The Black Sheep: Our Nissan Skyline R33 GTR Review

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If you are in the market for an affordable drift car, or something that can easily be customized to your liking, you have no shortage of choices when looking at 90s imports from Japan. While many of these cars are cult classics, there are a select few that are elevated above that status.

One of the more legendary cars that you will come across that was produced during this time period was the Nissan Skyline GTR, and it came in three variations over the course of the 1990s.

The R32 Skyline GTR from 1989 to 1994

nissan skyline r32 gtr

The R33 Skyline GTR from 1995 to 1998

nissan skyline r33 gtr

The R34 Skyline GTR from 1999 to 2002

nissan skyline r34 gtr

Of these three generations of this vehicle, there is none that is more often overlooked than the R33, and it is quite a shame because it is worthy of the Skyline name. Bear with us over the course of this article as we go through our Nissan Skyline R33 GTR review.

Nissan Skyline R33 GTR review

Specifications:

  • Uses the RB26DETT engine, a 2.6L twin-turbo I6
  • Features a five-speed manual gearbox
  • Official numbers give a bhp of 280, but dyno tests give results up to 325 hp
  • Features a torque rating of 266 ft-lbs
  • Has the typical AWD drivetrain of most Skylines

Overview

The R33 is seen by most as one of the uglier cars in the skyline lineup thanks to its somewhat blocky aesthetic. While this vehicle resembles its predecessor (the R32) quite a bit in the front end, you will find that the back has been changed somewhat more noticeably, and many drivers were not fond of it.

We feel like the looks of this car can be somewhat polarizing, as roughly half of our staff is in love with the R33, and the other half believe that it shouldn’t be called a Skyline. I am personally a huge fan of the looks of this car, and I always have been, though I am admittedly more partial to the R32.

If you don’t like the looks of this car, you won’t have to worry about them remaining unchanged for too long. This car may typically get less respect than other Skyline GTRs, but it is also more affordable and somewhat more common, meaning that there will be plenty of aftermarket options.

The R33 is an ideal car for the import driver that likes to get down and dirty. If you don’t mind having to bolt things on, then this is the car for you.

What we like about the R33 is that it has a wide selection of visual aftermarket parts that can either give it a clean or crowded aesthetic, depending on your preferences.

Driving the R33

nissan skyline r33 gtr drivetrain

As with any other GT-R made in the 90s, you will find that the drivetrain is of particular note. The ATTESA E-TS AWD system ensures that you will get all of the grip that you need, while still being able to throw the R33 around if you want to have a little bit of fun.

While the R33 may seem a little more serious and business-like than its older and younger brothers, you will find that this car can still get going, especially if you are willing to make some upgrades. Improved ducts are usually one of the more popular options for R33s, but the choice is all yours.

The drivetrain is impressive for more than its intelligently AWD setup, but also because it comes equipped with an active limited-slip differential. This type of differential ensures that opposed sets of wheels keep receiving power when one loses traction, a much-needed benefit when you are zipping around corners.

You will find that the turbos usually kick in around the last 500 RPMs of your gears, so you will not get much use out of them in typical scenarios. Regardless, when you decide to kick this car into gear, you will feel the acceleration push you into your seat as the turbochargers start to whine underneath the hood.

Of course, it is not all good news, as the R33 has a nasty tendency to understeer when you are headed into corners, especially when you are coming in at speed or going downhill. It takes a little while to get used to this car when you first get started, so you will want to take some time to get to know it.

Conclusion

So let’s take a look at what you get when you decide to purchase one of these cars:

  • You get an affordable Skyline GTR
  • You get a car that is relatively practical
  • And you get a car that combines AWD stability with RWD fun

You will find few cars that can match the value for money that you get out of this model. Since this car is the underdog amongst the Skyline GTR models, you will find that it is much more affordable, yet no less powerful. After all, the R32 and the R33 use nearly the exact same engine.

We hope that our Nissan Skyline R33 GTR review has given you the info that you need about this beautiful import.

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