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Fresh from the Works

Fresh from the Works

Remarkable atmospheric composition of Classic Downland

and Mini run, accompanied by period MGs and more.

Photo: courtesy Virginia Hodgkinson

borrowed a showroom fresh 350-mile Mini Cooper S with the full JCW (John Cooper Works) treatment, just for a long weekend of Mini 60th birthday shows and an historic run in company with the classic earlier Minis. Left my £1,000 bargain basement BMW on the packed forecourt of Marshall BMW-MINI in the famous Russian visitor attraction of Salisbury. In an excellent exchange, I took over a sparkling 2019 MY Mini S worth more than £30,000.

Under the Chilli red paint and black-striped hood, 4-cylinders, 1998cc and a refreshed twin turbo power 228 horses in some 2849 pounds. All hot to trot out 0-62 mph in 6.3 seconds and 152 mph for Max Velocity Zombies.

Incidentally when I write ‘refreshed’ I mean in respect of WLTP-coded emissions compliance and current European fuel consumption statistics, rather than any power surge. However, a 75 horsepower bonus was announced for Allwheeldrive Countryman and Clubman Minis within weeks of my temporary occupation of that Cooper S JCW: more of that in a moment.

Those JCW S-type performance stats are not dissimilar to revered M3 variants of 1980s, 4-cylinder, pedigree. What’s more this Min – rather bulbous and fat to older eyes – is simply packed with kit, much unknown back in the 1959-2000 day of the earlier Minis. For example, the clic –clack, all change 8-speed gearbox (officially an automatic Steptronic), is an advance even over today’s ‘ordinary’ 192 hp Cooper S, which has as standard a 6-speed manual, never mind the 4-speed gear sets of ancient British Cooper S-types.

Earlier generations of Cooper S in the BMW mould, evolved from supercharged Chrysler cooperative motor to 1.6-liter BMW and now a 2-litre double turbocharged 16-valve from BMW. Yet the biggest equipment level changes are within comprehensive electronic features. That giant central dial carries surrounding coloured light strips to reflect drive mode: choose from mid-range normality, to eco green, before full-blooded sport settings.

Readouts are dominated by a rectangular 6.5-inch SatNav display. One that squats within a fat faux-retro speedometer, carrying a cartoonish map display. However, the clarity of the surround vision cameras is stunning under Parking Assistant option, even if the bounteous PDC distance sensors hint at madness in confined spaces, beeping frenetically.

  If it’s not red, paint it black! Strong identity, including Cooper S hood scoop that survives BMW-MINI generations and Go Faster bonnet stripesCentral twin exhausts, badges and aero panels beef up imageAlmost a cartoon pastiche on a Mini theme for this dealer demonstratorBusy steering wheel and JCW gear shift flippers surroundsBright work rare on this demo, but an exception here for side logos.MINI logo carried over within headlampsPumped echoes of Mini’s past speedometer location, elongated and rectangular SatNav displayCriticized as Kitsch, but Union Jack rear lamp design is distinctive17-inch wheels are blacked out, JCW badges all roundShiny ‘race’ fuel cap masks functional black plastic dealCompliments of Merry England: spoiler plus bird poop!My 1986 BMW 635 fitted here, as did 1999 Z3 — but MINI isn’t so slim a Mini anymore!You need a cool collie dog for ultimate classic run preparationMore than another classic car run, overseas first World War heroes honouredMini variety from 1965 Moke to 1967 rally hero and our demonstrator 2019 S-type JCW Mini variety from 1965 Moke to 1967 rally hero and our demonstrator  2019 S-type JCWMini skyline, interrupted by 6-cylinder MGCs and gallant Morris Minor convertibleHappy author, playing with classics or today’s JCW flier.Photo: courtesy Virginia HodgkinsonEnd of a memorable day and the MG squad is guarded by a reminder of the first Cooper S in factory rally team livery from owner and classic road run RouteMeister, John Mcintosh.<>

Standard items abound on this high spec Mini S-JCW, loaned to accompany events marking the 60th anniversary of the 1959-2000 first edition Minis. So it packed standard JCW kit, including the extended body aero panels, unique sports exhaust (now incorporating integrated particulate filters) and the paddle-shifter steering wheel housing subsidiary switchgear to control music selections and more.

The demo S type with JCW crackle also featured the optional heads-up display (HUD) speed readouts, which I believe to be one of the great urban safety features.  This demo S had Dinamica fabric seats, rather than a leather trim option: they were excellent and I prefer them for hot use.

My Salisbury-based dealer quoted: “Around £31,000” for this lavishly optioned example. Sadly, a new Mini derivative trumped this one for performance within days of my handing back the metallic red demonstrator with its Black Pack wheels, heavily tinted side windows and more.

