Thursday, 10 May 2012

Nissan Juke-R Is A Dream Forza Drivetrain Swap Made Real

I believe the term is "ugly but effective". At least it has presence...
Normally, I do not care about Dubai (or other Arab Emirates therein). I used to get green reading about 21-year-olds with 21 supercars and be irritated by the fact that their obscene amounts of money allowed them to just casually break records for man-made objects (biggest artificial island, tallest building, dullest Grand Prix circuit, etc.), but much like crossover SUVs, prestige SUVs and increasingly ridiculous BMW niche variants, I've recently got to the point where I'm so worn down by it that I just don't have the energy to moan about it any more. So when I read about something preposterous being made in that soulless money pit in the Arab desert, or that BMW is considering an X7 crossover, I just think "Y'know what? Go for it. Just go nuts. I won't be surprised, and I won't care either". However, sometimes things pop up that prevent me from losing the will to live, such as this, the Nissan Juke-R, which thanks to some exceedingly rich oil sheiks in the land of the sand, is now going to be built officially by Nissan. Briefly.

When Nissan UK underwent a secret project to make a special one-off of the controversially-styled Juke crossover that featured the entire drivetrain from the GT-R supercar-killer. They have a history of this kind of thing, with a supercharged 350Z and a mid-engined NISMO Micra V6 being highlights, and when Nissan's bosses saw it unveiled in all its matte black, 480bhp glory, they were furious and mightily unimpressed, because they had no idea it existed and thought it cheapened the GT-R while being something they never wanted to do with the Juke (i.e. make a high-riding pretend off-roader into a sports car). I think of it like the brilliant modification option in Forza Motorsport games called "Drivetrain Swap", where you can, for example, put the AWD and RB26DETT from an R34 GT-R into an Infiniti G35, or a Datsun 510. You can even put a GM LS1 V8 from a Corvette into a Chevy Aveo if you want. Anyway, this is basically such a modification made real, and you have to say, in concept, it's just awesome.

Of course, you can't just toss a 3.8-litre Twin-Turbo V6 in a car designed for small four-pot engines and expect it to all work out, so extensive work was carried out on two Jukes (one LHD, one RHD) to make room and - very importantly - stiffen things up to cope with 480bhp and 434lb/ft of torque, not to mention the AWD system and immense brakes which also carried over from Godzilla. I wonder if the finished product is any lighter than a normal GT-R, or if the extra strengthening beams and other things have weighted it down? One thing's for sure, with a quoted top speed of "only" 160mph, the much higher drag coefficient has affected its top speed. It might even be limited to 160mph because after that it gets unstable and dangerous. Well, it's not exactly sleek, is it? In fact, some will call it ugly. OK, most people already have called it ugly, but consider this: even in the 1970s when it all started, the GT-R never had elegant curves or any kind of delicate sophistication about its looks. Even the aerodynamic R35 of today is no Aston Martin to admire, but they've always had presence on the road and been very clear of their intentions to go race-car fast. This is much the same, with its matte black wrap, obvious bodykit, two-part rear wing and black 20" wheels from - where else? - a GT-R, except the basic sheet metal is a bulbous crossover. Apparently the AWD system's computer needed calibrating, because it still thought it was in a GT-R. Imagine its surprise if it ever looked in a mirror...

So what convinced Nissan that this "abomination" was worth building after all? Well, a video came out of it going to Dubai and promptly kicking the tyres off a Ferrari 458 Italia, AMG SLS and Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 (although frankly it wasn't a real race, just some fancy filming). While it was there, people with money were trying to buy it on the spot, simply walking up to either the filmers or the driver (GT Academy star Lucas OrdoƱez, fresh from the Dubai 24H) and asking "how much do you want?" That's normally a sign that you should consider making a handful of them, not to mention the massive amounts of attention it's been getting on and off the internet. In the end, Nissan caved and decided to "make Juke-R available to customers anywhere in the world on a build-to-order basis. It is intended for serious collectors and investors who want to own a true original, an innovative project that will only be created in extremely small numbers." They only plan to build about 20-25 of them, making it rarer and more exclusive than Veyrons and Ferraris. It gets better too - the "production" car will feature the engine/gearbox from the 2012 GT-R, not a pre-2011 one, so you get 542bhp and 463lb/ft of torque. In a crossover!

As such, it commands a very high price of €450,000 (about $590k), which the penniless internet has complained about. In so doing they've missed the point - they're selling mostly to oil sheiks who already have the Porsches, Fezzas, Lamborghinis and AMGs you could get with that kind of money, so it doesn't matter that it's ludicrously expensive. They saw an opportunity and took it, and they'll probably make a handsome profit too. I imagine they thought "OK fine, if this cannibalised GT-R must exist, there might as well be something in it for us and it can't become a common thing we have to keep doing so only make a few". So in the end, what we have here is a car that Nissan doesn't want to exist, which they are now reluctantly making. Think of it as being in Toys 'R' Us and sneaking something really cool into the trolley which your parents only notice when they get to the checkout, at which point they start saying "What's this? You can't have this! Do you have any idea how expensive it is? What even is it anyway? It's ridiculous! No, go and put it back on the shelf". Then imagine you find a legitimate way to justify it as something to get and they sigh heavily before reluctantly agreeing. That, right there, is why you should want the Juke-R, and love it for officially existing. Even if, in this case, you'll never own one yourself (but who knows? Maybe it'll appear in video games). Just don't expect the creators to get away with it next time...

The only question that remains is: does this all mean that, somewhere, there are two Nissan GT-Rs with 1.6 single-turbo engines and front-wheel-drive???

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