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Mini John Cooper Works - Road Test First Drive - Autocar.co.uk



Mini John Cooper Works
Test date 11 July 2008 Price as tested £20,995

Mini JCW sounds great from the outside, but engine noise is flat and insipid inside the cabin
What is it?

The hottest version of the new age Mini so far. The ‘JCW’ uses a tuned version of the standard Cooper S’s 1.6-litre engine to deliver 208bhp – enough to propel if from 0-62mph in a claimed 6.5 seconds and onto a top speed of 148 mph.

After the success of BMW’s previous ‘John Cooper Works’ kit on the previous Mini, the JCW brand has been brought in-house to create what we’re encouraged to see as an equivalent of parent BMW’s M-Division.

The Mini John Cooper Works wears a unique bodykit, boasts new-design 18 inch alloys and gets the all-important extra badges. But the most substantial changes lie beneath the surface.

The engine gets a revised cylinder head, new pistons, more turbo boost and an all-new exhaust system (from the manifold back to the tailpipe). The power output will grab the headlines, but it’s the fat torque plateau, with 192lb ft from 1850-5600rpm, that actually underlies the JCW’s performance.

Brakes have also been uprated, although the suspension remains the same as that of the standard Cooper S, unless you’re prepared to pay more for an ultra-hard JCW handling kit.
What’s it like?

Great fun. The JCW provides instant proof that the standard Cooper S’s chassis is more than up to handling a substantial power hike.

It feels properly rapid – the turbo spools up with almost no lag and the engine’s strong mid-range makes for effortless urge in any gear. Passers by get to enjoy a rorty exhaust note, into which some over-run ‘crackle’ has been carefully engineered. But, unfortunately, inside the cabin it sounds flat and insipid.

The biggest dynamic difference comes from the fitment of what’s described as an electronic differential lock system, which replicates the function of a mechanical LSD by braking a spinning front wheel (if the traction control turned off) to redistribute torque.

The JCW certainly finds plenty of grip and traction, although the clever traction control is only of noticeable benefit on very tight corners or in wet conditions. The JCW also gets a more aggressive stability control setting – under the same ‘Dynamic Traction Control’ moniker that BMW uses – although this feels slightly pointless on a front-drive hatchback.

The engine’s prodigious output creates some mild torque steer, with the JCW’s steering wheel sniffing out cambers and minor imperfections in the road surface. But it’s well contained and the mild tugging effect is entirely in keeping with the enthusiastic qualities you’d expect from a car like this.

The most surprising thing about the John Cooper Works is just how much equipment it doesn’t get – and which has been reserved for the options list. Despite a pricetag that puts it into direct contention with a 2.0 TFSI Volkswagen Scirocco, the JCW makes do with same standard, unsupportive seats fitted to the standard Mini Cooper. Proper buckets are a pricey option.

The interior also lacks much to distinguish it from the standard Cooper S. The JCW gets branded plates on the doorsills, a 160mph speedometer and a different gearknob. But, from the driver’s seat, it certainly doesn’t feel like it should be nearly five grand more expensive than the Cooper S.

So, should I buy one?

If you want the ultimate Mini, this is what you’ll have to pay to get your hands on one. But the John Cooper Works feels like it’s going to struggle to justify its seriously steep pricetag against some of its seriously talented, cheaper rivals.

Mike Duff

First drive data
How much?
Price as tested £20,995
Price as tested £20,995
How fast?
0-62 mph 6.5 sec
Max speed 148 mph
How big?
Weight 1130 kg
How thirsty?
Combined 40.9 mpg
CO2 emissions 165 g/km
Engine
Layout 4 , 1598 cc
Max power 208 bhp at 6000 rpm
Max torque 207 lb ft at 1850 rpm
 

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I'm avin 'oops
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Not a bad review but not a gr8 one

Part of teh problem as was highlighted a long time ago on Top Gear is that there are tuing companies out there that can take the engine further without affecting handling to a great amount.

The problem is like they said on Top Gear you would go for the JCW as it has the bullet proof warranty, althoug I suspect that most tuning companies warranty their work these days.

If you want the ultimate Mini
Ultimate Standard Mini is probably a better description and by standard I mean produced by BMW even if via JCW
 

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Discussion Starter #4
This 4Car review is better, but again price and torque steer are the negatives.

Mini John Cooper Works (200:cool: | Car Review | Road Test | 4car | Channel 4
Much better report and sounds great piece of kit at a "price" which maybe refundable come sale time :D

The JCW uses the same 1.6-litre engine as the Cooper S, which is already a very impressive unit, but it has been modified to deliver more power. The S pushes out 175bhp with a maximum torque of 177lb-ft but, with the modified engine, the JCW offers 211bhp with 191lb-ft of torque.

