you might even remember that swelling sense of anticipation…

Even before “the new GT-R” arrived, we devoted readers of Super Street magazine and Sport Compact Car knew something wicked on the way. Every detail that leaked from the GT-R's development seemed an impossibility, like a dork mindlessly crossing off Bingo squares generated by a JDM fever dream.

Its engine shall be assembled by hand in a hermetically sealed vault. Its interior will sound whisper-quiet at 186 mph. Its computers will account for wheel slip within thousandths of seconds. It's faster around The ‘Ring than Porsche's best.

All proved true.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

Nissan delivered its masterstroke at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show. It was peak GT-R. The R35 reached the zenith of an all-conquering formula—all-wheel drive, turbos, tech-forward thinking—set twenty years before by the GT-Rs of the late Eighties. By leveraging advances in computing power, metallurgy, materials science, and go-fast thinking—and critically by pricing its halo car among far-less-capable machines—the R35 instantly turned supercars into also-rans.

The GT-R did that by asking uncomfortable questions of the stalwarts, by winning the stat-sheet battle emphatically. With a 0-60 time of 3.3 seconds and an 11.5-second quarter mile, the Nissan out-dragged all comers. "All comers" included the 911 Turbo, the Gallardo, the F430, the DB9 GT, and Ford GT. Yet the R35's base price arrived just a hair under $70,000, meaning you could have three of them (plus a sensible Japanese sedan) for the price of an exotic.

More importantly, for us dorks, the GT-R proved a menace at the race track. It offered more lateral grip and better lap times than all those competitors, even as it hauled its 3,908-pound curb weight around.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

By the end of 2007, Nissan's MechaGodzilla had practically burned down the ‘Ring, setting a time of 7:38.54 in the wet. Nissan claimed, at the time, it was the fastest time set by any mass-produced car, under any weather conditions.

Nissan rewrote the rules on packaging, production, and complexity, and as such, the GT-R easily stomped competitors in its segment. The old-school car mags bristled at the GT-R's Terminator demeanor, complaining it achieved its numbers while wearing a Great White's soulless eyes. A new wave of enthusiasts simply embraced the sea change.

I'll never forget seeing one in person for the first time.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

One autocross weekend in 2008, the GT-R landed like an alien pod on our humble Eastern Washington drag strip. We descended upon the R35's exotic silver body like hungry creatures crawling from the underbrush of some moonlit jungle. There was silence at first, then just a flurry as our horde appraised the GT-R's every curve, obsessed by every perfect detail, just enamored by its presence.

Simply nothing else on earth could match the GT-R's pace. The owner and everyone else there knew it. In temples where the stopwatch picks winners and losers, there wasn't a hotter piece of metal on the planet. In that way, the R35 redefined the game. If every other storied automaker couldn't best the GT-R on price—and none of them could—they had to match the GT-R on performance at least.

Gradually, the old stalwarts shifted their approaches to match. Lamborghini looked to all-wheel drive. Ferrari adopted turbos in time. BMW chased the format too. Now it builds essentially a Bavarian GT-R called the M4 xDrive Competition: six cylinders, two turbos, all-wheel-drive, enough computing power to produce the singularity. Sound familiar?

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

Of course, the GT-R didn't live in 2007 forever. Despite a facelift and some minor tweaks, the R35 never improved in any meaningful way. For the first half-decade, it didn't really have to. It simply crept up in price while other automakers scrambled to catch up. Then it stayed right where it was. Then it fell behind.

If you're looking for the equivalent to a GT-R in 2024, it's not wearing a Nissan badge. But it is probably battery-powered. EVs are the current spec-sheet champions, capable of 2.0-second sprints to 60, delivering civility on the interstate, and (for a brief window) producing unbeatable lap times; A Model S Plaid now makes the GT-R's performance look pedestrian.

That's progress for you.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

And now the Skyline's run its last. Crazy, right? Ask any of us who were in high school when the GT-R showed up; You blink and 17 years have gone by and your knees creak like stubborn garden faucet handles.

But a funny thing happened in that 17-year stretch (no, NOT the knees): By chasing the performance bar set by the GT-R, sports cars and supercars and EVs have become much faster and far duller. The same complaints lodged by buff-book editors in 2007 are now hurled at today's fastest machines.

But over the past few years, every so often, we car writers have dusted off an R35 for a comparison test. For a car that (supposedly) heralded a technocrat apocalypse by 2009's standards, the R35 GT-R feels positively analog by 2024 standards. Its steering buzzes with feedback, bristling back against the road surface, speaking to a driver's hands in terms of slip, grip, and yaw.

2009 Nissan Skyline GT-R Column

Sure the computers still shuffle power around without asking the driver for help, but the process isn't seamless. You feel the car working underneath you, power shuttling to one corner and then the other. You feel like the car is working with you. Talking to you.

So the old dull warhammer became a feelsome little bludgeon by simply staying put. Weird, ain't it?

Here and now in 2024, we're hearing the first rumblings of a new Godzilla. This one will run under battery power. It will no doubt push the boundaries of technology and packaging and outright pace, as every other GT-R has done before.

Can it move the needle once more? You wouldn't bet against the R36.

Here's praying Nissan might deliver a supercar slayer worthy of this generation's bedroom walls—or maybe it'll vie for their phone backgrounds.

Just don't bother me for an answer. My knees hurt.

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