By Mike Torpey on 2019-11-24 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
MINI marvel's a
BACK in the Swinging Sixties motorsport maestro John Cooper spotted a golden opportunity.
The former Grand Prix driver realised that it wasn't just movie stars, models and royalty who had been turned on to Britain's 'people's car', the Mini, but also sportsmen of his own kind - racers like Stirling Moss, Bruce McLaren and Graham Hill.
So he approached the Mini's maker BMC, suggested a performance version of the little car with more punch, better handling and stronger brakes - and the Mini Cooper was born.
That original model came with a 997cc engine, a top speed of 88mph and 'lightning' acceleration of 0-60 in 18 seconds - at that time the standard Mini actually took around 30 seconds.
Fast forward to 2019 and the MINI, spelled with capital letters and owned by German giant BMW, bears little resemblance to its distant relative.
And now, still carrying Cooper's name, the fastest MINIs ever produced and approved for use on public roads are continuing the legacy, with prices starting from a princely £36,855.
Featuring a 306bhp 4-cylinder petrol engine with MINI TwinPower Turbo technology, the John Cooper Works Clubman and Countryman models both boast thunderous power allied to race-grade tuning.
We are talking the sort of figures you would normally associate with a supercar. In fact the Works Clubman can blast from 0-62 in 4.9 seconds, and that's quicker than a Porsche Cayman.
For the first time in any roadgoing MINI, the maximum speed of the top performer has been electronically capped at 155mph.
Also included with this latest engine, which offers more pulling power plus an extra 75bhp at peak output, is a new eight-speed Steptronic sports transmission with paddle shifters.
Modifications to the suspension and brakes have been made to cope with that extra wallop, while an adaptive chassis with electronically controlled dampers is up for grabs as an extra cost option.
We took the Clubman, complete with the company's ALL4 all-wheel drive system, on a challenging test drive in what can only be described as monsoon conditions.
So extreme was the rain that for a period of the morning the A1 was closed in the interests of safety - if the MINI was ever going to succumb to weakness this would be the day.
But from the moment the snarl of the JCW's newly developed sport exhaust system pierced the heavy early morning air the car performed with outstanding precision.
It was solid on the road, well balanced, sensationally quick and at no point felt like it was carrying too much power.
The wretched weather conditions also benefited from the connection between the MINI's mechanical differential lock with its Dynamic Stability Control, which also aids the car's driving dynamics through bends.
As for styling, the central air inlet of both the JCW Clubman and Countryman has a honeycomb pattern, and a striking contrast paintwork is available in red for the roof and mirror caps as an extra.
Customers also get John Cooper Works sports seats, a JCW sports steering wheel and anthracite headliner along with the likes of LED headlights, MINI Driving Modes and a Navigation Pack offering a 6.5-inch display with touch-screen plus Real Time Traffic Information.
There's also a Comfort Plus pack provided as standard including front and rear Park Distance Control with Park Assist, a rear view camera, seat heating and folding mirrors.
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