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First drive: 600bhp Nissan Juke-R 2.0

Nissan transplants GT-R organs into its small crossover. Sam Philip clings on

Published: 30 Jul 2015

What’s this, then?

It’s a rhino attempting to sneak into a daschunds-only cocktail party by donning a pair of floppy ears, and pretending to like sausages.

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Rubbish at disguise?

Exactly. Though the Juke-R might share a name and (at least some of) a silhouette with Nissan’s smallest SUV, this is the flimsiest of camouflages for what is, below the surface, a snorting, savage supercar.

Peel back the Juke-R’s matte-black bodywork and, below the surface, you’ll find a Nissan GT-R: monster twin-turbo V6, trick four-wheel drive, double-clutch gearbox and all.

Haven’t I seen this before?

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You have. Nissan revealed its original Juke R prototype back in 2012, hailing it ‘the world’s first crossover supercar’. Subsequently – and perhaps foolishly – they let us have a punt in it.

So what’s new about this one?

Clearly Nissan decided the 485bhp output – and 3.7-second 0-62mph time – of the original Juke-R was woefully inadequate, and liable to see you embarrassed at the traffic lights by, say, an enthusiastically driven Fiat 500X.

So Juke-R 2.0 makes a nice round 600bhp – not, in fact, by employing the Nismo GT-R’s engine, but rather a remapped version of the 2012 GT-R’s powerplant.

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That means a 0-60mph run of something like three seconds flat, with a top speed of – well, no one’s put the Juke-R on a long enough runway to yet find out. Sufficient, it’s safe to say.

Anything else new?

The 2015 Juke-R gets a host of fresh carbon fibre bodywork – check out the square-jawed new front bumper – said to bring it visually in line with the recently facelifted Juke. If you squint, maybe.

Your passenger won’t be fooled. Where you’d find the rear seats on a normal Juke lurks instead a cobweb of scaffolding designed to stop the poor little crossover doing its best fusilli pasta impression when you mash the throttle.

There are, admittedly, a few more concessions to comfort in the cabin than before, most notably a smart set of Recaro bucket seats complete with four-point harnesses. The centre console – complete with dizzying array of read-outs and switchgear – is transplanted straight from the GT-R.

So how is it to drive?

Daft. Let’s be honest, very few people have ever driven a GT-R, only to think: ‘Know what would make this better? If it was shorter. And taller. And looked a bit like a Juke.’

Similarly few Juke buyers, TG suspects, have ever spent a few weeks with their new car, only to think: ‘Know what would make this better? Another 500bhp. And bucket seats.’

Frankly, who cares? The Juke-R may answer no question any rational human has ever asked, but it’s magnificent nonetheless.

And rapid, too. Comically fast, in fact. That three-second 0-60mph claim is utterly believable: bury the accelerator and the turbo V6 fills its lungs, the Juke-R rearing on its springs before exploding down the track with the sort of pace generally confined to top-tier supercars.

In many ways it feels, unsurprisingly, like the GT-R upon which it’s based. The Juke-R has the same broad, savage power delivery, the same uncanny ability to chuck power to the axle, and even wheel, that can best use it.

But in other ways it feels rather different. Sillier. With a shorter wheelbase than the GT-R – Nissan chopped down the donor platform and shortened the propshaft – and higher centre of gravity, it’s more squirmy both under braking and in the corners, wiggling and pitching when you get hamfisted with the steering or hamfooted with the brakes.

If that sounds a bit… puckering, it really isn’t. The Juke-R, on track at least, is a big barrel of fun, a GT-R rendered in Hanna Barbera cartoon form.

Where the standard Godzilla can sometimes leave the driver a little in dark as far as the physics is concerned, the Juke-R lets you know everything that’s going on: exactly where the weight’s being transferred, exactly how far beyond the correct braking point you’ve gone.

It’s  perspiration-inducing in more ways than one. Nissan had to disconnect the Juke’s HVAC system, which, in combination with a healthy amount of heat-soak from the big V6 up front, makes for sweaty progress on a warm day on track.

Can I buy one?

If you’ve got the cash, yes. The Juke-R we tested was strictly a prototype, with no official production run planned.

But Nissan built two customer versions of the last Juke R – both, reportedly, for the same punter, and costing, reportedly, something in the region of half a million pounds apiece – and says it’ll do the same with Juke-R 2.0 for any broadminded buyer with a sufficiently plump wallet.

Half a million quid or thereabouts for a small, silly crossover is clearly a large, silly amount of money. But in this era of bespoke, individuality is all for the world’s billionaire petrolheads. And they don’t come much more individual than the Juke-R…

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