Transformation games

by Andy Bryenton

When they first said perhaps a decade ago, that the era of the four door sedan was drawing to a close, people laughed. As the hot hatch began to be slowly replaced with the micro-crossover SUV, disbelief was the order of the day.

As in fashion and art, the auto world carries a sea-anchor of memories and pre-suppositions. But the hour is at hand. Proof that the landscape has definitely shifted. No, we don’t mean the end of production for the Commodore and Falcon. Take a look at the current range from Nissan.

The people who brought us the Maxima, that consummate big sedan, the Pulsar, available as a hot hatch with a bonnet scoop that could swallow medium sized animals, and ancestrally machines like the Sunny and the 120Y have a very different offering on the forecourt for 2017. It breaks down like this. Perhaps the single best value for money supercar-thrashing sports machine on four wheels — the GT-R. Under that, a coupe which builds on a history stretching back to the Fairlady Z, and which would make some folks second-guess a Porsche. And afterwards — it’s sports utilities all the way through.

There’s some very good ones, at that. The Juke may not be everyone’s stylistic cup of tea, but the crossover market is all about pop art style. Then we have the best-selling Qashqai, the X-Trail, the Pathfinder and the big Patrol as daddy of the family. The Navara ute finishes off a lineup that has no hot hatch, no sedan — and feels like there’s really nothing missing. The shift has happened, we’re in the 21st century, and the car DNA has split. Understanding this has allowed Nissan to create a range that caters to modern tastes with a spectrum of closely gradated SUVs for every niche, and left their car division free to fly into new realms of lateral Gs and tyre smoke wizardry.

Yes, the 370Z is good fun. In New Zealand it comes in only one option, but that’s because you don’t put tomato sauce on a perfectly crafted slice of sushi.

But the GT-R is better than good. It’s transcended the hooligan past of the Skyline which went before it, in the same way Dodge’s Viper transcended their range of huge pickup trucks. If a clean split between the SUVs the public desire and the car as kinetic art and science is needed to make this happen, let it happen. In this case, the results have certainly justified the means and the method.