Click on the overboost and torque increases to 206lb-ft.

What does all that extra torque and power mean? Well, it means that the JCW can complete the 0-60mph sprint in 6.5 seconds, which is 0.6s faster than the Cooper S, and then push on to a top speed of 148mph, bettering the S's top end of 140mph.

The downside of all this huff and puff is the high level of torque steer. Clearly, if you have a light, nippy car with a maximum of 206lb-ft coming through the front wheels there's going to be a trade-off, which in this case is the pull coming through the steering wheel. It's not unbearable or dangerous, but it is disconcerting at times.

The base of the S engine hasn't change but the JCW's intake valves and valve seat rings have been made of more durable materials to deal with the higher temperatures of a free-revving engine and the pistons and cylinder sidewalls have been reinforced. There's also a larger air intake, a beefed-up exhaust and a modified gearbox. The modified exhaust also means you get some 'popping and banging', which increases the adrenaline when you are driving in a particularly 'energetic' manner. The 'Sport' button in front of the gearstick means the boost will arrive earlier in the rev range, and it also sharpens the steering and throttle response.

Dynamically, you'll find it hard to better the Mini JCW and, since it's on the same suspension as the Cooper S, you can expect massive amounts of grip. You can upgrade the suspension and get it lowered by 10mm at a cost of £140 so it's stiffer and tighter around corners, but we think that's just silly behaviour. Leave it alone - it's fine as it is.

In normal spec, it's a beast. Basically, you point the JCW in the direction it wants to go and it'll go there without delay. Plant your foot on the accelerator when exiting a bend and there's no hideous fishtailing or loss of composure. There is a fraction of understeer, but nothing to undermine confidence and if you do find you have been a little too over-enthusiastic the electronic stability kicks in unobtrusively.

This is the first time any Mini has included Dynamic Traction Control (DTC), which increases the tolerance for wheel slippage before stability control kicks in. It means that the stability control only intervenes in extreme circumstances and is particularly useful in the wet or on loose surfaces, or when you are driving like a complete twit.

Now, before all the non-twits start complaining about loss of control, you can still switch the DTC and stability control off, so the driver can feel more involved. However, the Electronic differential Lock Control (EDLC) - a new system for Mini - will still be working. This is similar to a limited slip differential and it means that you can enjoy a sportier driving experience if you want without the hand-holding of stability control. EDLC works when the car is accelerating hard out of corners and, thanks to clever electronics, slows the spinning inside rear wheel to give better grip and ensure all the available power is transferred to the wheel that has the greatest contact with the road. With the safety systems off, it means you get a fantastically engaging drive and the definite feeling that you are in total control of the car.

Steering is positive and keen on turn-in, the gearchange is smooth, and with upgraded brakes there's more than enough stopping power.

The Mini was a top performer in the Euro NCAP crash tests and achieved the maximum five stars for adult occupancy protection.

It's also pretty safe if you are not in the car too: one of the main reasons for the Mini's redesign was the imminent arrival of tough new pedestrian safety legislation that requires space between the bonnet and engine to allow for compression, in case an unlucky pedestrian's head makes contact with the Mini.

You get six airbags - front, side and curtain - as standard. There's also a host of safety systems to help keep you out of trouble: Dynamic Stability Control, Dynamic traction control, Hill Assist, Electronic Brake Distribution, Corner Braking Control and anti-lock brakes. There also an Isofix child seat attachment on the rear seat.

Remote central locking, alarm and immobiliser are all standard fit.

This is where the Mini really comes into its own. You might not expect a car that has a top end of 148mph and accelerates to 60mph in just 6.5 seconds to be that frugal, but it is. The hatch weighs just 1,130kg (the Clubman 1,205kg) and, as such, it can achieve 40.4mpg on average.

Emissions are class-leading and at 165g/km it's very affordable in terms of road tax.
Insurance isn't going to be cheap, however, and although it won't be in the top category, its performance levels dictate a high grouping.

Minis are offered with the TLC package, which means that servicing will be ridiculously cheap. For just £150 you can get your JCW serviced for five years or 50,000 miles. This includes an oil service and filter change on the first service, brake fluid service at two years and an oil service, filter change, vehicle check and spark plug and air filter change on the second service.

