By Dave Abrahams
Johannesburg - Dynamite, they say, comes in small packages; the same is true of any package bearing the JCW logo.
While the debate rages on as to whether anything a hand's breadth shorter than four metres qualifies as a Mini, it's unarguable that there is dynamite under the bonnet of this one - the new Mini John Cooper Works, released in South Africa this week.
Two turbocharged litres of it, churning out a quoted 170kW from 5200-6000 revs and 320Nm all the way from just off idle at 1250rpm to 4800; that's 20 percent more engine than before, rated for 10 percent more power and 23 percent more torque - on a car that weighs the same as its predecessor when specced the same.
The result is explosive acceleration - 0-100km/h in a claimed 6.3 seconds with the standard six-speed manual gearbox (two tenths quicker than the previous model) or 6.1 seconds (six tenths quicker than before) with the optional six-speed paddle-shift auto transmission.
Perhaps even more telling in a real-world scenario is BMW's claim that either variant will accelerate from 80-120km/h in 5.6 seconds.
BMW also lays claim to a 20 percent reduction in nominal fuel-consumption, quoting 6.7 (manual) and 5.7 (automatic) litres per 100km in the (admittedly unrealistic) EU combined cycle. The big difference, apparently, is down to the auto's idle-stop function.
The manual 'box also has a new tweak, especially noticeable when driving hard. A speed sensor raises the engine revs to match input shaft speed - yes, Cyril, the manual blips its own throttle on downshifts!
All of which is balanced by uprated suspension, electric power steering and specially-developed Brembo sports brakes with red-painted four-piston fixed callipers all round, behind special 17 inch alloys (18 inch rims are an option).
DRESSED TO IMPRESS
The new Mini JCW looks the part, too, with a deeper front apron that has additional air-intakes where the 'standard' Mini has foglights, side sills, a distinctive rear diffuser treatment and a JCW rear spoiler.
The special LED headlights incorporate white indicators, and the grille, wheel-arch trims and side scuttles are all unique to this model - as are the JCW logo on the tailgate, and the sports exhaust with special tailpipes.
Inside, there are special JCW sports seats in a mix of fabric and Dinamica microfiber, a multifunction steering wheel, JCW gear lever, special cockpit displays and central instrument display trim, stainless-steel pedals and a special, very dark grey headliner.
Bells and whistles include dual-zone aircon, an audio system with USB and auxiliary ports, a dynamic stability programme with traction control, an electronic diff-lock and adaptive damping.
The rotary drive modes controller - switching between Sport mode, the default Mid mode and eco-friendly Green mode - re-calibrates the ambient lighting and the central instrument display as well as the adaptive damping maps and the shift points on auto-transmission models.
As usual with BMW products, the options catalogue is a magnum opus in its own right, from special finishes, heatable seats, a glass roof and premium audio by Harman Kardon to internet connectivity, predictive navigation, real-time traffic radar, and a suite of driver and parking aids, which can drive up the cost of your Mini John Cooper Works considerably from:
Mini John Cooper Works - R418 000
Mini John Cooper Works AT - R440 000