More cash, ex­tra dash

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - PETER BARN­WELL peter.barn­well@news.com.au

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.

VER­DICT

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.

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