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Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'm Not Drinking Nissan's Kool-Aid

Nissan has been on a roll recently, and have won the approval of many car enthusiasts. Some even say that Nissan is presently the boldest, most daring, and most passionate of all the Japanese automakers. And they're right. While Nissan's engineers could have left the mighty GTR well enough alone, every year they have responded to "criticisms" that any ungrateful automotive journalist ever so much dared to suggest.

The methods of honcho, Chief Vehicle Engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno, are fearsome. "We do not do things the tuning shop way. We refine everything." All the other automakers that believed they could scathe through with a lame midlife aesthetic revision must be shaking in their boots.

The new 2013 GTR packs an extra 15-hp thanks to an enlarged air intake duct for the intercooler, making the total output 545-hp. Claimed 0-60 falls from 3.1 to just 2.8 and fuel consumption has marginally improved.

Redesigned engine mounts have improved rigidity, spring and damper rates have been refined and suspension geometry is tweaked. Taking left-to-right weight distribution into account, right-hand-drive GTR's are also given an asymmetrical set up to compensate the difference. It's just rad! But ultimately, the current GTR's $90,000 price tag is $60,000 too dear for the most of us.

Recently, the industry has been buzzing with this Juke-R talk. Who's wild enough to cram its halo power train into its smallest crossover? Immediately delivering its message, the line of description on Nissan's first Juke-R YouTube video began with the sentence, "As you know at Nissan, we love doing unexpected things. What's more innovative and exciting than a combination of the Nissan Juke and the Nissan GT-R?".

Honestly, I'm not excited about the Juke-R at all. No, it isn't because it's a one-off. That's not the point. What I suspected, and what TheTruthAboutCars confirmed, is that Nissan's true intent behind this project is simply a marketing tool.

The Juke-R was meant to excite and demonstrate to the audience why the sporty, daring, exciting Juke is the right crossover for them. Whatever Nissan's sellin', I ain't buyin'.

Its crossover proportions suggest functionality that a tiny start-up family could well enjoy. Unfortunately, I was told first hand that in order to fit the baby stroller into a Nissan Juke, the backseats, which is where the baby seat would have been installed, must fold down. I'm sorry, but that's the lamest Catch-22 I've ever heard.

Yes, it's got flamboyant styling, has 370Z-inspired tail lights, and has the profile of a running shoe, but I feel that reviews are only describing how sporty it feels for a crossover. It's a bit of a backhanded compliment. Remember, the regular Juke is based on a Versa chassis except it's even higher off the ground. Finally, and perhaps worst of all, it's got CVT, and I don't even want to go there.

I'm not saying that there shouldn't be a Juke, or Juke-R, or a GTR. But, I still believe that we can challenge Nissan to do more. 

Credit: Motor Trend

Due to CAFE regulations and public interest, there is no doubt that the compact car market has been getting more competitive by the minute.

Variety has been unprecedented. This is FPH after all, so let's only concentrate on the fun compacts: Golf GTI, Ford Focus, Fiesta, Hyundai Veloster, the Mini line-up, Kia Soul, Fiat 500, Mazdaspeed 3, etc.

Arguably, compacts are currently the most important piece of the market. So where the hell is the Nissan Sentra SE-R in all this?
Who remembers this puppy? As mentioned in Autoblog's "Future Classic" post
"Back when they were going by Datsun, the 510 was a capable facsimile of a BMW1600/2002, but cheaper. Performance cred attained, Nissan continued to pump out various capable performers over the years. In 1991, the Sentra was due for a makeover, and Nissan managed to splice some 510 DNA into the SE-R."
No matter which way you cut it, Sentras nowadays have lost that magic. It's so beyond dull, in fact, that I can't even find a decent test drive and review of the current Sentra Spec-V. Then again, I didn't bother to spend more than half a minute trying to look for one.

Being bold, daring, and passionate is one thing, but to make a sports car for the blue-collar folk brings forth a new level of respect and adoration. Nissan possesses the heritage, experience, and technology necessary to create a sporty compact. This does not mean that Nissan should shoehorn a GTR into a Sentra and name it Sentra-R, but why not start by trickling down R&D in weight management, chassis rigidity, suspension geometry, and computer tuning?

If Nissan couldn't be bothered because they're dumping all their money into the GTR and the Leaf, I'll be fine with that too as long as Nissan's partnership with Renault doesn't go to waste. Across the pond, the Renaultsport Megane 265 Trophy has set the Nurburgring front wheel drive record of 8:07.97. If it comes to North America reworked and rebadged as a Nissan, I'd be one happy kid and I honestly believe that a market exists.

When Nissan decides to use its arsenal of know-how to its fullest, what we should really be expecting is the return of a true SE-R or a Silvia, not a one-off Frankedstein.

1 comment:

  1. Since some of these brand-new cars just fail their predecessors, it isn't a surprise why some people opt to buy used cars for sale by owner instead.