It's a Mini isn't it, so you can hardly expect to step out of your JCW after a long 300-mile cross-country trip expecting to feel fresh as a daisy? The ride is firm, but it is complaint on smooth road surfaces. We tested the Clubman and hatch in a variety of country lanes in Derbyshire and although we found it perfectly capable on road with minor undulations, we did find ourselves juggling around on roads where there were continuous lumps and bumps.

The Mini's seating is still a little too firm, but it is easy to get a decent driving position. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake and while it's not exsctly limo-like, you do feel reassuringly cosseted behind the wheel of a JCW.

Inside, it's little different from the Cooper S. Open the door and you'll notice JCW-branded door-sill plates and behind the wheel the oversized speedo has been changed to go up to 160mph to accommodate the increased top speed.

You get a leather sports steering wheel, glossy black interior trim and anthracite roof lining. There's a red gearknob, unique to the Mini John Cooper Works, but apart from that, it's pretty much the same as the Cooper S.

Standard fit items include a radio/CD player with MP3 socket, clock, air con, digital clock, stainless steel pedals, electric front windows and 50/50 split rear folding rear seats.

If you like the Mini quirkiness, you'll like the controls but we still find them a bit fiddly. Adjusting the air-con means requires you to shift a vertical rotary dial and it's too far away from the driver. The CD player isn't that user-friendly and the layout, as a whole, is not logical. We've seen worse, though.

Exterior-wise John Cooper Work badges adorn the front and rear and Mini have resisted the temptation to go with larger oversized alloys that might compromise the ride even further. The 17" cross spoke alloys are perfectly adequate from an aesthetic point of view and with the red-painted Brembo callipers the JCW looks the part. You also get the aero kit with rear spoiler and there's some extra frippery to let passers-by know you are in a JCW: chromed side indicator grilles, chromed fuel filler cap, chromed door handles, honeycomb black radiator grille and body-coloured engine scoop add a little bling.

Earlier this year a Mini customer phoned us up and said he was unhappy because he was offered £10k as part exchange for his four-year-old car, which he bought new for £15k.

He was being unreasonable. The fact is Minis are incredibly good for residuals, returning between 63 and 64% after three years or 36,000 miles. Indeed, in 2007 Mini was rated number one in the UK by used car industry by vehicle leasing firm Lex
 

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Waiting for Works Clubman
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I suspect that most tuning companies warranty their work these days.
I've had one of *those* waranties before. When things went "bang", two different companies ponted at each other and said "it's not *our* fault", and left me picking up a four-figure bill on an engine less than 3 months old. No thanks.

Besides, the other *big* advange of choosing the factory JCW over aftermarket tuning is the insurance; with the JCW model, it's already on insurers' books; whereas aftermarket turns your MINI into a modified car, which is going to cost you a three-figure premium over a standard car every year.

The Drivers Republic review wasn't too inspiring - describing the torque steer as "unruly" and "wrist-wrenching". Now does anyone still think that Ford will eliminate torque steer on the 290bhp RS? Not that I care - I drove a 90+bhp Mini for 6 years, and have forearms like Popeye as a result; I *like* wrestling with my cars!

Predictably nobody seems overly impressed with that electronic diff trickery. Still, it's maintenance-free unlike the mechanical LSDs, which is a pretty big plus for me (as I intend to keep my next car until it's done 100-150k miles).


Would anyone care to tell me how come Channel 4 were able to test the Clubman version, yet MINI UK absolutely, categorically and definately will not sell one to me until next year?

Ho hum; I'll get a test drive in the dealer's JCW Hatch in a week or two and make my own mind up.
 

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Waiting for Works Clubman
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It's a Mini isn't it, so you can hardly expect to step out of your JCW after a long 300-mile cross-country trip expecting to feel fresh as a daisy?
I expect it, and I've always felt fine stepping out of my R52 MINI at the end of a long journey. Methinks this journo has never tried the *old* Mini - I'd get out of that after a 300 mile journey half-cripled and deaf for the next hour.
 

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Factory JCW
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Autocar says the car has a Unique Bodykit :confused: But this is the same JCW Aero Bodykit available on the Current S..
Agree with the car being in competition with the new VW .. That is one nice car..
 

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Waiting for Works Clubman
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TBH, although these reviews are fine for telling us how *others* will perceive the JCW, the only way I'm making a decision to buy one or not is by driving it myself. *We* all know exactly what comfort levels the MINI offers (Channel 4's reviewer didn't seem to like it - but it's the SAME as the S, man!); we know about the interior trim and ergonomics. Only time will tell if the JCW engine is more robust than the standard one (my betting is it will be), or whether the tyres last longer than 10,000 miles (my betting is that they won't).

