I had the pleasure of shoeing a spate of NISMO hardware from Nissan's headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, to the NISMO Fiesta in San Marcos, Texas. The 2014 Juke NISMO RS was part of the crowd. Here's what I learned over the course of 17 hours.
These are the best seats in Nissan's lineup
If you're an average-sized adult, the Recaro hard-back buckets in the RS are a thing of brilliance. In terms of keeping your butt planted in the saddle, there's nothing better in the company's lineup. The thrones in the GT-R and the 370Z NISMO feel like low-back benches by comparison.
Most big-boned Americans will loathe the seats, though, and you're guaranteed to crotch yourself getting in the first few times. Do they make sense in a weird little crossover? No, but I'm glad they exist.
PHOTOS: Nissan Nismo Juke RS
You want the manual transmission
I drove the all-wheel-drive, CVT-equipped version, which is limited to 211 hp. That's 23 hp more than the base Juke, but the six-speed manual gets a little bit more grunt at 215 hp. It doesn't have to lug around the all-wheel-drive hardware, either. The CVT is still quick, but the extra power exaggerates the gearbox's rubber band feel. Pop the throttle, wait, then rocket away to the whir of a turbo four. It's fun, so long as you're into delayed gratification. No one's judging.
It feels special
That's important. Until now, NISMO models have been little more than badge jobs with fancy floor mats. Now, Nissan's throwing extra power at the driveline to back up the body kit and interior treatments. The Juke NISMO RS is the start of a new trend for Nissan's tuning arm.
The Alcantara steering wheel and crazy race buckets feel special, like you're in something from another tax bracket, even though the top-trim crossover starts at $26,120. Opting for all-wheel drive will set you back another two grand and saddle you with the CVT, which is just another reason to keep from checking that box.
READ THIS: Meet the 215-hp Juke NISMO RS
It's in rough company
The Juke NISMO RS is a peppy little rig. It gets up off its ample haunches quickly and handles fairly well, but the market's rife with more potent five-doors. The Ford ST twins, the Mini Countryman Cooper S, and the 2014 Subaru WRX all spring to mind, and they all outclass the hot Juke in either performance, handling, or both.
It's weird and it knows it
Like the standard Juke NISMO, the RS wears its body kit, daytime running lights, and super-skinny 18-inch wheels with pride. The additions actually work with the Juke's already eccentric looks, though I could do with about an inch less in ride height. Those wheel gaps are borderline painful.