Nissan Juke-R: First drive review


Sitting innocuously in the corner of a hangar at Nissan's Sunderland plant in the company of a GTR, 370Z and the Leaf Nismo RC, the Juke-R stands out on it's own as a brutish, hardcore car. And for good reason, for this is the world's fastest crossover.

Inside, the standard Juke dash and centre console can't hide the raw racing intent of the surrounding FIA-spec roll cage, two OMP bucket seats and six-point harnesses while outside, a low-slung matt black body is beefed up with protruding wheel arches, tweaked bumpers and 20" RAYS rims on top of gold Brembo brakes.

Boasting a blistering 0-62mph dash of 3.7 seconds and 485bhp from a 3.8-litre V6 twin-turbo taken directly from its faster cousin, the 2011 GT-R, the Juke-R will keep on pulling up to the 160mph top speed. A ride out in the 2012 GT-R, now with an extra 57bhp, as if it needed any more, gives a good base for what I can expect from the black beast.

A bit shaky from the face-pummelling 3.2 second 0-62mph launch control demonstration in the GTR, I slide into the Juke-R's bucket seat and get hooked up to the internal radio. Next to me is Jann Mardenborough, the 20-year old 2011 GT Academy champion who recently secured his first podium finish at the Dubai 24h endurance race. A quick prod of the engine start button and the engine fires into life, idling with the same deep thrum that the GT-R gives on tick over. It's noticeably louder even with a helmet on, owing to that stripped out back-to-basics cockpit.

We head out for the Nissan test track. A mini oval, it has two long straights and tight banked corners. Stamp on the gas and the Juke-R flings you back into your seat with the same ferocity as the GT-R, turbo lag no issue, whatsoever. Point, shoot and hold on is pretty much all the driving skill you need to pilot this black beast, and the speedo climbs relentlessly to 150mph on the straight before the huge brakes knock you back down to pedestrian speeds in an instant.

Once you tuck the front end in for a corner, the Juke-R feels as big as it looks and although it's much lower than a standard Juke chassis, the high centre of gravity stands out compared to its coupe cousin. Still, it stays flat and the 4WD setup keeps everything in check with that familiar technical precision so you can ride the savage acceleration immediately.

Now it's time for Jann to show me how the Juke-R can respond to a proper driver.

We storm up the banked left corner and keep wide, then it's hard on the brakes. The car feels nimble and light on its feet with a turn in as swift as a car half its size and weight, owing to a 350mm trim from the wheelbase. Straight on the power, the car is flat and stable even on a bumpy track that is covered in debris and ruts.

Nissan Juke-R and GT-R

Nissan Juke-R and GT-R

After a couple of laps we turn off and head for the slalom. Jann makes the big brute dance with wonderful precision inside the cones, drifting through the corners with little understeer and short stabs on the throttle for some grin-inducing opposite lock. Compared to my amateurish attempts earlier, any spectators would have thought I'd left the handbrake on.

Fully road legal, is it a shame will only ever be the two Juke-R models in the world? For any car enthusiast, of course it is. This is one ultra-special car that feels every bit as good as you hope it will. Nothing feels unfinished and there's a distinct attention to detail. But, if the Juke-R was put into production, it would be a direct rival to the faster, leaner, more comfortable GTR, and in choosing, there's still simply no contest.

Bu that's not the point. This crazy crossover isn't meant to be a competitor, it's meant to show that anything is technically possible, even making the most tame city car a muscular race car that can fluster a Ferrari.