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The JCW is like icing on the cake

S Muralidhar | Updated on May 16, 2019 Published on May 16, 2019

Adding power: The MINI JCW feels faster off the block compared to regular MINIs. - S MURALIDHAR

The interiors also reflect the JCW branding. - SMURALIDHAR

There’s something about the MINI John Cooper Works that makes it so endearing and desirable

Growth in the luxury passenger vehicle market has been plateauing for months now and car-makers have reported a mixture of results — either a slide or near-stagnant sales. Maybe some of the reasons are hidden within the columns of articles beaming up depressing economic and business news such as small businesses being affected by GST or that millionaires are quietly moving out of India. Or possibly the elections have had an effect and buyers have temporarily suspended their decision to opt for luxury cars in the wake of the political uncertainty.

In the luxury passenger car segment, there is discreet luxury though, which has a tendency to continue to be sought for its ability to fly under the radar. No flashy conspicuous consumption, so to say, and not as much a risk of attracting the attention of the taxman. And these are vehicles that are subdued, minimalist and yet make their owners experience the feeling of driving a special set of wheels.

I believe that the MINI Cooper has those traits, ticks off all of those boxes and its compact form makes it the perfect car for these times. In fact, its cuteness adds one more trait of desirability to the mix. What does the MINI bring to the table — it is a star on the road, will turn heads endlessly with its cutesy design and iconic, retro styling cues. Its cabin features premium materials, and even there, has a legacy and design identity that has run in the family since the brand’s origins. And finally, it drives like a go-kart, but is built like a small tank.

So, how can the experience of owning a MINI be bettered? By bringing home a MINI John Cooper Works.

What’s special?

There is a lot of heritage associated with the Mini Cooper (before it was acquired by BMW Group) and its performances in various races during the 1960s, including the British Touring Car Championships and the Monte Carlo Rally. This racing gene was passed on by inventor John Cooper and led to the first JCW tuning kit for the MINI Cooper S (the change in branding being post BMW acquisition), which was offered in 2003. The JCW trademark was acquired by BMW in 2007. Today the JCW brand on a MINI signifies its special status in the line-up. With racing-inspired looks and even more special quality materials, JCW models are meant to enhance the already endearing, yet bold design of the MINI Cooper. Last week, BMW India officially launched the new MINI John Cooper Works Hatch and I got to experience this zippy new compact at the MMRT Chennai race track.

 

 

Visual enhancements to the MINI Cooper make it easy to identify the John Cooper Works model. Stuff like the bonnet stripes, the red cross member at the bottom of the honeycomb grille and the contrast paint finish for the roof and mirror caps, with the chilli red paint job you see in these images being the most special. The MINI JCW hatch is offered only as a three door. Badging is a big deal with these special editions, and it can be found in the side scuttles, front grille and the tailgate of the JCW hatch. To further its performance and its racing pedigree image, this MINI also gets aerodynamic features like the air ducts in the front apron, the side sills and the special 17-inch JCW track spoke light alloys in black finish. Helping boost braking efficiency and its looks are the four-piston, fixed caliper brakes in Chilli Red finish and the JCW badge emblazoned across. The front and rear fenders are also different with special aero additions and the chrome tailpipe at the rear is a JCW fitment.

And in the cabin?

There are special bits in the cabin too, identifying the status of the JCW Cooper hatch. Leather steering wheel with paddles, sports seats in black with red accents, and stainless steel pedal caps are some of the differences compared to the regular Cooper S model. A panorama glass roof is an optional addition. There is also the LED interior and ambient lighting that we have seen in other MINI models. And of course, the JCW also gets the very appealing dashboard with its iconic 6.5-inch circular central instrument panel and its colour-changing LED surround and the set of unique switches for the rest of the controls on the stack. This model also gets a Harman Kardon hi-fi audio system with 12 high performance speakers and a eight-channel digital amp.

The MINI John Cooper Works hatch’s cabin is just that bit more special with door sills featuring the JCW badging as also in the instrument dials. There are a number of other optional additions that can be chosen to customise the car, including an 8.8-inch touch screen with touchpad controller and wireless charging, etc.

The MINI JCW hatch gets the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine but in a different state of tune compared to the Cooper S.

Performance

With a power output of 231 hp and a peak torque of 320 Nm, the JCW hatch offers about 20 per cent more power and nearly 15 per cent more torque. It also gets an eight-speed steptronic automatic transmission, compared to the seven-speed in the Cooper S. Acceleration is also quicker with the 0-100 kmph sprint taking 6.1 seconds. I drove the Cooper S convertible and the MINI JCW Hatch back to back on the track and the latter felt much quicker off the block and had a much more usable top-end. The lightly muted roar from the tailpipe is also an interesting addition to the experience of driving the JCW. The electro-mechanical power steering is surprisingly quick to respond and precise, boosting the go-kart feel even more. At the MMRT, direct the car late into the apex of turns 6, 7 and 8, and you can be sure the MINI JCW hatch will step exactly at the cone-marked spot pointing to the ideal line. Even if I did enter the wide semi-circular turn 9 at higher speeds and there is a bit of understeer and tyre squeal, electronic stability control aids step in to correct the vehicle and retain traction. Compared to the Cooper S, the JCW is quicker and offers more grip on the tarmac at the track. There are cornering speeds and some tight turns like the sharp left-handler of turn 14, where the MINI JCW Hatch’s inside wheels lift up lightly sometimes, but there is no feeling of loss of control or traction.

Bottom Line

The MINI John Cooper Works Hatch is a fun car to drive on the track. It can take the pressures of the track and manages to still look fresh. Yes, the ride quality will seem a bit harsh on some of our regular roads. To keep the engagement up, the JCW is also offered with three driving modes — Mid, Sport and Eco. Sport mode tunes up the steering and throttle response for sportier and sharper handling. Overall, this is still the best hot hatch in the market. The MINI John Cooper Works hatch has been launched at a starting ex-showroom price of ₹43.5 lakh.

Published on May 16, 2019
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