Car of the Week 228: COTY GTS Finale

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Just like the Camaro and Challenger of Chevy and Dodge, I never really understood what the point of a Z car is, being a heavier and more unwieldy 2 door sports car in a lineup that has faster 2 door sports cars. However, the 5th generation of the Fairlady Z, known as the Z33 in Japan or the 350Z elsewhere, was produced from 2002–2008, almost as if a tailor–made stopgap to tide over Nissan fans who had to make do without a GT-R in the showrooms for a very peculiar period in the brand's history. And so the question naturally becomes, "how good is it?"


S-Tune Red by SomePlayaDude livery link (GTS)

By contemporary standards, the Z33 is a bit of a porker, weighing in at 1,480kg (3,263lbs) in Version S trim. However, you wouldn't ever guess it with how flat and neutral this thing behaves in a corner. The springs gave me some E46 M3 levels of shock and awe in how well gauged it is, allowing for just the right amount of body movement to put weight on a relevant tyre, and nothing more. If you had told me the springs are some costly Nismo aftermarket items, I'd have believed every word of it and told you in return that they were worth every cent!


Not only that, the car as a whole has been set up to be incredibly stable, nigh impossible to upset in the dry—quite the feat to pull off considering the 2007 model year had been revised with an output bump of 34HP from "276HP" to 310HP (231kW). While stability is usually euphemism for "so much hand–holding understeer it crushes your hands and will to live" in modern RWD cars, the Z33 actually handles quite neutrally, with the only hints of understeer being gradually peppered into the experience instead of being passively dominated by it. It will understeer slightly on power, yes, but what you'll really have to watch for is the understeer when trail braking. It stops well, but it also asks of drivers to turn in early for a corner and trail brake it well, because there's only so much you can ask of the slim 225mm tyres up front, with 53% of the car's weight pressing over them at rest. Trail braking for a corner then, requires early turn in and proper technique, lest the car sails right past the apex. That's not to say it's incapable, but you just have to drive it the way it wants to be driven, which is in a rather measured and calm way, making it rather unconducive for racing and overtakes, I find. But, there is a lot of overlap between "calm" and "relaxed", and soon I found myself in a very comfortable zone, a sort of "zen", to borrow again from the FH5 COTW thread. And in that mental zone, I found the Z33 to be a very predictable, fun drive, the sort I might enjoy as a retired old fart that wants to keep pace sometimes... not that I'm very far off from that mentally right now, but still.


So, how good is the Z33? Surprisingly, very! It may look completely unassuming, and even fat and awkward at times, but it utterly destroyed my shouty Evo X in practice around Yamagiwa, owing to the Z having more power and less mass. That put things into context yet? The Z33 is such a sleeper that it actively flew under my radar for well over a decade, and the only reason how I found out about its prowess is because I was made to drive it for COTW and then had the bright idea of running an Evo against it. If you thought that German offerings were your only options when it comes to understated performance cars, then that's just a testament to how subtle and unassuming the Z33 is, and you'll do well to not make any further mistakes of underestimating it henceforth.


And so that's the one question of, "how good is the Z33?" answered, then! But what if we were to ask more questions? "Is the Z33 good enough to carry a brand?" "How does it compare to a GT-R?"


Mine's R33 GT-R Magia Record by redmist223 livery link (GTS)​

Well okay, the R33 V • spec completely destroys the Z33 with more power and AWD. An R32 would've been a closer comparison, but "R33 vs Z33" just sounds snazzier in writing, and no wannabe writer would ever pass that up. Even after taking 3% of the R33's power out of the car and keeping everything else stock, I was very much keeping up with the Z33s around Tokyo South, and I think I had a very good shot at winning the race outright had there been one more lap. Around Tsukuba, an unmodified R33 was more than a second a lap quicker than the Z33, and most of that pace difference was in the corner exit, where the less understeery, AWD car could put down power quicker and easier.


