The MINI range gets a powerful new JCW version that is speedy and terrific to drive.
TODAY’S MINI is a BMW Group product manufactured in Oxford, England. Current Cooper and Cooper S versions of the MINI hatchback continue to deliver the spirit of the originals. That means small cars with huge abilities. Top of the MINI performance range today is this latest John Cooper Works model, or JCW for short. The engine is a 2-litre 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection, a turbocharger integrated in the exhaust manifold and Valvetronic plus VANOS camshaft control. The nett result is 231bhp and a whopping 320Nm of torque. It is the most powerful Mini in history.
Our reviewer, Shreejit, is pleasantly surprised that the new MINI JCW is just as fun on the racing track as it is on the open road.
Anyone who has driven a Cooper S of the 1960s will appreciate what BMW has done to the JCW. Okay, so it is not as tiny as it used to be, but the driving experience is very much the modern equivalent, with sharp steering, lightning-quick throttle response and kartlike handling. But the 21st century version of the fastest Mini also comes with a level of refinement, ride comfort and build quality that no ’60s crystal ball could have predicted. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, but I do most of the driving on Spanish streets and mountain roads with a 6-speed automatic gearbox (which equips all the new JCWs that will be sold in Singapore).
The car is beautifully balanced, and eager to change directions on command of the steering wheel.
For the record, the automatic JCW is an immensely better drive than its predecessor. In fact, the auto is so good that there’s really no reason to specially order a manual 6-speeder. Whether in D or in paddleshifter DIY, the Aisin autobox works with enthusiasm and encourages sporty driving. My only complaint is the wide spacing between 2nd and 3rd gears, which means the car needs to be slower than I’d expect to shift down from 3rd. According to the factorysupplied performance figures, the new JCW sprints to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds with the auto – 0.2 of a second faster than with the manual. Interestingly, the automatic JCW also returns better fuel economy, despite weighing 15kg more.
Minimal understeer plus maximal grip plus punchy acceleration equals a hot hatch that “Works” hard to deliver driving thrills.
despite weighing 15kg more. The JCW’s Cooper S-based suspension gets some useful tweaks, plus Brembo brakes. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) are standard, as is the diff erential lock courtesy of electronic brake control. On the road, I never feel any of the electronics coming into play. The car simply feels like a finely engineered driving machine – beautifully balanced, with barely a hint of understeer, and eager to change directions on command of the steering wheel. I can feel the rear end get a little light when braking into a corner, but I quickly learn that it is just a cheeky and harmless characteristic.
Cockpit features that turn the Cooper S into the JCW include sports seats with integral headrests, a special gear selector and custom instruments.
I do a few laps on the Mallorca racing circuit with a 6-speed manual JCW, chasing former Mini rally ace Rauno Aaltonen. It’s a pleasant surprise to discover that the hatch is just as fun on the track as it is on the road. The Brembo brakes are well up to track-work abuse. With the DSC and DTC switched off , the car is even more fun, giving full throttle control to the driver, who can modulate the accelerator pedal to optimise traction with just a little bit of wheelspin, and exit out of corners quicker than if the electronics were in charge. The electronic diff erential lock, which uses ABS sensors and selectively applies braking to either of the front wheels, emulates a limitedslip diff erential (LSD) and works very well indeed.
The front seats are supremely supportive.
Really, it is diffi cult to mess things up in this machine because it has plenty of grip front and rear, even in extreme circumstances. The current Mini’s front-end styling has been the subject of some criticism, and the JCW’s “mod look” is not likely to see the end to this. There are bigger air intakes in the bumper, plus two new grilles that take the place of the foglamps. Their objectives are more cooling air, better induction and optimised aerodynamics – not beautification of the face.
LED headlamps and daytime running lights complete the JCW front. A roof-mounted spoiler at the top of the tailgate is claimed to increase downforce, though MINI hasn’t given a specific percentage. Inside, the JCW has a pair of sports seats in front that are good to look at and supremely supportive. The interior is otherwise pretty much Cooper S, which means it is stylish and well put together. A head-up display is optional, as is a sports instrument pack that adds three round dials (for oil and boost pressures, and a chronometer).
The mini jcw is fast and capable on the road, and tremendously fun on the racetrack.
The mightiest of MINI motors is a 2-litre with 9.5 percent more power and 23 percent more torque than the previous 1.6-litre JCW engine.
The new Mini JCW is not inexpensive, nor is it an easy car for hands-on enthusiasts to tune (by configuring the engine control unit). But for sheer driving pleasure, the standard-spec MINI JCW shines as a fast and capable road car that can also off er tremendous fun on the track. The 2015 MINI John Cooper Works might be the perfect pocket rocket for the petrolhead who loves to enjoy a fun weekend in Sepang or Pasir Gudang, and then drive to work on Monday!