First Drives

19 January 2012

The 485bhp Nissan Juke-R: driven

We've finally had a go in the one-off, GT-R engined beast.

Matthew Jones
Car image



If anyone whinges that the car industry's lacking a sense of humour, print out the next sentence, roll it up tightly and hit them in the face with it. Nissan has built two street-legal GT-R-powered Juke concepts.

But there's a good chance you already know that - for the last few months, Nissan's been trickle-feeding the internet with tantalising videos of a hollowed Juke shell being offered the fun bits of a four-wheel drive, 485bhp GT-R. You'll also know that the collision between supercar and lifestyley shopping cart's been an extensive one, carried out in just 22 weeks by race engineers, RML.

But has the online saturation diluted its impact in real life? Categorically, wholly not. If anything, the visual pheromones are stronger because you get to see, in full measure, the realisation of such a ludicrous brief. Michael Mallock, the man in charge of the project at RML, says: “As well as fitting up the Juke with GT-R technology, we built it so your granny could drive it to the shops.”

So long as she could feed her limbs through the roll cage, she really could. There's no convoluted starting procedure to master; you open the door, survey a fully carpeted cabin, sit in your bucket seat and press the big, red START button.

The dashboard and instrumentation are just as incongruous. It’s not the grim patchwork of toggle switches and gaffer tape you’d expect – inside, it looks standard. The GT-R’s touchscreen driver interface (the one with the g meter), dials, gear level and steering wheel (with working paddleshift) have all been gently massaged alongside the standard switchgear.

The only obvious change is the front seat. It’s noticeably further back because the bulkhead’s been moved to accommodate the engine, pushing the dash 100mm deeper into the cabin. The rear seats have disappeared altogether to make room for the massive GT-R drivetrain.

Outside might not quite be to granny’s taste, though. The muscly body kit's been built from carbonfibre-like composite, and it’s not just for show. The perforated bumper helps with cooling, and allows the GT-R’s entire – and considerable - radiator and intercooler setup to slot in. It’s also bonded to the shell with the same glue that F1 chassis are built with. Tasty.

But this is Jukezilla – the questions you want answered are the performance ones, right? So, is it fast? God yes. It gets to 100kph in 3.7 seconds. THREE POINT SEVEN. That’s 0.6 seconds quicker than an Aston DBS. But it’s not as quick as a GT-R – the Juke-R is 76kgs heavier than its donor because of the full Motorsport Association-spec roll cage and extensively tinkered floor pan.

3.7 seconds is still astonishingly quick, though. Ferrari 458 Italia quick. And it feels it. But in a very un-GT-Ry way. It’s utterly, utterly savage. With the throttle pinned all four wheels skitter forward with such force it feels like they’re trying to run away from the bodywork, which lifts up the whole shell several terrifying inches. Then, when you change gear, it dips momentarily while the double-clutch ‘box arranges a taller ratio, continues to charge in much the same startling vein.

Slowing down’s similarly distressing. Underneath, it’s got the same massive 380mm ventilated and cross-drilled brake package you’d find on a 2011 GT-R, which is capable of removing your buttocks entirely clear of the seat. It does writhe a bit when you’re this heavy with them, though, which isn’t terribly reassuring.

But it’s the cornering that’s really interesting. Considering the GT-R wheelbase has been abbreviated by 250mm, and that the Juke's got a far taller centre of gravity, you'd imagine there'd be all sorts of interesting handling maladies. But it turns in wide-eyed and enthusiastically - stiffer anti-roll bars, dampers and springs take care of body roll, and torque-vectoring tech's been borrowed from the donor should ambition surpass ability.

That said, it’s a little understeery (though Mallock assures us that it’s been dialled in “so everyone can drive it” after testing at MIRA), but the huge track and wheels (9.5-inch front and 10.5-inch rear) help gather things up quickly.

But you can forgive it on grounds of sheer preposterousness. And that it’ll never see production – they’re just concepts, remember. As a whole car – and engineering feat – it’s spectacular. Save for a slightly crumpled headlining, fit and finish is factory standard and the drive’s infinitely better than you’d expect from a one-off (well, two-off) hand-built prototype. As well as blowing away the seen-it-all cobwebs, it demonstrates that, despite economic turbulence, some car manufacturers are still game for a slightly maniacal laugh.

Tags: juke, gt r, nissan, juke r

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