Mini marvel

High-per­for­mance hatch is great on a track and not too hard on your back

Herald Sun - Motoring - - News - CRAIG DUFF

A RASPY metal­lic note from the pair of cen­tre-mounted ex­haust tips gives a muted in­di­ca­tion of the new John Cooper Works Mini’s char­ac­ter.

The tur­bocharged 2.0-litre en­gine packs 170kW/320Nm, mak­ing it the most pow­er­ful en­gine fit­ted to a Mini pro­duc­tion car.

The key is its us­able power, ir­re­spec­tive of which of the three driv­ing modes has been se­lected. The Mini de­faults to “mid” mode but a flick of the switch at the base of the gear shift will call up “green” or “sport” set­tings, which re­spec­tively soften and tighten the re­sponse from the trans­mis­sion, ac­cel­er­a­tor and sus­pen­sion.

Sports mode will be fa­mil­iar to ex­ist­ing JCW own­ers — it is a choppy, scram­bling ride that for­sakes com­fort for con­trol and is best left to race­tracks and newly laid bi­tu­men. The truly com­mit­ted/de­mented can spec­ify a harder con­ven­tional sus­pen­sion setup as a no-cost op­tion. No cost up front, that is, but the on­go­ing chi­ro­prac­tic and psy­cho­log­i­cal coun­selling will add up.

A mis­er­able Melbourne af­ter­noon rained on — and then fogged over — our pa­rade down to Phillip Is­land via Jin­davick. Two things were im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent: the ride is a huge im­prove­ment and the run-flat Pirellis still need work.

Sin­gle-digit tem­per­a­tures and sat­u­rated tar­mac just wouldn’t let the Mini’s rubber warm to the job. It was a sim­i­lar story at the Is­land, com­pounded by the fact one of the cars was fit­ted with dif­fer­ent tyres and could hold tighter lines with­out the front end start­ing to drift. Lack of ta­lent could have been a con­tribut­ing fac­tor, too.

Ad­just­ing the line was as sim­ple as eas­ing off the ac­cel­er­a­tor to let the JCW re­gain trac­tion and reac­quire the apex.

The chas­sis is hard to fault and the en­gine’s swell of torque means the auto trans­mis­sion doesn’t have to down­shift un­der mod­er­ate ac­cel­er­a­tion.

Flip the lever to the left to use the pad­dle-shifters and the

JCW will hang on to revs to the red­line, an­tic­i­pat­ing in­put from the driver to shift up and avoid me­chan­i­cal may­hem. That’s a for­mula for quick, en­ter­tain­ing ac­tion and the JCW de­liv­ers with an 80-100km/h time that bet­ters the likes of a Porsche 911. The 100km/h sprint time of 6.1 sec­onds isn’t as jaw-drop­ping but still im­pres­sive.

The brakes are also up to the job, haul­ing in the Mini with lit­tle fuss and ca­pa­ble of re­peated high-speed ac­ti­va­tions with­out suf­fer­ing fade.

The lever-op­er­ated switchgear re­mains but the driv­ing po­si­tion has been im­proved with new sports seats and a chunky steering wheel to cling on to.

I still wouldn’t want to climb into the back seats … but a JCW ver­sion of the five-door Mini is in­evitable even if Mini doesn’t want to talk about it just yet.

For the time be­ing, the JCW gets all the ex­pected new model im­prove­ments — faster, less thirsty, bet­ter pack­aged — along with dy­namic dampers that make it far less prone to pun­ish pas­sen­gers.

As sports cars go it is al­most civilised.

The price is less feral too. At $47,400 for the six-speed man­ual (which won’t ar­rive in deal­er­ships un­til Oc­to­ber) and $49,950 for the six-speed au­to­matic, the new JCW is $3000 cheaper than the pre­vi­ous model.

It’s still ex­pen­sive — Mini con­sid­ers it­self a premium Euro brand and charges ac­cord­ingly — but the spec sheet now has ex­tra equip­ment to stave off ev­ery­thing from the Audi S1 to the lat­est Ja­panese hot hatches.

Stan­dard gear ex­tends to 18-inch al­loys around Brembo four-pot brakes, BMW’s pro­fes­sional sat­nav soft­ware dis­played on an 8.8-inch screen, LED head­lamps and a head-up dis­play with en­gine rev read­out, gear in­di­ca­tor and shift lights.

Ul­ti­mately, though, it is a Mini JCW and that means it is all about how the car drives and not what’s packed into the cabin. That’s one of the rea­sons the fog lights have been re­placed with ex­tra vents for the brakes and the sec­ond ra­di­a­tor lurk­ing at the bot­tom left of the bumper: air flow in and around this tightly pack­aged car is part of the rea­son it ham­mers so hard.


This is the first Mini John Cooper Works I could live with on a daily ba­sis and that makes it the best JCW yet. The ex­tra power and equip­ment is ap­pre­ci­ated but it is the ride that will win over buy­ers.

The JCW cabin has been up­dated but still re­tains the retro feel

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