There’s a highperformance option for every Mini in the Australian range — but the JCW hatch is hard to beat
MINI and Cooper are among the great pairings, with a decades-long history. Mini now completes the Australian line-up with the latest additions to the John Cooper Works brigade.
Mini’s heritage includes nipping at the heels of the big boys— and beating them— at Australia’s motor sport holy ground, Mount Panorama, as well as tearing along unsealed roads in rallies. Australian rally hero Ed Ordynski started in one and wistfully reminisces of the days behind the near-flat wheel.
John Cooper grew to motoring legend status in the 1950s and 60s, savouring successes in the design and
’ racing of Formula One and other open-wheelers.
Cooper joined forces with the then British brand to design the first high-performance Mini Cooper for the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally.
Mini uses— no, relies upon — that romanticism to get on to Aussie driveways. The JCW badge rings out in the minds of Aussies, much like HSV, HDT, GTHO and E38. It has more immediate impact on roads nearer its birthplace in Britain but it’s slowly growing here.
The JCW fit-out adds between $7000 and nearly $10,000 depending on the model. Prices start at $50,400 for the entry-level three-door, $51,800 for the Clubman, $52,600 for the coupe and $55,100 for the roadster. The JCW GP mini-monster asks $56,900 for the performance hike. Those looking for open-air ambience with their go-kartesque demeanour will hunt for the ragtop Cabrio, from $58,500.
Maxi Mini buyers will head for the Countryman— only in AWD— at $56,800. The other AWD, the Paceman at $58,600, tops the list.
Propulsion is considerable from the 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbo four. JCW powerplants get little treats for the techtypes, including reinforced cylinder heads, sodium filled exhaust valves and lightened crankshaft.
Transmission options are six-speed manual or automatic (GP manual only).
TheAWDset-up in the Paceman and Countryman is electronically controlled. Normally the urge split is about 50-50 but it can go 100 per cent either end.
The extra cash buys sports bits and pieces galore. The soundtrack is enhanced by a sports exhaust, there are tweaked dampers and springs and the Sport mode switch sharpens both the tiller and throttle response.
The cabin has race-inspired pews and steering wheel as well as a 10-speaker Harman Kardon audio with Bluetooth and USB links should you tire of the engine. There are automatic bi-xenon headlights and rain sensing wipers.
Carsguide sampled the most manic Mini yet at Tasmania’s Baskerville Raceway— about as close to a road surface as you’ll get while still being able to top 180km/h— driving the
‘‘ standard’’ JCW cars back to back with the GP. The latter demands more driver attention than the siblings, turning in harder, stopping more confidently but fidgeting a little over irregular surfaces.
It can hang out the tail if unleashed from the electronics and regaining the line requires all the steering lock and then some if enthusiasm is excessive.
The extra grunt is noticeable on corner exit, particularly when headed uphill, and the additional support of the sports seating is also worth having.
The adjustable coil-over suspension can be set to soften the GP for roads but on a track it’s more than amusing. Road driving habits weren’t tested but I can’t wait for the school run even if it means multiple trips— there is no back bench.
There’s a high-performance option for every Mini in the Australian range but the JCW hatch is hard to beat . The sports models are done up to look the part and engineered to go hard. The premium over the standard cars means you pay plenty for the experience.