Were cars to be judged simply by their honorific, this JCW-fettled Mini would be only slightly slower than a moon rocket.
2010 Mini John Cooper Works World Championship 50 Special Edition
Crikey, what a long name. So long, in fact, that every time I tried to write it down, I lost my train of thought by the word Championship and eventually, the only way that I could actually get the title of this story correct was to cut and paste the entire moniker from the original press kit. Were cars to be judged simply by their honorific, this JCW-fettled Mini would be only slightly slower than a moon rocket. And, were Mini to try to include all that verbiage on the rear trunk lid's badge, the name would have to be changed to Maxi.
Nonetheless, there's some actual heritage to be celebrated here, this being the celebration of the 50th anniversary of John Cooper's inaugural victory in the rarified world of Formula One racing. There's the not inconsequential fact that, for anyone of even a slightly sporting bent, John Cooper is Mini. Originally setting out to make a mere 1,000 of Sir Alec Issigonis's iconic little runabout, the original was a huge success selling more than 25,000 units, mostly on its reputation as a 55-horsepower (up from the stock 33) giant-killer. Fifty years later and that rep is little changed, a John Cooper Works, run by the famed guru's son, Michael, still in the game of deflating the egos of those who would automatically dismiss such a small car.
A JCW always performs far beyond the numbers on its specification sheet. After all, 211 horsepower is barely beyond the maximal output of the latest Hyundai Sonata. Nonetheless, a zero to 96 kilometre an hour acceleration time of just 6.5 seconds is nothing to be sneezed at, the Mini Cooper S's twin-scroll turbocharger willing the small car forward with an urge that seems quite surprising considering its rather dainty looks.
Indeed, all that power really consumes the JCW personality as the front tyres struggle to contain all that torque (258Nm in regular circumstances, 280Nm available for short bursts). On anything but a perfect road, matting the throttle has the tires spinning, the steering wheel wagging and the turbocharged Mini wandering to and fro. Normally, such dramatic torque steer would be considered a failing, but in the JCW it's just part of the insouciance, the rebelliousness that the boy-racer scoop on the front hood promises and the little 1.6-litre four-banger delivers. The John Cooper Works may, for some, lack in size and practicalities like boot space, but never for excitement or speed.
Runaway torque steer or not, the Mini is actually a phenomenally stable car, at once striking that magical balance between go-kart like handling and phenomenal stability. The first, of course, is to be expected; the Mini is, after all, barely bigger than a bread box and outfitted with tyres - 205/35R17 Dunlops - seemingly outsized for something so small. The latter is a pleasant surprise since such a combination of short wheelbase of just 2,467 millimetres, stiff suspension and wide tyres normally wreaks havoc on normal highway cruising. But, in this regard, the Mini always acts like a much bigger car, giving off the sensation that is just loafing along even as it is well into "Oops officer, I wasn't looking at the speedometer" range.
As for practicalities, yes the boot is small. It's still more practical than a BMW 335 Cabriolet whose retractable hard top all but consumes the cargo area when hidden. A hardtop Mini is not the best choice for anyone schlepping large bags of sport equipment of any kind. It'll carry some groceries, just not in large boxes. There is plenty of room up front for two. Four can be, well, a stretch. It's fine if you're four young, limber 20-somethings; not so good for the same number of arthritic 50-somethings.
The décor, though, is unrivalled. Call it iconic, classic or contrived, the Mini's interior really is cheerful, that big, centre-mounted clock almost smiling at you every morning as you start your slog to work. There are fun little metal flip switches for the lights, et cetera and all that's missing is a little flower holder though that might be a feminisation too far for a car that portends to be so butch.
As for this 50th edition, its calling card is exclusivity, there only being 300 for the world, which appear to be all spoken for. Sadly, there are no performance enhancements beyond the normal Cooper Works massaging, but the car does boast various carbon fibre bits like the front scoop and the rear air deflector. The interior is shown off by a Carbon Black leather trimmed with red piping (though the seats are still manually operated). Similarly, the exterior paint is, I'm told (I say told because I am actually confused since this boast is so overused), an original version of British Racing Green called Connaught Green. In all but brilliant sunshine, it looks pretty black to me, but pretty is the operative word.
All this historific authenticity does not come cheaply, however. A World Championship 50 Edition starts at Dh186,000. It doesn't matter, though. Only 300 will be available worldwide and they've sold out. firstname.lastname@example.org