From go-ahead to completion RML had just 22 fraught weeks to bring Juke R into production. Rather than unnecessarily litter the workshop floor with bits of scrap Juke only to find the GT-R’s guts wouldn’t fit, the team checked CAD models first to see if the task was feasible.
Satisfied that the two cars could be morphed into one, the next concern was just what the GTR’s sophisticated running gear would make of being squashed inside the body of the upright, smaller Juke. In effect, would the complex brain of the GT-R’s chassis systems reject the transplant?
To find out, the next step was a drastic one – and one that can’t fail to make you wince. A GT-R was cut into two pieces, and refashioned with a 250mm shorter wheelbase and shorter propshaft, before being taken to the MIRA proving ground. Much to the team’s surprise – and delight – the GTR running gear took into account the new parameters and drove well. The game was on.
There followed a delivery of complete cars to RML’s base in Wellingborough: two brand new Jukes ready for the cutter, and one new and one slightly used GT-R, also for the chop. A Juke was put in the RML workshop and braced from the outside with a steel cage, necessary because the team than cut out the entire floor area and the internal bulkheads, thereby robbing the shell of its integrity. Without the bracing, it would wobble like a blancmange.
Nissan’s full test program, as overseen by NTCE, is as arduous and exhaustive as the next manufacturer’s, so once the components had been fitted in their cramp confines the Juke R was put through a condensed, but still thorough, version of that test. This, you might have gathered, isn’t some styling studio lash-up.
There’s a roll cage to climb over, and a competition OMP bucket seat to drop down into, but once you’re actually inside the Juke R there’s plenty of the crossover left to make the performance that follows a mind-scrambling act. With the Juke centre stack and binnacle still present, plus the upright screen and high roofline, you’re clearly not sitting in a GT-R. And yet the mass of driver information in front of you, the gauges, dials and numbers blinking for your attention, the rumble of the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 that permeates the bodyshell and seat, and not least the 65/75mm wider front/rear track and GT-R wheel and brakes combo that sets out the Juke R’s stall like the Klitschko brothers’ rippling their muscles at a weigh-in all suggest something massively more potent than a Juke.
Moving off is simple in the Juke-R: put your foot on the brake and drag the short gear selection lever down into ‘A’ – or ‘M’ if you’re intending to shift cogs yourself. Opt for the latter, and you have the GT-R’s, standard-setting twin clutch ’box at your fingertips via paddles positioned behind the steering wheel.
Plant the throttle and the acceleration is immediately of the visceral, head-thrown-back variety, and it’s made all the more weird by the feeling of being in this little crossover. It’s as if you’re subconscious is telling you one thing, picking up on the speed and the fact you know it’s a GT-R underneath, while your brain says, “It’s just a Nissan Juke”.
Shortening the wheelbase and altering the weight balance compared to the GT-R has naturally altered how the chassis responds. In one sense it feels more nimble, pivoting somewhere below your seat and snapping onto your chosen line through a corner, but from that point you need to be careful. The weight of the Juke-R starts to tell – at 1806kg this is no lightweight – and the understeer builds if you’re not patient with the throttle. Juke-R development chief Michael Mallock admits the car has been set up with this layer of understeer for on-road safety, and once at the exit of a corner there’s no denying the formidable traction on offer or the accelerative punch. The brakes too, are exemplary – particularly given the speed, heat and mass puzzle they’re trying to solve.