Grinding Gears Garage and the MINI John Cooper Works Coupe, for When Cute Wants to Raise a Little Hell

Images courtesy MINI

The good thing about MINI cars is they don’t pretend to be anything they are not. The great thing about MINI cars is they deliver everything they promise. And the new MINI Cooper Coupe – specifically the MINI John Cooper Works Coupe – promises to be one of the funnest driving experiences on the road.

One thing about MINI Coopers is they are deceptively roomy inside, but with this new Coupe — while seating area is aplenty — headroom is somewhat scarce; but what do you expect from an adult’s version of a go-kart?

The Coupe is a two-seater version of the Cooper but finished with a non-MINIish boot. MINI Coopers have always been little hatches, so some traditionalist may take odds with this, but it works well in this application.

Atop the trunk lid is a speed-actuated rear spoiler that rises when the speedo ticks over the 50 mark, but there is a manual function should one wish to display it all the time.

The Coupe arrived last year as the first two-seater wearing the MINI moniker; thanks to some open-minded engineers, it arrived with the John Cooper Works package as an option.

This car is a blast to drive, despite rather ghastly blind spots. No problem, just keep everything behind you; and thanks to the very spirited nature of the turbocharged, direct-injected 1.6-liter four (generating 208hp) one can easily accomplish that feat.

While the rest of the MINI Coupe family offers automatic gearboxes, the John Cooper Works edition utilizes a six-speed Gertrag manual for a more spirited (read: traditional) driving experience.

The car rides on stylish 17-inch alloy wheels shod with run-flat performance rubber assisted by Tire Pressure Monitoring system. Braking duties come courtesy Brembo calipers on large ventilated discs.

A host of traditional electronic driving aids are thrown in, including Corner Brake Control and Dynamic Traction Control; the JCW Coupe also gets Electronic Differential Lock Control to ensure the power gets to the pavement.

The chassis is tight, whether sitting still or rolling through some insanely fun S-curves. Weight transfer stays in check while the vehicle is well controlled, via the electronic power assisted steering which provides ample feedback and offering a level of precision not always associated with disconnected steering gear.

So mechanically there are a lot of things that make this MINI JCW Coupe a great little car, but inside there is just as much offered to keep occupants comfortable and entertained.

MINI keeps with the traditional styling, including toggle switches and an obscenely large center speedometer (now with navigation screen in the center of it). Seating is supportive and comfy, and the cockpit places everything right where the driver needs it with good movement between pedals, shifter, and steering wheel. It’s all right there just like any good go-kart would have it.

Pricing is a story all unto itself. While most MINIs start near the low 20s, our JCW Coupe tester begins at $31,200 and rises to nearly 39 grand with all the bells and whistles ours arrived with. That’s pricey for a vehicle in this size and segment.

That said, the new MINI John Cooper Works Coupe arrives in a very attractive package and is an absolute blast to drive. If you’re like me, you will find yourself taking the long way to work each day to pay homage to Mr. Cooper.

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About the Author

David Goodspeed
David was editor of AutoworldToday at Today Newspapers in the Dallas suburbs until its closing in 2009. He was also webmaster and photographer/videographer. He got started doing photography for the newspaper while working as a firefighter/paramedic in one of his towns, and began working for the newspaper group full-time in 1992. David entered automotive journalism in 1998 and became AutoworldToday editor in 2002. On the average, he drives some 100 new vehicles each year. He enjoys the great outdoors and as an avid fly fisherman, as is his spouse Tish. He especially enjoys nature photography and is inspired by the works of Ansel Adams.