Mini John Cooper Works

2009 Mini JCW

Longitudinal front engine, front-wheel drive

1.6-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve, turbocharged and intercooled

Six-speed manual

Peak Power: 211 hp @ 6000 rpm
Peak Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 1850-5600 rpm
0-60 mph: 6.6 sec.
Top Speed: 146 mph
Fuel Economy: 26 city/34 hwy

When we took delivery in August, it was one of those puzzling late summer weeks when miraculously it wasn't ball-sweatingly hot. Where we normally would have opted for the stiffer-handling hardtop, we now saw the opportunity to enjoy a cabrio in the perfect conditions for which it was made.

Living about 20 minutes from the beach, I felt it was only fair my brother and I take the MINI for a seaside drive. (Quick note: two dudes in a convertible Mini don't get many looks from the ladies, if you know what I mean.) Charging down PCH with the top down was quite the aural assault. The JCW-tuned 1.6-liter engine makes a hearty 211 hp and 191 lb-ft of torque (a sizeable step above the Cooper S's 172 hp and 177 lb-ft). Spent fumage is barked out the backend through two sinister-looking (and sounding) exhaust pipes. And the Sport button-depressed from minute one-initiated boost on the quick and upped steering and throttle response. All that could be heard was the wind tearing over the open top, and that guttural exhaust note.

So we're flying along when we come upon a common sight on PCH in the summer: traffic. (Parallel parking on a highway? Serious?) But we knew some shortcuts through the hills of Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar. Whipping around sweeping curves and tight corners in this little bugger is so fun as to be addicting. The Works' unique electronic differential lock control (EDLC) makes grip near absolute. Which isn't to say that you can't get some lateral travel. It's just that the car likes to stick. Big ol' Brembo breaks, color-matched calipers, and 17-inch wheels don't hurt.

What have we learned from JCW MINIs? That they're Coopers on steroids. With a larger turbo, larger wheels, larger exhaust and larger brakes, this MINI has been taken to the maxi. (That doesn't sound quite right, but you get the idea.) It's fast in a serious way, but infused with quirky enthusiasm not found in most Euros. Most of the cars we drive are fun, yes. But in a "don't smile, this is serious business" kind of way. The MINI is a sprightly little bucket filled to the brim with fun. JCW came along and piled some more on top.

That new ad hook, about how they have go-kart handling? Spot on. But even karts have their flaws. Punching it from a standstill brings about some torque steer for the ages. If that's the one downside to this grippy little torque-monger, it's a small price to pay. -Drew Farrington

From the Hip

Plus +
Traction machine, racecar feel in a compact package

Minus -
Copious torque steer, pricey price tag

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