Test Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke SL AWD videos car test drives reviews nissan auto articles
2011 Nissan Juke SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

As Editor Greg Wilson said in his first drive of the Juke, it’s really a shame this trick all-wheel drive system can’t be combined with a manual transmission. The CVT is a decent one, as in other Nissans, and works unobtrusively in normal driving, but it encourages the droning engine note so common when accelerating at wider throttle openings.

However, that annoyance can be mitigated by using the Integrated Control (I-CON) system, which will call up three different drive-train control settings. There’s Normal, naturally, as well as “Eco” and “Sport.” You can guess that Eco dials back throttle response to encourage fuel-efficient driving, but it turns the Juke into a slug. Sport mode, though, sharpens throttle response and the CVT’s behaviour for more satisfying performance; with this setting engaged, the Juke will respond to aggressive driving by shifting through six “gear” ratios, instead of running in variable mode, which makes the Juke far more entertaining to charge around in. You can also shift through these ratios yourself by moving the shift lever into the ubiquitous manual shift gate.

Test Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke SL AWD videos car test drives reviews nissan auto articles
2011 Nissan Juke SL AWD. Click image to enlarge

The engine is perky, but I’d hesitate to call the Juke fast; I’m inclined to blame the CVT’s usual trick of masking a motor’s potential. The 177 lb-ft of torque peaks at a low 2,000 rpm, so off-the-line performance is impressive; there’s some turbo lag, however, and the turbo’s tendency to spool up a second or two after the fact can make the Juke tough to drive smoothly in stop-and-go situations.

As befits a car with sporting intentions, the Juke’s ride is a hard one. I really wish carmakers would get over this notion that a stiff suspension automatically equals sporty, because it doesn’t. Not that I think the Juke should ride like grandpa’s ’95 Buick Century, but the spring rates could stand to be dialled back a long way without wrecking this car’s sporting personality.

The interior presents a far more conventional appearance than the outside, which is almost a disappointment considering how “Plan 9 From Outer Space” the thing looks from the front. Still, conventional analog gauges in Nissan’s usual white-on-black scheme are easy to read.

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