Over the summer, while on the Mini Takes the States rally, I spent a lot of time driving different Minis. I started out in a Mini Cooper S with tweed seats, but then decided to trade that out for a regular three-cylinder model that was loaded to the gills. I drove one with a manual and several with an automatic. In Texas, I drove one that had been wrapped with American flags on the sides. Then, I got to drive one that they called an “accessories car.” If I’m going to be completely honest though, it wasn’t ever clear exactly what the “accessories car” was. When I was handed the keys to this vehicle, I was told that it was a Mini Cooper and that it had a trick exhaust. Further questions about the vehicle that I would be driving were all met with the same answer: “We don’t know.”
“It looks lowered. What kind of suspension is on it?”
“We don’t know.”
“Has anything been done to the engine?”
“We don’t know.”
“Is it faster than the Mini Cooper S?”
“We don’t know.”
“Where do I put this button thing that you just handed me?”
“Push the button to make the exhaust louder. We don’t know where you’re supposed to put it while you’re driving though. Maybe stick it in the cupholder?”
You might assume that these were just ill-informed PR people who had no idea how to do their job properly, but I highly doubt that. They all seemed pretty smart to me. After comparing notes with a fellow journalist, I’m pretty sure that what we drove was a test mule of the just-announced John Cooper Works Mini Cooper.
Over the last several years, Mini has built its reputation not just on its cars’ diminutive size and quirky styling, but also on their incredibly fun-to-drive nature. The most fun Mini of all was the top spec John Cooper Works, a tuned version of the Mini Cooper that offered more power, bigger brakes, an electronic limited slip differential, and dynamic traction control. It was a package that made the already grin-inducing Mini Cooper S an even more capable performer for those who wanted to get the most out of carving each corner.
Introduced at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the 2015 John Cooper Works Mini Cooper packs even more power, even better handling, and even bolder styling for Mini’s redesigned Cooper.
Perhaps most notably, the redesigned John Cooper Works edition now makes 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, and increase of nearly 30 horsepower over the Mini Cooper S, previously the most powerful version available. That makes the John Cooper Works edition the most powerful Mini ever produced, as well as the quickest. While the Mini Cooper S can run from 0-60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds, the John Cooper Works edition knocks 0.3 seconds off that time, doing it in 6.1 seconds. The added torque means that it will also pull harder in gear, making it feel faster in everyday driving.
Not to let handling fall by the wayside, Mini has also equipped the John Cooper Works edition with an even sportier version of the sports suspension available on the Cooper S and an electronic differential. Larger Brembo brakes, bigger wheels, and stickier tires are included as well. All together, it should make for a package that’s more fun and handles even better than the already incredibly fun to drive Mini Cooper S.
Drivers concerned about being able to shift their own gears can rejoice, as a six speed manual transmission comes standard. In a market where dual clutch and automatic transmissions are slowly choking out true manual transmissions, it’s refreshing to see Mini continue to make manuals available. An automatic transmission is also available and thanks to its quick shifts, it’s actually faster in a straight line than the manual version. Mini’s manual transmissions are absolutely fantastic though, so for drivers who can drive stick and don’t commute regularly in city traffic, it’s hard to see how the added cost of the automatic would be worth it.
To set the top of the line Cooper apart, Mini has included an aero kit, as well as an extensive appearance package both inside and out. A unique green paint color is also available for those who want to truly set their John Cooper Works edition apart from the pack. Finally, a center-mounted sports exhaust with special John Cooper Works tailpipes has been tuned with the engine to provide a sportier sound to go with the car’s sportier intentions. You can expect more than just a louder exhaust note, but also some burble and pop to maximize the experience.
Expect the redesigned version to be more refined as well as a better performer. While the previous John Cooper Works Mini Cooper was a lot of fun to drive, its tendency to torque steer could make it hard to handle. The suspension was also tuned more for the race track than city streets, which could make driving on less-than-perfect streets uncomfortable. An adaptive suspension will be available as an option to allow drivers to switch between Sport and Comfort mode, greatly increasing its use as a daily driver. Additionally, the electronic differential and performance control should work together to minimize both torque steer and understeer.
Overall, expect the 2015 John Cooper Works Mini Cooper to be a blast to drive, even at legal speed limits. It will be faster and a better performer than the previous generation, but it should also offer a driving experience that’s more predictable and refined. Whether it will be better than the Volkswagen GTI or the Focus ST remains to be seen, but at least on paper, it looks like everything is there to make it a very capable hot hatch.