I like manufacturers with a sense of humour. And when the funny surprises come from the more sedate manufacturers it makes us – the enthusiasts – stand up take notice.
Nissan fits the bill perfectly here: a mainstream yet reserved manufacturer that every once in a while produces something wild and makes us smile and forget about all the curiously-styled electric cars and toaster-on-wheels minivans they offer. Granted, they’ve pretty much had us all with the Skyline, the Silvia and the Fairlady, but in recent years – aside from the range-topping GT-R – there hasn’t been much to really wow us.
I’ve often wondered why Nissan never takes the German approach to building cars. I mean, if you are going to develop a car like the GT-R, which is powered by one of the most epic force-induced V6 engines ever made, why not drop that engine into a few more cars in your line up? I’m not talking about making slightly massaged versions with a body kit and a louder exhaust over the stock car. No, I mean making more cars like this badass Juke-R.
This really hit home after I got the chance to drive this crazy little machine… albeit for only two minutes. It was a hot lap on a makeshift track, so I did get to put this interesting creation to the so-called test. Insane doesn’t even begin to describe what 485hp and all-wheel drive feels like in a compact package like the Juke. The whole idea seems so far fetched I’m surprised it actually materialised. There are rumours that Nissan’s execs didn’t even know that Nissan Europe commissioned the RML Group in the UK to build the Juke-R – nor was anyone expecting such great feedback from the project. But I guess when you step away from the norm and do something crazy, people take notice.
Walking around the Juke-R you can’t help but approach it all with a smile on your face. It seems almost cute that they chose this platform for the project, but believe me this is one very serious piece of hardware executed with the highest level of knowhow. The approach was pretty simple – spawn a car that would embody the mechanical equivalent of a GT-R having a wild night with a compact crossover. There are many details that point to the fact that this is as far from a stock Juke – like the R35 NACA ducts on the bonnet.
The track is identical to the R35 – the GT-R’s front and rear subframes and ancillaries being transferred right over to the Juke. Obviously a lot of cutting, welding and fabricating was needed to shoehorn everything in place, mated to slightly stiffer R35 suspension set a little lower than it is in the GT-R. That’s due to the fact that the Juke is a much taller vehicle, hence requiring a little rethink on the whole roll center and overall balance of the finished car.
Along with the oily bits the R35’s Brembo brakes and 20-inch wheels were also part of the swap, as were the sticky Bridgestone Potenza tyres that help generate that impressive amount of mechanical grip that the GT-R is renowned for.
The Juke-R’s stance is brutal; the composite wheel arch extensions just managing to envelop the wider track and wheel combination.
Along with the front bumper, RML also designed and produced a whole new rear bumper which has a functional diffuser integrated into its lower section to give the Juke-R a purposeful appearance. The best touch of all has to be the exhausts though – not only for the way they exit from the corners of the bumpers, but how they are presented within carbon fiber outlets to shield the surrounding plastic front the generated heat.
According to the official specification, the Juke-R can accelerate form 0 to 60mph in 3.7 seconds and go onto a top speed of 160mph. That said, aerodynamic additions were needed at the rear to ensure enough downforce to keep the car planted at speed.
The split roof spoilers do the job rather well, but aside from that the rest of the bulky body isn’t much good at anything except developing a hell of a lot of drag. If it was a little more slippery that manufacturer claimed top speed would be a little higher. But who cares when the car is this much fun!A Ballistic 485hp
This particular version of the Juke-R was one of the first to be built back in 2011. It was initially just a bit of technical and marketing exercise, but with Nissan getting some interest from potential customers they actually built a few more in 2013. Rumoured to have sold for US$600,000 apiece, they were powered by the more powerful version of the VR38DETT that was used in the 2013 GT-R.
The VR38 is a pretty compact engine, but when it needed to get positioned into the Juke’s somewhat small bay, some outside-of-the-box thinking was needed. As you can see here, more than half of the engine is positioned behind where the stock firewall would usually be. RML had to take the angle grinders out to cut away most of the steel bulkhead and floor, and re-fabricate everything back around the engine and driveline.
It’s one hell of an exercise in packaging and it’s quite surprising to see that they’ve managed to fit everything in there – including the stock R35 radiator overflow tank and the bulky air boxes.
The six-speed GR6 twin-clutch gearbox sits in its transaxle position right between the two rear wheels – the only real modification having been a shortened propeller shaft to fit within the reduced wheelbase.Packaging Masterpiece
The idea was to create a true road going super-crossover and that’s why no corners were cut in the interior too. Swing open the Juke-R’s door and you are presented with a hybrid cabin that mixes up the stock Juke dashboard and transmission tunnel with R35 GT-R components and some racing mods.
This looks familiar!
One of the coolest things about the R35 is the Multi Function Display screen, which along with the car’s setup menus displays parameters and read outs from the engine and drivetrain. It’s been grafted into the top part of the center console along with the rotary dial and auxiliary buttons.
The Juke-R comes with fully functioning A/C, so again we have the R35’s controls right below the screen as well as the three toggle switches for the transmission, suspension and traction/stability control. They even incorporated the GT-R’s shift gate and lever!
The final touch is the GT-R steering wheel, which comes with those magnesium alloy shifter paddles that actuate the transmission once the main lever is moved into the manual position.
Seeing this car was built for serious track driving and for scaring anyone daring enough to jump in for a passenger ride, safety was a rather big concern. To address this RML fitted carbon fiber Sabelt seats mated to Schroth harnesses, and an FIA-specification rollcage.
Here’s a better look at those lovely carbon buckets. They’re quite a tight squeeze, but perfect when pushing the Juke-R to its limits.
As for the rear seats… well, what rear seats? That’s right – the Juke-R is strictly a two-seater, the higher floor needed to fit all those wonderful driveline components making it impossible to have the stock bench at the back. Still, aside from the various rollcage pipes criss-crossing the cabin there’s still quite a lot of accessible volume might you want to take your Juke-R for a spot of shopping.
If Nissan was a little more liberal with its product planning – more German-like if you will – we might be seeing the VR38 fitted to a variety of cars like the Fuga (Infiniti Q70), the Infiniti QX70 (the FX to you and me), or heck – even the Fairlady Z (370Z). If the Q50 Eau Rouge is anything to go by, it seems that they might be getting the point though. I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love to see Nissan come up with a worthy competitor to go up against the BMW M5, E63 AMG and the Audi RS6.
Maybe if Nissan take the plunge the Juke-R will be seen as the car that started it all? If you want to find out more about the whole development of this cute little supercar-slaying crossover Nissan have a series of videos for you to look at. Just follow the links at the end of each one to skip to the next part.
In the meantime we can only hope that more manufacturers follow suit and create more halo cars to keep us die-hard fans entertained. After all, we all know that it’s stunts like this that can make or break a brand…
Dino Dalle Carbonare