BUT, that is not to say that it was an easy win in the GT-R. Having just jumped out of the Z33 prior, the R33 was a huge shock to my system, as suddenly I had to deal with the insane tail happiness of the R33 that the Z never once bothered me with. While I was relaxed and zen in the Z, I was boarderline panicking and hyper vigilant in the R33 with every downshift I made. I also had to think about where I shifted the turbocharged RB engine of the GT-R, as its power completely dips off way before redline, whereas the Z's powerplant is simply a peach to operate, having ample low end torque and hiding its 310HP near redline at 7,000rpm. In other words, it was an engine that just begs to have its nuts revved off, and it sounds pretty good wherever you're at. The Z, despite being the RWD car in this comparison, was much, much easier to drive than its AWD older brother, and that I think is really saying something.


So in conclusion, the Z33 is almost as fast as an almost R34 running at almost max power. Is there a point to running the R33 against the Z33? Not really. At least, I didn't do it thinking there'd be a point. But, thanks to that race, I think I now finally understand the Z's place in the Nissan lineup. The GT-R is the cruise missile of the Nissan lineup, whose only purpose is to destroy anything in its path. The Z on the other hand, is an understated grand tourer that has way more sporting DNA and capabilities than any grand tourer has the right to have, and this crazy old fart here thinks it's a more entertaining drive than an R35.
 
This week we are taking a look at the Toyota 86 Gr.4. Hopefully we will have some great battles like the Nissan 350 Z last week. This weeks car is chosen by @Pickle_Rick74

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I quite like the 86 Gr.4. It's not fast by any stretch, but it has the handling and grip to simply not slow down.

I raced for Toyota in the Manu Series years ago (I know, talk about out of character right?!), and this race in particular stood out as my best. Not because it was my best result, but I beat some pretty speedy people just by going faster in corners.

JustTheAtom is currently one of THE fastest drivers in the region, and HyperDrift is now one of my team mates on Hooncorp, and also one of the quickest of us. So to beat both of them simply by using the brakes less really speaks volumes on where this car's strengths lie!

I'm not sure if there are any tracks other than Big willow where this characteristic can be so mercilessly exploited, but hey! It's still a neat lil car :D

 
I'll be brief as it's midnight: 86 is a great car. 86 Gr.4 is also a great car. However, a major flaw that I found while racing Gr4 is that the cars are very, very weirdly vague about where their limits are...essentially making the races about who can yeet their Gr.4 cars the hardest without worrying about the walls. Unfortunately, I have not quite mustered that fearlessness and lost a lot of time to the front runners.

86 Gr.4 is a Neutral for me.
 
Just like the Z33 featured last week, the Toyota 86 is a front engine, rear drive, two door sports car in a lineup that has faster two door sports cars. Unlike the Z however, the 86's place in its company is very clear, being the lightweight, low powered, fun to drive, pure and simplistic sports car of its family tree, and one I much prefer over its more expensive sibling. That said, the 86's role in the Toyota family is much more evident in the context of this e–sports focused title, Gran Turismo Sport, being the sole representative of Toyota in Gr.4 events owing to the elusive Supra Gr.4's unavailability in FIA events.


In fact, even among the 28–strong list of Gr.4 cars in this game, the 86 Gr.4 stands out. Unlike its low effort fictional brethren that sports featureless interiors and generic race displays, the 86 Gr.4 instead lifts its interior from the #166 Toyota GAZOO Racing TOYOTA 86 that raced in the SP3 class of the 2012 24 Hours of Nürburgring, a car that has appeared in Gran Turismo 6. Sporting a colourful red bucket seat, the road car's original tach, Gazoo Racing steering wheel, fully functional gauge clusters that display pressures and temperatures, and even a 6 speed stick shifter as opposed to paddle shifters on the steering column, the 86 Gr.4 has a very strong and authentic presence in any setting that sets it apart from the barely inspired fictional Gr.4 competition, be it simply sitting in a garage or lining up on a grid.


