All Worked Up : MINI Cooper S JCW

By most accounts the Cooper S is already a fun car to belt around in but as you know enough is never enough. So enter the John Cooper Works MINI. MINI felt that rather than to let the aftermarket specialist tuners pump up the standard Cooper S, they decided to undertake the task themselves.

Borrowing the services of John Cooper and his son Mike, the official John Cooper Works kit was developed after a laborious three years in the making. Part of the reason for this was the testing procedure needed to ensure failsafe running of this JC Works kit, at least inasfar as it was offered as an official dealer-upgrade kit.

Start with a completely new (or used) Cooper S and the official MINI agent will fit, the JCW upgrade, all perfectly legal and with warranty too. The kit comprises mostly of engine modifications. What you will get in the engine kit is a new air-flowed cylinder head, new air filter, new exhaust plumbing and a remapped engine management system.

The original supercharger and intercooler are rebuilt with the latest developments from Eaton superchargers to allow it to spin faster and pump more air. This is mainly achieved with a new crank pulley and a new set of supercharger belts.

Along with the remapped ECU, power is lifted from the standard 163 bhp to a very interesting 210 bhp. Torque also gets a healthy lift to 245 Nm. This drops the 0-100 km/h time from 7.4 seconds to a scorching 6.7 seconds but only if one is sadistic enough.

The modifications give the already peppy Cooper S added zing in its step. While the spool up action of the supercharger is far better than a turbocharger, there is a slight but discernable lag as boost builds up in this 1.6-litre engine.

The same lovable kart-like responses are all intact but progress is now made with determined urgency each time you step on the loud pedal. It is a total sensation with visceral, aural and visual sensations zinging into the pleasure zone.

Interestingly enough the latest Cooper S comes with an automatic transmission and the combination of compressor driven engine and responsive gearbox delivers a performance advantage over the manual gearbox.

Better yet the slight power lag is completely eliminated by the superb kickdown response of this sporty automatic transmission. There is a manual override for those who want to control gear shifts themselves and MINI has thoughtfully included steering wheel mounted switches for manual shifting.

Being on the latest Pirelli Eufori run-flat tyres, the car feels very positive on the road but with a slight jittery ride quality. Equipped with the sport suspension and the 17-inch alloy wheels and low profile tyres the ride is firm but acceptably comfy in light of the brilliant handling of the chassis which simply wants to party all the time.

With all this propensity to deliver fun, it would be highly advisable to get the JCW sports seats as well as the standard one is barely adequate for such a sporty lifestyle. Finally a new three-spoke steering wheel lends a more serious air to the rather playful theme of the cabin.

If you were impressed before, this JCW special will impress you even more. Whilst we seem to be enthusing over the JCW MINI Cooper S, it is easy to overlook the drawbacks like the lack of cargo space which has necessitated the need for the unyielding run-flat tyres. One final point is the price of the JCW kit.

For the pleasure you seek one must part with $11,000 over the cost of the Cooper S but that is the price for outrageous fun. Items like the brakes, alloy wheels and sports suspension will cost extra. Alas the degree of such happiness is only limited by the depth of your pockets it would seem.

Summary
This is a true pocket rocket. While the official mods seem pretty steep costing a third of the cars actual landed cost, they do make it feel that bit more special. The power surge is welcome and the seats secure the driver as an integral part and gives the driver added feel. A cult car made even better. - AL
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