Mini John Cooper Works (2008) Review

Presented by

2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works
2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works
2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works
2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works
2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works
2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works 2008 Mini John Cooper Works

Mini John Cooper Works. Unlike a pizza, a Mini with the "works" could cost a motza.

Mini John Cooper Works (2008) Review
2008 Mini John Cooper Works

 

2008 Mini John Cooper Works

If you want a V8 Supercar for the road, the closest thing you can buy from the showroom is a performance sedan from HSV or FPV. If you desire the European equivalent, a DTM touring car, you could head to your nearest 'Benz AMG hotshop or Audi dealer, but it would still fall well short of the real thing.

Truth is, despite the marketing guff about Subaru's STI being 'rally bred' or Mercedes cars featuring 'F1 technology', the production vehicles are a far cry from the competition machines our heroes drive.

Well, now you can actually buy a car that, in the drivetrain department at least, closely resembles the racing version. That's if the little hot hatches that tear around local circuits in the one-make Mini Challenge series rock your boat.

You see, the latest John Cooper Works versions of the Mini get the same twin-scroll turbocharged, direct injection 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that powers the local Challenge racers.

Fitted with new pistons, valves, turbocharger, intake and exhaust system, the JCW Mini engine pumps out a decent 154kW/260Nm (or 280Nm with overboost) - not quite V8 Supercar-like, but enough to turn the spritely 128kW/240Nm Cooper S on which it is based into a testosterone-charged pocket rocket.

Unlike the original JCW kit, which was retrofitted to the previous supercharged Cooper S, the new Works Minis are factory-built in the UK. And based on the up-spec Chilli package, they are arguably better value, costing an additional $5300.

Along with 17-inch Challenge-style alloys and other bespoke touches, the JCW Mini benefits from modified brakes, gearbox, suspension and exhaust system. The Dynamic Stability Control has also been recalibrated, while a new Electronic Differential Lock Control is activated when the DSC is turned off.

With turbo boost up from 0.9 to 1.3 bar, helping to increase maximum torque to 260Nm from 1850rpm, the JCW Mini immediately feels quicker off the mark, surging to 100km/h in a manner that confirms its official 6.5sec time.

While there's some torque steer on faster take-offs, the upside is you spend less time rowing through the six-speed manual gearbox, with more mid-range grunt and better in-gear acceleration. The extra low-down grunt means you can hang in third or even fourth gear and still accelerate hard out of corners that normally demand second. Though not neck-snapping, stamping the right pedal is certainly exhilarating, giving the impression of a small V8 rather than a turbo four under the small bonnet.

While more responsive across the rev range, the engine is still refined, almost subdued. There's a sonorous soundtrack right up to redline, but we still would have liked some burble at idle or 'crackle and pop' overrun to satisfy our inner revhead!

But it's on the track where this car really shines, as we discovered during a few exciting laps of the tight, twisty State Motorcycle Centre circuit in Broadford, Victoria. The stiffer sports suspension which makes it a bit jittery on public roads contributes to the car's wonderful balance and agility on the track, the main limitation on Broadford's ever-tightening, off-camber corners the grip of the 205/45 R17 run-flat rubber.

Pressing the Sport button further sharpens up steering and throttle response, to the point where it can become twitchy, encouraging oversteer or power-on understeer unless you're smooth on the throttle through corners. Fortunately the electronic nannies have been dialled in to provide suitable levels of 'slip' so as not too spoil the fun too much.

The beefed-up disc brakes also proved very responsive and fade-free over a handful of hard laps.

Compared to the slightly bigger JCW Mini Clubman, which we also drove and carries an additional 75kg, the hardtop felt more nimble and adjustable on the limit.

Our main gripe, though, is the price you pay to make the car look and not just act the part. Aside from tiny Works badges front and rear, and special 260km/h speedo and sills inside, you'd be hard-pressed to pick the base car's competition origins.

Mini had a fully-kitted out Works version on hand at the launch, which compared well alongside the Challenge racers also in attendance. Problem is, dipping into the Works catalogue for desirable items like lowered sports suspension, body kit, carbon-fibre spoiler, Recaro seats, carbon-fibre gearknob and 'suede' steering wheel, will set you back at least another $10,000.

Factor in other options like sunroof, stripes, and metallic paint, and your JCW Mini could easily surpass $70,000. For that you could almost buy a Mini Challenge car!

Still, the basic Works with its torquey "race bred" engine is such a hoot that even if it doesn't look much like Bargwanna's winning racer, it still behaves a lot like it from behind the wheel.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

2008 Mini John Cooper Works

 

BODY:  three-door hardtop

WEIGHT: 1130kg

ENGINE: four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbocharged

POWER/TORQUE: 155kW @ 6000rpm/280Nm @ 2000-5300rpm

TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual

DRIVETRAIN: front eng, front wheel drive

PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h: 6.5sec. Top speed - 238km/h

PRICE: from $48,800

 

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition