Posted May 10th 2012 4:00PM
John Newton Cooper was not your average auto aficionado. Racing was never a leisurely pastime for him. It was his passion; some may even say his destiny. A freethinking race enthusiast with a mechanic for a father, he pioneered the first rear-engine race cars that soon became the gold standard in Formula 1 and Indy Car design.
At a time when names such as Ferrari, Maserati and others ruled the sport, the Cooper Car Company dominated the 1959 and 1960 F1 racing season by winning both the Constructors' and Drivers' World Championships. In fact, Cooper's design was so successful; by 1962 all Formula 1 teams employed his rear engine design forever changing the sport.
Leaving an indomitable mark on the sport, he turned his attention to transforming the docile Classic Mini into a rally winning race car. The Classic Mini Cooper won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. They also placed in all top three positions in 1966, but were disqualified for a slight rules infraction by the judges. To say racing is at the centre of all things Mini these days is to understate the obvious.
Read on after the jump.
Related Gallery2012 Mini John Cooper Works Coupe
The 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Coupé offers not only an incredibly long name for so small a car, it provides the unique concept of a true coupe instead of the hatchback or sedan design themes featured across the current Mini lineup. Though not all pundits agree, in my view, this makes it one of, if not the most striking Mini cars in the stable today.
Much of what defines Mini as a brand carries over on the new coupé. Bold, oval headlights and a two-tier grille are the first clue this is the newest configuration built on the John Cooper legacy. A large air intake features prominently on the hood, designating this as a turbocharged engine. Short front and rear overhangs dominate the side profile and the unusual helmet-head roofline gives this Mini the sinister look lacking elsewhere in the model line.
Power comes in the form of a 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine matched to a 6-speed manual transmission. Performance rates as 208 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 186 lb-ft of torque at 1,850-5,600 rpm.
Mini claims the coupe is one tenth of a second faster to 100 km/h than the JCW hatchback version, taking just 6.4 seconds. I say, "Who cares?" Both are supremely fun cars to drive. The only decision you need to make is how much trunk space is required and whether or not you like the squashed roofline and somewhat tighter confines of the coupé. Top speed is electronically limited at 240 km/h.
Fuel economy estimates come in at 7.7 L/100 km (30 MPG) in the city and 5.6 L/100 km (42 MPG) on the highway for a combined rating of 6.7 L/100 km (35 MPG). In real world driving over the course of a 4 day weekend in which we piled up 1,600 km on all types of roads, we actually achieved 6.7 L/100 km (35 MPG). It looks like Mini has done their homework and isn't just blowing smoke like several other automakers when it comes to delivering on their boast about fuel economy ratings.
Tuned for the sports enthusiast, rack and pinion steering controls the input from McPherson strut front and Independent multi-link rear suspension. Dynamic stability and traction control aid in all types of weather or road conditions, but I sense it most while driving on the icy roads near Mont Tremblant, Quebec.
Feel is light when you want it to be, firm as speeds increase. This fact is appreciated the next day while navigating the tight streets around Quebec City on a four day loop through the Province. Four hundred and fifty year old streets can certainly test the mettle of any sports car, but the Mini Coupé is ever up to the task.
Braking on the slippery, snow-covered cobblestones around the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City is easy with 4-wheel ABS and Brake Force Distribution always on command. Even while exploring the one lane roads built on a severe slope inside the old city walls, I feel in control as pedestrians pass by staring at the car. Some are even bold enough to reach out to touch it as we drive past at a snail's pace mere centimetres away.
Inside, Mini takes the art of interior design to new levels of excellence. Expectations require a large center speedometer with an over-the-steering-wheel mounted tachometer and the Coupé delivers. Our Mini test vehicle is also equipped with a crystal clear navigation system and a superb Harmon Kardon sound system.
Piano Black accents, red stitching around the 3-spoke leather, multi-function steering wheel and shifter boot, as well as red piping on the tufted lounge leather seating surfaces adds a further touch of class to the JCW package.
Given my 6 foot plus frame, the roofline is low, almost touching the top of my head. Surprisingly, I never feel claustrophobic in the quaint confines of the Mini Coupé, a testament to the well-executed designs the brand is famous for. Dual cupholders rest immediately in front of the gear shift knob, storage is added with door pouches and a center shelf behind the seats, accessible between the driver and passenger.
The competitive market for a 2-door turbocharged coupé is only so big, but recent entries are certain to up the ante for Mini. The imminent 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo for one offers similar horsepower at 201 and better torque at 194 lb-ft, plus the added bonus of rear seats and a bigger trunk. On the weird-looking scale, the Veloster wins in my opinion. This isn't necessarily a good thing, but ultimately the market will decide and you would be a fool to bet against Hyundai at the moment.
The base price in Canada for the 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Coupé is $38,400. Our test vehicle adds a Premium Package for an additional $1,900, a Wired Package with stereo and navigation plus several standalone options including stripes, metallic black paint and lounge leather. Total retail equals $44,895 plus a destination charge of $1,595.
Mini has a long history of victory at every level. The Mini John Cooper Works Coupé is certain to carry this tradition forward as it expands the brand to include all aspects of motoring except for the truck and van market, of course. No, I can't imagine a Mini truck either. But then stranger things have happened in the past. For now, this is one 2-door soon to raise the roof in convertible form just in time for summer and I have a strong suspicion, it will keep the Mini tradition of success going strong for many years to come.
Image Credit: Copyright 2012 Jeff Voth / AOL