A fiery division of Nissan is back on the track and expanding its global sales to Australia. A 147kW/249Nm Nissan Juke Nismo, shown this week at the Chicago motor show, could make it here to complement this year's release of the more subdued 140kW/240Nm of the standard Nissan Juke.
Australia is said to be interested in the Nismo (it stands for Nissan Motorsport International) lineup that includes the Juke and a hot 370Z. Nissan Australia boss Bill Peffer says he'll wait until the market reacts to the standard Juke before making a decision on the Nismo version which is expected to cost about $36,000.
The move pre-empts Nissan's push to overhaul its compact SUV models - Dualis and X-Trail - within 18 months while including the front-wheel drive Juke into the Australian market. But in Chicago, Nissan's global communications manager Simon Sproule indicates the Nismo sales in Australia are a done deal.
He says that while the latest Nismo makes up only about 5-10 per cent of Juke sales, it had potential and was considered vital to showcase Nissan's sports-oriented aspirations. "This is really the re-launch of Nismo,'' he says of the release of the Juke edition.
"The Juke and the 370Z show Nismo's abilities.'' The Juke Nismo was shown at Chicago with a full body kit that creates 37 per cent more downforce than the standard car. It also has bigger 18-inch wheels and a lowered suspension.
Sproule says Nissan is also planning to go one step further with a planned 162kW RC version of the Juke Nismo, with a lowered body, choice of front or all-wheel drive and a more aggressive body styling. "The Juke Nismo was developed and priced to be accessible,'' Sproule says.
"We focus on value. "But the RC is coming in about 18 months and it's less compromised car for the more performance-oriented owner.'' Sproule says Nissan has been approached by rally teams that wanted to use the Juke Nismo in competition.
"We are very keen to see the Juke enter rallying - it's a sport that has a lot of heritage at Nissan. "But it's not a priority for us to have a factory presence. "We have our hands full with V8 Supercars, Le Mans, Super GT in Japan and through Infiniti, Formula One.
"Now is our biggest presence in motorsport ever. "Rallying is undergoing a transition and there are a lot of factory teams competing in WRC. But for now, we can supply the Juke Nismo for independent teams but not for our factory - not yet.''
The 370Z Nismo was launched at Chicago with minor updates over the previous year's car. Compared with a standard 370Z, it has a firmer ride thanks to spring rates that have been increased by 15 per cent, rear spring rates up by 10 per cent, the front stabilizer bar rate is firmer by 15 per cent and the rear stabilizer bar is 50 per cent stiffer.
Nissan says the roll stiffness rate has been increased by 15 per cent and front and rear dam ping factors have been increased by 40 per cent and 140 per cent, respectively. It was shown at Chicago with five-spoke Nissan-branded 19-inch RAYS forged aluminium-alloy wheels (19x9.5-inch front, 19x10.5-inch rear) mounted with Yokohama ADVAN Sport Y-rated high-performance tires (P245/40ZR19 front, P285/35ZR19 rear).
Brakes are standard Nismo Sport Brakes with larger diameter (than standard) 350mm front and 345mm rear vented rotors with four-piston front and two-piston rear aluminium calipers. The calipers are painted red. No confirmation of sale or price has yet been announced for the 370Z Nismo but in Australia, it's expected to be about $90,000, a $15,000 premium on the standard coupe.