Stand on the brake. Stand on the gas. Let go of the brake. Keep standing on the gas. Hang onto the steering wheel. Sounds simple enough, eh?
Accelerating to 60mph in three seconds requires something of a leap of faith. The sheer physical effect that going from stationary to very fast in a very small amount of time immediately delivers a burst of adrenaline that can feel crippling. It’s a fight or flight reflex that sometimes invites a complete brain freeze, but instinct usually kicks in.
ESP is off, all the settings are firmed up – apart from the suspension. It’s softened at the back so the car hunkers down more upon launch so the wheels don’t slip.
Anticipating some dramatic torque steer it’s easy to grab hold of the steering wheel with the intent of a man holding onto a railing above the Niagara Falls, but with four-wheel drive and much driver-aid trickery it’s not really necessary. The GT-R now has asymmetric suspension to compensate for my weight too, which is faintly ludicrous. It would be fascinating to engage launch control on a supercar and take your hands off the wheel, though. Just once, to see what happened.
Driving The Nissan GT-R
Wisely I don’t. I’m driving the Nissan GT-R at Nissan’s compact Sunderland track – an elongated oval with a gentle right-hand kink that’s accentuated by the positioning of a few cones on a straight.
Through the cones the GT-R is absurdly grippy at 60mph and some aggressive steering inputs. Up through the gears in automatic mode it’s very fast. It growls when the accelerator is dabbed.
Launching to 60mph in three seconds is dimension-alteringly fast; your organs are pushed to the back of your body, head back into the headrest and your eyes water in alarm.
This is a very fast car then, but it’s also a comfortable one. Burbling around in lower gears the GT-R doesn’t feel frantic or out of its element. Inside it’s pretty comfortable, spacious and refined. The 2012 GT-R is yet another refinement of an already-impressive vehicle.
The Nissan Juke-R does, though, feel rather unhappy unless you’re attempting to drive the living daylights out of it. If the GT-R is Godzilla is the Juke-R his annoying nephew Godzuki?
Perhaps, but while the small Japanese dinosaur was an unfettered pain in the arse, the pimped Juke has all of the bite that it’s bigger brother (uh, uncle,) does. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Clad in a matte dark grey and with the Juke’s already ridiculous styling further enhanced by spoilers and more flaring than a 70s disco, the Juke-R looks like an absolute weapon. And sounds it. And feels like it too.
Opening up the Juke-R on Nissan’s track is a startling experience. Packing the 3.8-litre petrol engine from the GT-R – only slightly detuned – what you effectively have is a supermini-sized car blasting to 140mph in around 12 seconds with the noise of an angry elephant. Everything about this is ridiculous.
Nice try, you think, anyone can whack a great big engine into a body shell and make it go fast. Then you hit the handling course, and while the Juke-R isn’t quite the sharpest car on the block it’s immensely chuckable.
Throwing it into a little skid pan laid out with cones to make a small, tight handling track shows off the work that has gone into making the Juke-R a small car capable of channelling immense amounts of power and torque through a set-up originally designed to handle, at best, 2.0-litre turbodiesels. This is, of course, ridiculous.
So, I throw the little Juke around for a bit and feel quite pleased with myself at making the tyres squeal and the brakes work hard – and then Nissan’s GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough has a go and shows me how it’s done. Jann won a place as a pro driver by being good at computer games and promptly won a podium position at Dubai 24 Hours.
Nissan GT Academy
Like track-day virgins I’ve encountered before who turn out to be better than me, Jann shows that learning the basic mechanics of how you drive a car – and how cars react to various inputs – through gaming is theoretically sound.
That says a lot for how young drivers like Jann – and Nissan’s other GT Academy drivers – can learn quickly, but it also says a lot for the incredible advances in gaming technology. I grew up playing Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, but I doubt I’d be much cop in the Ferrari 641 F1 car.
The second loop of Nissan’s track is tighter, has a later apex and is slightly banked. Jann hammers into it – like Sonny Crockett might in his Testarossa – very, very fast and part of you wonders if he’s misjudged it.
Of course he hasn’t. He absolutely murders the brakes and then turns in, back on the power and more than kisses the edge of the track. He laughs. Which sometimes makes me warms to drivers and sometimes makes me feel afraid.
He’s spending the day frightening the life out of journalists in a car that will never see production. It has, essentially, been built to frighten the life out of anyone who gets inside one. This is, of course, ridiculous.
Nissan’s Expanding Range
But it’s also very clever. Nissan has a dizzying range of cars in this day and age. Tiny, cheap city cars. Massive hairy-arsed 4x4s. Electric cars. Segment-defining crossovers. Vans. Porsche-bothering supercars. And rather dull stuff like the Note.
The GT-R is one heck of a halo car for Nissan. Proven on the Nordschliefe, incredibly affordable, very quick and with more practicality than many competitors, it’s a wonderful statement of intent.
The 2012 Nissan GT-R brings many refinements and tweaks that improve it further and demonstrate Nissan’s ability to build and tune engines and chassis to support genuine supercars. You could almost call it a volume supercar.
The Juke-R is something else entirely. Destined for a life of motorshows, enthusiast events and various PR stunts, it’s basically in exercise in pure fun.
But it’s also another demonstration of Nissan’s performance acumen. “See this rather ludicrous-looking little car?” says Nissan. “Well, we’re going to take the GT-R’s engine and make this into a supercar too, just to show that we can.”
This is, of course, ridiculous. But it’s also one of the most incredible cars on the road. The car industry should allow itself to get ridiculous more often. Just to show that it can.