Deep inside the bowels of Nissan Global Headquarters lives a group of mad-scientist engineers. Brilliant and unconventional, this crew is called upon every now and then to perform seemingly impossible tasks like making the GT-R defy physics or an electric car that is both practical and affordable. But every once in awhile when the top brass at Nissan have their backs turned, they cobble together frenzied vehicular creations that laugh in the face of convention. Vehicles like the Nissan Juke NISMO RS.
|Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 215 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed manual.
Fuel economy: 25 MPG city, 31 MPG highway.
Price: $26,930 to start, $28,280 as tested.
For those that find the Juke to be a little too bland and pedestrian, there are now two NISMO packages available that take the little crossover from quirky to freakish. Although the NISMO package does add some visual flair and performance to the Juke, those who want something seriously outlandish need to look at the Juke NISMO RS.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO Review – Video
Immediately identifiable from the outside, both the NISMO and NISMO RS feature a reworked exterior. A ground effects package, LED daytime running lights, rear spoiler, red mirror caps, giant exhaust tip and 18-inch wheels are part of the exterior dress-up. These changes aren’t just cosmetic either as Nissan claims they add up to improve aerodynamics by 37 percent. Of course there are red stripe accent lines throughout.
Power Power Power!
But the similarities between the NISMO and NISMO RS stop there. Last year’s introduction of the Juke NISMO saw a small power increase from 188 HP to 197 HP for the 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. More power is always good, but much more power is even better. This year the RS extracts 215 HP and 210 lb-ft of torque from the diminutive four-pot when the manual transmission, front-wheel drive version is selected. Those looking for all-wheel drive are stuck with the CVT automatic and a power reduction down to 211 HP and 184 lb-ft of torque, or the same figure as found in the non-RS NISMO.
As purveyors of power, we of course grabbed a manual transmission NISMO RS for evaluation. The six-speed manual in the RS is actually different from the one found in the regular NISMO and features shorter ratios for first through third gears. To cope with the extra power, Nissan installed triple-cone synchros in first and second gear to safeguard the transmission against damage from the newly added power.
Quick and Quiet
Even with a somewhat long shift lever, the throws between gears are short and engage with precision. Acceleration is great and the extra power is easily recognizable over the regular Juke. Our only complaint is that the vehicle is too quiet inside. Being a NISMO vehicle, we want more turbo or exhaust noise for a more visceral driving experience.
Unfortunately, the accelerator pedal is set too far forward for optimal heel-toe shifting and six gear is a bit short. At a constant 70 MPH on the highway, the car is buzzing along at 3,000 rpm.
SEE ALSO: 2013 Nissan Juke SL AWD Review
Despite this, the Juke NISMO RS is still rather efficient. Officially rated at 25 MPG in the city and 31 MPG on the highway, our average is a surprisingly good 28 MPG considering we aren’t being gentle with the accelerator at all.
Torque Steer Monster
Standard with the manual transmission NISMO RS is a helical limited-slip differential (LSD) designed to help put power down in the corners. Try as it may, the LSD doesn’t save the RS from torque steer. Apply power in a corner and the vehicle wants to wash out in a ball of tire shredding understeer.
The NISMO RS is saddled with a largish steering ratio of 16.5:1. For reference, the Subaru WRX STI has a steering ratio of just 13.0:1. The large ratio doesn’t seem to affect the Nissan’s steering precision though as it is very quick to respond to a driver’s inputs.
The front-wheel drive NISMO RS is fairly light at only 2,884 lbs. Strapped with 215 HP and grippy 225/45R18 Continental summer tires, Nissan wanted to ensure the Juke’s body didn’t flex and twist like a slinky. So called body and chassis reinforcements were made throughout the crossover’s structure to strengthen the Juke and provide better steering and handling response. Without a regular Juke on hand to directly compare the two, we can’t comment on how much stiffer the body structure feels, but at no times did we notice excessive chassis flex.
RS Treatment Inside
When it comes to the interior of the RS, Nissan upgrades the parts that matter. A set of genuine Recaro front seats are installed finished in a combination of Alcantara, leather and faux carbon fiber. These seats are snug and provide amazing support for our slimmer staff members, but meatier drivers might be uncomfortable. The steering wheel also gets suede-like material at the nine and three positions.
The rest of the interior is relatively unchanged which means a party of plastics, a cramped back seat and a small 10.5 cubic foot cargo area. A cool trick feature on the Juke is the secondary control screen below the main infotainment screen. Information including torque levels, boost pressure and climate controls and be accessed here and depending on which mode is selected, the labels on the backlit buttons change.
The front-wheel drive Juke NISMO RS starts at $26,930 after destination charges and grows to $28,280 including navigation, which is part of the only optional package available with the car. That puts it on par with a loaded up Ford Focus ST. Although the Juke isn’t as powerful or sporty as the Focus, it is more unique and destined to be a rarer sight on the road. For those who like to stand out and want to have a little fun while doing it, the Juke NISMO RS is the red Mohawk of the automotive world.