The MINI Cooper has always been one of our favourite hot hatches, there’s not much else like it in terms of sheer driving pleasure. Now Mini has launched its most powerful production variant, with the arrival of the new MINI John Cooper Works (JCW for short). This new Mini JCW boasts an impressive 231hp and 320Nm of torque, which is produced from its 2.0-litre TwinPower turbocharged petrol engine. Despite these powerful figures it’s capable of returning almost 50 miles per gallon on a combined run, thanks to fuel saving technologies.
Mini JCW customers can choose to have their car equipped with a traditional six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed steptronic sports automatic gearbox, our test car had the later. The Mini JCW is easily distinguished over its regular Mini siblings on first appearance. Up front there is enlarged air intakes to aid cooling, there is a new rear diffuser that houses the twin exhausts along with a rear roof spoiler. Tucked snuggly behind the 18-inch two-tone alloy wheels on our test car are immense 330mm brake discs with four piston Brembo calipers on the front discs. If the sporty bodywork doesn’t give you the clues to this car’s sporting pedigree, there are also some subtle John Cooper Works logos strategically placed around the car.
The sporty theme is very much evident inside the JCW, with a pair of figure-hugging sport bucket seats up front. These Alcantara-clad seats are just as good to admire looking into the car as they are to be cosseted in on any journey. Our test car had the optional carbon fibre trim inlays in the dash (€350), in place of the standard piano black trim. The driver’s seating position is low, close to the car’s centre of gravity. The leather multi-function steering wheel is chunky and a delight to hold, complete with paddles on the back for manual gear changes with the sports automatic transmission. At the base of the gear lever is a toggle switch for the driving modes, you can select from the standard MID mode to Green for economy or Sport for maximum performance. For the vast majority of our journeys we drove the Mini JCW in MID mode, it offers a decent mix of performance and economy. Once we turned off the motorways though we selected Sport mode which transforms this Mini into a hot hatch with serous potential. The suspension stiffens whilst the steering and throttle response are sharpened to offer the driver maximum feel and driving engagement. The sports exhaust delivers an aural delight to the senses with pops on upshifts and burbles on lift off. The handling is superb, this Mini feels like it’s on rail tracks along twisty sections of country roads. The gear changes happen in milliseconds, and there’s no need to take your hands off the steering wheel with the aid of the shift paddles behind the steering wheel. It’s impossible not the smile when driving the Mini JCW it’s such a fun, rewarding car to drive in all conditions.
There’s a host of technology on board, with full connectivity available. Our test car was equipped with the optional head-up display. It displays information in a clear format above the steering wheel through the windscreen, this includes your speed, the current speed limit, satellite navigation directions and radio stations. Just some of the standard equipment includes, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, a DAB radio, heated mirrors and windscreen washer jets.
This latest Mini may be far removed from its ancestor, it’s as modern as a Mini can be, packed full of technology. Thankfully though despite this technology it’s reassuring to see this Mini hasn’t lost any of the charm that made the original such fun to drive.
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