by: Mike Ginsca
2009 saw the introduction of this “hardcore” version of the Mini Cooper. What’s different about it and is it worth the extra money? Read on…
Performance – This John Cooper Works (JCW) edition Mini is outfitted with a new 208 hp turbocharged inline-4 engine. The turbocharged engine provides more torque at lower revs when compared with the older supercharged version and while 193 lb-ft of torque is enough, under heavy acceleration situations the ECU automatically “overboosts” the engine allowing it to produce 206 lb-ft of torque. In my opinion the extra power is not necessary because as a front wheel drive car you can feel the steering wheel tugging left or right due to the torque steer. Now that it is turbocharged, there is a fair amount of turbo lag but that quickly goes away when the revs reach 2500rpm.
Through corners the Mini JCW retains its legendary fun to drive characteristics. It does have an electro-assisted steering system, as opposed to hydraulic assisted, but unlike other electro-assisted steering racks in other BMW products, the one in this Mini is responsive and communicative with the driver. The 17” wheels and low profile tires contribute to the quick responsiveness in the steering as well as new sports suspension that is tuned to provide the most amount of grip that is possible. Large Brembo brakes on the front wheels provide all the stopping power that the Mini will ever need and electronic programs such as ABS, DTC (traction control) and DSC (stability control) keep the small car under the driver’s control.
Comfort – While low profile tires and sport suspension may be great for handling, it is dreadful for a comfortable ride. Adding to the poor ride is also the fact that it has a short wheelbase which amplifies certain bumps on the road. It’s not as uncomfortable as the Lotus Elise but I’d say that it is just as uncomfortable as the Corvette Z06. Interior space in the front seats is adequate, even for a tall person like myself, but rear leg and head room are non-existent.
The interior design has a lot of funky features such as a speedometer in the center of the vehicle and airplane style switches for the windows. It takes some getting use to with the speedometer in the center of the car but the tachometer is directly in front of the driver and it does have a digital display for the speed, among other functions.
Odds and Ends – The JCW package does set the Mini apart from the rest of the Mini range with its spider web styled wheels, Brembo brakes, Cat-back exhaust system, and aero package. The car does look exciting but this car has always been a love it or hate it type of car and the JCW version probably won’t win the hearts and minds of new customers.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the vehicle.
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.