Car Test: 1995 TommyKaira R (GT2)

TommyKaira are one of those unusual manufacturers that appear only in Gran Turismo. Having done a little research all that I can deduce is what most people have guessed anyway – they focus in tuning up popular Japanese cars, with the odd hand-made car of their own – the cutesy ZZ-S coupe and the more sinister ZZ-II and ZZ-III cars. This is one of the tuned cars – a specially modified Nissan Skyline R33, but with a mean bodykit and TommyKaira decals to show people this isn’t an ordinary Skyline. I’d love to tell you oodles of details on it, but all I can find is what Gran Turismo themselves say and what a bloke who bought one says on the Sports Compact Car site – apparently only 400 of these were made, meaning there are more Ferrari Enzos on the road than this. But more on that article later, because right now, a question has arisen. See, a standard Nissan Skyline R33, has identical dimensions but with only 309hp (dealer quoted 276hp) and 42.5kgm torque. Even the weight is the same. Yet you can pick up a decent R33 Skyline for around 25-28,000 at the Nissan used car forecourts, whereas a TommyKaira R has to be ordered from the TK dealership for a cool 69,800. So then, the aim of this review is not just to find out whether the car’s any good – is there any point to it? Is it worth the extra 41,000-odd credits? To help me find out, I’ve also got a standard R33 Skyline alongside to compare it to.

So, lets start with the obvious – performance. The TKR is up by 0.2 seconds on 0-60 and is around about a second faster in the 1/4 mile and 1000m sprints. On the top speed test the standard R33 was lagging by around 10mph. And in all of the tests, the TKR felt planted and very rapid…but strangely soulless. All that could be heard when stamped the throttle hard was a loud turbo hiss and a small kind of whine in amongst it – it was hard to even distinguish whether there was an engine in there, or whether it was just some self-contained turbo system under the bonnet. Even the standard car, though slower, was more noisy. But whatever it was, it certainly propelled the car fast. But again, does 10 more mph justify 41,000 more credits? Just keep reading, and don’t cancel that TKR order just yet. See, when I took both cars to Special Stage Route 5, the TKR’s big secret weapon was unleashed – it’s ferocious road-holding. In the straight-line tests, both cars had face-bending traction off the line thanks to the 4WD system. But a big downside, I’ve found, is that 4WD often equals understeer in the corners. But, surprise surprise, the TKR doesn’t just remained planted in the corners – it’s actually mastered what I call ‘controlled oversteer’, i.e. the type of oversteer that is easy to both initiate and control. It is in fact fantastic in the corners – of course, being 1530kg, it wasn’t going to go round like a Lotus Elise with superglue tires, but completely standard it was a joy to drive. The 4WD understeer is there, but only if you REALLY force the car. In contrast, the standard R33 felt almost flabby and wallowy in the corners – the body roll was more pronounced, the understeer was more pronounced, and it was generally more of a battle to get it round Route 5 than the TKR.

So we’ve ascertained then that the TKR is a lot better than the R33 Skyline, and we’ve ascertained that the TKR is a magnificent car. But…there is still one question left…and that can only be answered by the Event Synthesiser.  So then, we bring out…a Vector M12, Nissan Skyline R34, Honda NSX Type S Zero, Dodge Viper GTS and a Lotus Espirit V8 SE. The track? A small island racetrack named Tahiti Road. And we were going in reverse.

One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is this car’s horrendous power band – anything vaguely below or on 5,000-5,500rpm and this car doesn’t accelerate – kind of more gathers speed. Slowly. It really is bad, and frequently in the race everything I’d achieved in the corners was undone by my glance over at the rev counter and my stark realisation that I was floundering at 4,500rpm. And…if I’m honest, while the oversteer was easy and stylish when I was running around on my own, when the back end stuck out in the race it was entirely unwelcome, because as we all know drifting is NOT the fastest way round a corner. But overall it performed magnificently, and it was only the organic squishy thing behind the wheel (i.e. me) that prevented it from winning. In the end I finished 0.068 seconds behind the Vector M12 side-by-side…sadly the M12’s 493hp was enough to pull him ahead in the drag race to the line from the final corner. Everything else was swept aside relatively easily.

So then, is it a good car? Yes. Is it a good race car? Absolutely. But is it worth the extra money over a standard R33 Skyline? Well, if it’s straight out-and-out performance you’re looking for, look elsewhere – I’d hardly say 10mph top end speed was worth 41,000 would you? But if it’s handling you need…look no further. In fact, the TKR is a bargain – to get equivalent handling out of the R33 you’d need the weight reduction AND racing modifications, which altogether cost way over 100,000. And it holds it’s own in the real world against such cars as the 78,000 Viper, the 98,000 NSX and even the 192,000 M12.

When you look at it like that, 69,800 doesn’t seem like a lot after all.

Handling/Control: 86%
Power/Speed: 72%
Style: 73%
Grin Factor: 88%

Rating: 80%

At-A-Glance Specifications

Length: 4675mm
Width: 1780mm
Height: 1360mm
Weight: 1530kg
Engine: 2.6L 16valve DOHC
Displacement: 2568cc
4-wheel drive
Horsepower: 411bhp@7,000rpm (dealer quoted 394hp@7,300rpm)
Torque: 43kgm@7,000rpm
Redline: 8,000rpm

0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
1/4 mile:12.987s@108mph
1000m: 24.309

Max Speed Test
1st gear: 45mph
2nd gear: 76mph
3rd gear: 110mph
4th gear: 143mph
5th gear: 182mph
Max Speed: 182mph

Review originally written in 2007.
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