When Godzilla gets Juke'd
Quick Spin: Nissan Juke-R
Have you ever seen “that couple” — the short, rotund Geek Squad individual and the Olympic beach volleyball player walking hand in hand? A similarly weird aura surrounds the incredibly unnecessary yet blissfully real 545 horsepower Nissan Juke-R ($665,000). Few people ever imagined a mini-sport ute and one of the best supercars in the world merging as a matte black, bionic Frankenstein monster, but that didn’t stop Nissan from bringing the creation to life.
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The Juke-R is clearly a skunkworks birth gone right. Built under the radar (even to Nissan execs) by Nissan Europe and Britain-based Ray Mallock Limited (RML) Group, the Juke R’s cover was blown when videos were posted on the web, much to the pleasure of Dubai’s millionaires, who offered cash on the spot for this concept car at the Dubai Motor Show in 2010. Nissan took the hint and green lighted a limited production run to the tune of around $665,000 a pop. Recently Nissan held an event with their global lineup along with full offerings from Infiniti and Datsun (they’re back… in India) and we got seat time in one of the rarest production automobiles in the world.
What do you get when you cross a bug-eyed and overstyled cross-over with a supercar? The punchline to this joke looks like a badass makeover styled by Batman and Snake Eyes. The 1.6-liter engine was tossed in a burning heap along with a large portion of the interior, the original flooring and most traces of convention. Nissan replaced said parts with the GT-R’s 3.8-liter twin turbo good for 485 horsepower delivered to all four wheels at once from the six-speed dual clutch transmission. The steering wheel, shifter knob, gauges and a few other pieces are directly lifted from Godzilla (the GT-R’s nickname), as is, quite surprisingly, the chassis. The limited production car now boasts 545 horses. Aww yeah.
Yes, it was only one lap, but wouldn’t you take “only one” date with Candice Swanepoel versus no chance in hell?
Climbing into this matte black four-wheeled bicep on the tarmac of an old Marine base in Southern California, I noticed the stripped-out interior left room for a roll cage, which felt simultaneously reassuring and disconcerting. If someone blindfolded you and dropped (crammed) you in the driver’s seat, you’d more likely think it was a GT-R that had been raised and shortened than a Juke that went to bootcamp. Either way, it started up with a roar and throaty burble, a sound made even better due to an exhaust that feels a few feet closer to the driver’s seat than in the original incarnation. Helmet check, radio check, and we were off — I say we because Nissan dare not trust this machine to anyone driving solo on the performance track.
The Juke-R blistered the straights, sure, but tap the Brembo brakes before a long corner and this AWD, squatted toy maintains a surprising amount of grip. A chicane, another sweeping turn and down the home stretch; it ended all too quickly. That’s what you get when it only takes 2.8 seconds to get to 60 mph. Yes, it was only one lap, but wouldn’t you take “only one” date with Candice Swanepoel versus no chance in hell? Exactly.
Unfortunately, even if you have the means to purchase this entirely unnecessary vehicle, you can’t if you live in America. The 23 Juke-Rs set to be built will exist outside the red, white and blue; as a meager consolation prize Nissan has given us the Juke NISMO ($23,000) which comes with a tuned engine, suspension, special wheels and all-wheel-drive. Sure, it’s got 348 horsepower less than the R, but it costs about what you’d spend in fuel for one year in the mini rocket, and you get to keep your U.S. citizenship.
The Juke-R symbolizes the best of two worlds — where a small team custom builds a balls-to-the wall car that’s pulled from someone’s dark nightmare and then gets the support of the mothership. It gives us hope that cars like the Juke-R have a future in the automotive realm. It helps that the execution of said car is nothing short of incredible, especially when it can haul groceries and embarrass unsuspecting supercars at the same time. The only thing that outdoes the Juke-R’s performance is its hyper-rarity and its ability to confound people. Did you say you own a $665K Nissan?