They say good things come in pairs, we say that’s cause they’ve not come across the triplets from John Cooper Works womb.
Yesterday marked the launch of two MINI John Cooper Works models, the Clubman and the Countryman. In conjunction with the event at our very own Sepang International Circuit, MINI Malaysia also held the MINI Track Days 2017. Apart from allowing us to let loose with the three JCW offerings, the Cooper, Clubman and Countryman, we also got to try out the “conventional” three and five door Cooper and Cooper S’s.
There were three different activities lined up; a slalom test and handbrake parking manoeuvres followed by a blast through the South section of the circuit in the three MINI JCW models. Setting off in the three-cylinder 1.5-litre turbocharged five door MINI Cooper, you’d instantly notice the unmistakable characteristic that all MINIs have been known for – its immensely direct steering.
Getting off the line for the slalom test, the 136 horsepower five-door Cooper clearly did not have the blistering pace to match the Cooper S. But despite being longer than the three-door variants, the signature precision and agility associated with the brand was reflected in manoeuvrability of the vehicle. The immediacy in the vehicle’s reaction to every throttle and steering input made it a joy to slither around the cones.
Next up in the program was what we were all anticipating; sampling all three of JCW’s products in the unrestricted surroundings of the South section of the circuit. Getting into the JCW MINI Cooper, you’d immediately notice how much more responsive the accelerator was compared to the five-door MINI Cooper as we sprinted out of the pit lane.
The next activity was quite something; one that required us to summon the inner Russ Swift. Remember that Brit who rose to fame by throwing a MINI around tight spaces, who parallel parks by way of yanking the handbrake? That’s what we were tasked with. Yet again, the five-door Cooper, despite having a longer wheelbase, still retained the agility and nimbleness as the MINI was meticulously swung sideways into a pre-determined slot.
Upshifts were relentless in the eight-speed Steptronic transmission but what really caught our ears, even through the insulation of our helmets was the burble of the exhaust at every gear change. Its pace was also accompanied by an intoxicating engine soundtrack in its last 1,000 rpm before hitting the rev limiter.
Braking towards the first bend, we couldn’t help but notice how composed the vehicle was despite decelerating from a high speed. That’s before we realised how excessively supportive the Dinamica leather John Cooper Works sports seats were as we powered out of the bends with sheer poise with the aid of the vehicle’s Performance Control system, Dynamic Traction Control and Electronic Differential Lock Control.
Moving on with the JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman, despite making the same 231 horsepower as the JCW Cooper, it produces 30 Nm more torque than the Cooper S’ 320 Nm. And frankly, we thought it could do with more. Don’t get us wrong, they’re both still mighty quick with 0-100 km/h times of 6.3 seconds and 6.5 seconds for the Clubman and Countryman respectively.
That said, burdened with the excess weight, as is the Achilles heel for all performance cars, the urgency of both cars under hard acceleration just isn’t as profound as the JCW Cooper. Even so, with all that weight lugging around to manage, stability wasn’t at all compromised. Working in tandem with the car’s Dynamic Stability Control, its ALL4 all-wheel drive system which distributes torque between the front and rear wheels proved handy in managing the vehicle’s precision through the corners.
Under normal driving conditions, the vehicle works as a front-wheel drive and only when needed will it engage the rear wheels to provide maximum traction. Also proving handy was the comprehensive heads-up display which displayed speed, current gear, rev display and even tells you when to change gears!
With all that time spent being drenched in exhilaration behind the wheel, we fear there isn’t much we can say about the striking details of the interior; which we would cover comprehensively in our review articles. For now, all we can say is that, with clearly visible Harman Kardon speakers, enormous touch screen display, edgy sports seats and the motorsport-inspired dashboard, MINI MALAYSIA pretty much got you covered when it comes to style, functionality and all-rounded performance in these three awe-inspiring models.
And as motoring writers, these are the days that fully justify all the shortcomings of our mediocre profession.