Most powerful Mini

08 Jun 2015 / 15:14 H.

    JOHN Cooper Works (JWC) is to Mini what AMG is to Mercedes Benz and M is to BMW. It is essentially the performance division for all Mini cars ever since BMW acquired the rights to the name in 2007.
    Prior to that, John Cooper Works parts were available from the company as performance upgrades for Minis.
    Today a Mini John Cooper Works is the flagship of the entire Mini range. It is the fire breathing, hard charging, naughtier version of the standard Mini Cooper S, and this latest F56 Mini John Cooper Works just happens to be the most powerful Mini.
    Which also means it is the naughtiest. Introduced locally at the successful BMW World Malaysia 2015 exhibition which concluded back in April, the new Mini JCW is everything you want in a hot hatch, and a whole lot more.
    When parked next to the standard Cooper S, the JCW is distinguished by a new front and rear bumper and aprons. The front bumper makes do without fog lamps, and is lined with squarish vents at the bottom that has been aerodynamically enhanced for engine cooling.
    The back features twin central mounted exhaust pipes, while the side sill covers and roof spoiler are also unique to the JCW. The 17-inch light weight wheels are also exclusive, as are the Brembo front brake callipers.
    Overall, the JCW does not look too different from the standard Cooper S Mini JCW's but the red paint highlights and bonnet stripes are also reserved for JCW models only.
    The difference starts inside the car where you will find a pair of new suede covered sports seats with integrated headrests. The seats don't only look amazing but are also superbly comfortable and supportive.
    There are also other features like the piano black trim and red highlights, as well as the darkened speed and rpm meter.
    Everything else remains the same throughout the Mini range; the location of the switches and buttons and other controls are all familiar with the same excellent build quality. Interior space is also good enough for three full sized adults to sit comfortably. Boot space is scarce but offers a two-tier storage system to tuck away smaller items like shoes and such.
    The real highlight of this JCW model lays where the sun does not shine. Its predecessor was letdown by an eager but small 1.6 litre engine, the new Mini JCW, however,is finally the ultimate balance of power and handling with a new engine and some trick suspension that lets the car live up to its promise of delivering go-kart like handling.
    And it really does feel like it, handling is this car's best feature and it is the first thing you notice when you start to drive it.
    But before we delve into what makes this small car change directions like a bee on rails, we analyse what makes the package tick.
    At the front and located directly above the axle is the most powerful engine ever fitted in a serial production Mini; a 2.0 litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged engine featuring Mini's TwinPower turbo technology.
    The TwinPower turbo technology does not mean there are twin turbos, but that the turbocharger works in unison with other technologies like VALVETRONIC and double VANOS.
    There is some noticeable turbo lag when you first put your foot down, but 320Nm of torqueavailable from 1,250rp makes up for that, and 231hp takes over from 5,200rpm all the way to 6,000rpm. The engine redlines at a suggested 6,500rpm but will pull past 7,000.
    And if you gun it from a standstill, it needs 6.1 seconds to reach 100km/h with an automatic gearbox, 6.3 with a manual box.
    The 231 horsepower on offer is not a lot in these days of super cable hot hatches. The Golf GTI offers 217hp, the Golf R has 277hp, the Renault Megane RS265 gives you 265hp, the Focus ST has 247hp and the exotic Mercedes A45 AMG tops them all with
    360hp.
    The new JCW is obviously in very talented company, but it is capable of holding its own, and that is where its ability to shift
    directions quickly with as little drama as possible comes into play.
    This car turns direction as soon as you want it to, the steering is quick, direct and is amongst the most accurate in the market.
    And despite it being electro mechanical with Servotronic assist, feedback from the front wheels is decent but not particularly chatty. Then there is the usual squad of driver aids like Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic Traction Control, Electronic Differential Lock Control, Performance Control and Dynamic Damper Control.
    It falls short of controlling your brain though, and is a slave to your demands.
    Find a nice stretch of winding roads and the JCW is in its element. The sports suspension can stiff for highway rides, but here it gives you precise steering with no body roll. It is possible to control the character of the suspension if you have the optional dynamic damping – soft in Normal mode and stiff in sports mode.
    Then there is that brilliant six-speed gearbox that gives explosively quick shifts complete with pops on the up shifts,and spits and burbles on the down shift. You have to love the character of the new JCW.
    In fact while the competition has put on some weight and rely on power to go about their business, this Mini is a refreshing combination of lightweight power (1220kg unladen DIN weight) and sharp handling, just as hot hatches are supposed to be.
    The downside to the Mini? Its price – RM288,888 is a lot of money considering the competition. But then again, of all the brands mentioned bar Mercedes, Mini arguably has the coolest showrooms and after sales centres and arguably puts the most style into your life.
    But that is if you do not mind being constantly beaten at the traffic light drag wars.
    The Mini JCW is a brilliant hot hatch in a competitive world where the competition offers more power and practicality. But sometimes a car should be judged on its ability to entertain rather than on pure power alone, and in that sense, the latest JCW does one hell of a job.

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