Mini John Cooper Works Challenge First Drive

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The new Mini may be a big seller, but there’s still a sense that it’s not properly accepted amongst some petrolheads as it’s not a ‘real Mini’. I’m not one of those people, as I can still appreciate the BMW Mini, especially when it has the words ‘John Cooper Works’ following it. This model had some trick race valves which could be opened up by a double tap of a button to make more noise. As you can imagine, I like this feature a lot…

Mini John Cooper Works Challenge First Drive
I would have preferred a flat bottom, but this wheel still gets the job done and it’s still rather nice to hold.

Providing the source of this noise was a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol, which offers 231bhp and 320Nm of torque. It’s mated to a delightful 6-speed manual gearbox with power fed to the front wheels via a Quaife LSD. As well as the limited slip diff, the JCW Challenge also sits on Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres for better performance, and I have to say, they gripped very well. It was a hot day so the tarmac was nice and sticky, meaning that I felt like I was able to throw the Mini in to bends at speed that felt unnatural at times.

Mini John Cooper Works Challenge First Drive
As this model is track focused, there are some carbon fibre touches.

The engine itself offers a good level of performance – 0-62 will come in only 6.3 seconds and this pocket rocket will max out at 153mph. The steering has got a nice weight to it and the pedals offer good feedback, making for an engaging drive. The Mini is a genuinely fun car to drive, but there is a fly in the ointment – the price. You’re looking at a fee of around £32,000, which is enough to get you Golf R, Civic Type R or a Focus RS.

Mini John Cooper Works Challenge

The high cost aside, the Mini offers the kind of drive that will have you grinning ear-to-ear, even though your bank manager will be sat in a dark corner crying. In top of the Quaife LSD, the race valves and the Pilot Sport Cup tyres, the JCW challenge also has adjustable dampers as well as adjustable ride height and cambers. It was only a quick drive, so I didn’t play about with any of the settings, but even so the Mini was planted in corners, even though the ride was rather choppy.

Mini John Cooper Works Challenge First Drive

That’s a small price to pay though, as the Mini handles beautifully, and as mentioned earlier, you can take corners at what feels like unnatural speed. The steering is direct, meaning it’s easy to direct the Mini towards every apex and I can only imagine how much fun this would be on a racetrack. Yes, there is a hint of understeer when you’re really pushing the car, but it’s not noticeable enough to really take the fun away from the driving experience. Would I be able to live with one though on a day-to-day basis? Hmm, not sure – I’m certainly not sure I could spend the £32,000 asking price for the pleasure.

Mini John Cooper Works Challenge

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