New Car Review: 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe

Front 3/4 view of blue 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe with silver top parked in country setting
The 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe.

What do you do when you're a decade or so along selling a not terribly practical (as in daily use by a family of four) car?

Well, after making some more practical variants (Clubman, Countryman), you can always make one that's even less practical. Of course, it helps if it's also even more fun than the original. And any time you see the name "John Cooper Works" attached to a Mini, you know the fun quotient has been attended to.

Rear view of blue 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe with silver top in country setting
Rear view of the 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe.
The Cooper Coupe dispenses with the back seat, giving the Mini a trunk instead of a hatch, a seriously racy roofline, and an ability to start conversations in parking lots. Even though you can get a Cooper Coupe three different ways (base, S and John Cooper Works), they're still rare enough that most people think you've had your Mini customized.

The John Cooper Works Coupe is $9,900 more (base price) than the standard Coupe...but that money buys very good stuff, like a boost from 121 horsepower to 208 (thanks to a twin-scroll turbocharger), 22 more miles per hour on the speedometer when you max it out (149 versus 127), 2.2 seconds slashed from the 0-60 time (6.1 rather than 8.3).

Oh...and you feel that power. Torque goes from 114 pounds per foot at 4,200 RPM in the base Coupe to 192 pounds per foot between 1,850 and 5,000 RPM in the JCW. The hood scoop? That's real.

The JCW Coupe also steps you up to 17 inch run-flat tires and standard front fog lamps. The trade-offs: $9,900, 2 seats, and four miles per gallon in both city and highway driving (29/37 for the Coupe, 25/33 for the JCW Coupe). And you can't get an automatic transmission (nor should you want to).

Interior of the 2012 Mini John Cooper Works Cooper Coupe.
The interior is familiar to anyone who's been in a Mini...the big wall-clock sized speedometer in the center of the dash, which now houses a color multi-function display in the middle, audio and climate controls below and a line of toggle switches for windows and other functions. Mounted like a 60s aftermarket accessory on the steering column is a sizeable (compared to anything other than the speedometer) tach, which has a digital display inside that includes odometer, trip odometer, miles to empty and a digital speedometer (in case you want that number in front of you instead of off to the side).

The one we had for a week was just like the one you see here...the color is called Lightning Blue Metallic. It's an extra-cost option ($500). So was the Carbon Black/Beige Punch leather interior ($1,500). Mini Connected with Navigation is the phone/entertainment package including voice command, Bluetooth, USB/iPod connection and navigation ($1,750).

I've never found Minis to be anything but terrific handling little cars, but the tester added a Sport Suspension ($500). And the option gods weren't finished yet. Chrome line interior: $250. Silver Sport Stripes outside: $250. Chrome door mirror caps: $100. A center armrest: $100. Xenon headlamps: $500. A (very good) Harmon-Kardon sound system: $750 (SiriusXM Satellite Radio is included for 1 year, as is smartphone integration and real-time traffic information). White turn signal lights are now apparently something desirable. Mini charges $100 for them. Add the $700 destination charge and the total ends up $38,350.
No, it's not cheap. And it's probably not advisable to have it as your only car. But if your disposable income allows for a toy...something to go carving canyons or embarrassing everyone else at autocross, this is a great way to go.