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The Family R32

We test the 4 door 'family car' version of the R32 Skyline...

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • Four door practicality in an R32 Skyline
  • Huge potential
  • Now very cheap as a 15 year old import
  • We drive the 'awesome' single-cam 2.0 litre version!
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This article was first published in 2004.

The R32 Skyline is an extremely popular vehicle in tuning circles. The RB series engines are powerful and durable, the driveline, suspension and brakes are easy to upgrade and the two-door versions look sweet. The only problem is – like all Nissans from the late ‘80s – given the size of the car, the Skyline coupe has poor rear passenger and boot space. All too often R32s are relegated to weekend-only use.

Well, forget about that – get yourself into a R32 Skyline 4 door!

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The ‘family car’ R32 shares its wheelbase, driveline, suspension and brake components with the coupe – the only major difference is a slight rear-end stretch and, of course, better accommodation. The rear seat of the R32 sedan doesn’t offer a huge amount of space (head, knee and foot space are limited) but you can certainly use it regularly as a four seater. There’s no need to draw straws to determine who has to contort themselves into the rear...

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But like its 2 door cousins, the R32 sedan boot is shallow and has poor access. Note that the backrest is fixed, which means you can’t fit in any truly bulky cargo.

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Up front, it’s all very familiar R32 stuff. The dashboard is the same as you’ll find in a contemporary GT-R, though ‘gaugeware’ is limited to a 180 km/h speedo, tacho, fuel level, coolant temp, battery volts and oil pressure gauges. The 4 door has a relatively high seating position and the cloth seats are soft and comfortable.

Standard features include climate control (analogue in our test car), electric windows and mirrors, central locking and adjustable driver’s seat height.

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The ‘32 Skyline was sold in Japan with many different driveline configurations. The go-fast models (ignoring the GT-R) are the AWD GTS4, GTS-t and the rare GTS25 - released just before the R33 series. The next step down is the RB20DE and RB20 atmo sixes and, at the bottom of the pile, the woeful CA18 version.

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The vehicle on test here is a RB20E single cam 2.0 litre R32 GTE sedan fitted with a 5 speed manual gearbox. Producing 96kW at 5600 rpm and 172Nm at 4400 rpm, this is hardly a speed machine but, with a free flowing exhaust, we were pleasantly surprised to discover 0 – 100 km/h performance in the mid 10s. Acceleration is enhanced by relatively short gearing.

So why on Earth would anyone buy the RB20E version of the R32 4 door, you ask? Well, there are a few reasons...

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If from the onset you plan to build up a mega power monster, you might as well use a cheap, relatively bare-bones platform. This particular vehicle was offered for just AUD$5500 (plus compliance) by www.yahoomotorsport.com. Alternatively, you might not be able to find ‘turbo insurance’ but you still want a slice of R32 action – this is one way to get it

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Even with its modest power and torque output, the rear-wheel-drive GTE R32 can easily be provoked into power oversteer. You can’t hold a massive tyre-smoking drift, but the independent rear certainly lets you have some fun. Note that a LSD was fitted to our test car. Wishbone front and a sophisticated independent rear are standard across the R32 range and the GTE’s spring and damper rates are very soft. The GTE 5 speed weighs in at 1240kg – considerably lighter than any of the turbo models.

The standard GTE four-wheel discs performed fine during our test but be aware that the upmarket models get better anchors. If you plan fitting big Brembos, that probably won’t matter... The GTE uses four-stud wheels wearing 185/70 14 tyres.

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The 4 door R32 shares its front-end sheet metal with the coupes, but it’s all different from the A-pillar back. The body is 1.5cm taller and 5cm longer and it uses unique taillights. The GTE version, as tested, is lumbered with steel wheels/hub caps and has no spoilers - this is almost the base model...

The R32 series is now eligible for important and compliance under Australia’s ’15 year old law’ and examples such as this are now being sold through South Australia’s www.yahoomotorsport.com This particular car (which at the time of writing was sold) is indicative of what you can buy for around AUD$5500 (plus compliance). Our test car was in good condition and had less than 100,000km on the odometer.

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Don’t bother trying to modify the RB20E. Sure, exhaust and air intake mods will give improvements but you’d be better off going for an engine conversion – you could start with a RB20DET, RB25DET or perhaps the Australian-delivered RB30ET. Remember, RB30 twin-cam hybrids are possible... The power potential is limitless. Or alternatively, have a pleasant and probably reliable car at a very low cost...

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If you’ve always like R32 Skylines but could never get past their lack of space, the 4 door version is certainly worth a look. And – yes – even the low-power GTE is worth checking out if you’re concerned about insurance or if you need a platform on which to go ballistic!

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