New Models - Mini Cooper
First drive: Mini Cooper with the Works
The M equivalent of the BMW-built Mini Cooper has arrived
28 July 2003
MINI not fast enough? Meet BMW’s solution: the M-division equivalent for the Mini Cooper, an aftermarket go-faster kit courtesy of renowned British tuning house John Cooper Works.
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:AFTER a number of laps, plus slalom and skidpan exercises, at a closed circuit in Queensland – ironically linked previously with BMW but now named the Holden Performance Driving Centre – it is clear the JCW kit does a fine job of increasing Mini’s performance to impressive levels.
In the 1140kg Cooper S, that means HSV GTS-matching straightline acceleration that snaps at the heels of an elite group of supercars to 100km/h.
It also means a far more muscular midrange, an extended top-end power surge all the way to redline and a burble from the metallic sounding exhaust as revs return to idle.
On the downside, the trade-off is there’s probably a little less urge off idle and, even on the optional 17-inch wheels with which we back-to-backed the standard Cooper S against a JCW-kitted Cooper S, there was drastically more torque steer as the higher-boosting supercharger’s torque more easily overcame the tyres’ grip.
And, sadly, we can’t say how much difference the JCW kit makes to the entry level Mini Cooper because we didn’t drive it.
Suffice to say, however, its more modest power and torque increase would be insignificant next to the Cooper S’s substantial 27kW peak power boost, which all but overpowered Mini’s pin-sharp steering attributes.
Sure, Mini’s rock-solid chassis feels able to handle even more power, but it would come at the expense of even more steering response. On the patchy Norwell circuit the standard Cooper S easily scorched its inside front tyres while exiting its many tight corners, while the JCW-fettled Cooper S made light work of spinning both front tyres in the first two gears.
But even in this environment the Mini lost little of its famous composure, exhibiting sharp turn-in and sweet mid-corner balance even if it struggled for traction during rapid corner exits. Of course, the loss of steering accuracy and cornering grip under power will be exacerbated on standard 16-inch rubber.
Of course, while we can’t vouch for BMW’s claims fuel economy is unaffected, the integrated feel of the Cooper S JSW kit was notable, with considerable extra performance coming without any loss of engine smoothness or refinement.
That said, although the incremental performance increase is substantial, $9600 (24 per cent of the Cooper S asking price) is a lot to spend for it. On a model that’s not uncommon to see optioned to the value of $60,000, we’d rate 17-inch wheels and tyres as the higher priority.
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