Skunkworks special: Nissan Juke R


Nissan Juke R

Today's installment of our skunkworks special involves something rather special. The Nissan Juke R has become the stuff of legend, being a crossover that can shame the highest echelons of the supercar elite. James Baggott was the lucky man to take to the wheel of this super rare school-run monster, and here he explains the birth of Nissan's most outrageous car to date.

As skunkworks projects go, there aren't many that have been quite as successful as Nissan's Juke R.

Cooked up by a team of executives desperate for an idea to hammer home their new baby crossover's sporting credentials, the stunt not only achieved thousands of column inches but even spawned the most expensive road car Nissan has ever sold.

No one at Nissan knew just how successful the project would be when one bright spark came up with the idea of shoehorning a Lamborghini-slaying GT-R's engine and powertrain into the little Juke. In fact the car's success is still surprising the team behind the project, even now.

Darren Cox was the Juke's chief marketing manager at the time and was tasked with making one man's Friday-afternoon brainwave a reality.

"We always knew the Juke was going to be sporty, but we needed to get that message across to buyers," he explained. "We also knew that the Nismo range would be coming along during the Juke's lifecycle and needed to introduce the idea of a sporty crossover to the public, so it wasn't a shock when it arrived.

"When Vauxhall made the Zafira VXR it was panned by the press because they didn't understand the need for it – the last thing we wanted was for that to happen to the Juke too."

Cox explained that building the Juke Rs – Nissan made one left- and one right-hand drive – was time consuming (around 14,000 man hours), but not as complicated as they feared.

The team behind the project first thought about placing an engine from a Z car – like the Micra 350SR project we've also featured – and making it rear-wheel drive for drifting. But that plan was ruled out.

When the decision was made to go with a GT-R set-up the team first tried to elongate a Juke shell to fit the larger GT-R platform. However this distorted the looks too far from the road car which wasn't ideal, so the team went back to the drawing board.

Eventually the engineers at race team RML – bussed in to make the cars a reality – worked on cutting down the powertrain to fit the Juke body. The prop shaft was shortened and the bulkhead moved closer to the driver so the 3.8-litre V6 twin turbo engine would fit.

The results were incredible. The four-wheel drive system from the GT-R remained in place giving the Juke awesome grip and the lightweight matt black monster could hit 160mph and crack 60mph in just 3.8 seconds. That's what 485bhp does for you.

Nissan Juke R

Nissan Juke R

"We launched the car in Dubai and the press attention it got was incredible," added Cox. "We raced it against a load of supercars for a video and that went viral. In terms of value for money the project has given us – so far – a return on investment of 11 to one. And it's ongoing - the car has just toured America and Russia, and Australia wants it next." Rumoured build cost for the cars was £250,000 each and that's despite many of the bits coming from the parts bin.

Cox explained the Jukes used were pre-production models they couldn't sell and the GT-R mechanicals were left over from other projects. "It was a very frugal project and has been a huge success for Nissan as a brand, not just for the Juke," said Cox.

The fact Nissan has sold three road cars off the back of it – at a cost of £460,000 each – comes as somewhat of a bonus.

When the car was in Dubai, a wealthy sheik offered £3m for the car on display – and it was that ridiculous offer that saw the manufacturer decide to put it into low-volume production.

So impressed with the results was that particular buyer that he bought two.

There's no doubt the Juke R project has been a roaring success for Nissan, so what's on the cards next? "Nissan is all about innovation, so I doubt we'll do something the same with another model – but you'll just have to wait and see," said Cox.

If the results are anywhere near as exciting as the Juke R, we can't wait to see it.

Click play below to see the Juke R in action against superbike legend John Reynolds on a Suzuki GSX-R1000.


Model: Nissan Juke R
Price: £460,000
Engine: 3.8-litre, V6, twin turbo
Power: 485bhp, 588Nm
Max speed: 160mph
0-60mph: 3.8 seconds