The hallowed John Cooper Works moniker has been reintegrated into the new Mini range as a fully fledged top-range factory model, instead of an add-on go-faster kit.
Rekindling Monte Carlo rally memories from the 60s, when the John Cooper Mini rally machines won many over with their resolute performances, the latest Mini range sees John Cooper Works models being introduced in both hatch and Clubman body styles.
Whereas the previous Mini offered a John Cooper Works kit as an optional extra, with the new model customers can order their top-line John Cooper Works Mini or Clubman as a factory model, trimmed and finished at the Mini plant in Oxford.
With black air scoops and slats around the fog lamps, the Mini John Cooper Works front apron differentiates itself from the Cooper S.
At the rear the apron's black slatted baffles over the rear fog lamps whilst reducing high-speed rear axle lift at the same time.
Additional skirting around the lower edge of the John Cooper Works prevents air from flowing under the vehicle, enhancing stability at speeds and on bends.
Same size, quicker package
Although the John Cooper Works cars employ the same basic engineering architecture as the Cooper S models, requisite tweaks have been made to ensure they live up the performance heritage the John Cooper name evokes.
The 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder engine is breathed upon by a twin Scroll turbocharger and fuelled by direct injection. It delivers 155kW (versus 128kW for the Cooper S) and 260 Newton-metres between 1 850- and 5 600r/min - overboost enabled a short-burst torque peak of 280Nm for overtaking or harsh acceleration.
It might be average in capacity, yet the engineering is hardly run of the mill. Sodium filled valves keep temperatures down, whilst air filter, air mass sensor, exhaust system and the catalytic converter have been modified to achieve power-enhancing 'dethrottling' on the induction and exhaust side.
Boost has been turned up from 0.9 bar for the standard Cooper S to 1.3 bar for the John Cooper Works models. Acceleration times drop appreciably as a result; the John Cooper Works hatch dispatching the 0-100km/h sprint in 6.5 seconds (6.8 seconds for the Clubman), before powering onto a 238km/h top speed. Consumption is claimed to average out at 6.8l/100km if driven sedately.
Front-wheel drive diff-lock?
Revolutionary small car handling prowess is what made the Cooper Mini rally cars of the 60s icons, and the current day John Cooper Works is no less. Suspension set-up is performance orientated from the outset, with stiffer damper settings.
If track bound driving your aim though, an optional chassis pack drops the car by 10mm and goes even more resolved with handling package, giving it a hard, track-biased edge.
John Cooper Works cars will also feature the electronic differential locking feature which seems to have migrated from the BMW M3. Essentially, in DSC-Off mode the electronically controlled lock function
for the differential of the drive axle is activated.
Operating nearly like an acute limited-slip differential, it should prove its worth accelerating out of bends and hairpins, or laying power down on uneven road surfaces at speed. The electronically controlled lock function has the effect of applying specific, appropriate brake force to a spinning drive wheel on tight bends, ensuring optimal traction.
Brakes are sourced from the Mini Challenge racing series vehicles, and the fixed calliper
disc brakes with aluminium callipers finished in red - inner vented on the front wheels and bearing the John Cooper Works emblem on the callipers - sure look the part.
Rolling on exclusive 17-inch mags exclusive to the John Cooper Works range, tyres are 205/45 W items with run-flat capability, which produce a fair trade-off between emergency running capability and increased road-noise and ride harshness.
iPod integration optional...
Infotainment convenience includes standard AUX socket enabling music saved on
an MP3 player to be played through the audio system, although, disappointingly, a special interface for full integration of an Apple iPod is only available as an accessory.
For optimum and safe communication on the road there is an optional mobile phone preparation or integrated hands-free facility with Bluetooth interface
and USB connection.
An interface for integrated audio and telephone functions is available for the Apple iPhone.
Just before John Cooper passed away in 2000 (the day before Christmas) BMW purchased the rights to the use of the Cooper name for Mini cars. Many purists feared the worst, though with this latest factory model these fears have been well and truly allayed.
The John Cooper Works hatch arrives locally in August this year retailing at R291 000, whilst the Clubman version rolls on in March 2009 with a sticker price of R306 500.