SHENANDOAH, Va. -- We're tearing over swoopy asphalt wrought with serpentine kinks on Skyline Drive, the ridge route perched high above Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, to test the poise and temper of the curvaceous Juke NISMO RS, a souped-up and sport-skewed crossover utility vehicle from Nissan's NISMO performance division.
Coated in a new paint shade labeled Brilliant Silver, our Juke NISMO RS CUV hunkers low on seemingly huge 18-inch NISMO-branded aluminum-alloy wheels capped by 225/45R18 Continental ContiSportContact5 summer tires. It's decorated with a bulbous face featuring round rally-style headlamps and curvaceous fender blisters capped by frog-eye amber running lights.
The NISMO body treatment includes a unique front bumper design with red stripe and mesh lower grille, NISMO front/rear fascias and side sill spoilers also red striped, aggressive body-colored wheel arch moldings, projector halogen headlights with LED signature accent lights, a NISMO-specific rear roof spoiler followed by red pinstripe rear bumper accents and a large 3.9-inch exhaust finisher.
Like a curve-craving sports sedan, Juke the 5-door CUV rides on the front-wheel-drive chassis of a car. The platform supports the 99.6-inch wheelbase and a tire track width of 60.0 inches. Pinning the wheels near the corners of the chassis brings stability to the stance and enhances Juke's agility when cornering.
Juke's suspension design installs a cradle-type front subframe to mount independent MacPherson struts and a 23-mm stabilizer bar. In back, there's a torsion beam with integrated stabilizer bar for front-wheel-drive (FWD) editions, but a multi-link arrangement with stabilizer bar applies to versions with optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) traction. Spring rates and damping force were retuned to NISMO specs, with the front suspension link reinforced to enhance steering feel and response.
The vehicle-speed-sensing steering system adds electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of Juke's engine.
A disc brake stands at every wheel -- with large 12.6-inch vented front rotors and 11.5-inch vented rear rotors. All of the discs tie by computerized links to a sophisticated anti-lock brake system with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, plus a traction control system and vehicle dynamic control device which checks lateral skidding.
For locomotion Nissan drops into Juke's engine compartment an aluminum dual-cam 1.6-liter 4-in-line sequential direct injection gasoline (DIG) engine coupled to a turbo-charger and inter-cooler. Output for Juke NISMO RS/FWD reaches to 215 hp at 6000 rpm, with torque holding at 210 lb-ft between 3600-4800 rpm. Output for Juke NISMO RS/AWD dips slightly to 211 hp at 6000 rpm as torque tallies to 184 lb-ft between 2400-6000 rpm.
Gearbox for FWD models (Juke NISMO and NISMO RS) is a sporty shifting 6-speed manual transmission. It scores an optimized gear set and shorter final drive ratio (3.933:1 on NISMO and 4.428:1 for NISMO RS) for quicker accelerations.
The AWD models (Juke NISMO and Juke NISMO RS) use Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) with manual mode 8-step "gearing" and steering column-mounted paddle shifters.
Juke's optional electronically controlled AWD equipment is designed to provide dependable tire grip on wet or slippery pavement. The torque vectoring AWD mechanism not only can split the engine's torque up to 50:50 between front and rear wheels, but also divide the torque from side-to-side across the rear axle. Increasing the rotation speed of an outboard rear wheel when cornering ends up decreasing the cornering load on the vehicle's front wheels, which thwarts the tendency of an AWD system to understeer and ultimately enhances total tire grip through a turn.
Juke's rigid structure whittles out a spacious cabin and utilitarian cargo bay. The layout pitches bolstered buckets in front and a Row-2 bench for three with 60/40-split seatback that folds flat to expand the cargo area. Juke NISMO RS adds Recaro Sportster front seats trimmed in red leather-appointed side bolsters and black suede center inserts with red stitching.
Standard equipment includes NissanConnectSM with Navigation and Mobile Apps plus a 5.8-inch color touch-screen display, USB connection port, Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming audio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and a Rockford Fosgate audio kit with powered subwoofer, Around View Monitor and auto-off headlights.
MSRP points for Nissan's 2015 Juke NISMO and NISMO RS stretch from $24,830 to $30,020.