Test Drive: 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Hatch car test drives reviews mini
2012 Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works Hatchback. Click image to enlarge
Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S JCW Cabrio

Manufacturer’s web site
Mini Canada

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2012 Mini Cooper S JCW

There are some vehicles out there with an appeal words cannot convey. There is some magical element that attracts people to these vehicles in a religious way. People who do not fall under this supernatural spell do not understand why others are so adamant that their vehicle is the best thing since sliced bread. Many Jeep owners wear this as a badge of honour and proudly display stickers on their vehicles claiming “It’s a Jeep thing. You wouldn’t understand”. Recently, I saw a Pontiac Aztek with a similar bumper sticker claiming it was an Aztek thing and I wouldn’t understand; you, sir, are correct, I don’t understand.

And that brings us to the Mini. The original BMC Mini, and its entire line of offspring, firmly resides in the land of fanatical cult followings. Every conceivable automotive body style has been grafted onto the minuscule Mini chassis since 1959 and Mini fans have loved every one of them; well, most of them at least. Fast-forward to the new millennium and a retro-look Mini is unleashed in 2001, sparking a whole new generation of Mini loyalists, albeit on a lesser level.

Test Drive: 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Hatch car test drives reviews mini
Test Drive: 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Hatch car test drives reviews mini
2012 Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works Hatchback. Click image to enlarge

I am one who has never had a bad case of Mini fever. In fact, I have barely even had a Mini sniffle or Mini headache. Sure, I think they are cool cars and know about their handling prowess, but I have always written them off in my mind due to their front-wheel-drive layout and my perception that they are overpriced. So what is the best way to test whether my fact-less assumptions were correct? Why, by testing out the baddest, fastest, meanest Mini currently on the market: the Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works.

The John Cooper Works (JCW) package is available on any of Mini’s current models as long as they already have the turbocharged engine from the S models. The John Cooper Works adds some serious performance punch to the already peppy Cooper S. The 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine is pumped up to 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Overboost is standard on all turbocharged Minis and allows the turbo to hit a higher peak PSI for short bursts, thus increasing torque to 207 lb-ft. To help get this power to the ground, the JCW features an electronic differential locking control (EDLC), which is basically a simulated limited-slip differential using the brakes to control wheel-spin under hard cornering conditions.

But how does a 1,210 kg vehicle handle this much power being fed through its front wheels? Surprisingly well, actually. I was certain it would turn into a torque-steer nightmare, but it never did. Power is immediate and with a little rpm dialed up, the Mini will launch from a dead stop with little drama. Unless high-rpm clutch-drops are performed, you would be hard pressed to know this car isn’t all-wheel drive as the tires grip and go. Yes, turbo lag at lower rpms is noticeable, but actually, it is quite good when you consider the engine is making 129 lb-ft of torque per litre of displacement. The waste gate is loud, as is the turbo when spooling, and I love it. I would find myself driving around in high gears, constantly playing with the accelerator pedal just to induce a ‘hiss’ and ‘psssh’ turbo symphony.

Connect with Autos.ca