Last year, Mini launched a car for "fresh air enthusiasts." Unfortunately, though, there was a problem – the Mini Convertible didn't cater for fresh air enthusiasts who want to go fast, forcing the British brand to add more power in the form of the new John Cooper Works Convertible.
We may have had a bit of fun at the new Mini Convertible's expense when it was launched in 2015, but this time we've got our serious hats on. That's because Mini says the latest JCW model is all about an authentic racing feel and "mature product substance." Seriously.
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At the core of this "authentic" experience is the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine from the John Cooper Works hatch. With 170 kW (231 hp) and 320 Nm (236 lb.ft) of torque on tap, the new engine is 15 kW (20 hp) more powerful than the motor it replaces, and comfortably usurps the Cooper S Convertible's 141 kW (192 hp).
In spite of the extra power, the car uses just 6.5 L/100 km (36 US mpg) on the EU combined cycle, emitting just 152 g/km of CO2.
To keep all that power in check, Mini's engineers have fitted a stiffer suspension and more direct steering setup, as well as four-piston Brembo brakes to pull the whole thing up in a hurry. Active dampers are also available, but we'd save our money and put it towards a decent hat. After all, fresh air enthusiasts should be sun smart.
From the outside, the JCW Convertible's extra performance is given away by the big cooling vents in the front bumper, unique side skirts and central rear exhaust, as well as 17-inch wheels. Of course, the big thing setting the Convertible apart from its more mundane Hatch cousin is the textile fabric roof, which can be opened and closed at speeds up to 30 km/h (19 mph).
If you're keen on impressing low-flying wildlife, the roof can be finished off with a Union Jack graphic. Also unique to the Convertible is the Always Open Timer, which replaces the Openometer in older Mini drop-tops and tells you how long the roof has been down over the course of the car's life.
It might be easy to make fun of the cutesy touches on every Mini, but the JCW is no longer playing in the little leagues – it's putting out serious power numbers, and its 6.6-second sprint to 100 km/h (62 mph) puts it up against serious performance hatches like the VW Golf GTi, Seat Leon Cupra and Peugeot 308 GTi.
If you're after cutesy touches and flowery design, the regular Convertible offers all those things up in spades. You can even have one with the JCW bodykit, making it look like a little convertible hot rod without paying the extra premium for more power.
However, the point of a John Cooper Works edition has, traditionally, been driving purity and excitement, but if you're after these things the hatch is the car to have, because it's lighter and stiffer than the Convertible. It seems like the Mini JCW Convertible is lost somewhere between trying to be a cute alternative for "fresh air enthusiasts" and people craving "authentic racing feel."
Pricing details haven't been released, but expect to pay a healthy premium over a regular Convertible, which starts from £18,475 (about US$25,700).