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ESP’s Pep Cipriano takes MINI’s hottest new number out on a date…

There are several things that deserve iconic status. Among them are Walls Funny Feet, Maria Whittaker and Bagpuss but perhaps the most legendary of them all is the Mini. And I’m talking about the Mini John Cooper Works.

The latest JCW is the hottest most powerful Mini ever built and thanks to Man About Town sponsors Sycamore Mini in Werrington I got up close and personal with one that presented herself in a little black dress with red accessories. It was a steamy weekend encounter and we should’ve booked a room.

This car is more stockings and suspenders instead of your everyday tights. It’s pulsating, addictive and makes you do naughty things. The JCW is the girlfriend your mum doesn’t approve of and your dad wishes he met 40 years ago.

After putting more than 100 miles on her I begged for one last ride but my time was up. All I have is vivid memories of what was an infectious time together and here’s how she stirred my senses…

Looks (star rating out of five) ****

The Mini has always been about curves. Although I’ll always be a fan of the petite Kelly Brook-like original, the post 2001 Minis are more, shall we say, Kate Winslet. This means the modern Mini still rates high in the eye candy stakes but she’s matured from a size 8 into a 12.

And what makes the JCW even sexier is beefed up arches, tidy lines and a perfectly formed centred twin exhaust. Bingo wings are nowhere to be seen and there’s a multitude of vents to remind you she means business.


Performance *****

This car is deceivingly quick. Her vital statistics read 0-62 mph in a smidgen over six seconds and a top speed of 152mph. The two-litre turbocharged engine is a technological masterpiece, which develops 232 bhp and enough torque to raise the Titanic.

Within minutes of being out on the road you appreciate how this car was built to ensure an optimum driving experience. Every component is perfectly hooked up to complement one another and the result is a confidence inspiring hot hatch that makes light work of gobbling up tarmac at break-neck speeds.

Being an old school manual driver, I was a bit sceptical of the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox at first but within a few miles I began to relish it. Leave it in automatic and the gear shifts are smooth and consistent. It’s a bit like winning the lottery and employing a butler – everything is done for you but you forget what it’s like to be in control.

But I like to take charge and chose to give my hands something to do by dictating her every engine growl with the gear paddle shifters that sit neatly behind the rim of her chunky steering wheel.

Rapid up-shifts were accompanied by a gravelly, crackling note from the exhaust and this sound of unadulterated pleasure became a bad influence at every set of traffic lights I came across.

I never took her out of sport mode and that’s because this car wasn’t made to be driven in any other setting. She was a very naughty girl and had me under her spell and surrendering my licence would have been so easy to do. But I fought the temptation and won, which means I’ll get to drive the manual version set to be launched later this year.


Equipment *****

I was so wrapped up with the seductive driving experience the JCW gave me that I didn’t give much thought to the myriad of bells, whistles and gizmos this car comes with. She’s kitted out with so much technology that I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a button ready to make you a cup of tea if you asked it to.

In terms of driver aids you get stuff like dynamic stability control, traction control and electronic differential control – all I’m sure that contribute to her planted and confident handling.

Then there are quirky touches like an optional mini screen that comes out of the dash at the flick of a switch and displays your speed and gear selection. You can also choose the shade from a rainbow of colours that you’d like the main dial and door trim edges to be illuminated in.

The standard and optional extras the JCW comes with really give it the edge over its competitors. I just wish I had more time to play with her buttons.


Verdict *****

The JCW is a beautifully engineered hot hatch that on one hand is happy skipping down to the corner shop for a pint of milk and on the other will tear your underwear off with her teeth and drag you along to the back roads for a thorough spanking. She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing and she knows it.

Pep Cipriano

Our thanks to Sycamore MINI, Werrington, Peterborough. Tel: 01733 707074

Photos: Chris Brudenell for ESP Magazine


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