In the next few weeks, the U.S. market will see two very special models making their debut. One is perhaps the final iteration of its particular generation, while the other is only beginning life but marking a very important return to form for its brand. Both hail from Japanese marques, but with hugely decentralized research and development centres across the world can any modern car really claim to be from a single source? Even the mighty NSX is an east-meets-west mishmash of chassis and powertrain components.
What's curious is that these two models will be launched at opposite ends of the United States. The Nissan GT-R Track Edition will debut at the upcoming New York International Auto Show, while the Honda Civic Type R will (finally) break cover at Autocon in Los Angeles. Arguably there is more furor surrounding the Civic Type R than the GT-R, but both are just as exciting when you view them in the performance context. For those who are sick of the R35, we'll tell you why this GT-R is important: it could very well be the last of the R35s, what with the car spending close to 10 years in production.
And you will miss it when it's gone, because it's been said that the next generation of GT-R will be a hybrid monster of some nature and will probably be even less connected than the current generation. For years enthusiasts have harped on about how the GT-R isn't a 'real driver's car' being outfitted with all manner of electronic controls and systems to keep the car in check, and yet most recently critics have praised it for being seemingly analog in a time when other manufacturers are going even more digital. Perhaps the R35 was a little ahead of its time, but now it is comfortable in its place.
This Track Edition variant sits between the Premium and NISMO spec GT-Rs. Aesthetically many of the components are NISMO pieces as you would find on the GT-R NISMO, but there is much more under the skin that you do not see. The suspension has been lightened and tweaked even further to help the GT-R Track Edition perform well on the circuit, with NISMO-spec tyres coming as standard. There's a titanium exhaust as standard as well, although what will matter the most for the true track junkies is the fact that this Track Edition model is extra stiff. Beyond that the package is as you would expect for a 2017 GT-R: 565 hp at the crank (as opposed to 600 hp in the NISMO variant), and a fantastic all-wheel drive system that makes the GT-R surprisingly agile.
While the Honda Civic Type R may be heavily down on power compared to the GT-R, it is still an incredibly important car because it represents the company's return to form. The NSX was a good attempt but it didn't quite have the required effect as you would expect from a company that has seemingly disappeared from the performance scene (especially in the United States) for the past 2 decades. Sure, tuners have been able to put together their own creations that would emulate what Honda was offering to the rest of the world, but cars like the FD2R were never offered there officially.
If you can get past the looks of the new Civic Type R, which makes overstated sound like an understatement, it's actually shaping up to be a proper Honda performance product. That new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine pushes out 306 hp, and will make it the fastest and most powerful Honda sold in the United States (keeping in mind that the NSX is sold under the Acura sub brand). While it may not be as physically engaging as the naturally aspirated Civic Type Rs of old, it is almost guaranteed that the new Civic Type R will be tuned for performance, perhaps to within an inch of its life.
These two cars are both incredible feats of automotive engineering. Is one inherently better than the other? Not in any way that we can see, and yet these cars will appeal to two entirely different crowds. Arguably the Civic Type R will remain, as Hondas have been, for those who wish to challenge themselves and drive at the limit in a car that has fairly average performance, while the GT-R Track Edition will be for those who simply want to go as fast as they possibly can in even the trickiest conditions.