- The Washington Times - Friday, July 18, 2008

MALLORCA, Spain — Up until now, Mini’s most sporty version was the one with a John Cooper Works kit. The Cooper S with that tuning package offers more horsepower, bigger brakes, a limited slip differential and 16-inch wheels.

But come August, the Mini John Cooper Works will be available as a model of both the Hatchback and the Clubman. JCW will be an official sub brand within the Mini organization and stand for utmost sportiness of BMW Group’s benjamin.

The advantage of buying the JCW model lies in the fact that the car has more power, special sport brakes and 17-inch wheels. The JCW is based on the race car, that is used in the Mini Challenges in Europe. Good news for race fans: Mini is talking to race officials in North America to start the Mini John Cooper Works Challenge here as well, maybe as early as next year. The Mini JCW versions offer standard DSC (dynamic stability control) and traction control, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and, of course, ABS.

The JCW also has Electronic Deferrential Lock Control when DSC is switched off. Six airbags, safety belt presentioners up front and an ISOFix child seat system in the rear are part of the safety systemThe high performance Mini was unveiled in March in Geneva and made its North American debut at the New York auto show.

We had the first opportunity to drive with the Mini John Cooper Works on the road along the coast of the Spanish island Mallorca.

On the winding roads you feel that the car has enough power to accommodate a sporty driving style, but it also shows sophisticated manners. Cruising and paying attention to the beautiful surroundings is no problem. You can easily drive in the firth gear (of the 6-speed manual) at, say, 1500 revs without feeling any urge to step on the gas. But you can and then you do not have to shift down to fourth or third gear. There is enough torque to make the Mini JWC accelerate up hill and gain some speed.

The direct steering feel and obedience of the JWC is very pleasant and you can be relaxed when you are not in a hurry.

And if you suddenly should be, the small car is able to accelerate from 50 to 75 mph in just 5.2 seconds in 4th gear or 6.2 seconds in 5th.

But then, on the race track of the small island, the small car feels really at home.

With a length of only 146 inches and a weight of less than 2,500 pounds, it is very agile and fast. Really fast. With DSC on, the suspension acts a bit laid back in short bends, but when switched off, the nimble and agile Mini reacts like a born race car. Its 205/45 R 17 rubber sticks to the pavement of the track and you hardly get any reaction of under or oversteer.

Its 1.6-liter I-4 engine with twin turbo technology offers 211 horsepower and 192 pounds-feet of torque, good for an acceleration time of 6.2 seconds from zero to 60 mph. In fact, the overboost function results during a short while in a torque rise to 207 pounds-feet.

The Mini John Cooper Works hardtop will be available for $29,200, the Clubman for $31,450, including $650 destination and handling charge. Mini also offers its free full maintenance coverage for 3 years/ 36,000 miles and a 4 year-50,000 mile warranty.

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