The Mini John Cooper Works name identifies the very hottest hatchbacks, crossovers, convertibles and pint-sized estates that Mini makes.
While the JCW name was the sole reserve of the hatchback, especially when it came to the second gen BMW developed car, the tradition of tuning these Minis further has extended to the Paceman, Countryman, Convertible and, in the near future, the Clubman and the 2017 Countryman.
It was also the first properly hot Mini to benefit from parent company BMW’s move from 1.6 to 2.0 litres of swept volume.
As a result, the new JCW trumps its predecessor by 10 percent on peak power and 23 percent on torque, thanks to new induction and exhaust systems, new pistons and a new turbo, which help deliver those output gains over and above the Cooper S.
The overhaul to the JCW’s running chassis and driveline is even more thorough, although, just like last Mini GP, the JCW shuns a proper mechanical limited-slip differential for a brake-actuated torque vectoring set-up.
The front suspension gets uprated springs and dampers, strengthened and lightened supports and wishbones, new tube-shaped anti-roll bars, lightweight support bearings and triple-path strut mounts. The multi-link rear suspension has also been lightened and toughened up.
Drive finds its way to the front wheels via a ‘split’ system of driveshafts, in which an intermediate propshaft running underneath the engine allows for the fitment of equal-length halfshafts for each driven wheel – and more consistent steering feedback as a result. Braking is by 330mm Brembo discs and four-piston calipers up front, and wheels are 17in alloys as standard, with 18s available as an option.
Beside that choice of bigger wheels, variable damper control is the most dynamically influential option on the car. These substitute the standard passive shocks for twin-reservoir switchable units which can be firmed up using the car’s Sport drive mode. Our test car had them fitted.
It certainly looks the part. One of BMW’s mission statements was to give the JCW more notional clear air in which to breathe alongside the lesser Cooper S, and so the more aggressive looks are just as important as the more purposeful mechanicals and extra grunt.