The name of the2015 Mini John Cooper Works refers to, not surprisingly, John Cooper. Cooper, in addition to building cars driven to two World Championships, hot-rodded the Austin Mini to make the Mini Cooper of song and fable way back in the early Sixties. Well, maybe song. But that—compressing a lot of history—led to the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop, or JCW, for short. And that’s our test car for this review.
Except that perhaps “JD” would be a better abbreviation. And when we say JD, it’s as in juvenile delinquent. We wuz misbehavin’.
Really, we just couldn’t help it, Officer Krupke.
The 2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop can do that to a driver. It’s so easy to turn being impatient into, well, mischievous behavior. And the JCW inspires impatience because it just wants to go and it wants to go now. Horsepower is rated at 228 and a maximum torque is 236 lb-ft, neither particularly earthshattering, but the peak torque begins at 1250 rpm, barely above idle, and stays there until 4800 rpm. Anywhere the tachometer needle points, the Mini JCW responds as fast as you can push the pedal down.
Add to that the Mini’s self-proclaimed go-kart handling. It’s more than an advertising tag line. You don’t just change lanes in a Mini, you convert them. And the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop not only changes lanes, it changes lanes by breaking a twenty. No, neither of those metaphors really make sense, but let’s just agree that the Mini is probably mechanically incapable of drifting from one lane to the next. One becomes suspicious that where other cars have “lane keeping” technology, some techno boffin in the BMW black labs developed a system that, once a lane change is initiated, thrusts the Mini into the center of the destination lane.
This was our second time in a 2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop, and we covered all the tech stuff in the first go ‘round. Check here for our first drive report. Continue reading for our follow-up week-with-a-JCW.
Which, after we made ourselves juvie bait, wound up with us parked next to an ordinary Mini Cooper. We were going to say a “lesser Mini” but they all are, compared to the 2015 JCW. The lesser are, well, cute. On the other hand, the JCW has an attitude. It looks the part of a JD, if juvenile delinquency involves big open grilled and ducts on the front end. They’re all real, except the lower right front, which is black plastic, and the hood scoop doesn’t. It’s a mail slot only about an inch deep.
The grille, sides and rear all get badges, but instead of the little soda can-inspired dual center exhaust, the 2015 Mini JCW has big baloney sliced pipes.
We’re in a love-hate relationship with the inside. The seats are well bolstered, enough so that those not attracted to the JCW to begin will find annoying but the target market will love. See lane changes above. But what happened to Mini funk? The speedometer no longer dominates the center-dash circle, which has been given over to multi-information display functions. Instead, the speedo has been moved to the steering column pod where the tachometer had been on earlier Minis, with the tach stuck on the side like an afterthought.
The pie plate in the middle of the dash reveals the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works’ affiliation with BMW. It’s obvious to German engineers, perhaps, but the rest of us will need a lot of practice to learn to navigate the system’s various layers. We were able to use the voice commands with the navigation system and actually get to where we wanted to go, but it’s still not up to Kia/Hyundai friendliness.
A fun element, though not particularly useful at least that we could see was a “jukebox” ring around the center pie plate. It would change colors while driving, correlating somehow with how the car was being driven, with the lights going up and down and we really didn’t discern a pattern, other than of course more red when accelerating.
Speaking of lights, the 2015 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop has standard keyless entry, and not pushbutton start but rather start-by-toggle. The starter toggle—in seems weird writing that—is located among other toggle switches at the bottom of the center stack. And it pulses red until the engine is started.
Speaking of flipping switches, we reflexively began setting the 2015 Mini JCW in “sport” mode because, well, the other choices were the default normal, and eco. In other words, no real choice. What it does: Makes the automatic transmission shift more quickly, with a crisper edge, with a nice bark from the exhaust on upshifts, and a crackle for the exhaust when making downshifts.