John Cooper Works MINI Hardtop – Observations From the Driver’s Seat

December 03, 2013
John Cooper Works

I owned a fair number of MINIs when I was younger, the old kind with the 10-inch wheels and rubber cone suspension that handled like a go-kart and were just a total blast to drive.  And I was delighted to find that same feeling in the new high-performance John Cooper Works model that we used for the test drive video.  A refined, amplified version of the feeling to be sure, but still recognizably a direct descendant of the MINI that was my first car… and in fact, the first car for most of a post WWII generation of European drivers and American enthusiasts.

When BMW bought MINI and brought out the new version, it was a source of concern among us devotees that they would be able to keep that feeling, and that the new MINI, which by modern necessities of safety and mechanical packaging, would have to be bigger and might not look as cool as the original.  But the new MINI is superior in every way, from driving dynamics to appearance to comfort (driver amenities in the original were just slightly more substantial than a beach chair) and convenience (the original had a trunk barely big enough for the spare tire, while the new MINI has a hatchback and folding seats that turn it into a mini-SUV).

My first thirty minutes in the John Cooper Works MINI were a joyous homecoming as I discovered that you can drive it into a corner at pretty much any speed you want and exit the turn going even faster.  And that it was comfortable.  And that you could hear the radio over the sound of the engine (something that could not be said of the original).  I was delighted that we had the opportunity to film on the kart racing track at Palm Beach International Raceway because that really is home territory for a car that corners this well.

And evidently this joy of driving translates into pretty much every version of the car, because you see the full range of them driving around everywhere you go; station wagons, two-seaters, convertibles, even a four-door, four-wheel drive version.  Most of the British sports cars that blossomed in the 1960s have passed into legend, Triumph, Austin Healey, Sunbeam, etc.  What remains, aside from Bentley and Aston Martin, is the MINI, now even more popular than the original ever was, and justifiably so.  There are plenty of small, front-wheel drive cars out there, but none of them have the history, and the looks, and the joy of driving that is the essence of the new MINI.


The John Cooper Works models are MINI’s hot rod line, principally distinguished by a more powerful engine.  The standard Cooper S produces 163 horsepower and 155 pound-feet of torque from its 1.6-liter twin-cam 16-valve four. The JCW version generates 200 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque.  As a result, a standard Cooper S will go from 0 to 60 mph in about seven 7.0 seconds, while the JCW version takes just 6.3 seconds.  That may not sound like much horsepower these days, but when British engineer and designer Sir Alec Issigonis created the original MINI in 1959, it produced 37 horsepower, and the John Cooper Works model (yes, they had one even back then) raised that to 65 horsepower… enough to quickly make MINI the car to have in club racing circles.

Visit the Braman MINI of West Palm Beach website to view our inventory, or come in and see us in person, and pick out your next MINI today!

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