There’s a lot of waffle and bunk on the internet surrounding the Nissan Juke-R. For example, there’s a rumour that the bigwigs at Nissan HQ knew nothing about the concept and weren’t best pleased when news of its existence emerged from Europe. I suspect the story is the stuff of internet legend, but I rather hope that parts of it are true.
There’s something delightfully old school about the story. I have visions of a couple of chaps meeting in the bar after a work and, following a few of pints of Old Thumper, somebody makes the point that “we’re not using the GT-R enough”. A direct quote from Nissan.
Ordinarily, some fanciful thoughts about a super Micra might be banded about. Remember the Micra 350SR? Or perhaps someone may suggest a bonkers Pixo. If there’s a designer at the bar, there may even be some sketches made on the back of a beer mat. But it wouldn’t be long until the conversation moved on to last night’s television or who should be the next manager of the England football team.
Sometimes however, ideas get further than the bar at the Rose & Crown. Sometimes, thanks to the ingenuity and tenacity of certain individuals, ideas do make it past the hangover stage. One idea is the Nissan Juke-R and, like it or not, as a petrolhead you should be mighty pleased it exists.
But as a petrolhead, you’ll probably know all there is to know about the Juke-R. The PR machine has been on overdrive for the past few months and the social networks have been awash with teaser photos, headlines and stats. For a car that almost certainly won’t see production, it’s been a formidable effort. The 4.6 million YouTube views and 37,000 Facebook fans say it all.
Actually, that’s a lie. It’s the Juke-R’s headlines that say it all. 480bhp. 3.8 litre twin turbo V6. Four-wheel drive. Six-speed transaxle. 20″ RAYS forged alloys. This is no ordinary Nissan Juke.
Only two exist, one is a left hooker and the other is right hand drive. They’re promotional vehicles of course and one was used as the official pace car at the Dubai 24 hours last month. You can also bet your bottom dollar that one will be charging up the Goodwood Hill in July.
Why is the Juke-R of interest to PetrolBlog? Well, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, I was invited to Nissan’s Technical Centre Europe (NTC-E) in Cranfield last year to take a look at the car for myself. I’m not sure a priceless 480bhp concept car is typical PetrolBlog fodder, but then we do champion the ‘interesting, obscure and mundane’. The Juke-R can claim at least two of these.
To be frank, I wasn’t that enamoured with the look of the Juke-R when the teaser shots starting appearing on twitter. But then, the standard Juke has the kind of looks that only a mother could love. This isn’t necessary a bad thing, because in my book it’s better for a car’s design to create any kind of response than none at all. I might draw a line at the Pontiac Aztek or Ssangyong Rodius though.
The Juke-R is genuinely awesome in the metal – it wouldn’t look out of place in Gotham City. Its wide arches, wild curves, black paint and sticky-out bits give it a menacing, almost sinister look. If you see a Juke-R in your rear view mirror, you won’t so much move over to let it pass, as to pray for your life. It’s like nothing else on the road.
But despite all of this, a key part of the Juke-R’s development brief was to retain the standard Juke’s identity. No really, it was. As the project director, Thomas Deloison said to me, “we want this thing to be able to go to Tesco”. In fact, Thomas was more specific than this, claiming that he wanted his “granny to be able to buy a croissant in it”.
And she could, just so long as she’s able to climb across the roll cage that greets you when you open the driver’s door. Which is unlikely, so perhaps Thomas’s granny would prefer to be chauffeured around in the back. Again, difficult, because although the Juke-R keeps the rear doors, they’re no longer functional. I guess Thomas’s granny would be better off ordering her groceries online.
Aside from the OMP racing seats and roll cage, the rest of the Juke-R’s interior remains faithful to the standard Juke’s motorbike inspired layout. Apparently the biggest challenge involved keeping the original centre console whilst housing the four-wheel drive components.
On the outside, the design is led by function rather than form. The huge arches house the equally huge 20″ alloy wheels, GT-R brakes and suspension. The rear is dominated by the new bumper which is home to the twin exhausts, whilst the (functional) roof spoiler is split in two to allow for the high level brake light. Details such as this stay true to the original ‘Tesco’ brief. Just as well this thing is taxed then.
