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Nissan Juke-R 2.0 review
You might remember that at last year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, former bicycle helmsmith Hoy had a small spot of bother at a corner called Molecomb, while driving a Nissan GT-R Nismo.
Road test editor
Given ideal conditions, its engineers reckon this is a 3.0sec car to 60mph, down from 3.7sec before
Rumour had it that the 591bhp V6 engine had been rescued from the deformed GT-R and put into the Juke-shaped car you see here, the fast and faintly ridiculous Juke-R 2.0. But, no; to ruin a good yarn, that’s not the case.
Apparently the V6 still rests in Sir Chris’s ex-car which itself remains in broken form in a garage where it is slowly being bastardised to fix other GT-R Nismos because parts are otherwise rare and take a long time to arrive from Japan.
So this revised Juke-R, then, is an evolution of what came before, rather than the recipient of an engine transplant. When it was launched in 2012 the original Juke-R was a mechanically sound but aesthetically – particularly on the inside – functional concept, aimed at bringing some perceived sportiness (and actual bonkersness) to Nissan’s Juke range.
It was prepared by race and engineering specialist Ray Mallock Ltd (RML), to which two Jukes and three GT-Rs were given. The first-gen Juke-R had a 485bhp V6 under the bonnet, the 250mm-shortened drivetrain of a GT-R beneath the skin, a rollcage to add valuable body stiffness and various bits either cut away or, conversely, welded into place.
RML built two of them – the better finished of which did the media rounds – and was going to leave it at that. Then a couple of people said they’d like to buy one, but Nissan’s warranty and servicing and parts departments said that would be silly.
How would you give a three-year warranty or guarantee parts availability and support for 10 years? Well, you can’t, but these customers don’t care, you see. So a few internal rules were bent and three customer cars were built, at an undisclosed price of more than £300,000 a pop.
But since then both the regular Juke and the GT-R have moved on, so the Juke-R has moved on with them. The 2.0 moniker is particularly apt: think of this as you would an app update rather than a new version, because it is, whisper it, actually the same car we drove in 2012.
But there are differences beyond the increased power output. Exterior changes mean that this Juke now apes the Juke’s latest look – the side repeaters are in the mirrors, not the wing, for example.
It also has sculpted side skirts, the lights are new and there’s a rear wing, as on the Juke Nismo. There’s a new carbonfibre diffuser on the rear underfloor, while a new bumper sits at the front and adds a greater cooling capacity, because the power hike demands it. And the wheels are a different design.
Inside there are a few alterations. The first Juke-R was a little raucous from within so this one now has decent carpets and slightly more conventionally finished seats. Does it feel just like a Juke inside? It does, so long as you ignore the massive roll cage, the fact that the dashboard is pure GT-R and that you’re clamped tightly in what are still, basically, racing seats, by a four-point harness.
Oh, and that the rear of the cabin is all structural tubes. So yes, sure, it’s just like a regular Juke. You also sit relatively high, with non-adjustable seat backs holding you upright, but still the steering wheel doesn’t reach that close.
The engine, rather than donated by Hoy, is still the one from the first car, but has been uprated to the latest Nismo specification, making 591bhp rather than the 485bhp of the first time around. It drives through the same driveline, too, a six-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox with four-wheel drive.
An additional 106bhp should make the Juke R 2.0 feel much quicker than its predecessor, but a three-year gap between drives rather numbs those impressions. I thought v1.0 felt crackers fast, and so does v2.0. RML has done a two-up 0-60mph run and timed it at 3.3sec, so yes, it’s quick.
Given ideal conditions, its engineers reckon this is a 3.0sec car to 60mph, down from 3.7sec before. Throttle response is also exceptional for a twin-turbo unit – better, in fact, than the road-going GT-R Nismo’s.
The rest of the driving characteristics have been left unchanged, which is no bad thing at all. The steering is terrifically communicative, the gearshift is fast and the brakes have superb feel and stopping power. And when it comes to handling the Juke-R is a complete hoot.
It retains quite a lot of the grip of a GT-R, but while some of the outright ability and composure have been lost to bigger body movements because it’s taller, shorter and a touch heavier than a GT-R, what the Juke-R is superb at is telegraphing what it’s doing to its driver.
Drive fairly smoothly and most of what it’s doing is nudging into understeer that, if you push through it on the throttle, will meld into mild oversteer on the way out of a corner. But if you keep the brakes applied during turn-in and give it a bit of a bung, the Juke R’s nose fairly darts into a corner thanks to the short wheelbase.
That’ll unsettle the rear of the car at the same time, from where plenty of power will eventually pull the Juke straight after a brief spell going sideways. From that perspective it is very stable and forgiving, like a GT-R. It’s just that the body movements and the ability to pitch it sideways are exaggerated.
I suppose the chances are that, if you really wanted to buy one, you’d have done it the first time around. But if you were thinking that you’d hold out for the near-600bhp version then, well, now’s your chance.
The Nissan Juke-R 2.0 is pretty much a caricature of its more serious GT-R self, and a car that feels as ludicrous now as it did three years ago. The big difference is that, this time, we know should you really want them to, they’ll build you one. If I had the wherewithal I think I’d ask them to.