Track day in a 2014 Juke NISMO
This week was the Rocky Mountain Driving Experience for the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, a press guild for automotive journalists in the Rocky Mountain region. Two of us at Torque News, myself and Denis Flierl, are members and we were both in attendance. One of the featured vehicles on track day (day 2) of RMDE was the 2014 Juke NISMO.
Last year's event had a 2013 Juke NISMO in all-wheel drive and equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). For the everyday driver, that vehicle is great fun and well-tuned. For the amateur offroad rally driver, that configuration is also a nice fit. On the race track, however, the CVT makes the driving experience in the Juke NISMO less than it could be.
Key changes between the two years include a more suspension tuning in the 2014 model year and our vehicle this year having that six-speed manual transmission. What we learned was simple: with a manual transmission, what used to be a top-heavy little crossover with a soft feel becomes a tight little monster and acceleration kingpin. Why? Because with a manual transmission, the amateur race driver (which is what I am, on my best day) is forced to think about the corners more carefully and shift into them rather than just coming up to them and applying brakes before the turn.
This little nuance creates a far smoother driving experience and, coupled with the new suspension tuning, pushes the driver into a more long-term thought process on the track. That all translates into better turns and faster times. This year, on the 1.28-mile circuit containing seven curves and two straights, I managed a respectable 1:11 time around that loop. Although it wasn't my best time for the day, which came from a 2014 Dodge Challenger Shaker at 1:08, it was better than many.
For its part, the Juke NISMO with the manual transmission loves hanging out in the 6,000 RPM range and is geared well enough in the mid-gears (3-5) to consistently stay in that area when being pushed.