Since releasing its 1000+ whp R1KX performance PKG in 2010, Oberlin Ohio’s Switzer Performance has established itself as a known name in GTR tuning. Despite the temptation of over twelve-hundred raucous horsepower, though, Tym Switzer believes the all-out performance level of the R1KX GTRs and the recurring maintenance and support are not what the majority of their clients really want.
“Far too often,” explains Tym, “I talk to people who think that what they want is that last thousandth of a second, regardless of the cost. For the few that can really wrap their heads around what that means – that the car will shift abruptly, that it’ll run hot in traffic, and that they’ll have to run specialized racing fuels in order to get the most out of the car and keep it happy. For them, our R1KX or XXX GTRs will give them what they want: the baddest, fastest GTR that money can buy. For people who want a 1000+ horsepower car that they can drive comfortably every day, to the track or the office or the grocery store, on the highway or in bumper-to-bumper traffic, we’ve built this car.”
“Usable and practical is exactly what we wanted out of the USEs, and we’ve finally gotten these to the point we want them,” Explains Switzer, who is calling its latest new GTR performance variant the “Ultimate Street Edition” GTR, with a heavy emphasis on the “Street” part.
Tym sets the expectation bar pretty high with his introduction of the car, as well: “This car idles smoothly. It shifts smoothly. There’s no deafening exhaust or horrific gear whine. There is none of the harshness of most ‘tuner specials’, and we even managed to keep the highway mpg in the 20s.”
The Ultimate Street Edition GTRs start life as “standard” R35 GTR Nissans, but are re-engineered from the ground up. “It’s not just my vision,” says Tym, “it’s our customers’ vision. For the most part, they’re professionals. They have clients. They have families. They’re busy every day. One thing they don’t have is the time required to keeping a highly-strung tuner car on the road, order highly toxic drums of race fuel – not to mention taking trips to the chiropractor to fix their neck from the constant harsh shifts and stiff, track-oriented suspensions. These guys want a pussycat of a car that will purr along in bumper-to-bumper traffic with a reliable A/C, a reasonably quiet exhaust, and no worries about where they’re going to gas up. When the road opens up, though, they want that pussycat to turn into a roaring lion. Right now. On demand. With no penalties, no compromises, and no excuses.”
The USE’s powertrain mods are done to Switzer’s specifications with components featured in the company’s engine program: Switzer-specific pistons, pins, rings, and connecting rods, as well as specially-ground camshafts.
Despite the extensive mods, Switzer keeps the VR38DETT’s 3.8L engine block alone. Why? Tym answers that “those guys at Nissan really know their stuff. This was an engine that was developed with the same kind of thinking that dominated the old IMSA and Group C series – it’s the same kind of thinking that leads them to build these engines in climate-controlled rooms, just like in F1. Then there’s the Area-51 type metallurgy in the crank that our guys took the time to measure, heat cycle, and understand slowly over the last hundred or so VR38s we’ve built since ’09. Once you start to ‘get’ what the engineers who designed this engine were thinking, you can start to work with what’s there, rather than against it. All of a sudden, it becomes very obvious that cutting it open and installing larger bore sleeves like you’re working on a Civic just isn’t right for the GTR’s reliability, in the long-term.”
Backing up the USE GTRs’ extensive engine program are a pair of liquid-cooled turbochargers featuring innovative billet compressor wheels that out-flow similar-spec. “off-the-shelf” turbos by over 30%, while still providing the response characteristics incredibly similar to stock from idle on up. Those turbos feed back into Switzer’s front-mounted MONSTER intercoolers at the front of the car, which work in concert with Switzer’s upgraded cooling package, which features a cleverly-packaged front-mounted radiator and transmission cooler. “It’s a great package,” offers Tym, “it’s been a totally reliable combination that we’ve proven around the globe in some of the most demanding climates. In the Middle East in hundred-plus degree weather, this cooling package and our intercoolers have made our reputation out there.”
When mated to Switzer’s stainless-steel performance exhaust, the USE’s engine and turbo combination is good for over 1000 crank hp on premium pump-gas, all day long.
That exhaust, by the way, is a critical part of Switzer’s USE experience, too. Tym says he “wanted to keep the overall sound levels during highway cruising and normal city driving as close to OEM as possible, but still provide an exhilarating exhaust note under full-throttle. It needed to sound like an ordinary Nissan in traffic, and a LeMans racer when it’s driven in anger.”
Ride and handling are managed by Switzer-specific lowering springs that allow the Ultimate Street Edition GTRs to maintain the electronically adjustable dampers the car ships with from the factory, ensuring factory-like smoothness. When combined with the ultra-lightweight Switzer Signature forged aluminum alloy wheels and “traditional” (as opposed to run-flat) performance tires, the USE GTRs actually ride better than stock. “The softer sidewalls help absorb a lot of road irregularities,” says Tym. “Softer tires, adjustable shocks, and serious reductions in unsprung weight all come together in these cars. Once you factor in our ‘nano-carbon’ brake pads that improve bite and reduce fade, you have a package that’s better than stock in every way, without punishing your kidneys from being super-stiff.”
Maintaining durability and drivability behind the engine necessitates a driveline that’s up to the task. For the Ultimate Street Edition, Switzer worked in conjunction with Shepherd Transmissions to build an application-specific transmission that can stand up to the car’s massive torque, and still handle the bumper-to-bumper grind home, without grinding gears (yours or the car’s).
Engine. Brakes. Suspension. Transmission. Getting all these systems to work together and getting the maximum benefit from each one is a daunting task – and the fact that the standard R35 GTR is a heavily computerized and digitized piece doesn’t make things easier. To keep the car’s myriad of systems happy, the Ultimate Street Edition gets a new ECU tuning that allows the USE GTRs to deliver smooth, linear power while maintaining excellent transient response throughout the rpm range. Even the much-vaunted GTR launch control is still available, albeit massaged to adjust for the Switzer’s massive power levels.
“It’s like everything else with this car,” Tym says. “Under the hood, fit and finish is at least as good as any OEM component. You will not find anything installed that doesn’t increase either performance or reliability. The whole idea of this Ultimate Street Edition is that it’s just that: a street edition. It’s maximum experience, minimal hassle. A true street car in every sense of the word.”