There are some cars that you have to evaluate using your heart. The Mini Cooper has always been one such vehicle, that tugged at the heart strings. We spent a weekend with the Cooper S which was kitted out with the JCW tune and exhaust and here is our impression of it.
JCW stands for John Cooper Works, a company that is responsible for tuning Minis. The car we had came with a JCW tuning kit, which bumps up power. The car was also kitted with the JCW sports exhaust.
How is it to drive?
The engine on the Cooper S is a 2.0 liter turbo petrol unit, one that can also be found on the BMW 320i as well. It is a 4-cylinder unit which has been tuned to make 192 Bhp and 280 Nm. The engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Since this car was kitted with the JCW tuning kit, it had a bump in output, taking the total to 210 Bhp and 300 Nm. This has resulted in a drop in 0.2 seconds, in the 0-100 times. Now that we are done with the facts, let’s tell you how it feels.
Starting the engine gives a clear indication that the Cooper S is going to fun. The exhaust note has a lot of bass to it, even in the normal mode. Step on it and you are greeted with a surge of power. The Cooper feels very agile and active from the word go. The engine loves to be revved too. Not only will you be going fast, but you will also be rewarded with a very sweet sounding note. If you are in the mood for some fun, you can always open the JCW exhaust valve. With the valve open, there are a lot of cracks and bangs, something that you really get addicted too. However, Mini clearly mentions that the JCW exhaust should only be used on a track or on private areas as it is much louder than the stock exhaust.
The Cooper S is massively fun to drive. The engine is very responsive and pulls very cleanly. Yes the 6 speed gearbox is a little bit on the slower side compared to the 8-speed ZFs that are on offer on other BMWs, but it isn’t all that bad. You get paddleshifters and the option of going into manual mode using the gear lever. One thing though, you need to push for a downshift and pull for an upshift. The car comes with 3 driving modes as standard, Green, Mid and Sport. In the normal car, it only adjusts the steering weight as well as the engine and transmission. If you have opted for dynamic damping (Rs 80,000), then the suspension damping will also change based on the mode you are in.
One thing the Mini loves to do is to eat corners. With its low center of gravity and wide track, the Mini loves to gobble corners. There is immense grip and you will be surprised as to how much speed you are able to carry into a corner without any fuss. The Mini cannot be matched when it comes to the dynamics. The only downside to the stiff suspension is the fact that it could unsettle the car if you hit a bump mid corner. The steering has a lot of heft to it. Our test car came fitted with the optional JCW steering wheel with paddleshifters which is great to hold.
The ride is on the firm side, but it isn’t really bone jarring and we would rather deal with the hard ride to get such handling. The best part about the S is that it is quite easy to drive on a daily basis. The brakes are very sharp as well.
What about the rest?
The Cooper S is a perfect car to drive, but what about the rest? India isn’t used to small two door vehicles and the Mini surely attracts a lot of attention, wherever it goes. Especially in this bright Volcanic orange shade that our test car came with. The car gets LED headlamps with LED foglamps as standard. It is fitted with 16″ alloys that have been finished in black. Note that only the Grey is a standard colour and the remaining colours would require you to spend Rs 60,000. In terms of standard equipment, you get the driving modes, rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, multi function steering wheel, bluetooth phone connectivity and an arm rest. Some features seen on this car are optional, like the panoramic roof (Rs 1.25 lakhs), the John Cooper works steering wheel (Rs 30,000), the Harman Kardon sound system (Rs 1.15 lakhs), the heads up display (Rs 80,000) and the wired package that comes with navigation (Rs 2.0 lakhs). The car comes with ambient lighting which has various colours to choose from, something that improves the ambiance of the vehicle.
Overall, if you want to enjoy a Mini, you will end up speccing up a few options, which will take you higher than the base price, which is Rs 29.84 lakhs ex-showroom.
The Cooper S is on offer in only the 3 door format in India. While the room in the back is adequate, getting into the back seat is a problem as the front seats slide only a little and it is a tight squeeze to enter the back. As far as ergonomics are concerned, BMW has skipped out on auto dimming mirrors on the inside (manual) and for the exterior mirrors. One thing that must be said though is that the rear visibility through the mirrors is fabulous. There is no blind spot whatsoever, making it very easy to drive in the traffic.
The Cooper is one vehicle that really grabs a lot of attention which means that you will have to be extra cautious, as you will certainly be getting a lot of eye balls, something that can get a little unnerving at times. While the Cooper S is pretty low, you will not face much issues on speed breakers, especially thanks to the short overhangs. The day night mirror is pretty far ahead and you have to reach out a lot in order to adjust. While the other metallic buttons are really cool to look at, they do distract the driver when looking at the rear view mirror. BMW has updated the auto wiper system on the Cooper and it now stays on for sometime, unlike earlier when it had to be switched on every time the vehicle is started.
One more cool thing about the Cooper is that the central console has a LED strip around it, which doubles up as a tachometer when the car is being driven (in orange shade), the volume control when the volume is changed, the colour changes to blue/red (based on change in climate control) and it also changes based on the proximity of the parking sensors, making it quite cool and unique.
Images clicked by Aryan Juneja