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First look: Juiced-up JCW tops Mini Cabrio range

And finally: The Mini Cooper JCW Cabrio will complete the Cooper line-up when it makes world debut in Geneva.

Late but hardly tardy, the turbo JCW Convertible completes Mini’s Cooper range

13 Feb 2009

IT IS precisely two years since the second-generation (R56-series) Cooper hatchback replaced BMW’s born-again (R50) Mini hard-top after five years on sale in Australia.

And it is a similar period since the range-topping John Cooper Works (JCW) version debuted at the 2007 Geneva motor show, where Mini also confirmed the Clubman wagon would become its third model.

The five-door Mini subsequently hit the road a record 12 months after the redesigned three-door, but its development came at the expense of the redesigned (R57) Cooper Cabrio, which next month goes on sale here in Cooper and turbo Cooper S guises – and also makes its global debut in range-topping JCW guise.

Revealed ahead of its first public outing at the 2009 Geneva show on March 3, the all-new JCW soft-top will finally complete the MkII Cooper model range when it goes on sale in Australia in the third quarter of 2009, soon after the turbo-diesel Cooper D arrives.

39 center image While BMW says Australia’s first diesel Mini will be the country’s cleanest car, as well as “the first overtly sporty diesel car in this segment” and “the fastest accelerating diesel in its capacity class in Australia”, the open-topped JCW will be both quicker and less minimalist.

Naturally, the JCW Cabrio – which is known in the UK, where the modern Mini is produced, as the JCW Convertible – takes its piping-hot 1.6-litre twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder direct-injection petrol engine directly from the two-year-old JCW-badged hatch.

Claimed to be lighter and stronger than before, JCW’s latest turbo-four is a better-breathing, higher-performing version of the previous-generation Cooper S engine, and is also seen in the Mini Challenge race car.

As with the JCW Cooper and Clubman (launched simultaneously in Australia in September 2008), that means outputs of 155kW at 6000rpm (up from 128kW for the standard Cooper S Cabrio and 141kW for the previous drop-top’s JCW kit) and 260Nm of torque from 1850rpm.

That’s up from 240Nm for the Cooper S Cabrio and 250Nm for the R52 JCW and, as before, an turbo overboost function delivers a further 20Nm of peak torque for short periods.

It is enough to make the new JCW Cabrio almost as quick as the JCW-kitted version of the first-generation Cooper S hatch, but the heavier Cabrio remains almost half a second slower to 100km/h than the JCW hatch (6.9 seconds versus 6.5).

As with the JCW hatch and wagon, the hottest Mini convertible’s cabin features a unique JCW Alcantara steering wheel, JCW floor mats, JCW speedo, JCW gearshifter and sport seats.

Differentiating it externally are exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels with a ‘cross-spoke’ Challenge design, a JCW bodykit and JCW badging on the bonnet, grille, brakes and door sills.

Keeping the extra performance in check are larger brake discs clamped by upgraded red-painted Brembo callipers and, in addition to the whole gamut of BMW safety features (ABS, EBD, CBC, DSC and DTC), the JCW-specific Electronic Differential Lock Control system (EDLC).

According to Mini, when the DSC stability control system is fully deactivated, EDLC “electronically slows the spinning inside wheel to enhance grip and ensure that all available power is transferred to the road through the wheel with greatest traction.

“In contrast to the way DSC and DTC manage power delivery to the wheels, EDLC does not intervene with the throughput of engine power, meaning the driver is in near total control of the handling of the car.” Production of the previous Cooper Cabrio ceased at Mini’s Oxford plant in the UK last August to make way for the slightly larger new convertible, and all JCW Cabrios will also be built at Mini’s “Plant Swindon” or “Plant Oxford”.

“The launch of the new Mini John Cooper Works Convertible is incredibly important as it signifies that our complete model line-up is now back in production across Mini’s UK production facilities,” said Mini Plant Oxford’s new managing director Jürgen Hedrich.

In line with other JCW variants’ circa-$8000 premium over the Cooper S and the Cabrio’s $1000-odd and $4000-odd premium over the Clubman wagon and Cooper hatch respectively, expect the topless JCW’s price to top the Mini line-up at close to $55,000.

With the second-generation Mini Cooper hatch and cabrio range now complete, and the Clubman wagon introduced, expect Mini’s next major model expansion to come in the form of the compact SUV based on a new platform and already previewed by the Crossman concept at the 2008 Paris motor show.

Like all Mini models, the all-new crossover wagon, which won’t carry the Crossman name into production, is expected to feature four seats and naturally-aspirated and turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder engines, but new technology will include all-wheel drive (although a front-drive version will follow) and the fitment of five conventional doors.

Unlike the Clubman, that should mean two full-size rear side doors and a traditional top-hinged one-piece rear hatch – unlike the Clubman’s twin side-hinged doors or the single side-hinged tailgates seen on some Japanese compact SUVs.

Expect the first Mini SUV to emerge in production form at the 2010 Detroit motor show, before arriving in Australia in 2011, with the redesigned MkIII Mini Cooper hatch due a year later in 2012.

Read more:

First drive: Mini slams down premium Coopers

Geneva show: Mini challengers for the road


The Road to Recovery podcast series


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