By Samuel Ee
There is no doubt it is the fastest and most dynamic Mini ever but whether it is the prettiest depends a lot on personal taste. The Mini Coupe is a two-seater model with a more steeply raked windscreen (13 degrees less) than the conventional Mini hatch and a lower roofline (by 29mm) that slopes smoothly down to a tiny bustle boot.
But its most striking design detail has to be the helmet roof. Painted in a contrasting colour, it accentuates the Coupe's glasshouse below it. Also interesting is that its floor structure is based on the Mini Cabriolet. As an open-top model, the latter has substantial body reinforcements to make it stiff and strong. So does the Coupe, with its extra bracing in the sills and a fixed bulkhead behind the two seats.
But the good thing is that instead of being about 100kg heavier than the hatch - as the cabriolet is - the Coupe only has a 20kg deficit. Yet it still manages to be slightly faster than the hatch. There are two reasons for this.
The first is that the Coupe's front/rear weight distribution is 64:36, from the hatch's 63:37, thus providing better traction for this front-wheel-driven Mini. The second is that the more sharply angled A-pillars and windscreen, plus the lower roof, lead to improved aerodynamics. As a result, the legendary kart-like abilities of the Mini are further enhanced.
The Mini Coupe has three 1,600cc petrol versions - a naturally aspirated Cooper, turbocharged Cooper S, and the John Cooper Works (JCW). The last is the wildest, with a twin-scroll turbo that helps to pump out 211hp and 260Nm of torque. With an overboost function to increase boost pressure briefly, the latter number can rise to 280Nm.
The vital statistics of this powerplant come as no surprise because the Mini JCW hatch has already introduced them. But in the Mini JCW Coupe, the results are exhilarating. Because of its body structure, the Coupe has a lower centre of gravity than the hatch. Together with the improved traction and aerodynamics, it is immensely agile.
On a slalom course, the Coupe is able to change direction in what feels like an instant. The Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) also helps by braking the inside front wheel to make the Coupe 'turn in' more enthusiastically with reduced understeer. So with the already sharp steering feeling even more precise, you can make the Coupe nip around the cones like a hyperactive terrier with hardly any inertia.
The high degree of body control is thanks to the substantial modifications to the chassis. The MacPherson struts in front and multi-link rear axle behind get stiffer dampers and fatter anti-roll bars, while the ride height has been cut by 10mm. But because the springs are softer - like those on the cabriolet - the JCW Coupe still allows for fairly decent ride comfort.
To increase stability at high speed, there is an active rear spoiler to reduce lift on the rear axle - the first on a Mini. Above 80 kmh, this bootlid-integrated wing is automatically deployed to add 40kg of additional downforce.
Inside, the Mini Coupe looks like any other Mini with its large central speedometer and upmarket trim. Except there are only two seats. To compensate for the lower roof, the headlining has an oval recess above each seat for improved headroom. Boot space, however, is excellent, with an underfloor compartment and large ski- hatch.
|Mini John Cooper Works Coupe
|Price: $210,000 (with COE)
Engine: 1,598cc turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max Power: 211 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Max Torque: 260 Nm @ 1,850-5,600 rpm (280 Nm with Overboost)
0-100kmh: 6.4 secs
Top speed: 240 kmh
Distributor: Distributor Eurokars Habitat
But perhaps the most user-friendly feature of the JCW Coupe has to be the engine's deep reserves of torque. Although the Cooper and Cooper S come with a six-speed automatic transmission, the JCW is only available with a manual gearbox.
With the latter's wide power band, though, you can probably stay in third gear all day if you want. Even in fourth gear at just 1,000 rpm, it is possible to floor the accelerator pedal and pull away without protest. This 1.6-litre powerplant is nothing short of impressive. Never mind that its looks may be a moot point - there is no question about this Coupe's dynamic abilities.
This article was first published in The Business Times.