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Wealth preservation societyWealth preservation society

Jack Yan thinks he can be a hoon in the Mini John Cooper Works—but there’s an element of respectability to this new model
photographed by Tanya Sooksombatisatian



LAST YEAR, when trying out the Mini Cooper S Clubman, there was one thing that I was surprised at: the lack of power. When you’ve seen plenty of Mini car chases—The Italian Job, Goodbye Pork Pie and The Bourne Identity (the remake with Matt Damon, not the one with Dr Kildare)—you expect to whizz around either being Charlie Croker or the Blondini gang. It led to my conclusion that the Clubman was a substitute for the Sloane Rangers with their RAV4s—and judging by some of the people in them, that’s exactly the market the Clubman has touched.
   Piers Scott at BMW assured me that I would not be disappointed on the power front with the Mini John Cooper Works—with 211 PS on tap. Supercharged. And Chris Pile at the Wellington dealer seemed more nervous than usual about that fact, with extra warnings along the lines of, ‘You break it, you bought it.’
   They’ve lent this magazine more powerful cars before but somehow the Mini had already become notorious.
   I assured Chris that being a British–New Zealand dual national I had seen The Italian Job enough times to know what to do with an overpowered Mini. It was, after all, a Morris—or at least it came out of what was the old Morris plant—and I felt sure I could handle anything the old British Motor Works, or whatever they were called, could throw at me.
   The year might not have got very far at the time of writing but the John Cooper Works Mini is, to sum it up early, a car for every person.
   I know for a fact we’ve plenty of girl racers reading Lucire and I’ve managed to ignite, based on reader feedback, the motoring bug in many of you. And let me say that this Mini touches every emotion you can have.
   While taking the traction control off means grabbing the steering wheel and dealing with torque steer (emotion one: fear), the Mini also delivers wonderful acceleration (arrogance), has the best handling ever in a front-wheel-drive car (satisfaction), and is totally presentable pulling up to collect a pretty girl (pride).
The gearchange allows for short throws (convenience), and you don’t have to work the Cooper particularly hard to get the most out of it (competence).
   It was even respectable enough at the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace, where we took some of these photographs. And unlike the cop magnet of the Audi RS6 Avant we tested earlier, the police didn’t even eye us up angrily.
   While it’s good to drive and everyone else thinks the world of you, you can’t really go wrong owning it, either.
   Inside, the details delight: the chequered flag motif on the interior carpets, the big round central speedometer (where back-seat children can count up for you and practise their multiples of 10—the Mini is an educational car, too), the carbon-fibre effect on the dashboard, even (at long last) extra controls on the steering wheel for the radio and Bluetooth cellphone, whatever they are.
   The supercharger boost level also gets a system check with a row of lights between the steering wheel and rev counter, lighting up green and red.
   The idea of a blower is very British, and seems very in keeping with the car. Or is it?
   I know Mini is owned by BMW these days (so the cars are less likely to break down), which makes them about as British as Queen Victoria, who was half-German and married a German.
   But there’s quite a bit of emotion in here. Where a BMW 3er Reihe feels somewhat restrained, at least at the basic levels, there is a wild streak about the John Cooper Works that can only have come from the Anglo side of things.
   While it’s not raw—there wouldn’t be carbon fibre accents on the rear spoiler to surround the twin exhausts if it were—driving the John Cooper Works is one of the most satisfying feelings around.
   Interestingly, in these energy-conscious times, it still managed to return 32 mpg in our test, and that’s one area you don’t expect a company like, say, Jaguar or MG (when it was around and not Chinese) to examine closely.
   Being clean and green goes down terribly well in München, Düsseldorf, Berlin and Köln. It’s the best of all worlds, really. •


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Location with the express permission of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society, Wellington.

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