Are All Nissan Skylines Turbo?

Ask a car enthusiast what comes to mind when you think of Nissan Skyline, and you’ll probably hear the word “GT-R” or “Godzilla” (check out this article if you’d like to understand why the Nissan Skyline GT-R is called Godzilla by many).

Of all the “JDM hero” cars, the Nissan Skyline GT-R is perhaps the most desirable. You can read our Nissan Skyline GT-R buyer’s guide here for more information on the history of this legendary car.

Prices have gone crazy on these cars in recent years, and even mediocre condition GT-Rs are selling for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars (depending on location and spec).

The Skyline GT-R is of course famous for its powerful, tunable twin-turbo engine (learn more about the engine in the Nissan Skyline GT-R here).

But are all Nissan Skylines turbo?

In this edition of Car Facts, we explore whether or not every version of the Nissan Skyline rolled off the production line with a turbocharged engine.

Not All Nissan Skylines Are Turbo

Long story short, not every Skyline came with a turbocharged engine.

While most of us think of the GT-R when we think of the Skyline (primarily because this is the “famous” car from movies, video games etc) there were many more mundane Nissan Skylines that came with naturally-aspirated engines.

Many of these were built specifically for the Japanese Domestic Market, but have found their way into other countries as used imports.

For example, in New Zealand you once saw many NA Skylines in more basic trims (such as the GTS – the non turbo version of the GTS-T) on the roads.

Time, age and often inadequate maintenance and care have made these cars a far less frequent sight where we live. But these cars definitely exist, and they were far more common than the GT-R s that we all know and love.

Take the R32 generation Skyline. Here are the engine options that were available on this particular generation:

  • 1.8 L CA18i I4
  • 2.0 L RB20E I6
  • 2.0 L RB20DE DOHC I6
  • 2.0 L RB20DET DOHC turbo I6
  • 2.5 L RB25DE DOHC I6
  • 2.6 L RB25DE DOHC I6
  • 2.6 L RB26DETT DOHC twin-turbo I6

As you can see, there were many different engine choices (depending on the exact model/trim) and only a handful of them were actually turbocharged – it just happens to be that the turbocharged engines, particularly the RB26DETT, are what helped the Skyline to ascend to legendary status as one of the all-time great JDM heroes.

Are Non-Turbo Skylines Good To Drive?

With all the hype and excitement surrounding the fire-breathing monster that is the turbocharged Skyline GT-R, it can be easy to overlook/forget the more humble models.

However, we suggest you do so at your own peril.

Non-turbo Skylines can be a great drive, particularly some of the more “exciting” ones like the GT-S coupe. Although you don’t get the same power, these are still capable cars that can be a lot of fun in their own right – especially as you can work them harder … the GT-R is just about too powerful for street driving at legal speeds.

Non-turbo Skylines are also much more budget-friendly (both in terms of purchase cost and ongoing maintenance/repairs). With turbocharged Skylines becoming increasingly expensive – even the non-GT-Rs like the GTS-Ts – Skyline

If you don’t care about originality, it’s also possible to purchase a non-turbo Skyline and then modify it to be turbo, often with more power than a genuine GT-R for far less money (“replica” GT-Rs were once a fairly common sight on the roads here in NZ, as we had lots of non-turbo Skylines come in from Japan under the old import laws).

While we wouldn’t get too excited about the thought of some of the non-turbo options out there (NA, automatic, 1.8 litre Skyline anybody?) you should not sleep on some of the more desirable models as they are fantastic cars in their own right, and far more accessible price-wise for the average buyer.

Conclusion – Are All Skylines Turbo?

To reiterate, not all Nissan Skylines are turbocharged. This is similar to the fact that not all Nissan Skylines are AWD – there are far more RWD variants – and the fact that not all Nissan Skylines are manual.

In fact, there are more naturally-aspirated engine options available than there are turbocharged ones – its just that the GT-R (with its monstrous RB26DETT motor) is the car we all fell in love with and lust after.

However, many of the non-turbo Skylines are great cars in their own right, and are well worth looking at if you are considering a new ‘modern classic’.

Because many of the non-turbocharged Skylines were built for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) it’s not surprising that they are far less known than the headline act – the Nissan Skyline GT-R.

It also doesn’t help that the Skyline was basically illegal in the United States, meaning that the American market had little exposure to the car beyond the few GT-Rs that were allowed into the country (learn more here about why the Nissan Skyline is illegal in the United States, as well as how some have been allowed in legally) – somewhere like NZ where import laws favored used Japanese cars, we have had far more exposure to NA Skyline variants.

Hopefully you found this article interesting. If you have any questions or queries, then feel free to leave a comment.

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