What is it?
What do you do if you have in production an eccentric-looking, popular crossover, and a genre redefining supercar, plus a desire to re-pitch the aforementioned crossover as an unlikely-sounding new type of performance car? The solution is a pragmatic one: you simply combine the two, in the process creating a mutant, 485bhp four-wheel drive urban tearaway with which to terrorise any unsuspecting exotica that falls into its sinister orbit.
There’s already a turbocharged, all-wheel drive Juke, of course – the 188bhp DIG-T with torque vectoring four-wheel drive – and Nissan showed a Juke Nismo concept at the Tokyo show, and that’s about all you need to know to understand the reasons behind the Juke R existence. It won’t be available from your local Nissan dealer any time soon, though, rather its task is to fill pages such as these, and monopolise web content – all so the public at large see the Juke in a new and suitably sporty light.
What's it like?
Whatever you feel about that marketing spin, the car itself is definitely worthy of attention. Although supported by both NTCE (Nissan’s European technical centre at Cranfield) and NDE (Nissan’s design centre in central London), the car was actually designed and built by hugely experienced race and engineering firm Ray Mallock Ltd (RML), perhaps best known for building the all-conquering BTCC Primeras during the height of the Super-Touring era in the late 1990s.
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.