Mini, Plus: The John Cooper Works

It’s like walking a puppy. People want to pet it, and you love taking the John Cooper Works (JCW) for a tour of the neighbourhood.

Aesthetically pleasing, it’s circular or oval all over. The huge faces on the instrument panel are reminiscent of doe-eyed Disney characters, calculated to make you instantly sentimental. Have your date push the “on” button to break the ice. (Then crank the seat warmers.)

Parking becomes a game. You locate those jerks who purposely waste two spots, then squeeze in anyway. Yet, there’s ample interior space. By flattening seats, I fit in an 88-key electronic piano with bench and stand.

While the Mini JCW elicits that puppy feeling, the wide tires grip like a pitbull (insert Sarah Palin joke here). Note how the wheels sit at the corners of the car like table legs. It bounces on bumps, but push as hard as you like in turns and those tires won’t scream.

But why would you choose the John Cooper Works over the equally adorable Mini Cooper Classic when it costs over $16,000 more? One word: power.

While there’s barely any difference in weight between the two models, JCW features a turbocharged DOHC 16V engine that puts out 208 horses at 6,000 revs versus the Classic’s respectable though far tamer 118. JCW’s maximum documented speed (though thankfully not documented by local police) of 236 km/h is electronically limited though it still exceeds the Classic by over 30k. The 6-speed manual transmission and sport button come standard. The overboost sends the maximum torque from 192 lb.-ft @ 1850-5600 rpm to 207.

Which leads to the question of gas. Consumption wasn’t yet rated on the spec sheets, though there was plenty left in the tank after aggressively moving over 600 kilometres in a week. At just 1,225 kg, it’s one light pitbull puppy.

Starting price $38,390.

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