Pure dy­na­mite

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of 5.3 mil­lion units. Although the Mini went through a num­ber of changes to its en­gine and name, the fi­nal model based on Is­sigo­nis’ de­sign that rolled off the pro­duc­tion line in 2000 looked al­most ex­actly like the orig­i­nal 1959 car. Af­ter BMW bought the Rover Group (which at that stage owned Mini) in 1994, the Ger­man mo­tor­ing com­pany went all out to de­velop a more mod­ern Mini and, at the 1997 Geneva Mo­tor Show, two fu­tur­is­tic-look­ing con­cept Mi­nis were dis­played. When BMW sold the Rover Group in 2000, it re­tained own­er­ship of Mini and, in 2001, the brand-new mod­ern Mini built at its plant in Cow­ley, Ox­ford, was launched.

As ex­pected, there was an out­cry from diehard fans, who mocked the new­comer’s larger di­men­sions and faux-his­tor­i­cal de­sign, but de­spite the cyn­ics, the new Mini struck a huge chord with a new gen­er­a­tion of young, trendy, mon­eyed buy­ers and proved to be a huge com­mer­cial suc­cess.

Over the next decade and a half, a clutch of mod­els were re­leased, in­clud­ing a con­vert­ible, the Club­man and the chunky four­wheel drive Coun­try­man.

Last month in Au­gust, I got the chance to test-drive the new Mini John Cooper Works, the most pow­er­ful Mini in pro­duc­tion. Ba­si­cally, John Cooper Works means a re­ally speedy Mini with in­creased power and su­pe­rior han­dling.

On a balmy au­tumn day, I got to put the new model through its paces around the north­ern out­skirts of Joburg and in a gymkhana-type set­ting laid out on a roof at Mon­te­casino.

The new John Cooper Works – with its sports sus­pen­sion kit de­vel­oped by rac­ing ex­perts – is su­perb and to­tally ful­fils its prom­ise of fast and fu­ri­ous. The 2.0-litre, 4-cylin­der sparkig­ni­tion turbo en­gine de­liv­ers 170kW of power and 320Nm of torque, so you’ll easily roar to the claimed 0-100km/h in 6.1 sec­onds with the help of its new Step­tronic au­to­matic gear­box.

What I re­ally love are the in­cred­i­ble pops and splut­ters that em­anate from the en­gine and ex­haust, which the “sound engi­neers” must have had a field day cre­at­ing, as well as the ex­clu­sive John Cooper Works sports seats in Di­nam­ica fab­ric with in­te­grated head­rests that help make this a driver’s dream ride.

Rac­ing on the roads in the Mul­der­s­drift sur­rounds, try­ing des­per­ately hard to keep to the speed lim­its, the Mini roared into its own. It’s an amaz­ingly firm drive, with a re­spon­sive chas­sis, a lower cen­tre of grav­ity than its pre­de­ces­sor and 17-inch wheels that can be pumped up to 18 inches as an op­tion.

Back in the city, the newly de­vel­oped Brembo sports brake sys­tem was im­pres­sive and, on the gymkhana cir­cuit, the new model’s agility, speed and power came into play. It’s bla­tantly clear why this Mini has earned its John Cooper Works badge.

What it does de­mand, how­ever, is a buyer with deep pock­ets.

The six-speed man­ual ver­sion that ar­rives in Oc­to­ber re­quires a cool R418 000 and the Step­tronic model, avail­able now, is priced at a some­what steep R440 000.

Back in the 70s, my granny’s Mini cost her less than R2 000.

But luck­ily, mem­o­ries cost noth­ing.


RED FLASH The new Mini John Cooper Works ful­fils the prom­ise of fast and fu­ri­ous fun

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