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My two minutes with the Nissan Juke R

Newport Beach, CA - We all have bucket lists. You know; skydiving, climbing

Everest or eating 70 hotdogs in 10 minute to beat the World Record -- things we all want to say we did, at least once.

I have such a list, but it’s pretty much limited to driving certain cars or driving on specific tracks around the world. One such vehicle was Nissan’s mental and out-of-control Juke R. If you’re not familiar with the beast, I invite you to look it up on YouTube. This mini-zilla (aka Babyzilla) takes everyone on.

The sheer madness of the Juke R was the first thing to turn me on. The promise of skull-crushing performance was the second. What makes the Juke R so ludicrous that I would forgo a ride in a GT-R GT3 as well as beating on a GT-R around a short loop?

The Juke R gets its “crazy” from the twin-turbocharged 3.8L V6 stuffed and shoehorned under its crunched bonnet and behind its “cute” frog face. Official specs rate horsepower at 545 however chassis #001 -- the Juke R I drove -- is rumoured to put out somewhere around 570.

2013 Nissan Juke R 3/4 view
Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

Tack on the GT-R’s ATTESA E-TS All-Wheel Drive system, with rear-mounted 6-speed sequential transaxle, and you get the full explanation as to why the Juke R is nicknamed Babyzilla.

My time at the wheel of the Juke R was very brief, and somewhat a blur. At the Performance Drive station of the Nissan 360 event, we were asked to line up behind the sign for the car we wanted to drive. Luckily for me, the Juke R line was empty. Yeah, I didn’t get it either. This allowed for two runs with Babyzilla.

The first run was nothing less than absolute mental torture. The dilemma, the war and the anguish of trying not to maul cones because of an overly eager right foot and eyes soaking in the cabin, the speedometer’s wild race, was next to impossible to compute. Before I knew it, lap one was complete.

2013 Nissan Juke R side view
Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre

As I stood in line for round two, I remained entertained by the Juke R’s snorting and burbling exhaust note, as it would drive us from the staging area. It’s squat, almost comically wide matte-black front face is shocking to soak in at first. From the sides, the wheels and huge brakes behind them are most telling. Here, the standard Juke’s flared shoulders are properly exploited.

The next time around, I took the time to better set my driving position. Fully strapped in with the 5-point harness, I was told I could head towards the track. What surprised me most was the linear non-hair-raising acceleration. Don’t misunderstand me, this thing’s fast, but I thought I was going to swallow my tongue the moment the go pedal was flirted with.

What I got out of lap two was a car that was far better sorted than expected. The transmission, the brakes and overall handling are as good as expected -- in other words, impressive. I thought I’d noticed some understeer, however, on the unfamiliar track I may have tried to go faster through some cones than I should have…

Although I feel as though I was served the biggest tease ever, I must say that if I had the $660,000+ required to acquire one of the 23 that will be built, I’d do it. Currently, chassis #002 is Nissan’s while #003 and #004 are in the hands of lucky and wealthy Middle Eastern hands.

A Nissan Juke R is about as special as special gets. By comparison, nearly 400 Bugatti Veyrons have been built to this day. This makes the Juke R far more exclusive.

My time with this youngest legend of legendary cars may have been very short, but at the very least I can say that I mashed the throttle, pulled back on the upshift paddle, and stood on the brakes.

The Nissan Juke R has been scratched off my list.

2013 Nissan Juke R rear 3/4 view
Photo: Mathieu St-Pierre