FOR CLUB AND COUN­TRY

John Cooper Works’ two Mi­nis mean you can have it both ways.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - MACHINERY - WORDS BY KHOO HSU CHUANG

Track days are ex­cel­lent fun. They’re the au­to­mo­tive equiv­a­lent of that favourite say­ing among mar­keters: a win-win sit­u­a­tion.

It’s when car brands get a cap­tive au­di­ence of jour­nal­ists and so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers in a con­fined area where they get to in­doc­tri­nate—sorry, in­form— them of their brand val­ues.

In turn, jour­nal­ists get to drive around (and around) like com­plete and ut­ter louts for the bet­ter part of two hours. Af­ter which, you get tow­elled off by nu­bile young things in stretched cot­ton, quaff ice cream in 1,001 flavours and re­hy­drate in the shade be­fore ad­journ­ing to a sump­tu­ous buf­fet where more in­doc­tri­na­tion—sorry, in­form­ing—hap­pens.

Down­side? None. Just a bag of laughs, skid marks (on tar­mac) and wor-

ried-look­ing ex­ecs fuss­ing over a pla­toon of brand-spank­ing new, all-singing, all-danc­ing Mi­nis on proud dis­play.

That’s how BMW launched its lat­est, zip­pi­est Mini vari­ants to an ador­ing press: the John Cooper Works (JCW) Club­man and the John Cooper Works Coun­try­man.

Damn, were they good. The cars weren’t bad ei­ther.

CLUBBABLE The JCW Club­man’s two-litre, tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine pro­duces 231bhp and 350Nm of torque. If that’s Greek to you, then just re­mem­ber it takes just 6.3 sec­onds to sprint to 60mph and has a top speed of 238km/h.

Mak­ing all that us­able is an 8-speed Step­tronic Sports au­to­matic trans­mis­sion which of­fers shorter, snap­pier changes, with the all-im­por­tant “snap and pop” (blip of the throt­tle to match en­gine speed to gear ra­tio) in be­tween down­shifts. Brakes are Brembo shod with four-pis­ton cal­lipers painted a highly vis­i­ble red.

Your in­ner tree-hug­ger will be soothed by the Club­man’s com­bined fuel con­sump­tion of 7.2l per 100km, even if a best-case sce­nario. In short, the Club­man at­tempts that fine bal­ance of ver­sa­til­ity and per­for­mance. There’s a lot of us­able cabin space, with the twin rear sui­cide doors of­fer­ing easy egress and ingress.

Cost: a not-un­hefty RM328,888 on the road (sans in­sur­ance). But in re­turn, you get Mini’s flag­ship hatch­back/es­tate vari­ant brim­ming with all man­ner of good­ies, like a four-year/ un­lim­ited-mileage war­ranty and a fouryear/60,000km free ser­vice pack­age.

And in­es­timable brag­ging rights in terms of rac­ing her­itage, with Mi­nis hav­ing won the hal­lowed Monte Carlo Rally thrice, in the Swing­ing Six­ties no less (1964, 1965 and 1967), driven by le­gends like Paddy Hop­kirk, Timo Mäki­nen and Rauno Aal­to­nen.

OUT IN THE COUN­TRY(MAN) The brochure says the Coun­try­man is for the in­ner ad­ven­turer in you: a bit of Bear Grylls, Austin Stevens or An­drew St Pierre White. Well, not re­ally, since the trio would more likely tra­verse the Ama­zon on foot or in a Toy­ota Land Cruiser.

But who cares. You get top-end ac­cou­trements be­fit­ting a flag-bear­ing JCW, in­clud­ing the cus­tomised 410watt, six-speaker Har­man Kar­don hi-fi and Di­nam­ica Leather up­hol­stery in Car­bon Black and Red Stripes.

Step into the Coun­try­man and give it an ex­u­ber­ant nudge; that’s when you re­alise an all-wheel drive sys­tem (called “ALL4”) ex­ists. It steps in when you’re headed for a hedgerow and the What­sapp fail gallery of fame. Aided and abet­ted by BMW’S Dy­namic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, the Coun­try­man does it ALL4 you: I know be­cause BMW’S strict in­struc­tions to leave DSC in “on” mode en­sured RM348,888 stayed on the track, not the gravel trap.

So, should you get one? Or both? It de­pends. Mini buy­ers are an eclec­tic bunch. They could be the sort you see at MRT sta­tions read­ing The Times of Lon­don and clutch­ing a brolly un­der a trench-coated arm, or Gen Xers (like me) who grew up be­sot­ted with John Cooper’s ge­nius or Sir Alec Is­sigo­nis’ de­sign nous.

It also doesn’t hurt that the likes of Ge­orge Har­ri­son, Steve Mcqueen, Enzo Fer­rari and Mick Jag­ger all owned Mi­nis in the ’60s, which turned these sim­ple lit­tle cars into fash­ion state­ments. So, yeah. I’m bet­ting you’re sold on the leg­end.

Above John Cooper Works Coun­try­man.

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