More cash, extra dash
MINI has made its most expensive model cheaper. The new high-performance JCW Convertible has taken a price cut of $6000 and Mini says it gets another $6000 worth of equipment over the outgoing model, including a standard automatic transmission.
At $54,900 plus on-roads — $10,000 more than the Cooper S Convertible — the JCW is still a lot of cash for a Mini but it comes with extra features, sharper looks and even sharper drive feel.
Predictably, Mini’s option packs can hike up the price.
The $1500 safety pack should be standard equipment. It includes camera-based active cruise control, forward collision warning, city crash mitigation, highbeam assist with adaptive headlights and tyre pressure monitoring.
Compared with the Cooper S, the JCW is more fun to drive in every respect. The punchy engine (170kw/320Nm) pushes it along at a decent clip, the Brembo brakes give the relatively light JCW impressive stopping power and the tyres are a distinct step up.
Mini says increasing sales of the automatic Cooper S and JCW prompted the decision to make the self-shifter standard, even if counter to the accepted preference for driving enthusiasts. A manual option remains but the auto is quicker.
The JCW’s front seats are stylish and comfortable, holding you firm through tight corners taken quickly. Leather costs extra but it’s not needed. The two rear seats are essentially part-time accommodation and access isn’t that user friendly.
The striking dash has metal and carbon-fibre look highlights, with the trademark circular centre dial housing a multi-function controller and screen. The head-up display has readouts for speed, satnav directions, audio, gear selected, shift warning and engine revs.
The base car gets rainsensing wipers, pop-up roll bar, reverse camera, voice controller, front and rear parking sensors and park assist.
There’s a design flaw — the huge blind spot caused by the side sections of the roof.
ON THE ROAD
We took the JCW Convertible auto for a spin along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, the ideal environment for a roofless car.
The auto is a hoot to drive as the paddle-shifters flick up and down the ratios. Select sport mode and there is a gorgeous burble/bang effect on throttle overrun from the twin-tip exhaust.
Pushed hard, the JCW rewards a committed driver with a surprising level of grip and stability — tempered a little by the electronic differential, which somewhat deadens full power exits from tight corners.
The diff ’s job is to prevent the nose running wide through corners, a common affliction for high-performance front-drivers. That other front-drive drawback, torque steer, is not an issue as the JCW tracks true and rips through curves. The Brembos wipe off speed in a blink.
The auto is a lot of fun but the manual is more engaging and rewarding for the enthusiast driver.
It’s expensive but the JCW goes well, looks funky, sounds impressive and exudes a quality feel, while the electric soft-top is a bonus. The manual retains more of the raw edge of earlier JCW cars that you had to take hold of and drive.