For those who noticed, the reference to firepower in the title isn’t a coincidence. The Mini John Cooper Works is actually like a bullet, fitted with an automatic transmission for the first time ever. But does that make it bang on for thrill-seekers? Join the Drive.
At an age and time when cowboys and bulls were big game, a bunch of kids – none of them in their teens yet – would load their imaginary pistols and chase one another on their imaginary studs, in an otherwise tranquil farmhouse stowed away in a quiet corner of Kiplingian India. Until one day, one of them decided to give his imaginary stud actual legs, though the ones he chose were frail and faltering.
I am talking about a vacation I once spent as a child, joined by my cousins at our ancestral home, which had grazing cows, suckling calves, and chicken. My daredevil cousin once decided to throw himself over a calf for want of colts around. Frightened out of its wits and uninitiated into the game of cowboys and calves, the poor creature took off like a bull, with my cousin straddled over it with only his courage to hold on to – apart from a few straws the hungry herbivore had earlier pulled out from the haystack. Quite like how the Mini took its first powerful strides with me holding on to its steering – thankfully as solid as my cousin’s courage.
UPSIDE: Ego-boosting torquey drive, Excellent Harmon Kardon system, Pleasurably easy olive sized joystick, Exceptional surround visibility
FLIPSIDE: Absurdly stiff steering, Legless rear seat comfort, Impractical paddle-shifts
As it happens, it was not only because of its retro styling that this Mini brought back a lot of fondly flashing memories. Quite like the calf that ran away with my cousin straddled atop, the Mini John Cooper Works is in a complimentary way, “unrestrained” which adds to the overdose of adrenaline it pumps into your bloodstream.
The runaway power of 211 hp, driven by a torque of 260 Nm with an overboost function in mid-cycle, probably explains the extra-stiff steering wheel of the new Mini JCW. But the chances of stumbling upon torque steer is annulled by an early demonstration of what the pint-sized powerhouse is capable of and the early availability of ample torque without having to dig a hole in the footwell.
For those who miss the manual autonomy of the Mini, the stick shift in S mode that tweaks the acceleration and steering response for added sportiness is a more desirable option than the paddleshifts. By some weird logic of political correctness, the gear shifts up and down on both paddles, instead of assigning each function to either thumb. Twiddling your thumbs with a purpose can be a pain, in case the tendency to switch back from manual doesn’t bore you soon enough!
The large oval mirrors of the Mini John Cooper Works don’t let you lose sight of side-lane vehicles. Something unique about these mirrors is that the stalk of the glass is way ahead of the driving position – very unlike any other car I can think of. This makes the front glasses exceptionally large and, combined with the unobtrusive A-pillars, give the Mini perhaps the best surround view in the entire auto world!
The Cabin and controls
This Mini John Cooper Works is full of quirks that are adorable to many and simply ‘quirky’ to some! Like the centerpiece of the dashboard – the dinner plate speedo with space for a reasonably wide navigation screen within!
Everything in the John Cooper Works reminds you of the classic that a Mini is. For instance, the cockpit style steel rockers, neatly arranged above the rear view mirror and at the bottom of the dashboards, haven’t been touched by time.
I loved the new joystick, the size and shape of a stuffed olive with its red stuffing showing, and the 5”wide navigation screen that it so well controls. It is one of the most effective and err… pleasurable joysticks ever in an automotive cabin. But the space and controls around the gearshift have a slightly constrained feeling though the buttons are tiny and few in number.
The Mini cult cares for quirks like it doesn’t care. But it also cares for safety. When the speed limit warning is flashed, the car still continues to show the climbing speed in the smaller display below – which most cars don’t do without the driver’s prompt. The new Mini John Cooper Works comes with standard specs like powerful brakes, DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) including DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) and EDLC (Electronic Differential Lock Control) for the driven axle, and 17” light-alloy wheels with run-flat tyres.
The suede seats are soothing to the eye and to your err… ride – they’ll warm up to you, quite literally. The seats behind are perfect for the small family till kids sprout legs that ache upon crouching for long hours.
The Essential Mini John Cooper Works
It was after a long time that I found myself stuck in the cabin of a car long after it had been parked. Not because I was such a big fan of the Mini cult that I had to be dragged out – it was the Harman Kardon concert going on inside that was simply hard to slip out of! Though I should admit that the Mini John Cooper Works 2013 left me yearning for another round behind that stiff Alcantara wheel – it’s like a shot of adrenaline fired from pointblank.
Drive courtesy: AGMC
Pictures: Sudeep Koshy & Supplied