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The Nissan Juke-R versus supercars

  1. My backside is in roughly the spot that you’d usually find a rear passenger’s shoes. Which means that from where I’m sitting - head buried behind B-pillar - I can’t see the Ferrari, Lamborghini and Merc idling rowdily beside me. Can’t see anything much at all, in fact. Except skyscrapers. Hope the other drivers realise my visual predicament. And don’t fully realise what they’re up against. Angry bursts of revs signal their readiness. I hold three fingers out of the window of Nissan’s diddiest SUV. I fold one in, then another…

    Words: Ollie Marriage

    Photos: Lee Brimble

    This article was first published in the February 2012 issue of Top Gear magazine

  2. The Juke-R is what happens when junior 4x4 and senior supercar get jiggy. Think of it as a cross-fertilisation programme in which GM crops and an agricultural laboratory have been substituted for non-GM cars and a professional racing outfit’s, uh, non-laboratory. The cut ‘n’ shut is broadly horizontal, the Juke’s top half plonked on the GT-R’s bottom. That sounds a straightforward operation, but, in reality, it’s anything but.

  3. A whopping 250mm had to be taken out of the GT-R’s driveshaft so all four wheels sit in the right place within the Juke’s more restricted wheelbase, the steering column had to be angled upwards and the suspension adjusted to counteract the weird new weight distribution. The cabin is a mishmash of both GT-R screen and switchgear blended to fit within the boundaries of the Juke’s dash and console.

  4. What you’re not going to be able to do is convince anyone that this is nothing more than a standard Juke. The mating process clearly hasn’t gone entirely smoothly, the Frankensteinian truth evident in the odd carpet-covered lumps and bumps in the floor, and it’s not like you’re going to fail to spot the roll cage, racing seats and harnesses…

  5. But enough of that, because what we have here is a 478bhp Nissan Juke. With paintwork that has the same effect on light as a black hole. I mean, just look at it as it sits there, radiating the cartoonish evil of a Batman baddy. The two-piece rear wing, the carbon-composite bumpers and sills, arch extensions that sit as tightly over the 20-inch wheels as a swimming cap. Amusingly malicious, that’s the Juke-R.

  6. And that’s how it makes you feel when you’re driving it. Amused. Malicious. Dubai has never seen anything like it. Which is saying something, given the cars as-candy culture that permeates the place.

    Think of Dubai’s automotive structure as a layer cake. The base is made up of workaday Japanese models of which the white (or beige, for taxis) Toyota Camry is the linchpin. Above it sits the SUV class: Nissan’s Patrol, plus European and American alternatives, from the Porsche Cayenne to the Lincoln Navigator. At the top are the strutting peacocks of the supercar class. Yes, you really do see a lot of Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis out here. Or, more accurately, you hear them - volleys of sound that echo back and forth, bouncing off the skyscrapers and making the downtown district sound like gangs of dinosaurs arguing over territorial rights.

  7. The Juke bestrides all three layers. It’s a small Nissan. It’s an SUV. It has a twin turbo V6. No wonder people are curious. Drivers on the Sheikh Zayed highway that forms the country’s backbone swerve to get a closer look, although they tend to swerve around a lot anyway, so maybe that’s not such a good indicator.

    The Juke-R is impervious to the driving happening around it tonight. This might be because, sat deep and low within it, I can’t see what’s going on. If I put one hand on top of the wheel, I feel like someone from a rap video. So the Juke-R cruises, engine humming busily, double-clutcher latched onto sixth, suspension sending jolts and pitches back through every component.

  8. Yep, in order to negate the effects of the extra height and shorter wheelbase, the GT-R’s suspension has been stiffened. Springs, dampers, even anti-roll bar have been torqued up, meaning the Juke-R rides like an iron beam.

    But that’s just fine, because it drives like a wrecking ball. Dense, heavy (to the tune of 1,806kg), squat, unstoppably determined. If you were to compare it to a real car, then it’s the BMW X6M, of which there are quite a few about out here, but really it’s so much better than that. Don’t get me wrong - it’s not as polished, and isn’t as talented around corners as its GT-R supercoupe sibling, but, hell, can it get places quickly.

  9. The rear wheels are so tucked up behind the fronts that all four seem to occupy the same piece of tarmac at the same time. Even in the tightest corners, both sets seem to sniff the exit simultaneously, so you plant the throttle, and in second it’ll merrily spin all four wheels as 433lb ft hits home. It doesn’t juggle the power as communicatively as a GT-R, and if you carry too much lock out of corners it will understeer, but judge it right and this stubby little battering ram rips off into the distance, tyres howling, exhaust trumpeting that hollow-throated roar.

  10. But how fast is it? What’s needed here is some context… what a polite way of phrasing what I have in mind. Which is to search out those prowling packs of supercars and find out where the Juke-R sits in the fast-car pecking order. You find them in pockets outside the glitziest towers, the smartest restaurants, the most infamous nightclubs, either still with people clustered around in the night-time air or yowling up and down the streets.

  11. It doesn’t take long for the Juke to draw a crowd. Nor does it take long for this knowledgeable audience to work out exactly what they’re looking at. They’re as intrigued as I am. Some are more than intrigued. They want to buy it. Right now. I am offered a seven-figure sum. Seven. Figures. And the first of them isn’t even a one. Or a two. I don’t have too many doubts that the bloke would be able to front up with the funds, either. Yep, that’s the sort of place Dubai is: the wealthy here aren’t snobbish… they have pretty open attitudes and love unique things. And there are only two Juke-Rs in existence.

  12. I don’t want to think about that, given that a trio of young supercar owners has just picked up my gauntlet. What’s more, I know somewhere we can go. Nissan, as keen as I am to find out what the Juke-R is capable of, has helped sort a location. Which is why, as dawn breaks, I find myself following a 458, Gallardo and SLS into Dubai Marina. From here on, it’s up to me, I feel utterly hollow inside and unable to back out.

  13. A course is decided. My spirits perk up. There isn’t much space to play with, and what we have is all 90° bends and short second-gear straights. The slippery surface will suit the Juke-R, too. The high is only brief. It suddenly strikes me that, powerful though the Nissan is, the other three all have in the region of 80bhp more and weigh considerably less. Using the only measurement devices handy, I work out the Juke-R is also the tallest by three bunched fists, shortest by two size nines.

    The start line beckons. I can’t believe they all want to run against me at the same time. I have no idea how handy they are - do I make a fast start and try to outrun them, or start slow and try to pick them off during the five laps? There’s only one approach worthy of the Juke-R - the no-holds-barred explosion to the first corner, a simultaneous demonstration of its attitude and traction.

  14. I fold my final digit…
    Blam. Not even the 4wd Gallardo can match the Juke-R’s explosive launch-controlled acceleration here. I doubt its brakes are as powerful, either. It dives and goes light at the back, but I’ve done them all into the first corner and, barring suicidal lunges, I can’t see where or how any of them are going to get back past me now.

  15. I sense the Lamborghini close behind me, glimpse it occasionally through the roll cage in the mirror. the Ferrari and Mercedes are gaining after their slower starts, but gaining on the Gallardo, not me. According to our man on the sidelines with a stopwatch, the Juke-R posts a lap of 29.2 seconds. the 458’s best is 29.5secs, and it never did get past the Lambo. the Juke wins fair and square. Nissan beats Ferrari. Wow. Initially, all I feel is relief that it’s over and we got away with it. Later, it’s what Nissan has created here that amuses and impresses. Which makes it even more of a shame that no more will ever be made. Unless you have several million pounds spare. In which case, it might be worth asking.

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