Nissan Australia have issued a strong commitment to the future of NISMO locally, with executives declaring the high-performance brand to be “a really critical part of the [Nissan] brand.” NISMO has gained a third Australian model this week in the form of the 160kW/280Nm Juke NISMO – a mechanically and aesthetically-fettled variant of Nissan’s quirky Juke SUV.
Speaking with Chasing Cars at the Australian launch of the Juke NISMO in Adelaide, Karla Leach, general manager of corporate communications at Nissan Australia said “NISMO is part of Nissan’s DNA.”
“It’s not tied to one sponsorship or action in Australia,” Ms Leach said, referring to Nissan’s recent departure from the V8 Supercars racing series. Since 2013, Nissan Motorsport has raced with an Altima in the Australian touring car series, a sedan no longer offered as part of the brand’s range.
Despite – or, more accurately, separately from – the decision to end Supercars participation, Nissan are slowly building the NISMO performance brand in Australia, with a three-car lineup that now spans the Juke NISMO small SUV, the 370Z NISMO coupe and the GT-R NISMO supercar.
The five-door Juke SUV is the new entry point to the NISMO range, and despite being strictly limited to 240 available units – as production has actually already ceased globally – it will likely be the highest-selling NISMO product locally.
The Juke NISMO, which makes use of a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, is priced at $37,790 for the front-wheel-drive six-speed manual likely to account for 70% of sales. An automatic, which uses a continuously variable transmission, adds $3,700 to the price, gaining all-wheel-drive but losing 3kW and 30Nm compared to the manual.
The Juke NISMO, which launched in Australia this week.
The two-door 370Z NISMO coupe uses a naturally aspirated 3.7-litre V6 producing 253kW/371Nm, priced at $61,490 as a six-speed manual. A seven-speed automatic (with a torque converter) adds $2,500.
Meanwhile, the halo NISMO variant – the lightning-fast GT-R NISMO – makes use of a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre V6 producing 441kW/652Nm. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic is the sole gearbox, powering all four wheels. Helping to justify its $299,000 price is a 2.7sec 0-100km/h sprint.
Ben Warren, Nissan Australia’s senior manager of marketing for SUVs and sports cars, told media the three-pronged approach – Juke, 370Z and GT-R – ”is the extent of the NISMO lineup for Australia.”
When asked if future expansion was possible, Mr Warren said “there are always concepts and different things done around the world…we’ll study [all global NISMO offers] in the future. Anything customers request and want, we’ll look at, and see what we can do.”
The Juke is the quirkier out of two small SUVs Nissan offers – its sibling, the Qashqai, is newer and far more popular with Australian buyers, outselling the Juke by a twenty-to-one ratio.
So, are Nissan keen to NISMO-ify the Qashqai next? “That’s a question that gets talked about quite a lot at a global level,” Mr Warren revealed. “But we have no commitment to make right now.”
The Qashqai could be next to get the NISMO treatment.
When asked if Nissan Australia would be keen on a higher-performance Qashqai – rather than merely a NISMO-branded but no-faster variant – Mr Warren was clear. “Absolutely, [we would push for engine changes]. We’ve seen what you say when it’s a performance variant without the performance. That is not what we see the NISMO brand is – it’s not what customers would expect.”
Nissan Australia last week announced the LEAF electric car would return in mid-2019 in second-generation form. A NISMO version of the LEAF has been shown globally, featuring a sportier suspension, grippier Continental tyres and changes to the stability control system – but no increase on the LEAF’s 110kW/320Nm electric powertrain.
Mr Warren was cool on the notion of bringing the LEAF NISMO to Australia, suggesting it is not currently on the table. A substantial reason for this is Nissan Australia’s increasing firmness that any NISMO-branded variant must include performance enhancement, and not just aesthetic upgrades, as are offered on ‘warm’ NISMO models overseas.
The LEAF may not make it to Australia in NISMO form, but electrification is certainly not off the table. “As we evolve into the electrification age, we’ve seen how they perform – we all need to consider [going electric]. EV lends itself naturally to performance,” Mr Warren said.
The Juke NISMO launched this week in Australia is the global ‘Juke NISMO RS’, rather than the Juke NISMO R, which gets all the aesthetic upgrades, but keeps the Juke’s regular 140kW turbocharged engine.
“For us, an important thing for NISMO is to have the styling and also the power – so we were hanging out for the RS,” Mr Warren said.
“The engine is one of the critical things in the NISMO lineup. In Australia, [a NISMO variant] must have that performance element to it, not just a body kit. [Here,] it’s a retuned version of the Juke Ti-S’s 1.6-litre engine.”
The NISMO range may now be complete with three models, but each car – the seven-year-old Juke, the nine-year-old 370Z, and the eleven-year-old GT-R – are each drawing close to the end of their lifespan.
Asked whether the fact all three will draw to the end of their lives around the same time – will there be a gap in NISMO availability in Australia – Nissan suggested not.
“The fact we now have three cars that are true NISMO cars in the lineup shows our commitment that it will continue in Australia,” Ms Leach said. “The desire is for NISMO to continue in showrooms in Australia.”