TrackWorthy - 2017 MINI John Cooper Works 3-Door in Chili Red (18)

MINI John Cooper Works and MINI Race Car Driver James Vance

by TrackWorthy,

“It really brings me back to how the car feels on the race track, which is really cool.”James Vance, professional race car driver, MINI USA John Cooper Works for ExpoSystems Canada
If you are looking for a performance car with an abundance of attitude and personality, you needn’t look much further than the 3-door MINI John Cooper Works. Very few cars offer this much enthusiasm while delivering such high levels of performance and quality in a very compact package. If you want an equally enthusiastic soundtrack to accompany this hot hatch, you can add the optional $1,965.23 JCW Pro Performance Exhaust System and the $677.30 twin Carbon Fibre Tailpipe Finishers. Yes, that’s $2,642.53 (plus tax) just for the optional exhaust system, but you will be hard pressed to find a better noisemaker on the market today. The variety of snaps, crackles and pops that emanates from the tailpipe of this car seems to be boundless.


British race car legend John Cooper CBE (1923–2000) started the Cooper Car Company with his father in 1946 and went on to influence race car design all the way up to the pinnacle of motorsports, Formula 1. In 1961, John Cooper transformed the Classic Mini into a giant-slaying rally demon. John Cooper’s Mini featured a racing-tuned engine, close-ratio gearbox and won nearly every one of racing’s benchmark races, including 3 wins at the iconic Monte Carlo Rally.


A base 3-door MINI starts at just over twenty thousand dollars, a base 3-door MINI JCW starts at just over thirty thousand dollars. Our test car, with its long list of options, topped out at a fairly stratospheric $50,275, plus delivery, fees, taxes, etc. At that price, this car is competing with other fifty thousand dollar hot hatches, including the Volkswagen Golf R and the Ford Focus RS. Is the MINI JCW more exciting to drive, and look at, than the Golf R? Yes. Is the MINI JCW more refined and BMW-like than the Focus RS? Yes. Might you get tired of all of the craziness of the JCW on a long term basis versus a more refined (and less exciting) Golf R? Potentially. Your ability to live with this MINI really boils down to just how much of a car nut you are.
The MINI has a very premium feel, more so than most of the other cars in this segment. The MINI is, after all, a member of the BMW family and, therefore, quality should be a given. If a Golf R, Focus RS and MINI JCW were sitting in our driveway, and we wanted to pick one for a weekend romp up to cottage country and back, we would probably opt for the JCW, especially if we were only transporting two adults (the rear legroom in this car is minimal). It would be a great weekend road trip companion, as long as we didn’t set any forests on fire with the flames shooting out of the back of the $2,600 exhaust. (Please note, fire breathing MINIs are not currently available from your local retailer).
TrackWorthy - Mercedes-AMG TrackMonsters10
All of this amped-up motivation comes from a very willing 228 hp 1,998 cc inline 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, which sends its power, and 236 lb-ft of torque, to the two front wheels, which are fitted with 18 inch JCW Cup Spoke two-tone wheels ($800 option). All four rims are shot in 205/40/18 Pirelli P7 performance tires. Drive is provided by an optional $1,650 Sport automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The transmission was a pleasure to use, especially in manual mode which allows the driver to become the conductor of the orchestra of exhaust sound effects that is shared with everyone within earshot of this Chili Red 3-door.


If you want to quiet things down a bit, switch to GREEN Mode, which states “Let’s MINImalize” in the center display, and fewer people will hear you coming. To get back into boy racer mode, switch to SPORT Mode, which states “Let’s Motor Hard!” MID Mode, which tells the driver to “Let’s Motor,” is designed to be a happy medium between SPORT and GREEN, but we liked to ‘Motor Hard,’ so we kept it in SPORT most of the time.
Our tester was loaded and had options that included not one, but two panorama sunroofs that were almost the size of the entire roof, which we loved. That was part of the $1,050 Essentials Package, which also included heated front seats and rear fog lights. Other options included the $1,300 Visibility Package with rear view camera, rear park distance control and heads-up display; $1,200 Loaded Package with dynamic dampers, comfort access, auto dimming interior mirror, rain sensing wipers, auto headlights and auto climate control; $1,000 Wired Navigation Package with navigation, MINI Connected XL, wired package and 8.8” touchscreen with controller; $600 Style Package with chrome line interior, piano black interior trim, MINI excitement lights. The standalone options include $2,250 Dinamica/Cloth interior; $750 Harmon Kardon sound system; $590 Chilly Red Metallic paint; $450 Sirius XM Satellite radio; $250 Colour Line Glowing Red; $250 storage compartment package; $150 black “bonnet” stripes (aka hood stripes).

Accessories included $240 JCW floor mats; $130 additional headlight bracket; $576 additional headlights black LED; $73 additional headlight button; $125 headlight supplementary kit; $321 JCW doorsill strips; $87 JCW Pro Side Scuttle.


Because the MINI JCW has such a rich racing heritage, we decided to enlist the services of James Vance, a professional race car driver who races the ExpoSystems Canada MINI USA John Cooper Works in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series. We met up with James at the BMW Luxury Excellence Pavilion in downtown Toronto and let James take the MINI JCW for a ride.

“The MINI JCW road car has a lot of similarities compared to the MINI JCW race car I race on the track,” said Vance. “We drive what you guys drive just with a roll cage and such so it is cool to drive this platform of car on the road. It really brings me back to how the car feels on the race track, which is really cool.”

TrackWorthy - James Vance - 2015_Detroit_TUSC_2279
TrackWorthy - Mercedes-AMG TrackMonsters15
James went on to say “When you get in a car, you know instantly, just as soon as you start driving it, the way that the brake pedal feels, the way your first initial steering input feels, how the throttle reacts when you hit the pedal, with all these little things you can figure out how high the quality of the car is pretty quickly. I would say that jumping in any MINI the quality is the same. It feels like there are no corners cut when it comes to the mechanical side of it. There are no corners cut when you put your hands on the steering wheel and you feel that it is real leather, you’ve got this seat that kind of wraps around you, you’ve got this cockpit in front of you that makes you feel like you’re in a spaceship but it still has that fun flare to it. There aren’t that many other cars that offer what this car does at the price point that it’s at.”


This MINI JCW is an incredibly solid-feeling car, with exceptional fit and finish. The instrument cluster also exudes lots of attitude with its checkered flag motive around the bezel of the centre gage cluster to the changing lights with each change of the driving modes. The red start/stop switch was always fun to use as well. The 3-door MINI John Cooper Works is an extremely entertaining car, but certainly not for everyone. This car will appeal to people with happy dispositions who want a car to reflect their energetic outlook on life. It won’t disappoint.

      PHOTOGRAPHS and VIDEOS © Copyright 2017-2018 TrackWorthy Group Ltd.

      Leave a Comment