From as early as 1961, Mini has been intertwined with the name Cooper
A Mini might be so renowned for being fun to drive that the brand’s rich historic association with racing is oft en overlooked. From as early as 1961, Mini has been intertwined with the name Cooper, deriving from Formula One car builder John Cooper’s association with it. Cooper saw serious potential in the car and turned it into an unlikely racing champion, with three wins in the Monte Carlo Rally among others.
After Mini’s rebirth as part of the BMW Group in 2001, its association with Cooper continued as John Cooper Works and Cooper S tuning kits were freely available to give the newly designed car a bit more zip. In 2007 BMW acquired the John Cooper Works (JCW) brand name, engineering and development resources. The combination of the JCW moniker and Mini has been successful in circuit racing in the US and recorded four wins in the gruelling Dakar Rally.
According to Mini, the JCW models in its stable “share the same high-performance DNA and racing-grade tuning to deliver a potent combination of precision handling and acceleration”. And the newly launched JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman can attest to this statement.
The biggest change from the previous reincarnations is found under the bonnet, where the four-cylinder engine has been redesigned to deliver 55 kW more power and 100 Nm more torque to increased its numbers to a very impressive 225kW/450Nm. Interestingly, the Mini Cooper that won the 1962 British Saloon Car Championship’s 997cc engine produced a whopping 41 kW!
The 2.0-litre powertrain has undergone model-specific modifications to the crankshaft drive and benefits from the latest generation of Mini TwinPower turbo technology. These modifications comprise a reinforced crankshaft, a main bearing with an extended cross-section, specific pistons, connecting rods plus a new vibration damper with optimised cooling.
The power is sent to all four wheels through another newly developed eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission, which offers launch control. Mini claims the upgrades enable the JCW Clubman to record 4.9 sec from a standstill to 100 km/h, a full 1.4 sec down on the outgoing model. At the same time, the Countryman is claimed to clock 5.1 sec from 0-100 km/h – 1.5 faster than before.
To handle the increased power, the chassis has been enhanced, the suspension and torsion adjusted and the sport brake system upgraded to now feature a four-piston, fixed-caliper disc brake setup at the rear which ensure constantly high braking values even under intensive use.
The exclusive standard equipment of both JCW models includes LED headlamps, keyless ride, Mini driving modes and the radio Mini visual boost, including 6.5-inch display with touchscreen function and a redesigned graphical display.
The integrated connected media equipment is able to access numerous Mini connected online services. Mini took us to the perfect setting for a launch drive in the Lowveld last week. Stunning scenery apart, the route map included a good mix of twisty bends, long winding corners and undulating straights to demonstrate all the car’s capabilities and, boy, did it deliver.
Acceleration is great, handling is superb and the all-wheel-drive system makes the car feel planted around any corner, even at uncomfortably high speeds. And to enhance the feel-good factor even further, heavy acceleration is accompanied by the roar of a newly developed, model-specific sport exhaust system.
You guessed it, all this comes at a price – R648 957 for the Clubman and R715 590 for the Countryman. That is a lot of money in anyone’s book, but it buys you a thrill few other vehicles in that bracket can offer and exclusive entry into a rich heritage.
The Mini Clubman has undergone a nip and a tuck with the optional sports suspension and adaptive suspension being the only changes to its driveability.
Sports suspension lowers the vehicle by 10 mm which optimises its agile response of and lends even more intense emphasis to the car’s sporty appeal. Adaptive suspension offers the possibility of choosing between two characteristic curves for the damper set-up by means of the optional Mini driving modes.
The Cooper Clubman’s power comes from a three-pot 1.5-litre engine, delivering 100kW/220Nm, while the Cooper S benefits from a four-cylinder 2.0-litre 141kW/280Nm powertrain. Power in both derivatives is sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed Steptronic dual-clutch gearbox.
Changes to the aesthetics include a new radiator grille, LED headlights with matrix function for high beam, LED fog lamps with driving light ring, LED rear lights as standard – optionally in Union Jack design – new body colours, light alloy wheels and a range of leather trims and interior surfaces. The Clubman is equipped with a SIM card which meets the 4G mobile phone standard.
Clubman Cooper DCT – R436 036
Clubman Cooper S DCT – R516 439
Clubman John Cooper Works AT – R648 957
Countryman John Cooper Works AT – R715 590
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