Nissan is serious about raising the profile of its in-house performance and racing division here in America, and to help support that effort it introduced the 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo in Chicago. This hotter-and-cooler take on the firm's quirky compact crossover features nearly 100 unique performance and cosmetic enhancements, all geared towards enhancing its appeal among enthusiasts, particularly those of more modest means.

Even at a glance, the Juke Nismo leaves no about its intent. Available in Sapphire Black, Brilliant Silver and Pearl White, it boasts more aggressive Nismo front/rear fascia treatments and side sills plus other subtle touches including a unique Nismo rear roof spoiler that collectively improve aerodynamic characteristics by 37 percent compared to a standard Juke. The new look also brings bigger, bolder body-colored wheel arches that house sticky 225/45 Continental ContiSportContact5 summer tires wrapped around Nismo 18-inch lightweight aluminum wheels, and red and black accent elements.

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Finished in black and red with smoked-gray accents, the Nismo cabin remake brings a similar blend of function and fashion to the baseline Juke package. More deeply bolstered Nismo-logoed sport seats clad in cloth and suede add comfort and support while the Alcantara and leather-wrapped steering wheel features a racing-style top-dead-center indicator and the normal pedals are upgraded to a metallic finish.

All Nissan Juke Nismo variants share the same upgraded version the standard 1.6-liter turbocharged/direct-injected inline-4. Here, it's tuned to develop 197 horsepower and 188 lb-ft of torque compared to the baseline 184/177 output stats. On front-drive models, it's backed with a 6-speed manual transmission while Juke Nismos fitted with Nissan's advanced torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system pair it with sport-tuned version of the automaker's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) that features a manual mode with six virtual gears.

In addition to its upsized wheel and tire package, the Nismo-spec Juke gets an even tauter and lower version of the standard suspension as well as higher-effort electric-assisted power steering that has a more direct and communicative feel. All versions also come with the trick Integrated Control (I-CON) system that allows a driver to collectively adjust the throttle, CVT, steering feel and climate control bias for Normal, Sport or Eco operation.

In commenting on this super Juke, Pierre Loing, vice president, Product and Advanced Planning and Strategy, Nissan North America, Inc, noted that it "optimizes the already innovative Juke design, re-engineering it to Nismo standards and sets the stage for future Nismo-branded models to come." Final pricing for the 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo is expected to be released shortly.


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