Frenetic No More

Mini says this is the most powerful Mini Cooper they’ve ever produced. But has the John Cooper Works special lost its identity?

The problem with age is how unforgiving it can be. The other issue with age is the threat of portliness that comes with it. Besides the usual health concerns, being heavier hurts your agility as well. 

While Mini claims their flagship is the most powerful ever, it’s also heavier and physically chunkier than the previous generation. The John Cooper Works (JCW) namesake is associated with Mini’s rich racing history and known for producing some of the best race cars in the business. 

Naturally, the cars carrying his name would follow the same ethos of high performance. And the previous generation did. Paired with an effervescent 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, the relatively lightweight JCW was engaging to drive. And handled much like race cars of old. It was uncomfortable but cornered as if it were on rails and always eager to head-butt the horizon. 

So powerful was the engine that the driver would have to resist the steering wheel’s wild movements when taking off at the lights. It was fun, entertaining and stayed true to the Mini’s trademark go-kart driving feel. 

If you’re looking for the same rawness that the previous JCW offered, you would be disappointed. Despite the powerful 2.0-litre engine and impressive numbers on the spec sheet, the JCW has a new found docility unimaginable in the previous iteration. 

You could even call it practical! It’ll carry three of your mates in relative comfort but the lack of any usable boot space remains a Mini trademark here. 

Shod with adjustable suspension that allows you to harden or soften it according to your needs, the flagship Mini switches from hot hatch to shopping cart at the push of a button. 

When the mood does strike, the JCW obliges with enthusiastic and ‘theatrical’ pops and gurgles from its exhaust pipes. The Mini achieves this effect by squirting raw fuel into the hot exhaust to get you in the mood. 

Take off at the lights and you’ll immediately notice that Mini has tuned the new car to accelerate straight and true without any steering wheel movements. Thankfully, the new car retains the same cornering prowess of its predecessor.  

Curbing the wild child antics of the JCW expands the audience for Mini’s new flagship. But the civility they’ve accorded to it has dulled the driving experience and in the process misplaced the JCW’s identity as a no nonsense hot hatch. Traditionalists will be disappointed of course but the dumbing down could help them sell more cars than before. 

Your rating: MagBe