What is it?
This is the hottest incarnation of the Mini Roadster to date.
All two-wheel drive JCW Minis use the same turbocharged 208bhp 1.6-litre engine, and the Roadster’s the priciest of the lot at £24,755.
It costs a tenner more than the convertible JCW hatch (which offers two more seats, but around half the boot space), and £955 more than the fixed-roofed Coupé with which it shares waist-down construction.
What is it like?
The JCW Coupé’s Achilles heel is its super-stiff ride, and that complaint endures here in the Roadster. True, our test car carried sports suspension (£150, or standard with the Chili pack), but the standard set-up would need to be wildly different to offer anything approaching comfort.
Britain’s characteristically crinkly B-roads set the JCW skipping frantically, making it impossible to happily explore its flat cornering attitude, grippy tyres and the line-maintaining, electronically controlled front differential (standard here, optional on lesser Roadsters).
Urban ridges pound the chassis too, and although reinforcements like the boot-spanning crossmember some built-in flex, the shock can still cajole rattles from the well heeled cabin. Smooth, sweeping A-roads get the best from this car, when the accurate electric steering helps manage rapid, enjoyable progress.
With rising revs, there’s a racy soundtrack from the wonderfully tractable engine (after some brief lag), followed by lift-off pops from the exhaust – both of which are best enjoyed with the semi-automatic roof stowed. On smooth-motorway slogs with the hood up, though, the same helm fidgets endlessly, while wind roar and the engine’s low drone are wearing, too.
The JCW’s upgraded brakes are highly effective and offer reasonable pedal feel.
Should I buy one?
Choose a 181bhp, 47.1mpg Roadster Cooper S with Sport pack (but not sports suspension) instead and those brakes might be all you’ll miss. You’ll get the looks, the electronic traction tricks and most of the performance for two grand less.
A blast on the right road in the sunshine will certainly entertain, but the Roadster's soft top makes the skittish Coupé’s formula even less usable.
Mini John Cooper Works Roadster
Price £24,755; 0-62mph 6.5sec; Top speed 147mph; Economy 38.7mpg; CO2 169g/km; Kerb weight 1260kg; Engine 4-cyls, 1598cc, turbo, petrol; Power 208bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 192lb ft at 1850-5600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual