Recently, while I was enjoying a tasty beverage at the coffee shop, the barista placed a take-away cup on the bar and called out a six-shot latte. For those not familiar with fancy-coffee terminology, that means six times the normal amount of espresso – and caffeine – went into that beverage.
In Mini’s model language, the John Cooper Works label denotes a similar power-up. The brand’s JCW models are its most potent offerings: cars that evoke the spirit of John Cooper, the British racecar designer who helped create the first performance-tuned versions of the original Mini.
Mini calls the latest JCW – the first based on the redesigned Cooper introduced in 2014 – “the most powerful Mini ever,” using a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s shared with the Cooper S but tuned here for 228 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque – increases of 39 hp and 29 lb-ft.
Did the world need a Cooper that shaved half a second off the S’ sub-seven-second zero-to-100 km/h acceleration time? Not in my opinion, but I am no longer in a position to argue, following a week during which I made thorough and enthusiastic use of that extra power.
It says a lot about how people buy sporty cars these days that Mini even offers its most performance-oriented model with an automatic transmission. It does, and I admit I was crestfallen to discover that’s how my tester was equipped. Ironically, this is the first Cooper I’ve tested in 10 years of reviewing cars that didn’t arrive with a manual transmission.
I’m not really a numbers guy when it comes to vehicle specs. I tend to concern myself more with how a car feels than whether it has more power or skid pad grip than its competitors. That’s why I don’t care that Mini quotes quicker acceleration times for automatic versions of all three Cooper variants, with the JCW’s advantage the largest: the automaker says my automatic-equipped tester scoots from a stop to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds.
I would gladly take a car 0.2 seconds slower to highway speeds for the pleasure of working one of Mini’s excellent manual transmissions, but in the spirit of I’m-getting-paid-to-review-this-car, I made myself promise not to dwell on it. Much.
As if to prove me wrong, it was clear from the moment I pulled out of the parking lot that this transmission is ready to get busy. Even in gentle acceleration, its shifts are quick and crisp. Automatics in family cars and crossovers are tuned to make you forget they exist (much like many of the vehicles themselves), but Mini’s auto doesn’t care that you can feel it at work. In fact, that’s probably the point: automatic or not, this is a driver’s car that feels no need to hide its mechanical nature.