Nissan Juke makes a quick stop in Chicago

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Nissan Juke visits Willis Tower

Last week, Nissan brought the all-new 2011 Juke out to Chicago for a little social media scavenger hunt. There were 7 of us present who were partnered up and sent off in Jukes provided by Nissan with Clue No. 1. At each stop we were given an assignment (continue reading for photos) and the new clue.

In addition to having a heck of a lot of fun, this was a great way to test the Juke in a short period of time. From parking garages to traffic, we got to experience this sporty crossover as we would in our everyday lives ... compacted into about 4 hours.

So, below, I provide to you the photo assignments from the scavenger hunt, a photo gallery of the vehicle and a brief review. To tantalize you to continue reading, I will start with: I can't wait to drive this car again.

Pictures really don't do this car justice. Before I saw the Juke up close, I thought it was funky, weird, misshapen and downright odd. But in person, it somehow makes sense.

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Scavenger Hunt Clue 1: Visit this well-recognized destination that recently underwent a name change. Assignment: Head up for a one-of-a-kind view of the city. Once at the top, look down and snap a photo.

As Scott Pak, product planning manager at Nissan North America, said: From the waist down, it's a crossover. From the waist up, it's a sports car. I know it sounds like a non sequitur, but let's break it down a little more. Believe me, this too somehow makes sense.

Crossover attributes: standard 17-inch wheels, 7-inch ground clearance, 27-degree approach angle, 29.8-degree departure angle, broad shoulder line and available all-wheel drive.

Sports car attributes:
coupe-like styling, sporty boomerang taillights as seen on the Z and Maxima, rear door handle integrated into window design, steering wheel shared with Z and Maxima and 6-speed manual transmission (base at the SV level).

Oh, and did I mention the 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder, 188-horsepower turbocharged engine?

And how about the city/highway fuel estimates of 27/32 mpg in the front-wheel drive model with the automatic transmission? (Manual transmission = 24/31 mpg; AWD, AT = 25/30 mpg)

Such a quirky combination of utility and sport. But, again, after you get behind the wheel, it somehow makes sense.

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Scavenger Hunt Clue 2: To enjoy your ride today, head to this "reckless" independent record store in Lakeview. Assignment: Park in a compact space in the garage across the street, and take a picture showing how well Juke fits in the spot.

During the scavenger hunt, we had highway cruising, trafficked driving, tight city parking, quick accelerations, slow glides, smooth surfaces and pock-marked pavement. And the Juke managed it all with style.

My partner and I were tasked with driving the lone manual transmission test car, as we were the only two who could drive a stick shift. While this is my preference, I wish I could have had the chance to drive a Juke with the continuously variable transmission (a $500 addition) as well.

The transmission overall was nice, but first gear was a bit clunky. Acceleration from a start was nice but not super peppy, and it felt like the Juke hit redline way too fast. Where the "wow" comes in is with the passing gears. On the highway, I was able to play with weaving in and out of traffic, and the Juke was responsive.

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Scavenger Hunt Clue 3: Visit this large Northwest Chicago biker shop to find a motorcycle that embodies your lifestyle or has a body similar to the Juke. Assignment: Take a photo with the motorcycle.

Handling on the Juke was surprisingly agile for a crossover-ish, active-lifestlye-like vehicle. Then again, overall length is just 162.4 inches, and curb weight is just under 3,000 pounds for the front-wheel drive models.

But that's on the highway. In tight spaces, I was a bit disappointed. While the Juke did fit quite nicely in tight parking spaces in small garages, it took a bit of maneuvering. Turning radius was way too big for a small car.

While the exterior of the Juke is, um, unique, the interior is downright cool. The sporty cloth covered seats (leather is standard with the SL model); the sparkling, motorcycle-inspired center console; the black lacquered accents on the dash; the Bluetooth; steering wheel audio controls; the iPod connectivity; and the speed sensitive volume are standard. And they give an up-level feel for a car under $20K.

The really cool feature, however, is the Integrated Control system (standard at the SV level) that sports "re-usable" buttons. In Climate mode, you see your standard HVAC buttons. Select D-Mode, and the buttons magically change to give you driving mode options. I love the simplicity and functionality.
  

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Scavenger Hunt Clue 4: Find @FlirtyCupcakes on Twitter to determine the cupcake van's whereabouts. Assignment: Pull up next to them, take a picture and tweet it to @FlirtyCupcakes.

One thing here bothered me: The power door locks only have switches on the driver's side door. I discovered this because I was the key keeper during our mission, and after one of our stops, I let myself into the passenger side of the car using the keyless button on the door handle (standard with the SV model). One push unlocks the door you're using. So, I'm sitting in the passenger seat, and my partner is trying to get in the driver's side. I fumbled around on the passenger side. Looked at the center console and finally had to reach across and press the lock on the driver's door.

I apparently do not pass the bitch test.

Pricing on the Juke for the model lineup is:

  • S, FWD, CVT: $18,960
  • S, AWD, CVT: $20,460
  • SV, FWD, MT: $20,260
  • SV, FWD, CVT: $20,760
  • SV, AWD, CVT: $22,260
  • SL, FWD, MT: $22,550
  • SL, FWD, CVT: $23,050
  • SL, AWD, CVT: $24,550

So, in addition to making sense ... it makes cents.

You'll be able to see for yourself soon: Juke will be at Chicagoland dealers in a couple weeks.

PS: Per my previous blog post on the Juke, I just want to reiterate in full disclosure that Nissan bought me lunch and gave me a few little scavenger gifts during the hunt. However, I'd like to point out that I still don't like the fact that only the driver's side door has the power lock switch. I'm just saying.  

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