2015 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works 3 Door
All Hail the Fastest and Most Powerful Mini Ever.
What have we here?
For those with performance bent, let us introduce you to the ultimate Mini. John Cooper Works is the in-house speed shop tasked with turning up the wick on the already potent Cooper S and they’ve done a particularly good job this time around. The 3rd generation (known as the F56) strikes a nice balance between the untamed madness of the first one and the somewhat underwhelming follow up a few years later. It’s crazy enough to keep you chortling when sashaying through the twisty bits but offers enough refinement that you could easily use it as a daily driver.
Look at the size of those brakes!
They’re pretty massive aren’t they? In this genre of hot hatches, we often talk about what’s going on under the hood but the braking hardware package on the Mini is a big part of the story- they’re simply superb. The brakes on the JCW are so large that the engineers had to increase the wheel offsets so they could fit rolling stock over them. Our winter tire equipped tester’s 17” wheels looked like they could barely contain them. They bite down on the discs with startling ferocity and none of the hair trigger jumpiness we experienced the last time we flogged a JCW. During our Road Test we never came close to even a hint of fade, and they look like they’d be up for the rigours of lapping a racetrack.
The example here has an automatic gearbox. What gives?
As unabashed manual transmission evangelists, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t feel a pang of disappointment when we saw the tall gear selector protruding up between the front seats. Hot hatches favor driving involvement in high regard, and to that end should be fitted with a manual to get the most out of the experience (Mini expects that 75% of buyers will opt for the manual, a stat that elicits a smile at Carpages.) We’ve driven manuals from Mini before and have liked them quite a bit but now we’d get to experience the 6-speed auto ($1,650.) Guess what? The automatic isn’t bad, far from it. The shifting characteristics range from luxury car smooth to snappy, affirmative changes depending on what drive mode you’ve selected. The best way to describe the gearbox would be that it combines the speedy gear swaps of a dual-clutch unit but without any of the annoying idiosyncrasies- it’ll creep naturally in traffic and there’s no alarming dead spot at low speeds when you suddenly call for power. It has the knack of always being in the right gear and will rev match smartly when downshifting as you brake for a corner. Although we’d still order a manual, the automatic makes it extremely difficult to complain.
What’s it packing under the hood?
Since the F56 generation landed a few years ago, we’ve been delighted to find BMW engines in the engine bays of all Mini models. Known as the B48 and displacing 2.0 turbocharged litres, it’s the same mill you’ll find in a Cooper S but with the boost turned up substantially. For JCW duties, it musters a broad shouldered 228 horsepower and 236 lbs/ft. of torque. Those are sizable increases over the outgoing JCW and give it enough oomph to compete with the best of the segment. Thumb the starter and the B48 comes to life with a zing of revs before settling into a burlby idle. Once underway, we paused to consider how far small displacement fours have come- they’re no longer the tepid sounding, chock full of vibration with limp wristed outputs they once were. This engine feels larger than it actually is- the torrent of smooth, lag free power is a testament to how engineers continue to better the downsized turbo engine concept. Summon Sport mode and the engine takes on a harder edged character- tickle the throttle and you get a nice shove forward, while downshifts and a quick jump out of the gas reward with lovely pops an burbles on the overrun. Even with all this get-up-and-go the JCW can be an efficient commuter- we averaged 9.9L/100km during the course of our test which came in slightly higher than the VW GTI we tested recently, but admirable nonetheless.
What about the chassis?
Non-enthusiasts and gearheads alike would unanimously describe Mini handling characteristics as go-karts for the road- low weight, minimal suspension travel and right-now steering. It may be a tired cliché, but what other car feels like it darts from Point A to Point B like a caffeinated housefly? Underpinning the suspension is Mini’s Dynamic Damper Control (part of the Loaded package which stickers for $1,150.) This sharpens up the suspenders when you select Sport mode, however we didn’t have a chance to sample one without the option for comparisons sake. If there’s a drawback to having a chassis that’s on high alert at all times it’s that it never feels relaxed, even when you want to take it easy. We suspect some of the plastic interior trim pieces aren’t a fan of its stiffly sprung nature because they rattle and squeak in sympathy as you drive along.
What’s the verdict?
If you’ve just come from owning a Cadillac Fleetwood, you probably won’t be tantalized by the JCW. Owning a car as narrowly focused as the JCW takes commitment. There are many drivers out there who will find the hottest of Mini’s quite enjoyable; the key is to make sure that you’re one of them before writing the cheque. And a princely sum that cheque will have scrawled on it, to the tune of $44,740. That figure buys you the best John Cooper Works tuned Mini that has ever left the factory- we just wished they’d soften it up ever so slightly.
2015 Mini John Cooper Works3 Door– Specifications
- Price as tested: $44,740
- Body Type: 2-door, 5 passenger coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbo inline four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 228 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 236 @ 1,250 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,288 kg (2,864 lbs.)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.9L/100 km (24 mpg)