On the track, the 86 Gr.4 stays true to the calling of the road car on which it's based; featherweight, agile, gentle on tyres and fuel, easy to toss around, but utterly lacking in straight line pace. Making 358HP (266kW) from its 2L Boxer 4 without the aid of forced induction before BoP takes its 1% cut, the powerband of the 86 Gr.4 is smooth and linear, making peak power just 1,000rpm before its 8,000rpm redline. However, this also means that short shifting to save fuel costs the car a lot of its grunt, and it's totally hopeless from a standing start, being totally unable to spin any racing slick tyres in the dry. So gutless is it in fact, it completely falls flat once pulled out of a fellow 86's slipstream, aligning their speeds together without first putting the nose of the chasing car past the rear fender of the leading car. Overtaking another identically specced 86 in a one make race is difficult enough a task as a result, let alone another Gr.4 car—It gets out launched and out dragged by a Cayman GT4 with BoP applied. That... might have been the single most heinous thing I've ever written in a review, despite meaning no malice.


But of course, no one drives an 86 expecting to crush the competition with raw power; they expect a lightweight, corner craving, cooperative steed that will let them out dance their opponents in a dramatic show of skill and tyre smoke backed by Eurobeat and badly drawn 2D women. To this end, the 86 Gr.4 largely delivers, being so natural and easy in the corners, I rarely had to fight the car to force it into doing more of something it wasn't doing enough, or correct it from doing something I didn't expect. It was so just so neutral, natural, and agile, it felt like the car could read my mind at times. The last four turns of Tokyo South Inner Loop, the right–left–right–left into the main straight, felt less like maneuvering a 1,200kg (2,646lbs) hunk of metal through a series of bends and more like simply being one with the water of a river gently flowing around the rocks in its way; it barely felt like it was something I had to actively affect at all. Any hyperbole or cliché in the book you can hurl at the 86 Gr.4, it will live up to it and then some. In fact, here's one more hyperbole to throw into the pile: Tackling corners in the 86 Gr.4 is simply effortless.

...way too much so for its own good.


Remember that part about "smoke"? This is where that comes in; for some reason I can't fathom, the steering feel of the 86 Gr.4 is uncannily light, almost as if something was broken in my Logitech G29, and I even had to jump ship to my Cayman GT4 just to make sure it wasn't a hardware issue on my end. I usually try to refrain from commenting on steering feel in my reviews because the Force Feedback in the Gran Turismo series has always been notoriously lacking, but the 86's steering feel is decidedly off even in the context of Gran Turismo, almost as if someone forgot to program it for the 86 Gr.4. As I said before, the 86 corners effortlessly, but a large part of that might be down to how light the steering wheel is. As a consequence, there is nearly no feel, no feedback at all from the steering wheel when driving the 86 Gr.4 at the limit. I never know what the tyres are doing when push finally comes to shove, or if they are even in contact with the road when going over crests of hills or bumps and rumble strips, which has led me to explore alternative offroad routes in every paved racing circuit I brought my 86 to, even the ones I'm intimately familiar with like Bathurst. Driving an 86 Gr.4 feels almost like meeting a romantic partner on a blind date, with whom I share amazing chemistry and get along super well with, only for them to completely ghost me at the altar come wedding day. It's utterly bizarre and downright disgusting how quickly it earns the trust of its driver, egging them to trash it harder, only to completely go limp on them at the worst of times when we need that communication the most.


I know Igor Fraga might prove the following statement I'm about to make wrong at any given moment, but I genuinely think the 86 Gr.4 is WAY too slow to make any sort of impression in a field of Gr.4 cars, especially if tyres and fuel aren't an issue in the race. Simply as a plaything, the obscene lack of steering feel immediately makes it an awful car despite its sharp and otherwise intuitive handling. I genuinely think that it'd be a strong contender for the title of "Driving Nirvana" in my head, currently held by the Cayman GT4 Clubsport, if the steering feel were to be fixed. For friends who have followed this thread for years, they'd know just how deeply I love my Cayman GT4 CS, and in turn, how high a praise that would've been. For now, I'd much rather drive the Supra Gr.4 if I for some odd reason need to drive a Toyota Gr.4 car, because much like the 86, it's a well balanced, corner craving handling machine with no straight line grunt. Last I checked, the Supra Gr.4 actually has steering feel too. Funny how Toyota is blessed with having two cars in the spartan Gr.4 category, and they're both set up to have the exact same strengths and weaknesses. Baffling.


