In all-wheel drive mode, though, the Juke is surprisingly good on curvy mountain roads. Body motions are exceptionally well controlled given the car's tall stance, especially body roll, which was nearly imperceptible from the driver's seat. A very supportive seat, at that. Steering feel isn't quite up to, say, Volkswagen levels, but the system is accurate and well weighted. Unfortunately, the tilt wheel doesn't telescope, and it's a long reach away, eliminating any chance of the Juke feeling like a sports car from the driver's seat.
Happily, the brakes didn't complain at all on the way back down the mountain. And with somewhere north of 3000 lb to contend with, that's impressive. Cornering grip is great, though the pre-production mule we drove featured V-rated high-performance all seasons that might be more aggressive than the tires on the production version.
The optional upgraded stereo sounds nice, with a thumping, powered Rockford-Fosgate subwoofer in the trunk. Nissan's navigation system works well, too. Sadly, the Juke's standard USB and auxiliary audio inputs are out in the open on the dash, meaning you'll have to disconnect and hide your iPod every time you park the Juke.
The Juke will be available with an optional i-CON system, which is a driver-selectable chassis tuning system like Audi's Drive Select. It offers three settings that tailor throttle response, steering effort, and CVT behavior. There's an ECO setting for people who want their Juke to feel like someone ripped out the turbocharger; Normal is for boring people; and Sport not only reduces electric power steering assist and firms up the throttle, but instructs the CVT to perform a pretty nifty imitation of a conventional automatic. It still varies the ratios as you drive, but occasionally fakes a "shift" by changing the ratio suddenly. It may seem like a gimmick - and would probably cost the Juke a small amount of time in a drag race - but it goes a long way to mask the moaning that plagues other CVT cars. (Cube, we're talking to you.) Everyone we spoke to preferred the Sport mode.
The coolest feature about i-CON, though, is the interface. Press a key and the automatic climate control labels disappear from buttons on the dash and are replaced with chassis control buttons. It almost looks like each button has a mini LCD panel in it to display different label, and it's one of the most clever ways we've seen to add additional controls to the dashboard without creating clutter or requiring overcomplicated joystick controllers.