This is my favorite adult go-kart, but its price, and hard suspension on some surfaces on SPORT – not as much fun, blogs Dan Scanlan.
Fast forward millions of MINIs later, and its family has grown in variety as well as size. But despite the MINI Paceman, Countryman and Clubmans out there, the BMW-owned company hasn’t forgotten what made MINIs maxi, or who made them fun. So while the latest MINI Hardtop is five inches longer than the last generation (151.9 inches), John Cooper’s spirit and big (for its size) power remains.
The MINI lineup starts with a turbocharged 134-horsepower 1.5-liter/3-cylinder (11 more than the previous 4-cylinder), then the Cooper S’s 2-liter, 189-horsepower (8 more) Four. But our John Cooper Works Hardtop has the ultimate - a turbocharged 2-liter, 228-horsepower/236 pound-feet of torque Four. The new engine gets a specially developed turbocharger integrated in the exhaust manifold, with direct injection and BMW’s fully variable VALVETRONIC valve control. That makes it the most powerful MINI, each horsepower nudging only 11.5 pounds of hot hatch around!
Our 8,500-mile-old red rocket leaped off the line in SPORT with some wheelspin to 60-mph in 5.8 seconds, a tenth-second under the Cooper S we tested last year; 100-mph took just over 13. The exhaust crackled and popped on overrun as it shifted quickly, with turbo whistle on acceleration and wastegate chirrup when you back off. The paddle shifters shifted very quickly, SPORT keeping the transmission in a lower gear for faster response. The engine shuts off at stops, then fires quickly when your foot begins to inch off the brakes. It seemed to save gas – we saw an indicated 30-mpg.
An electronic locking function for the front axle differential and another system that irons out torque steer in the electromechanical power steering leaves it very direct with lots of feel. The disc brakes, with Brembo calipers up front, offered very good control and a quick bite, with quick stopping power and no fade after repeated hard use. Go ahead, just play hard and the MINI JCW has fun doing it!
Under the center of the padded black dash top is what looks like a big gloss black digital watch with minute marks on the rim. But that’s not the huge speedometer of past MINIs. This generation moves a 160-mph speedo atop the steering column with a multi-function trip computer display on the bottom and 8,000-rpm tach on the left. That big center circle is an 8.8-inch-wide color navigation screen that also displays the AM-FM-SiriusXM audio; multimedia; smartphone/Bluetooth and contacts; MINI Connected for smartphone apps; car settings; owner’s manual; and “Driving Excitement.” That last is a power and torque display with telltales, plus engine and exterior temperature readouts and engine mode. It’s controlled by a BMW iDrive-like twist & tap controller on the center console. It’s tough to find sometimes on the move, as are its menu buttons. But voice command works well for audio and navigation.
For more information on the latest Minis, please visit http://www.miniusa.com/content/miniusa/en/tools/learning/build.html