Crazy little thing called love for Nissan's fantasy mini
Despite it being road legal, in order to truly assess the Juke-R and put it through its paces, you need to experience it on a track.
I tested it for several laps around Mondello Park’s 3.5km International Circuit. In short, the Juke-R is blisteringly fast, with fierce acceleration felt through all six gears.
A quick pull of the right-hand paddle behind the steering wheel provides a near-instant gear change. The Juke’s naturally high roofline and high centre of gravity are slightly unnerving at first, but once you’ve settled in, you can confidently push the car to its limits. You’re seated low and far back, alongside the B-pillar.
The Juke-R’s suspension and brake systems are identical to the GT-R’s, therefore offering supercar-like handling combined with immense stopping power.
Close to the limit, the Juke-R’s rear end feels less stable than the GTR’s, with some movement felt from the driving seat, its shorter chassis often fighting for grip. The steering is notably lighter too, yet proficient, offering pinpoint accuracy through the corners.
In order for the hefty 3.8-litre GT-R engine to fit into the Juke’s engine bay, it sits far back towards the cabin; the heat emitted from behind the dashboard is like having a furnace in place of a stereo – it’s sauna-like after a few swift laps.
Of course, the Juke-R is beyond the reach of the vast majority of petrolheads, and even then who would pay €450,000 for a Nissan, no matter how powerful? But the Japanese brand is planning a more accessible, sporty variant of the Juke.
The Juke Nismo will be the first model to be launched in Europe within a new range of Nismo-badged cars. It’s due to arrive in early 2013, and has been designed and developed by Nismo – Nissan Motorsport – in Japan. It will be clearly distinguished from its standard Juke siblings by the addition of bespoke exterior and interior styling. Power will be delivered from a 1.6-litre direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine, offering a respectable 200hp, with a choice of a two-wheel-drive manual transmission or a four-wheel-drive CVT automatic transmission.
If you’ve got a spare €450,000 or thereabouts, Nissan will build you a production version of the Juke-R; the first customer vehicle has just recently been completed. The arguably more sensible option for power-hungry motorists is to save themselves €300,000 and buy a Nissan GT-R, a far more refined, useable supercar. It’s still crazy money in the middle of a recession, but there are some rich petrolheads out there who continue to have an interest in such cars.
The Juke-R is a fantasy in these grim economic times but admirable for what it symbolises: that motoring dreams can be pursued even in the toughest times. Yet in anything but a fantasy world, this car would be dismissed as pointless, perhaps a symbol of a car firm with too much time on its hands.