2013 Nissan Juke NISMO grabs all the Q-ship cred


If the old Family Feud ever staged an episode for auto enthusiasts only and asked what kind of car a random 100 gearheads most want to see built, the best answer would be "affordable all-wheel-drive sports car." And suddenly, there's a new one: the 2013 Nissan Juke NISMO, a less-threatening, more socially acceptable version of the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer EVO that once enthralled us all. Yet I bet that most gearheads won't — or can't — look much past the hood.

Nissan sold about 36,358 Jukes last year, an underwhelming number compared to the 115,778 Kia Souls that hit American streets in 2012. To many, the Juke's simply too weird to consider, with a front end that looks like a half-folded Bakugan. It's not a bad car mechanically, and unlike the Versa and the Soul doesn't punish its budget buyers with a cheap-feeling interior.

Under its NISMO tuner brand, Nissan has upped the Juke's already notable 188-hp engine to 197 hp, and added bits both cosmetic and useful, from bolstered front seats and 18-inch alloy wheels to a graphics package that can be easily deleted. Nissan says it will offer front-wheel and all-wheel-drive versions of the Juke NISMO starting next month, for an undisclosed premium to the regular model. It's not an everday version of the Juke GT-R, but at least Nissan's trying to get enthusiasts in the door.

As part of a broader push to make NISMO a more known quantity, Nissan also revealed at the Chicago auto show a 370Z NISMO with red-themed accents — a small downpayment on the full reworking the aging 370Z needs.