Autocar says the car has a Unique Bodykit :confused: But this is the same JCW Aero Bodykit available on the Current S.
You're reading something written by a *journalist*. It's almost a point of principle withthat lot never to get the facts more than about 50% right (except when the facts are spoon-fed to them by means of a press release). Go and read an article written about any subject that you are knowledgeable in, and you'll see exactly what I mean. I reckon that almost every article I've ever read that was written about something I already knew about contained at least 3 important errors; so it's wise to assume that articles written on subjects I know *nothing* about have at least as many errors.
 

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Loving his JCW!!!
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TBH, although these reviews are fine for telling us how *others* will perceive the JCW, the only way I'm making a decision to buy one or not is by driving it myself. *We* all know exactly what comfort levels the MINI offers (Channel 4's reviewer didn't seem to like it - but it's the SAME as the S, man!); we know about the interior trim and ergonomics. Only time will tell if the JCW engine is more robust than the standard one (my betting is it will be), or whether the tyres last longer than 10,000 miles (my betting is that they won't).
I totally agree. Im not buying a mini thinking its the best car in its class, and certainly not for the money. I guess im buying it because its a mini. If i drive it and arent satisfied (sure i will be because magazine roadtesters are very picky abou cars these days, because the whole car industry is producing excellant cars) i will maybe cancel my order and get a Megane R26 instead.

I think i am more likely to get the mini, and if im bored of it in a year ill take a hit to the wallet, sell, and get a Focus RS!
 

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Autocar says the car has a Unique Bodykit :confused: But this is the same JCW Aero Bodykit available on the Current S.
It is the same JCW aerokit on the JCW car as you can buy and put on a normal MCS;)

Thats one of the disappointing things as I see it that its not a different/special looking MINI as the JCW should have been, nor does it have any huge differences in terms of seats as you would get in the premium/sports Focus or VW model. I think they've really missed a trick here to make this car something special and aspirational:(

But I've had my dealer on the phone asking when I want to come a drive it already, so they are already pushing sales of it hard, so can't be that much of a back order book on it yet.

Prefer the 4-car review, always do, far more accurate, the only one that is sometimes better than 4-car is an actual MINI fans review of it, so guess we'll have to read motoring file for that:rolleyes:
 

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JCW time
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I am disappointed to be honest. I was hoping for something a bit more special...one of the reviews I have read today suggests that JCW is the equivalent of BMW's M division...then all I can say is they have a lot to learn...:(

Why mess about with that clever electronic diff ( which doesnt get good reviews anyway) and not bother with a JCW specific suspension tune.

Missed opportunity as far as i am concened and sadly the end of my 7 year association with the MINI me thinks.
 

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Waiting for Works Clubman
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Thats one of the disappointing things as I see it that its not a different/special looking MINI as the JCW should have been, nor does it have any huge differences in terms of seats as you would get in the premium/sports Focus or VW model. I think they've really missed a trick here to make this car something special and aspirational:(
Personally I'm happy that it gets improved brakes and an improved engine (a more robust one; not just an air filter and an ECU tweak), rather than the usual "sports seats, paint job and stickers" approach that *some* signature models get.
 

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MCS AB Owner! =D
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Not everyone is going to like it, but it's another option to go even further to get the quickest MINI available. I'm sure BMW have reserve any nancy fancy unique stuff because I'm sure they'll have plans for a GP2 in the pipeline for the R56 model when it reaches end of production for a new shape mini.

If I knew this was coming, I would of waited! I typically got my MCS a few weeks before they announced the JCW. I guess I've now got more reason to stay with MINI because of the JCW being the next step up :D.
 

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FS58MBW
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Having read a few of the reviews, yes, some of the comments may be harsh or not quite what we want to hear as MINI fans but as Rogan says, testers are picky and are looking for the bad as well as the good. At the end of the day I remain enthusiastic and excited in anticipation of my first drive at the launch on the 22nd and finally in my own on Sept 1. Can't wait!
 

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Turbo Schmurbo...
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As I've said before the sad thing is these reviews wouldn't be banging on about torque steer if they had ditched the runflat system and used some proper tyres. Most of the tugging and tram lining is caused by the very stiff runflats. I wouldn't be at all surprised this would disappear using performance tyres.
 

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Reading these reviews and taking into acount some forthcoming launches (scirocco, Focus RS) I think that MINI have definitely made a bit of a boo-boo here.

The JCW should have the JCW seats. Pretty much every other hot hatch now has Recaros as standard, vauxhall, Renault, Ford etc. The normal MINI seats aren't good enough for a car with this level of performance and it's a very steep price to have the JCW's fitted.
 
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