2015 Mini Cooper S v John Cooper Works – what’s the difference?

evo spoke to the new Mini JCW's project director to see what separates the hottest Mini from its lesser brethren

Mini launched its new John Cooper Works range-topper at the Detroit auto show.

While based on the regular Mini Cooper S – it uses the same basic engine, for example – the JCW model features significant upgrades to justify its position as the quickest Mini in the range.

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evo spoke to Fredy Schnitzlein, Project Director for Mini John Cooper Works, to find out how Mini differentiates its JCW models from the already-impressive Cooper S line.

Exterior

It’s tempting to assume that the JCW’s bodywork alterations are all for show, but Schnitzlein explains that each of the multitude of vents and spoilers are designed with purpose.

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The large central vent in the deeper front bumper helps feed additional air to the turbocharger’s intercooler, while the smaller vents to the side of the central grille help cool the JCW’s new four-piston Brembo brakes.  In turn, this means the JCW has no room for foglights – but does help the car’s braking abilities in what Schnitzlein describes as ‘ambitious’ driving.

Loss of the foglights shouldn’t be too much of a hardship, as the new Mini’s distinctive LED daytime running lights encircle full LED headlamps. At the rear, a distinctive roof spoiler helps clean up airflow as it exits the roof, enhancing stability at speed.

There’s a new colour too, Rebel Green. Combined with the show car’s red roof it had perhaps more of a Christmas vibe than Mini was intending, but red has been chosen as a distinctly JCW colour – it also features in a strip below the car’s main grille.

Wheels and suspension

As standard, JCW models will be equipped with 17in alloy wheels. 18in alloys are optional, and suspension has been retuned over that of the Cooper S to give a sharper, grippier feel.

Mini has also reworked the electromechanical power steering – hopefully, it’ll enhance the system’s feel, as the regular Mini’s rack is already quick enough even in basic One trim.

Engine and gearbox

The JCW uses a development of the 2.0-litre turbocharged unit found in the Cooper S. In that application it develops 189bhp at 4700rpm and 221lb ft of torque from 1250rpm.

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Reworked pistons, a new turbocharger and higher-flow exhaust boost these figures to 228bhp at 5200-6000rpm, and 236lb ft in a plateau between 1250-4800rpm. In turn, this drops the 0-62mph sprint from 6.8 to 6.3sec for the manual JCW, while top speed climbs 6mph to 152mph.

Schnitzlein also says the car’s driving mode and stability control systems have been reworked to ensure they’re more appropriate for the occasional track work JCW owners are expected to undertake. Mini has also given drivers more information, in the form of extra gauge pods above the dashboard, shift lights and a gear display.

Interior

In addition to the extra displays, John Cooper Works drivers get a unique steering wheel design – not essential, but nice all the same – figure-hugging leather-trimmed sports seats with integrated head restraints, and unique trim options with more of those JCW red accents.

If you’re seeking a little more room than the three-door car can offer then don’t despair. Fredy didn’t confirm a five-door JCW, but he’s keen to ensure JCW models represent the limit of what’s achievable with models in the Mini range. That means a five-door version is almost certain at some stage.

New Mini Cooper Works GP?

‘The limit of what’s achievable’ has in the past been demonstrated not with regular JCW models, but the hardcore Cooper Works GP models.

Naturally, Schnitzlein wouldn’t confirm that a Works GP was on the way, but when pressed on the JCW’s lack of weight reduction measures and the previous GP models, did suggest there’s ‘always room for further ideas’.

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The previous Works GP’s performance has now been eclipsed by the new JCW – its 0-62mph time is matched in manual form and beaten by the 6.1sec JCW automatic – but its focus is still unmatched.

We’d expect a new Works GP to follow similar lines to its predecessor – producing more power, featuring even more aggressive aerodynamic addenda (including a distinctive rear wing) and suspension upgrades to further sharpen the car’s on-track behaviour.

Pricing and availability

The Mini Cooper John Cooper Works will go on sale in ‘late April’. Prices start at £22,865 – that’s a fair chunk more than the £18,655 of a basic Cooper S, but the extra engineering and power should more than justify the increased expense.

It’ll also be the hottest hatch in its class, outpacing the recently-introduced Peugeot 208 GTi 30th Anniversary for just a little more money.

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