That would be the 306 hp Clubman and Countryman equipped with MINI ALL4 transmission, priced from £34,250 and £35,550 respectively. Instead of the front drive 6-second dashes to 62 mph and a 152 mph max, this new generation of the bigger body Clubman and Countryman are officially rated 4.9 seconds for 0-62 mph and (a first on any Mini) have a 155 mph max speed limiter!

Driving off the dealership forecourt in that 2019 Cooper S JCW, I got a smug whiff of that new car-owner feeling. Out into the rush hour, I travelled with more slow motion respect than was my habit when 2-5 vehicles  (including competition cars) were my regular weekly diet.

Back in those days, the tuned British street machines could be downright hostile: no fixed idle revs, coughing, spluttering and demanding constant throttle blips and manual gearshifts to balance against ferociously in-out clutch pedal throws.

Today’s Mini S, packing almost exactly triple the power of a 1969 production Mini 1275 Cooper S, eased into combative roundabout queues and ring road warfare with the ease of an old limo. Albeit without any semblance of old fashioned ride comfort, but there are speedier compensations when we access Sport mode.

I start off by simply using the Normal drive mode of 8-speed transmission, which is not as smooth as some old torque-convertor automatics, but much more effective and rewarding to drive on manual shifts.

The view ahead is of heavily contoured wheel, red stitching to the fore, carrying the JCW logo in the only steering wheel spoke not laden with cruise, telephone or sound system volume switches. Those triple spokes carry the - and + gearshift flippers ahead of a 160 mph speedometer, tachometer redlined at 6500 with insets for launch control and right hand sector devoted to fuel contents in the miserly fuel tank.

I picked it up with just over 350 miles recorded, indicating over 44 mpg for a caring employee. It was returned with 42.4 mpg displayed, over some 200-weekend miles.

Surrounding me were 12 speakers for the superior sound system, a cosmetic check trim echoing shiny composites and a Johnny Cash burning ring of multi-coloured fire as a halo around SatNav. That screen also reports switchable drive mode displays and sound system. All squashed within a pastiche of the original Mini’s large and central speedometer.

Looking around the cramped cabin and large furniture, it is pretty claustrophobic; but the materials are of higher quality than most hatchbacks. Those reassuring high-sided front seats ensure that even though Mini is BMW-bulkier than ever, it feels like you have the less or same space as when Munich regenerated the Brit-brand so successfully nearly 20 years ago. Looking at the trunk and back seats, this hatchback is about as practical as a 2+2 coupé.

Get over it Jeremy: this is a JCW Cooper S, enjoy!

I certainly did: my tasks for the weekend went from a Cuckoo (!) main street village fair commentating on a Cavalcade of Minis, celebrating the original baby’s birth 60 years since. On to judging a car show and then –oh, then the best bit of all – a 37-mile classic Mini run out onto the down lands that lead to Salisbury Plain, where the zigzag roads are demented and so many soldiers from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were billeted in the course of two 20th century wars.

The public and private farm lanes are narrow, twisty, and suit Minis anciently agile and whip-sharp modern. Abundant potholes search out the worst in the current JCW suspension, even on the standard 17-inch wheels and 205 Michelin Primacy3 tires, rather than larger 18-inch options.

Yet the compensations are massively impressive, whenever the road and surface give you any kind of a break. The acceleration, accompanied by a welcome change in exhaust note from drone to sporting tone, is just THERE. You can see the reason for that when you register than peak torque of 236 pounds feet arrives at just 1250 rpm and maximum power is hardly sky high at 5200 rpms.

All at your command via a twitchy toe and the flick of a shift paddle: or you can pretend to be shifting Old Skool style via a central lever. Yes, there is some weave under full power and torque in the first three gears on imperfect surfaces, but the grip remains loyal and the power-assisted steering numbly accurate, thanks to less interference from a triple driveshaft system that allows equal length shaft runs to both front wheels.  Cornering capability is admirably Mini-joyful: so plentiful that it demands respect in public road deployment.

Ford used to get a media hammering for the handling characteristics of their turbocharged front drive RS Escorts and Fiestas, particularly for the floating sensation over crests and loss of grip into successive curves. The 2019 Mini-JCW’s hugely extended adhesion of those 1980s era Euro Fords – and another 96 horsepower – mean you could easily launch Munich’s machine into the same danger zones at considerably higher speeds.

Releasing the throttle suddenly will only provoke the rear into a passion for overtaking the front. So you have to understand that the public road limits of this miniscule rocket ship’s considerable dynamic abilities are beyond sharing with other folk: anymore committed exploration of adhesion levels, best kept on track!

I totally enjoyed my current Mini Cooper S experience and left with new respect for JCW’s showroom speed and a rewarding drive…. But it does look bloated and strains Mini credibility to me.

Jeremy Walton