If only the chassis could do justice to the engine
Retro Connaught Green paintwork pays tribute to John Cooper's first F1 title
Understeer grows as speeds rise - a shame
It's got all the toys - and at £33k you're paying for them
208bhp 1.6-litre turbo fizzes with energy
Feelgood factor is off the scale before you even drive
Black leather and red trim is upmarket
Faster and more rounded than any ‘Works’ Mini before it. Still a committed prospect – to buy and to use – but rewarding to drive
First DriveMini Countryman JCW gets four-wheel drive as standard and an extra 39bhp over the Cooper S – but the end result hardly justifies the premium
First DriveThe Mini Clubman JCW gets four-wheel drive to marshal its extra power - but the end result hardly justifies the premium
What is it?
This special-edition Mini JCW has been launched to mark the 50th anniversary of John Cooper’s first Formula One title as a constructor, with a car driven by Jack Brabham.
Just 250 examples are being built in total, all painted in a retro Connaught Green with a white roof and bonnet stripes, black wheels and a numbered plaque on the flanks.
They are also lavishly equipped with the most popular items from the Mini options list (including sat-nav, keyless entry/start, heated leather seats, climate control, Harmon Kardon hi-fi) plus a full complement of carbonfibre trim inside and out from the JCW accessories catalogue.
Other than the paintjob and plaque, virtually none of this is bespoke, and the standard JCW’s mechanicals are untouched, but it’s enough to add more than £10k to the asking price.
What’s it like?
The combination of the green/white Cooper colour scheme and the black 17-inch wheels makes the Mini look particularly tough, an attitude boosted by black internals for the xenon headlamps and black-backed driving lamps.
The interior, by contrast, feels tastefully upmarket with its black leather and red trim, factory-fit sat-nav and gorgeous leather/Alcantara steering wheel. So the feelgood factor is off the scale even before you get under way (although all the carbonfibre trim is a matter of personal taste).
Unsurprisingly, the WC50 feels no different from a regular JCW to drive: astonishingly quick and mildly hyperactive. The undoubted highlight is the 208bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine, which not only gives the Mini stronger performance than any of its rivals but also crackles and fizzes with energy the whole time. It sounds peachy, too.
If only the car’s chassis could do justice to this engine. While it retains that pointy Mini feel at low speeds, it resorts to quite strong understeer as speeds rise, and it struggles to put its power down without a fight. In some ways its slightly unruly nature adds to the car’s character, but it’s actually less fun on a British B-road than it should be.
Should I buy one?
Only 100 of the 250-strong production run are staying in the UK, so the WC50 will always be a rarity, but £33k for a Mini – any Mini – is frankly ludicrous.
While it’s right and proper that BMW is commemorating Cooper’s achievements through his long association with Mini, we’d rather they’d spent some of that money on improving the JCW’s chassis and making a car truly worthy of Cooper’s sporting heritage.