There are countless reasons to be jealous of Japan.
The country in the Far East has some of the best cuisine, probably the most polite people, a good road network, and a proper public transport system. On top of that, Japan has some of the best vehicles available on the market today. Unfortunately, some of these models are exclusive to Japan alone and have a very slim to no chance of being sold in the Philippines, or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
During our trip to Tokyo, we got to drive one such model – the new Nissan Skyline. Now, the Skyline has never been offered or sold in the Philippines since, well, forever. After just a quick drive around Tokyo, we surely hope Nissan Philippines do decide to bring it in.
Before we tell you what it's like to drive, let’s talk about the Skyline’s design changes. Recently updated for 2019, the Skyline features a revised exterior styling which gives it a more distinct design. In particular, the front end has been tweaked and now resembles the Nissan GT-R. At the rear, the taillights have been updated, and now follows the signature quad-ring motif from past Skylines. It also dons the Nissan badge for the very first time as opposed to the Infiniti badge used on the previous one.
Step inside and you’ll find a posh cabin with leather seats and wood grain all around. Interestingly, the infotainment is in English as well as the navigation system. This makes it especially easy to use for foreigners who don’t read Japanese. It’s also very quiet inside and keeps road noise to a minimum.
No, it doesn't have a GT-R engine. The Skyline we drove came with a hybrid powertrain, but don't dismiss it. The Skyline Hybrid uses naturally aspirated 3.0-liter V6 paired with an electric motor. The combined output is rated at 306 PS, more than enough to sprint to the speed limit.
While the design makeover is a welcome change, the biggest improvement made by Nissan to the 2020 Skyline is the introduction of the new ProPilot 2.0 system. ProPilot 2.0 is the latest version of Nissan’s electronic driver assistance feature, which is only available on the 2019 Skyline at the moment. Unlike the initial ProPilot system, 2.0 allows the Skyline to drive itself on the expressway without any driver intervention. Also, did I mention that you can drive hands free? For those wondering, ProPilot 2.0 doesn’t work on all types of roads. According to Nissan, the hands-free driving feature only works on the major expressway, and will not work on the smaller, tighter streets of Tokyo.
To activate the system, all the driver needs to do is to push the blue button on the steering wheel while driving on the expressway. The multi-info display will then change to color green and tell the driver to keep his hands on the wheel and stay on the same lane. Once the color changes to blue, the system will let you know when that it is already okay to take your hand off the steering wheel. Interestingly, the ProPilot 2.0 function was set in English so even foreigners who don't read Japanese can use the system.
What’s great about the system is that it works similar to the cruise control settings in most vehicles today. Simply put, it’s easy for almost everyone to use. You set a speed, and the ProPilot 2.0 automatically keeps it there. Unlike the traditional cruise control though, ProPilot 2.0 can also detect turns on the road and make adjustments accordingly so you don’t crash. Do note that this is all done hands-free.
The only time you ever need to put your hand back on the wheel is when you have to overtake a slower vehicle on the expressway. To overtake a vehicle, all you have to do is push a button above the ProPilot 2.0 and it’ll automatically check the next lane for vehicles. It’ll then tell you to put your hands on the wheel, but it will do the maneuver for you. It’ll then ask if you want to return to your original lane, which you can do so by simply pushing the button once more.
Admittedly, it does feel very counter-intuitive taking your hands off the wheel driving at around 80-90 km/h on the expressway. Logic dictates that we should have our hands on the steering wheel at all times. But, after a while of hands-free driving, you do get used to it. At the same time, you feel more relaxed during the journey as you can let Nissan ProPilot 2.0 do most of the long, boring expressway driving for you.
Though we didn’t get to experience it, I was told that ProPilot 2.0 works even at a slower speed. With that in mind, the new Skyline would then be a great car to go through traffic in. Rather than having to move each time the car in front does, the system can do it for you automatically instead.
Now, ProPilot 2.0 isn’t an excuse for you to use your mobile phone or sleep. Nissan says drivers still need to be very attentive on the road. More importantly, they have to be ready to take over if needed anytime. In fact, simply moving the steering wheel or stepping on the gas and brake pedals with ProPilot 2.0 active will quickly cancel the self-driving mode and bring back manual control.
Aside from overtaking vehicles the only other time you need to put your hands back on the wheel is when you exit the expressway. Once you exit though, you have to take manual control of the vehicle once more. Remember, this system is only semi-autonomous and not fully autonomous.
Some might think of ProPilot 2.0 as a lazy feature. But, it does make driving easier especially if you’re just going about your usual daily commute. No longer do you have to gas and brake each time the car in front of you moves slightly bit forward. Instead, you can let the system do the heavy workload.
The new Skyline together with the new ProPilot 2.0 system is one vehicle I’m very jealous that Japan has to itself. While it is very unlikely we will be getting the Skyline anytime soon (or its Infiniti counterpart for that matter), there is still hope for ProPilot and the new version 2.0. Hopefully, the system can be fitted onto other Nissan vehicles in the future; one of which will make its way here. If ProPilot 2.0 were to be offered here, driving out into the province will be easier. We wouldn't be as tired as we could let the system drive itself on the expressway.
As for the Skyline itself, it was very comfortable to drive. Despite its big size, it didn't feel that big on the road. Driving through the tight streets of Tokyo was very easy, and you can easily account for its size. Even with fully electric steering, it didn't feel too light and was a bit weighted at speed. Despite having a 3.0-liter V6, it was very fuel-efficient thanks to the hybrid system. Even with 1/4 tank depleted, the car still had around 627 kilometers of range. More than enough to go around Tokyo and the nearby regions. My personal favorite feature, however, would be the automatically retracting seatbelt, which keeps the interior looking tidy at all times.
There is still no word on when ProPilot 2.0 or the Skyline will ever make its way into the country. So for now, I’ll just continue to be jealous of Japan.