The MINI John Cooper Works is a car synonymous with performance and practicality rolled into one. Throughout the years the models and competition have progressively grown in prowess so it is important the old boy keeps himself, and his class rivals on their toes in the current consumer market.
This year then MINI has done just that by unleashing the 2015 JCW, the fastest and most powerful model yet. Being a thoroughbred racer at heart, we sought no better proving ground to test this than on a track environment round Brands Hatch were we could really put it through its paces. On immediate entry to the cockpit there are some stunning additions which really set this car off. I was drawn straight to the start stop button in the middle console, and the longer, uncovered gear stick on the manual which gives a racing sequential-esq appearance to the inside. A key aspect which i feel previous JCW and JCW GP owners will pick up on is the smarter seats. By smarter i mean instead of all leather in the older GP for example, the new JCW houses a mixture of leather and suede material in key points, which most importantly, stop you sliding off the seat should you corner a little to hard. Once you belt yourself in you find characteristics of BMW technology appearing in the new head-up display feature which is extravagant and for me, less distracting than having to glance across the dashboard to check your speed every few seconds.
As soon as I set off, the feeling that you are in a different animal from previous models was very evident indeed. Firstly from that lovely exhaust note as you start up, achieved through a larger however thinner construction to save any additional weight. What it did add in extra however was a caressing snap, crackle and pop of the turbo as you drop through the gear box on bends.
The JCW performance overall is now upped to a sizzling 231bhp with a 0-60mph time of 6.3 seconds seeing 153mph as the top end speed, truly figures which will see it and the likes of a main competitor in the Audi S1 lock horns. As my confidence gradually grew on track so did my smile as you get a true sense that the little mini keeps you on edge, throwing a little understeer at you in the bends, which with a little lift of the throttle, allows you to counter this displaying the agility of the cars back end, letting it follow the nose, and nail the throttle on exit of the corner.
The fantastic thing is this car has the backing of one Niki Faulkner, famed for his wealth of experience on Top Gear and most recently, blockbuster films Kingsman: The Secret Service, the forthcoming Mission Impossible 5 and Rush. Speaking to Niki I got a real sense of his true passion for motoring and specifically this MINI project. “When I was approached by MINI, I agreed to test the car initially and it was fantastic. I wouldn’t put my name and time towards something that I didn’t get that true driving experience and excitement from”. Niki went on to say of his involvement with director Ron Howard on the set of Rush. ” Ron gave me brilliant flexibility to really inject a huge amount of detail into the film, enough detail which would keep the true motor racing anoraks happy, yet relative so as the audience with less racing knowledge could still get truly involved in the film”.
From what Niki said, detail is what the new MINI JCW is all about. It is a car which is a charismatic blend of a new era hot hatch, racer, as close as can be without having the childs play frame set-up in the back, yet comfort and stability is not sacrificed in pursuit of that with all the standard air con, electric windows and rear seats. For me it is a wonderful all round car which ticks all the boxes and fuels that primeval desire in us all.
To get involved in the MINI experience yourself head over to MINI.co.uk or pop into your nearest dealership.