Toyota GR Supra Nur24h 2019 #90 by yn221 livery link (GTS)

Team Gazoo Racing by seshibon1640 livery link (GTS)​
 
Is that a beater verdict I smell this early into the week? ...probably not, given my nose is plugged.

I think I will skip this week, as I never liked this car.
 
Soo, the Vulcan. Two rules for this car: 1. Better not turn while accelerating, 2. Avoid curbs. The most difficult car to move at the limit I believe. Driven right, its corner speed is unbeaten yet. Its straight line speed is by far the fastest. There's still some seconds left. Crazy car.

Driven stock on hard sport tyres without any driving aids, except ABS. First lap in third person view, second one in cockpit view and third one in cinematic replay view. All driven laps are the same lap.

On SH tyres I managed a 07.14.218. On RH tyres I manged a 06.35.265, which is rather quick actually.
Still, the verdict is very clear: beater.

Nordschleife comparison:


Tsukuba comparison:
 
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Okay, unpopular opinion, but I really enjoyed driving this car on the racing hard tires.
The turn in is almost violent, but with small steering inputs, this thing loves to be driven on the limit. There is a real feeling of accomplishment when you put together a good lap with it. I found the oversteer not too bad to hold on to if you let it slide a bit before correcting.
I was just starting to really get the hang of it by the end of the evening. I thought Brands was a blast in it, and would have loved to try Goodwood and tokyo in it.
However, not worth the dent it put in my bank account. That's a 1 million dollar car at best. Does look pretty cool though. Only had 10 minutes to throw a livery together and because the car looks so good I think it turned out okay.
Verdict: still better than the Mito
 
Going from a high end supercar to a luxury hatchback from Germany, we are taking a look at the Mercedes Benz A 45 AMG 4Matic. This weeks car is chosen by @XSquareStickIt

2013-mercedes-benz-a45-amg_100419046_h.jpg

I would rather say: Going from one ****** car, to the next. Lol. It's not good. More about that later. ;)

EDIT: Managed a 07.59.259 on the Nords with it. Thought it would be slightly faster. It's not really pleasant to drive as well, pretty bad under braking. Then again, it did beat the RX7 and some other JDMs, but it also has lots more power than them, so...it's not really good after all. :P
Driven stock on hard sport tyres without any driving aids, except ABS. First lap in third person view, second one in cockpit view and third one in cinematic replay view. All driven laps are the same lap.

Nords rivals:

Tsukuba rivals:


Verdict: slight beater
 
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The A45 is a beater in stock form but one of those hidden gems of the tuning scene. You wouldn't think a Mercedes as a tuner car, but the A45 can be transformed into a 500bhp hot hatch that boasts some phenomenal straight line speed, and it's pretty fun to throw around those more complex circuits!

Here's one I prepared earlier alongside some other tuners in my GT7 garage

20829303475019901.jpg
 
980kgs is the stated car weight.

Bugatti's 8.0L W16 engine weighs just under 500kgs by itself.

Is the body made of paper mache?
I actually just pulled up the car in GTS to look at the specs.

It is, quite conspicuously, missing 1,000 horsepower from its reported output...641 HP in Gr.1 trim VS the official number of 1,650 BHP.

Both the engine and the car are 490 kg, so both the engine and the car are ~ 1080 lbs each. i know some Group C and older F1 cars were hovering at really low weights like that.

I can buy a Caterham being that light (the 84 HP Caterham 170 only weighs 970 lbs), but something as large as the Bugatti VGT? :odd: I would sincerely want to know what the hell they did to get the car that stripped down.


Edit edit:
Took it for a spin because the stats were annoying me. Got met with a really light and hollow feeling through the steering wheel and the car, and the car actually was a little too eager to rotate under braking. Neutral. Really not a pleasant enough drive for me to justify the 1 mill cr I dropped on it. I'm going back to my LM55 - at least that thing's plausible.
 
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