Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: July 25, 2017
Now this is a proper looking MINI. Those front rally lights scream The Italian Job, while the custom side scuttles and chrome exhaust tips add subtle yet stylish appeal. It’s got all the dressings and toppings with no expense spared. In fact, there are more options on this test vehicle that any MINI we’ve ever tested. It’s also the most expensive.
This 2017 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible rings up at $55,480 before any taxes or delivery fees, a hefty sum for a 231-hp topless boulevard cruiser. That’s just as much a base BMW M240i xDrive Convertible. We spent a full week with this MINI in fact, and have meticulously dissected it to let you know which boxes you should check if you do find yourself trapped in the gravity of this iconic two-door.
Of note: we aren’t trying to tell you what to buy, but want to arm you with a wealth of knowledge from our experience piloting the vehicle, so you can make an informed choice.
First off is the convertible option. This adds a premium of $6,250 over the fixed roof 3-door coupe variant. Is it worth it? No, not at all. Slicing off the roof, ironically enough, adds 18 kg of weight due to the mechanicals to operate the moving fabric top. This results in a loss of structural rigidity and while many convertibles add extra bracing to mitigate the scuttle shake, this epileptic MINI refuses to sit still.
Strike any bump or pothole and you will feel the entire vehicle flex and rattle, pushing the inertial energy from bow to stern. The feeling is exacerbated when the roof is up too, and also when the adaptive dampers are set to “Sport”. It’s an improvement over the last-generation MINI Convertible but its low stance, high center of gravity, and lack of structural rigidity make it a nightmare for handling.
If you ever plan on taking your MINI to the track, ditch the convertible. Get the proper hardtop. It makes a ten-fold difference when it comes to body roll, handling, and overall drivability. To put it into perspective, even the bigger and heavier JCW Clubman and JCW Countryman handled better than this. But then again, if Vitamin D is on the prescription and the racetrack is the last place you’d find yourself in, then I can see why the convertible would appeal to you. Just don’t expect much from the ride quality.
The next topic of discussion is the exhaust, which is probably the best part of this JCW. The standard MINI Cooper S has a nice growl, with a few seldom pops and farts from the exhaust when letting off the throttle on overrun and downshifts. The John Cooper Works exhaust is even louder, with a greater abundance of rifle and shotgun drama. However, there is a performance exhaust that you can opt for from the factory, as part of MINI’s customizable portfolio. It’s called the JCW Pro Exhaust and costs $1,965, a bargain if you ask me.
It comes with a Bluetooth device where you can control the opening of the exhaust valves. It does warn you that once the valves are open, the exhaust isn’t exactly “legal” on public roads due to emissions and sound disturbance. However, once you hear it’s growl, the temptation to turn it on is everlasting.
If you thought the standard JCW exhaust was loud, this one dials everything up to the elevens. The sound is otherworldly, interstellar, and astronomical. Think BMW M2 but even more clamorous. With the roof down, you have front row seats to the most spectacular orchestra from the MINI lineup, with high pitched howls and pops and bangs like the Jaguar F-Type, and we all know how much that feline loved to fart. If there was any option you should check, it should be this one.
The only downside is that the exhaust drones when slotted in 5th or 6th gear, even at highway speeds. It’s like someone turned on the audio bass to the maximum. It’s not exactly easy on the ears when the roof is down but with the top up, the extra fabric insulation will drown it out to a tolerable pitch.
Next up are the cosmetics, which becomes more of a subjective opinion. Personally, I love the rally-style LED headlights up front. They cost $576.27 for both, and comes with a button on the side of the steering column to activate. The one caveat is that the high beams have to be on for it to be activated. That’s because the rally lights aren’t certified to work in low beam situations, and are meant more for “off-roading” and actual “rallying”. We understand that, but I don’t really want to blast light rays at passersby just to show off my new torches. And I never found a situation where I actually utilized them either, relegating it to just a gimmick in the stockpile of options. Best to leave the box unchecked unless you really dig the looks.
A few other aesthetic options our JCW had was the checkered mirror covers ($110 each), door sill strips ($321.15), bonnet stripes ($150), 18-inch JCW Cup Spoke tires ($800), textile floor mats for the front and rear ($240), and checkered side scuttles also known as the fender vents ($87.38). These are all aesthetic options so I won’t comment too much on them. Just know that you really do have the benefit of customizing your MINI to your heart’s content.
Next up, let’s talk about the engine. Do you really need the high output four-cylinder in the JCW? That powerplant is good for 231-hp and 236 lb-ft of torque, which is 42-hp and 29 lb-ft more than the Cooper S. However, if you’re opting for the convertible I’d recommend it. The added weight will have the engine in the Cooper S struggling and gasping for air. Even with the JCW it’s not exactly fast, but it is quick on its feet to get moving. You inevitably feel the weight lugging you down, but it hardly zaps the driving joy out of this playful two-door.
Last but not least, this is how I would spec my MINI: Hardtop 3-Door Coupe, JCW trim, JCW Pro exhaust, Loaded Package (for the adjustable dampers) and brown interior with black exterior. Forget the fancy roof graphics, premium packages for a rear view camera, head up display, or LED lights. The MINI JCW is better off without creature comfort distractions.
In essence then, I find that the Coupe provides a superior balance between sport, track, and excitement than the Convertible. A sunroof is good enough for me, and the loud exhaust will make me ecstatic every morning to get behind the wheel. It’s less style over substance, and more of a hearty balance between both.
型号 Model: 2017 MINI John Cooper Works Convertible
顏色 Paint Type: Midnight Black Metallic
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $40,240.00
試車售價 Price as Tested: $55,480.23
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,495
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,874 / 1,727 / 1,415
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,390
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 231 hp @ 5,200 - 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 236 lb-ft @ 1,250 - 4,800 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.6