2015 MINI John Cooper Works | First Drive
* Extensive amount of features on offer.
* Impressive quality of materials around the cabin.
* Simply isn't the hot hatch it's believed to be.
MINI’s have been around since the early Nineteen Sixties and while the iconic British motor cars have grown dimensionally over the years, their fan base has followed proportionally. With the John Cooper Works Edition being positioned as the epitome of the line-up, we headed to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit on a scorching Thursday afternoon to find out if it’s worthy of leaving a lasting impression.
From offerings that fell into the A-segment of the market to one’s that have graduated into the B-segment, MINI’s have been through some momentous changes dimensionally and stylistically, too. But since 2008 there’s reason to suggest that the designers have lost their creative spark. Rounded headlamps, a splattering of chrome and gaping air inlets lend the MINI Cooper its idiosyncratic appearance, all at the cost of being perceived as a little unimaginative.
Carrying its sporting pretensions inside, the cabin of the 2015 MINI Cooper JCW is home to sculpted sports seats and a redesigned instrument binnacle that tops out at 260 km/h and screams its way into the 6,500 RPM band. With an audacious display of its fetish for all things circular, the iconic hatch remains quirky and continues to challenge the norm, while benefitting from superior materials and an improved fit and finish.
Crammed with features, it’s evident that the MINI Cooper’s kept up with the times. Although our activities on track prevented us from experimenting with the Park Distance Control, Rear View Camera, Active Cruise Control, Road Sign Detection and Collision Warning systems, we did get a preview of the booming Harman/Kardon speakers and the rather gaudy continuously variable ambient lighting system – the latter of which we’re still struggling to generate an iota of appreciation for.
Figures reveal that the 2015 MINI John Cooper Works is aided by a 10% boost in power and a 23% increase in torque over the previous generation model. With that in mind, it’s only normal to assume that the 231 horsepower and 320 Nm of torque from the turbocharged 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engine would prove sufficient, right?
While on paper the 2015 JCW is the most powerful MINI yet, it leaves a lot to be desired on track. Significant amounts of body roll are apparent through the bends and while the crackling exhaust gives the impression that you’re going a lot faster than you truly are, it isn’t enough to distract from what feels like a thoroughly underpowered motor.
Whack the gear lever into manual mode and there’s not a lot of joy to be found there, either. A mere touch of the rev limiter and it takes the 6-speed transmission a while to waltz into the next gear. As we discovered, it was better off just left alone, swapping cogs as and when it deemed appropriate.
For all the fluff that surrounds the John Cooper Works model, it simply doesn’t live up to the hype. It is at best a lukewarm attempt at creating a hot hatch. The Cooper S at AED 165,000 makes a lot more sense practically, but to feel the true essence of a performance hatchback, you’re better off looking elsewhere.
So yes, the JCW does have the ability to leave a lasting impression, but not a very pleasant one…