First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works

What kind of Mini is this, anyway?
"The Coupe stands out from the rest of the Mini family in its masculinity," claims Roderick von Ostrowski, the car's product planning manager. "We expect to attract a higher percentage of male buyers, people who maybe dream of a Porsche Cayman or Audi TT but cannot afford it. Some of them are already Mini enthusiasts." Hmmm. Maybe the black-on-black version of the Mini Cooper Coupe will attract this sort of buyer, but we suspect that many Mini enthusiasts will dismiss the Coupe as a marketing exercise or, worse, a chick car, and the people who've purchased Mini Coopers because of their styling, heritage, and upscale practicality, rather than for their impressive driving dynamics, will be left puzzled. With the Coupe, Mini is definitely on a road never before taken. We expect that the Roadster, which goes on sale in the first quarter of 2012, might have more resonance in the marketplace, at least in America. The Coupe will be attractively priced, though, falling between the standard hardtop, which currently starts at $20,100, and the four-seat convertible, which starts at $25,550. The hardtop Cooper S currently costs $23,700 and the John Cooper Works $29,800.

BMW has proven to be quite a remarkable shepherd for the Mini brand over the past decade, and the company clearly feels the need to expand the model range to increase sales, which were 234,000 last year worldwide, 45,644 of them in the United States. Warming claims that there is a historic precedent for the Coupe in a variety of one-off, homebuilt Mini Cooper coupes built in Britain back in the 1960s. We shall see how it all plays out.

2012 Mini Coupe John Cooper Works

Base price (estimated): $32,000

Turbocharged 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4

Horsepower: 211 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1850 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel

0-to-60 mph, manufacturer estimate: 6.4 sec

L x W x H: 147 x 66.2 x 54.2 in

Cargo capacity: 9.6 cu ft

Curb Weight: 2568 lb

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