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2019 Mini Cooper JCW First Drive Review

Introduction

John Cooper Works or JCW in short, is as enthusiast-focused as a Mini can get. We drove one of these way back in 2017. But, that wasn’t the complete deal. It was a Cooper S with a JCW kit bolted on. This one though is as quick as a Mini gets.

On the outside, it still wears red quite proudly, be it on the roof or the mirrors, just like the kitted-out version. It still runs race stripes on the bonnet. And, the bonnet still has an air scoop. It still has large black wheels, and as it turns out, it is also the exact same green hue as the previous ‘JCW’ version we drove. 

But, this one has a JCW badge on its grille instead of the S badge. And though it looks as sporty, and inviting, and tastefully done as the kit version, the full spec just evokes a different sort of sensation. A sensation that says today is going to be a good day!

The Package

This, the Mini JCW, still uses a 2-litre, four cylinder engine like the JCW edition. But, instead of 208bhp and 300Nm of torque, this one makes 230bhp and 320Nm of peak torque. Coupled to an 8-speed auto, Mini claims a 0-100kmph time of a fraction over 6 seconds. That’s around half a second quicker than the JCW edition we had tested. The JCW also gets driving modes, paddle shifters, and run-flat tyres.

Other changes include more aggressive front and rear bumpers, JCW badging all round, all LED head and tail lamps, new alloy wheels, and 4-piston callipers in bright red hue. It also comes with parking sensors and a reversing camera. And on the safety end, there's airbags, ABS, and ESP. 

The interior has been furbished with sporty seats, a head-up display, and a touchscreen multimedia system with Bluetooth telephony and all possible music input options. Things like height adjustable seats, and reach and rake adjust for the steering, along with climate control, and a detailed driver information also come standard in the car.

But, that’s not all. There are many options to choose from as well. You can opt for tyre pressure monitoring, interior illumination, adaptive suspension, and various interior finishes including carbon black and brown.

Customers can also add adaptive lighting with matrix function, and a panoramic glass roof to the mix. All this however, comes at a price. Just to give you a perspective, if one were to choose all the options that the JCW comes with, it would amount to over Rs 15 lakhs. 

The Drive

We tried it out at the Madras Motorsport Race Track. Also known as the MMRT. But before we could have a go in the JCW, we went out for a few laps in the Cooper S. And that helped in two ways. One, I had a fair idea what to do, and when to do it, come a corner. And two, I now had a benchmark to compare the JCW against; to really see if that badging really is such a big deal. 

And since we drove it on a race track, we will skip the bits about ride quality, ease of parking or how easy or tedious it is to put a stroller in the JCW’s boot. Instead, we will talk performance, and sound, and handling, and braking. And of course, the fun to drive factor. 

And straight off the bat, the JCW feels special. The seats are sportier. The steering and the throttle feel more alive. And it sounds so much nicer, too. And as it turns out, you land up at the braking marker for each corner carrying way too much speed. The car is deceptively fast. That 6 seconds 0-100kmph time not only feels true, but it is addictive, especially with the way that exhaust sounds. 

So, you brake harder. And immediately, the bite and feel from the JCW surprises you. And you know you can brake later, harder, and trail off the brakes with more control. You also realise that, unlike the Cooper S, the brakes on the JCW aren’t prone to fade. But, that is not all. 

If you brake too much, and then try to compensate by getting on the throttle aggressively, you will only end up over compensating, and therefore running wide. Just back off the throttle and watch the JCW pull its nose in as if it were magic. Trick differentials really are ‘race-line-savers’. 

The turn-in really is go-kart like. And, even though the car likes to twitch around under braking, it just adds to the drama instead of panic. Moreover, the JCW doesn’t mind getting its tail out that wee bit to straighten out a corner a bit earlier, so that the throttle can be jammed back to the floor that much sooner.

This is a fun car. A lot of fun, in fact.

Our Take

The Mini Cooper S JCW edition, when launched in 2017, retailed for around Rs 40 lakhs. This one, the real deal, with more power, better brakes, and sportier suspension setup is priced at Rs 43.5 lakhs. So, in that sense, the JCW is fantastic value. 

But, it’s not as well loaded as it could be. For that, there are over Rs 15 lakhs worth of options to choose from. Will those options make the JCW a nicer car? Some would, undoubtedly. But, the standard car is great too. And it has all the bragging rights that one might need. 

Pictures by Kapil Angane

Click here to read our road test of the Mini Cooper S with the JCW kit  

Photos

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