In a dusty, abandoned, North Hollywood strip mall, on a lot that has been featured in dozens of movies and is next to be seen in Captain Marvel, the team at Nissan North America unleashed a group of journalists on a test course to feel the excitement of driving the GT-R, 370Z, and Maxima in advance of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Solo marks the third Star Wars movie that Nissan has partnered on and it is a relationship that has helped push its new technology into the market. It is expected that Nissan will stay consistent with this movie release and unveil a tricked-out version of the Rogue, but he media caravan was given a chance to drive some of the more sport-based models -- fueled by the spirit of Han Solo.
As part of the group, my chance to drive the collection was exhilarating. Others on the trip – mostly from more automotive-based backgrounds -- said the same.
"The GT-R was incredible," Nicole Wakelin of the Boston Globe said. "It had heart-pumping acceleration with performance handling to match, all-the-while being a surprisingly comfortable car to take for a drive.
"Though the 370Z has a less intense approach to performance driving than the GT-R, it was no less fun to toss through the corners, plus it has style for miles and instant visual appeal."
The GT-R is the top of the line for Nissan and has been affectionately dubbed Godzilla thanks in part to being a legend in the Gran Turismo gaming world. It bases at $99,990 but with additional features it can escalate all the way up to $175,490 with the NISMO package. It is undoubtedly the car that Han Solo would use to get out of a tight situation, if cars versus spacecraft existed in his universe.
The 370Z is the comparative model to a Subaru WRX or a Honda Civic Type R and bases at various price points dependent on whether it is the Roadster or Coupe models. Both versions will feature 332 horsepower at 7,000 RPM and boast 270 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 RPM and each gained a number of enhancements this year with a new front-end design, dark tinted rear combination lights, new blackout rear lower fascia and 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Nissan also rolled out the eighth generation of its flagship Maxima for this event, debuting a new Carnelian Red color for the 2018 model class. When paired with the SR Midnight Edition, which includes Intelligent Driver Alertness, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, and Automatic Emergency Braking, it is a street fighter masquerading as a family car.
Chad Kirchner, an auto expert, industry veteran – and Star Wars aficionado – said that he would side with the choice to use the GT-R to avoid some unsavory characters.
"It may not be as stealthy as the Millennium Falcon, but the GT-R is ridiculously quick if it needs to be," he said. "It is not a bad smuggling choice, if one were to engage in such activities.
"Whether in a galaxy far away, or a car-smart city like Los Angeles, the GT-R stands out."
The three-day tour-de-force started in San Francisco with a visit to Lucasfilm and moved to Burbank on a private jet. It concludes with the unveiling of the next in the line of concept cars for Nissan on the red carpet and will wrap a whirlwind campaign for the car and truck maker.
Nissan North America has previously decked out its Rogue, Titan, Rouge Sport, Ultima, and Maxima for Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, after a successful Rogue-centric campaign for Rouge One: A Star Wars Story. It has been a partnership between car and consumer that has evolved in a way that has pushed interest and sales for the brand.
"Being able to connect with Star Wars fans and helping them understand what technologies that we have, and what we can to make their drive more adventurous is just so much fun," Jeremy Meadows, Senior Manager of Marketing, Strategy, and Integration for Nissan North America said. "To me there is a big difference between marketing to or at somebody versus marketing with someone in mind. We wanted to make a connection with fans beyond just what they would normally see. This was an organic way to tie in what we have to something that they will want."
Solo: A Star Wars Story is having its Hollywood premiere on Thursday, May 10 and it will celebrate its wide release on Friday, May 25.