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The Similar Skyline

The R34 Nissan Skyline carries over all of the strengths of the R33 - and has a few distinguishing features...

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

This article was first published in 2003.

The single-turbo R32 and R33 Nissan Skyline models are some of the most loved Japanese import vehicles - and with good reason. The late 'Lines offer terrific ruggedness, a good measure of straight-line speed and handling that can be, well, entertaining. The RB-series turbomotors are also incredibly responsive to power-up mods, making them a popular choice amongst enthusiasts.

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In Australia at present, however, you don't find many R34 model Skylines lining the streets - only a few GT-Rs and a sprinkling of single turbo and atmo versions. If our road test 1999 Skyline 25GTt (supplied by Melbourne's Sports and Luxury Cars) is anything to go by, though, we reckon it'll only be a matter of time before they really start to catch on. The R34 is not a huge progression over the R33 - it offers similar performance, feel and practicality - but it does offer a few advantages or, at least, differences...

The biggest difference of the R34 is styling - both inside and out.

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While the '33 interior is decidedly bland, the 34's indoors is a whole lot more interesting. The dashboard is creatively sculpted and has sprouted three central gauges that let you view boost pressure, battery voltage and oil temperature. Bulging below this is the operating area for the digital climate control (note that the R34 uses a rotary temperature control that is a whole lot easier to operate than the up/down buttons found in earlier models). Aside from climate control, the R34 also offers power windows and mirrors, central locking and a reasonable speaker system. The seats offer decent lateral support and are quite comfortable overall, but are lacking a little bit of lumbar support.

Our test vehicle was also equipped with a 4-speed automatic transmission that showed a definite advantage over previous auto models - tiptronic-style gear selection. Gears can be manually engaged by bumping the gear lever (forward for upchanges, back for downchanges) or via a pair of up/downchange buttons on the steering wheel; the latter being quite awkward to use and a bit of a gimmick.

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The R34 has no major access difficulties and there's a reasonable amount of front space, but rear accommodation is - like the R32 and R33 - quite poor given the size of the car. The back seat is not comfortable for adults needing anything more than a quick trip. The boot, too, is not great given the size of the car, and its load access is abysmal.

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Visually, the R34 is much more distinctive than the '33 and is widely regarded as the better looker. It does look a little narrow-gutted and awkward from some angles, however - with the standard ride height at least. Starting at the nose, the R34 is relatively upright but scores points for its Xenon low-beam headlights and aggressive front spoiler with side exits (the exits on the passenger's side are to let warmed air escape from behind the air-to-air intercooler that's mounted within the guard). From the front of the car extend side skirts, while Nissan's traditional 'stove top' taillights characterize the rear. As you can see, the R34 also flaunts a rear wing that's quite large for a non GT-R Skyline. Oh, and note that 17-inch rims come as standard on R34 turbos - the ones fitted to this vehicle are aftermarket jobs.

On the road, the R34 feels very familiar to its R32 and R33 predecessors.

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The powerplant is the RB25DET as introduced in the R33 GTS25T. In R34 form, however, the engine is upgraded to more environmentally friendly 'NEO' specs. The NEO RB25DET also features a hot-wire airflow meter, 9.0:1 static compression, air-to-air intercooler, ceramic turbine roller-bearing turbocharger, blow-off valve and variable inlet cam timing. With manifold boost pressure of around 60 - 70 kPa (as shown on the factory boost gauge) the R34 25GTt is listed at 206kW at 6400 and 343Nm at 3200 rpm. The R34 25GTt scores its extra power over previous models thanks to a larger turbo (providing a healthier amount of boost), better intercooler, an improved exhaust system and engine management updates.

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Teamed with the auto trans in our test car, the 25GTt's engine offers typical turbo-like throttle response (dull in other words) and the shooting match sounds a little busy and unrefined at low speeds - the torque converter flares under load and the turbo whizzes and whooshes to get you up to the speed limit. The R34 is not a particularly quiet vehicle. Get it up on boost, however, and the car hauls reasonably well to its 7000 rpm cut-out; our automatic trans test car accelerated from a standing start to 100 km/h in a hand-timed mid-to-high 7-seconds (with two people on board). Note that, despite being more compact than its predecessor, the R34 25GTt auto weighs some 1430kg - around 50kg heavier than the R33!

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The R34's steering (which includes Super HICAS) is generously weighted and precise without sending you into the gutter with unintentional steering inputs. The car also feels considerably more nimble and manoeuvrable than the R33 - its 55mm shorter wheelbase is reputedly a major factor in this.

The suspension, meanwhile - double wishbone front and sophisticated multi-link rear - is quite firm but not to the point of being uncomfortable as your everyday ride; it feels firmer than, say, a standard Subaru WRX but not as stiff as a STi. Our test vehicle turned in quite sharply and maintained good accuracy through corners; it would understeer slightly when hustled into a corner too quickly, but the overall feeling was balanced.

Note that the rear-drive R34 features (for the first time in a Skyline) switchable traction control. In this system, an electronic-controlled secondary throttle is closed whenever the wheel speed sensors detect wheelspin under power. Traction control might seem to only detract from the car's tail-out driving potential but it does makes things a whole lot safer in slippery conditions where you just want to get from Point A to Point B. You can also hand over the keys to a friend (maybe!) without fear they'll accidentally back it into a tree at high speed coz you forgot to mention the tail-end could break loose...

Driving confidence comes from having a whopper set of brakes to lean on and the 25GTt is fairly well endowed in this department - there are ABS-controlled 310mm ventilated front discs with 4-pot calipers. The brake pedal on our test car was responsive and stopping power was up to the vehicle's factory level of performance.

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Standard performance is, of course, something most turbo Skyline owners don't settle with for any length of time. As mentioned, the RB25DET is very responsive to basic power-up mods, such as an exhaust, intake, intercooler, boost and EFI upgrades; power gains of around 30 percent can be quite easily had. One of the limiting factors, however, is the turbocharger's standard ceramic turbine wheel - these are known to hand-grenade on boost levels above 15 psi.

And how much can you expect to pay for a good condition R34 GTS?

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Well, our test vehicle had just 41,000 kilometres on it and carried a sticker price of $39,900 (including a 3-year warranty). That's a fair whack more than a R32 or R33 GTS, but buyers that have become addicted to these RWD turbo Skylines (and there are quite a few!) will see the R34 as the next logical progression - the ultimate in a line-up of proven tough and fast vehicles. Whether you're prepared to spend about the same as you would for a used S15 200SX (a smaller category vehicle, we know) depends on how hard you've fallen for the Skyline!

Nissan R34 Skyline GTS25T Fast Facts...
  • All the positives of the R32 and R33 GTSs - rugged engineering, RWD handling, etc
  • R34 25GTt's 206kW and 343Nm output is significantly better than any other non-GT-R Skyline
  • Traction control a welcome addition - makes the car much safer
  • Tiptronic auto works reasonably well but steering wheel up/downchange buttons are a gimmick
  • A very tried and proven formula

Test vehicle supplied by Sports and Luxury Cars in Melbourne.


Sports and Luxury Cars
+61 3 9753 5799

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