The new 2015 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works hardtop is a bulldog with bite

The new 2015 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works hardtop is a bulldog with bite

Mini Coopers have always been little cars with big personalities. But since 2003, there’s been one Mini Cooper model whose personality has been the size of an ocean liner, and that’s the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works. In 2003, the John Cooper Works package was little more than a power-bump kit, but it soon evolved into its own model produced alongside the Cooper and Cooper S versions, adding chassis and styling upgrades along the way. Now, for 2015, Mini has introduced the most powerful Mini John Cooper Works ever, and from what we have learned thus far, it could have the biggest personality of all.

The JCW’s turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine is 10 percent more powerful and 14 percent torquier than the previous JCW’s 1.6-liter mill, with 228 horsepower available from 5,200 – 6,000 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque on tap from just 1,250 – 4,800 rpm. The engine is based on that of the Cooper S but is 39 percent more powerful, thus enabling the car to hit 60 mph from a standstill in 5.9 seconds when paired to the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic, and 6.1 seconds with the six-speed stick. Mini further claims that the engine’s elasticity is improved by 10 percent, evidenced in a 50 – 75 mph acceleration time of 5.6 seconds. Top speed is 153 mph, Mini says.

If anything has kept the previous JCW models from becoming truly great cars, it is their notoriously unruly front-wheel-drive demeanor, which constantly sends their drivers into an arm-wrestling match with their front wheels during spirited acceleration. After all, what’s the point of having all that extra power if the front wheels simply spin and tug and transform into pools of molten rubber each time you hammer the gas? To help foster a better relationship between man and machine that this time around, Mini says that it has extensively developed the JCW’s chassis even beyond that of the Cooper S, fitting a sports suspension as standard fare (a standard suspension is available as a no-cost option, but if you have to ask for that, you’re probably not JCW material in the first place). Retuned front axle kinematics should support crisper turn-in and directional stability while the electronic power steering system features a Torque Steer Compensation function to further tame the beast. Standard wheels measure 17 inches in diameter, while two-tone 18-inchers are available as an option, within which are nestled a set of large disc brakes with red-painted JCW-specific calipers.

And of course, the John Cooper Works looks every bit the part of the rabble-rouser. Its modified front end has half a dozen grille apertures, not counting the hood scoop, so engine and brake cooling shouldn’t be an issue. Similar story out back, where the center-mounted dual exhaust tips are nestled within a bumper with four big mesh-filled holes. A rear spoiler sends air off the car in an organized fashion while looking really damn cool, And of course, JCW badges appear in the grille, on the tailgate and fender trim, just in case someone missed the memo that you’re in the crazy one.

Expect to see the JCW hardtop to appear on U.S. soil early next year at a price that has yet to be announced, but is expected to start in the low-to-mid $30,000 range, rising up toward $40,000 for loaded examples. A convertible model is a virtual guarantee to appear, we’d guess within a year of the hardtop’s appearance. Watch this space as more JCW models appear, as well as a first drive review as soon as we get a chance.