Nissan is honoring the iconic Safari Rally Z that ran at the 1971 and ’73 East African Safari Rally with a new hybrid version of the Nissan Juke. Strange, I know. For some reason, Nissan didn’t take this opportunity to revive the Safari Rally Z in a familiar yet modern guise by modifying a 2023 Nissan Z.
Come on, Nissan. It was right there. Actor and car enthusiast Sung Kang even provided a decent template with the “DocZ,” which recreated the Rally Z more faithfully than the Juke ever could. But, really, I’m not complaining. It’s 2022, and the crossover has succeeded the coupé — as well as many other body styles — in popularity.
The Nissan Juke Hybrid Rally is supposed to drum up excitement for the upcoming crossover, which will go on sale in Europe this summer. No, it’s not coming to the U.S., where the Nissan Kicks ousted the Juke from the carmaker’s lineup. Nissan teased the release of a hybrid Juke last year with this concept. Now that the production model is coming, the concept has become a prototype powered by the same drivetrain buyers will eventually get.
Nissan says the Juke Hybrid will make 25 percent more power while consuming 40 percent less fuel in city driving when compared to the older ICE model. Combustion is still doing most of the work in the new crossover, though. The Juke Hybrid Rally’s drivetrain is composed of a combustion engine making 93 horsepower and 109 lb-ft of torque, plus an electric motor making another 48 HP and 151 lb-ft. of torque.
Throw in an additional 20 HP from a high-voltage generator for a total of 161 horses and 260 lb-ft of torque. Not bad, but the hybrid drivetrain makes less horsepower than the straight-six in the original Safari Rally Z, which is tuned to make 215 HP. But, hey, that was a race car; the Juke Hybrid is a commuter.
The Juke Hybrid Rally Tribute is more or less the same, just dressed up in the livery of an icon. Nissan did throw on the requisite mods to give it a bit of off-road ability: reinforced long-travel suspension, skid plates, beefy tires.
The carmaker also took out the backseat, then put in a roll cage and other safety bits for the rally stage. My favorite touch has to be the high-reach handbrake for satisfying pulls when trail braking in the... crossover. Again, that feels weird to write, but as far as crossovers go, the Nissan Juke is good. Its polarizing design is hit or miss, but at least it’s got brio. I’ll patiently await the return of the true Safari Rally Z, but the Juke Hybrid Rally Tribute is fine for now.