2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe

I forgot how expensive the MINI Cooper Coupe can get, but rather than bitch about the price, I will celebrate the fact that such a funky little car is even available. If everybody was driving a Hyundai Elantra or a Honda Accord, our roads would be pretty boring — no offense to either of those fine cars. This Mini is unusual and it gets attention and it’s very sporty. I used it for an airport run and there was plenty of cargo room for a large suitcase plus a roll-on, with messenger and tote bags behind the seats on the little shelf. The rearward visibility is only okay because of the rear wing, which rises at about 50 mph but will not lower, although at city speeds you can manually operate it via a button on the ceiling.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

$38,350! HOW THE HELL DOES THIS CAR COST $38,350?!
Oh, am I shouting? Sorry. The truth is that although the JCW is unconscionably expensive – as equipped it costs nearly as much as a BMW 335i, for crying out loud – it is only the flamboyant flagship of a much more affordable Mini Coupe lineup. Stick with the Cooper S version and keep your option list short, and you’ll have a very quick, excellent handling, and truly unique small car for less than $25,000. It might even rattle and creak less without the JCW sport suspension (then again, our Four Seasons Cooper S Countryman also sounds like a subway car when it hits a series of bumps, so maybe not). Sure, the JCW has some 30 more horsepower, but then, if you were really worried about power, you’d spend your $38,350 on a well-equipped Ford Mustang GT.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

The Mini John Cooper Works Coupe is so much fun it hurts. Literally. The industry’s feistiest front-driver has a punchy engine, a delightful six-speed manual, and a divine chassis that loves to change directions. But the car rides so stiffly and rattles so much that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Mini team benchmarked a wooden rollercoaster.

The JCW Coupe is a riot to drive hard and it carries on the modern Mini tradition as one of the best handling front-wheel-drive cars you can buy. But for every enthusiastic gob of praise I want to heap on this car, there’s a compromise or two that causes me to hesitate. Test drive this one before you buy. If you can live with the questionable ergonomics, the mediocre visibility, the suspect practicality, the obscene price, and the controversial ride quality, you can live a happy life with your Mini. I suspect that the buyers who know what they’re getting into with a JCW Mini constantly reaffirm their purchase with daily helpings of devilish driving.

If the JCW coupe has you piqued but unconvinced, there are alternatives. My pick for cross-shopping would be the Volkswagen GTI. The VW won’t wag its rear end like this Mini, but it will be far more livable on a day-to-day basis with a more supple ride, more versatile cabin, and great visibility.

Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

The JCW Coupe is crazy, stupid fun. The mean little two-door is heroically fast, and accelerates with an angry, buzzing engine note that really appeals to my inner 16 year-old. The transmission and steering are likewise excellent, combining to make the JCW an absolute riot to drive. I genuinely didn’t want to turn in the keys. The Coupe apparently draws plenty of attention, too, as I caught someone snapping photos of the car when I parked it downtown.

As much as I liked it, I cannot in good faith recommend this car. At $31,900 before options, this car is very expensive. You’d be better off buying the Coupe S, which is nearly $7000 cheaper (although it has 27 fewer horsepower than the JCW). I also continue to be disappointed by Mini build quality: it seemed like every piece of interior plastic on our JCW creaked and rattled loudly, even with just 2200 miles on the clock. That’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed in several other Mini products, including our 4 Seasons Countryman.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Without question, the MINI Cooper Coupe with the JCW package can be an absolute blast. It’s spunky and incredibly responsive. Unfortunately, for every opportunity there was for me to enjoy this teensy little Mini there were plenty more that made me wish for an extra cushion for my backside or a pair of earplugs. I’m actually surprised that Mini felt the need to add the JCW package to the Coupe as even in its base form, it feels as frenzied as Jack Russell Terrier on speed. On the other hand, the JCW package doesn’t make the already seriously compromised Coupe any more difficult to live with, so I guess the question was why not?

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe

MSRP (with destination): $31,900

1.6-liter turbocharged I-4
Horsepower: 208 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1850 rpm

6-speed manual


17-inch aluminum wheels
205/45VR-17 Continental Contact 3 SSR tires

FUEL ECONOMY (city/highway/combined):
25/33/28 mpg

2701 lb

Doors/Passengers: 2/2
Cargo: 9.8 cu ft
Legroom: 41.7 in
Headroom: 38.4 in
Towing: N/A

Lighting Blue/Carbon Black

Active rear spoiler
Tire pressure monitoring system
17-inch aluminum wheels w/runflat tires
Corner brake control
Traction control
Electronic differential lock control
Brembo front brake calipers w/four-wheel disc brakes
Air conditioning
Keyless entry
Satellite radio
Power windows w/one-touch down
Cargo pass-through
Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
Auxiliary audio input
Anthracite headliner

Lighting Blue metallic paint- $500
Carbon Black/Beige Punch leather interior- $1500
MINI Connected w/navigation- $1750
Sport suspension- $500
Chrome line interior- $250
Silver sport stripes- $250
Chrome mirror caps- $100
Center armrest- $250
Xenon headlights- $500
Harman/Kardon sound system- $750
White turn-signal lights-$100

Black headlight housings- $100
Cold weather package- $750
Premium package- $1750

According to Mini, the JCW Coupe can get to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and turn a 1/4-mile in 14.4 seconds.

Hyundai Veloster, Volkswagen Beetle Turbo

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