25 February 2008

Reassuringly expensive

Quick, powerful and wallet-meltingly pricey: it's the John Cooper Works Mini

John Cooper Works Mini

The Mini Cooper S may be one of the finest-driving little hot hatches around, but with a piffling 175bhp from its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, it's always looked a bit short on power compared to the Vauxhall Corsa VXR (189bhp) and Renault Clio 197 (erm, 197bhp).

But all that is set to change with the introduction of the John Cooper Works Mini, due to debut in Geneva before going on sale this summer.

The hottest Mini yet will develop a mighty 208bhp and up to 207lb ft of torque, enough to propel it to 62mph in 6.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 148mph - comfortably quicker than the Vauxhall or Renault.

Where has all the extra power come from? The Works engineers have modified the air filter, exhaust and catalyst, as well as fitting a larger turbocharger with increased boost pressure - the same modifications, in fact, as the Mini Challenge race car.

All that power should be easily accessible, too: because the ducts in the exhaust manifold and turbocharger are split between two cylinders each, Mini says the engine shouldn't suffer the traditional problem of turbo lag.

Naturally, the rest of the mechanicals have been toughened up to cope. The six-speed 'box has been strengthened, while the Works Mini boasts 17-inch front disc brakes with 16s at the rear - some 22mm larger than on the standard Cooper S. We love those 17-inch light-alloy wheels, too.

The Works is also the first Mini to get BMW's Dynamic Traction Control system, which works with the electronic diff to allow 'controlled slip' on the front wheels. That means it'll let you keep the power down even in slippery conditions... and, as Mini makes clear, you can even switch it off if you're feeling brave.

All this is good, but there's one big, expensive fly in the ointment here: the price. The Works Mini will start at £20,500, and that's before you've specced the bodykit and the lowered suspension. If you want your Works in Clubman flavour, you'll pay a £1,200 premium over the hatch.

Which means you're looking at a hot supermini pricier than a Golf GTi, Civic Type R or Focus ST.

It's enough to make you ask yourself seriously: do you really, really want a Works? You do? Yeah, so do we. Beans on toast for the rest of eternity it is.

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