I got to drive the new F56 John Cooper Works (JCW) in Johannesburg recently to see what the most powerful production Mini ever is like.
Most powerful you say?
Yes, it has 170kW/320Nm on tap courtesy of a BMW-derived 2.0 litres turbocharged motor which now gets revised pistons, a bigger turbocharger as well as a larger intercooler. The car also gets a sports exhaust system which gives the JCW a very nice tone when boosting through the city. Expect the usual snap, crackle and bang associated with JCW models on the overrun too.
So what about the performance then?
The figures belie the performance as the JCW pulls very hard though the gears, almost squatting in the process. The claimed 0-100km/h for the six-speed automatics which we sampled at launch is 6.1 seconds while manual model, due to arrive later this year does the shuffle to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds.
The Steptronic automatic transmission was something that I thought I’d find quite hateful however it works well, the up shifts in Sport mode give you the desired burps while the downshifts can be a bit slower than you might desire. In addition to providing better performance, the automatic is also said to be more frugal with claimed consumption for the auto model at 5.7 litres/100km (6.7 litres/100km for the manual).
Does it feel like a hot hatch?
It absolutely does, in a very Mini-esque way, you see, the steering feels very artificial yet is weighted well so it gives you confidence. The electronic differential allows for a little squirm from the front end before reigning it in. This makes the car feel playful without the dreaded torque steer. The handling feels solid with the adaptive dampers while the car feels more grown up than older models, meaning, it isn’t really point-and-squirt but more in need of precise inputs
Does it look like a hot hatch?
From the outside it could be mistaken for a normal Cooper S if you decide to stick with the standard 17-inch wheels. There are several JCW badges on the car and a decidedly more aggressive body kit complete with a rear spoiler and diffuser which adds to its sporting appeal but in my opinion at least, doesn’t look as aggressive as a flagship sport model should.
The interior remedies this though with JCW sports seats which look and feel fantastic, there are also JCW door sills, a JCW steering wheel, JCW gearlever and a chequered flag design on top of the centre-mounted Mini Connected infotainment system which, like in many BMW products, works a treat with Bluetooth/USB and Application compatibility.
The new Mini John Cooper Works has been one of my surprise drives for the year. It is fast, feels premium, is well priced and handles well. The pricing means that it comes in just under key three-door rivals such as the Volkswagen Scirocco R (R494 200), the Opel Astra OPC (R496 300) and the Renault Mégane RS 275 Trophy (R449 900). Just be wary of the options list, as things can get pretty steep.
Warranty and service
The JCW comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty as well as a 5-year/100 000km Motorplan.
|Mini John Cooper Works manual||R418 000|
|Mini John Cooper Works automatic||R440 000|