2017 Mini John Cooper Works Convertible
We’re walking on sunshine with the fleetest Mini drop top yet
Words by: Adam Allen
Another Mini with the John Cooper Works treatment, huh?
You got it. After reviewing this convertible model, we’ll have driven every version of the hottest JCW models. The timing on reviewing this model was fortuitous- it was booked during an unseasonably warm time of year during the fall, with summer refusing to go quietly into the night. That meant we got to pad the stats of the onboard “Always Open” timer which keeps track of how long you drive with the top down. That proved to be incredibly easy- the top opens and closes in less than 20 seconds and does so with impressive silence, even up to speeds of 30 km/h. Don’t feel like putting the top down fully? The Mini treats you to a massive sunroof, opening up the cockpit to the elements enough for those who don’t feel like going full al fresco.
All the better to enjoy the sounds of the JCW Pro Exhaust System.
All Minis sound pleasingly rorty when you select Sport mode, but this option ($1,965) takes that one giant step further. Opt for it (and every JCW buyer should consider this a must-have) and it makes the B48 turbo four sound absolutely sensational. To activate it, there’s a little Bluetooth handheld controller that treats you to all kinds of malevolence at the push of a button by opening a secondary baffle in the muffler. Once underway, it does a great impersonation of the Jaguar F-Type, snarling and popping and gurgling and exuding all kinds of anti-social behavior. In the literature that Mini supplied with our tester, it specifically warns that fully opening the exhaust is strictly for track usage only and could violate local noise by-laws. Of course, being the hopeless bunch of juveniles that we are, we drove the JCW around with it on most of the time…it just sounds too good to resist. Luckily our fellow motorists didn’t seem to notice; it’s not too much louder than most aftermarket exhausts and as boisterous as it is, it’s never going to threaten anyone with hearing damage.
How does it fare on the track? This is a JCW, after all.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the JCW Convertible isn’t ideally suited for the track. Yes, it has all the provocative hardware that give it a distinct edge in aggression over its lesser counterparts, but removing the roof does not a sports car make. The resulting loss in rigidity is felt anytime you really ask it to dance- the cowl shakes slightly; some unbecoming shimmying can be felt through the chassis and it understeers more than its fixed roof brothers. That’s not to say it would embarrass itself; not at all. If you are looking to maximize the JCW’s sporting credentials, you should probably opt for the hardtop coupe. When viewed through a touring context of enjoying open-topped motoring and eating up kilometers in speedy fashion, the JCW Convertible’s place in the world begins to make a good deal of sense.
Could it be? Is Mini actually growing up a bit?
A Mini will always feel like it should- ultra quick steering, responsive engines and transmissions and very firm suspensions- “go kart handling” and feel are hallmarks of the brand. But it seems like the engineers are listening to their customers and dialing back the ‘mini-ness’ just a bit. Thanks to softer spring rates for convertible duty, our JCW rode much nicer than some of the examples we’ve driven in the past- still firm, but much better suited to commuting. Another pleasant surprise: unlike past Mini’s we’ve flogged, this one was completely bereft of interior squeaks and rattles.
What might go wrong?
Before a prospective buyer slides behind the wheel for a test drive, they may be slightly spooked by the price of admission. Our tester, which had a whole smattering of options (including the delightful exhaust and those cheeky rally fog lights up front) stickered for $51,480 which puts in the territory of other desirable drop tops- BMW’s own folding hardtop models can be had for similar money, and they are a whole lot more practical than this little scamp. The backseats are little more than upholstered cargo shelves, and trunk space is miniscule but still good enough for a weekend getaway. As we mentioned earlier, those intending to head to the odd track day here and there might want to try out the fixed roof counterpart instead if it’s outright speed they seek. And while we’re griping, how come the JCW Convertible doesn’t get the 8-speed transmission that other Mini’s enjoy?
Should I buy a JCW Convertible?
The fastest Mini drop top definitely has appeal, and it’s not hard to see why when your blitzing an onramp on a sunny day, the wind in your hair and your ears bathed in the belligerence emanating from the exhaust. If you turn your nose up at the price, know that your JCW Convertible can be had for considerably less that the one you see here- you’ll just have to use restraint when it comes time to have a look at the options, and there is a plethora at your disposal. Just don’t forget to spec the Pro Exhaust system.
2017 Mini John Cooper Works Convertible – Specifications
- Price as tested: $51,480
- Body Type: 2+2 coupe convertible
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 231 @ 5,200 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 236 @ 1,250 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 1,390 kg (3,064 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 9.9L/100km (24 mpg)