If the Juke-R is impressive, then the time it took to create it is nothing short of a miracle. From brief to finished product, the Juke-R was created in just 22 weeks. In a country where it normally takes months of consultation and weeks of focus groups to decide whether or not to fill in a pothole, this is unbelievable. There was no room for manouevre on this schedule either. The team at RML, led by the engaging Chris Horton, were told that “it had to be done”. But then Chris and RML have a strong track record of similar projects. The Micra 350SR was their work, as were the works-backed Nissan Primeras from the British Touring Car Championship in 1998 and 1999.
I asked Chris how the process works on project like this. I mean where do you start with such a left field brief? Well, Chris told me the first step is to take a deep breath. He then breaks the project down into manageable chunks which then allows him to make projections on the skills and time required to complete the project. According to Chris, this is based on “experience and guesswork”. Although I’m sure he didn’t use the latter in his response to Nissan.
Chris is rather modest and to a certain extent, looks to downplay the amount of effort that went into creating the monster, but face it, the Juke-R represents a triumph of design and engineering. When the CAD data suggested that a GT-R based Juke-R could be achieved, the guys at RML got to work. A test mule was created by sacrificing a GT-R in order to replicate the Juke’s shorter wheelbase. Once it was clear that the suspension and chassis could cope with the V6 engine, Nissan delivered a pair of Jukes and a couple of GT-Rs to RML. At this point it would be nice to say that no Jukes or GT-Rs were harmed in the making of the Juke-Rs, but that wouldn’t be true. Some serious cutting and shutting was involved.
Chris and Thomas both suggested that many early mornings and late nights were involved during the 22 week build. Thomas remembered a time when he was signing off spec sheets on his phone whilst sat on a beach during a holiday with his girlfriend. I get then impression that his girlfriend wasn’t best pleased. I’m guessing there were quite a few ‘Juke-R widows’ created over the five and a half months project.
Talking to Chris and Thomas, two of the key figures involved with the Juke-R, was a revelation. Their passion and enthusiasm for the project really shone through. It’s only when you get the opportunity to talk to these chaps face-to-face that you realise that they’re just petrolheads like you and me. Thomas owns a 240Z that is currently garaged in Switzerland, whilst Chris spends his time at the wheel of a Fiat Panda 100HP or a Lotus Exige. The old cliché of built by enthusiasts, for enthusiasts has never been so apt. Petrolheads of the world can sleep well in the knowledge that automotive engineering is in safe hands.
Well clearly this is a halo product for the brand. It’s an attempt to leverage the perceived awesomeness of the GT-R and spread some of its magic throughout the range. Nissan would be mad not to take advantage of the car’s reputation and look to identify if there’s an appetite for more exciting products. The generally positive reaction to the Juke-R will give Nissan Motorsport (Nismo) more confidence to push forward with the likes of the tuned Juke unveiled at the Tokyo motor show at the end of last year.
In fact, Nissan Motorsport is looking to embark on global expansion plan. Until now, outside of Japan, Nismo hasn’t really registered on the radar of anyone other than video gamers. With Honda seemingly forgetting what exciting means and Toyota only just emerging from the doldrums with the GT86, Nissan has an opportunity to win the hearts of petrolheads everywhere. A Pulsar GTI-R for the new millennium would do me rather nicely, thank you.
Until then, we should celebrate the Juke-R. If you don’t like the standard Juke, then it’s not going to change your mind. And you’ve got a snowball in hell’s chance of ever driving one. But none of this matters. Because in 22 weeks, Nissan and RML were capable of building a crossover that can accelerate to 62mph in 3.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of 160mph. And now we have to hope that the passion and enthusiasm for the Juke-R fliters down into the rest of the Nissan range.
A new Micra 350SR perhaps? Start the petition now…
Footnote – following the visit to see the Juke-R, I was treated to a brief stint in the GT-R at Silverstone. A small course was set up and we were up against the clock. With fellow bloggers from around Europe, PetrolBlog flew the flag for Britain and surprisingly came home second (see table above). Nice.