The latest Mini John Cooper Works debuts with a few firsts
Pocket Rocket PREMIUM PRODUCT: The Mini John Cooper Works is luxuriously refined. PHOTO: MINI

ANYONE who has driven the Mini John Cooper Works will know that this souped-up version of the Cooper S is a delightfully different Mini hatch. But just how different the latest JCW is this time around may still come as a surprise.

The third-generation Mini JCW debuts with a few "firsts". For one, its exterior stands out for a bodykit with very large air intakes to optimise cooling of the two-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine and brakes.

At the same time, the eye-catching air ducts in the lower front apron aid aerodynamics, as does the distinctive roof spoiler at the back.

Inside, the alacantara-like Dinamica microfibre upholstery lines the comfortably supportive sports seats. A Harman Kardon audio system comes standard with the JCW, complete with beautifully integrated speakers in the A-pillars.

But the most interesting feature has to be the head-up display - a first for Mini. Reflected off the retractable polycarbonate, it shows the digital speed and rev counter in colour. The height and brightness of the display can be adjusted using the Mini Controller with touchpad and the centre instrument screen, which has a piano black surround with snazzy raised "calibrations".

Using the controller and screen, another Mini first is the ability to configure the Sport mode. The ring at the base of the gear lever allows for the selection of Green, Mid or Sport driving modes. With Dynamic Damper Control standard for the JCW, the last mode's drivetrain and chassis selections can now be configured separately if so desired.

Under the short bonnet is the same basic engine as the Cooper S but with a new cooling system, turbo, pistons, exhaust and, of course, tuning. The turbo, for example, is specially developed for the JCW.

Made of extra temperature-resilient material, it generates increased charge-air pressure. A specific piston design enables compression reduction in order to harmonise with this higher pressure charge-air. The result is beefy power delivered earlier and maintained through to a higher load range.

Compared with the Mini Cooper S, the JCW has 39 extra horses at 231 hp and 40 more Nm of torque at 320 Nm. And compared with the Cooper S, it is even more hyper.

Floor the accelerator and the JCW roars away with its veritable go-kart response and handling. A particularly delightful feature is the popping exhaust.

Interestingly, the JCW six-speed auto transmission is faster from zero to 100 kmh than the JCW six-speed manual - 6.1 seconds versus 6.3.

Using the new-look shift paddles of the John Cooper Works steering wheel, the six-speed Steptronic sports automatic can be manually changed without taking your hands off the wheel.

Simply point the nose in the intended direction of travel and shoot off by stomping on the gas.

The Torque Steer Compensation function limits the amount of torque that interferes with the steering when accelerating hard.

But with so much torque bubbling away, it can still happen occasionally depending on the particular situation.

To reel everything in safely, there are Brembo-designed brakes behind the 18-inch alloy wheels.

It is only to be expected that any JCW will be fast and nimble. But this one is also luxuriously refined. Irregular road surfaces may make it jiggle a little but the ride is never harsh. This Mini has a premium feel to match its premium look.