New Car Review: 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Roadster

Front view of 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Roadster

Two of the things we focus on rather regularly here at TireKicker are practicality and value.

But when a vehicle starts out with limited practicality to begin with, why not go all the way?  That appears to be the thinking at Mini, which is expanding its lineup with an ever-increasing number of variants on the basic Mini Cooper.

Mini hasn't sent many our way, so as much as I'd love to tell you about the Clubman, Paceman and Countryman, I can't.  I can, however tell you about the latest, the John Cooper Works Roadster, close cousin to the John Cooper Works Coupe and a more distant relative of the John Cooper Works Convertible.

Rear 3/4 view of 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Roadster

Like the Coupe, it dispenses with the back seat found in other Minis, including the convertible, resulting in a shorter, swoopier look than the rest.  It will, like the Coupe, start conversations with total strangers.  Some will ask "What's it for?".

The one and only answer is "fun".

As with all John Cooper Works variants, the focus is on performance.  Your $35,700 buys not just unique bordering on outrageous styling, but a light car with a turborcharged 1.6-liter 16-valve four that makes 208 horsepower, a six-speed Getrag manual transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, six-way manually adjustable sport seats, red Brembo front brake calipers with big ventilated discs (you will need to stop sometime), as well as anti-lock brakes, corner brake control, dynamic traction control, electronic differential lock control, airbags, air conditioning, an AM/FM HD Radio/CD/Bluetooth/USB/iPod audio system, power windows, an on-board tripo computer, tilt and telescoping leather three-spoke steering wheel and an active rear spoiler.
The result?  0 to 60 miles per hour in 6.3 seconds and as those esteemed automotive journalists The Lovin' Spoonful once said "a smile that won't wipe off your face no matter how hard you try."  Because not only does it go quickly....it handles like a slot car.

Interior view of the 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Roadster

Our tester, was as usual, on the receiving end of some options...the Spice Orange metallic paint ($500), the Mini Connected with Nav pack, including voice command, smartphone integration, real-time traffic information and navigation ($1,500), the Steptronic automatic transmission ($1,250) and an upgrade to black 17-inch alloy wheels ($100).

With destination charge of $795, the total rings up at $39,845.  I'd save $1,250 and shift it myself in a car like this.  And the navigation/audio/phone interface is so inscrutable that I might save $1,500 more.  Frankly, I'm not even sure you need a radio. The car IS the entertainment.

The one place where the Mini John Cooper Works Roadster doesn't sacrifice practicality is at the pump.  The EPA fuel economy estimates ate 26 city/34 highway.  Hard to find that kind of mileage from anything else with comparable performance.

Unless you live in an area where you can have everything delivered (I had to lower the top to put an air conditioning filter into the car), I can't see this being your daily driver.  But if you've got a few bucks shy of $40,000 for a weekend toy, the Mini John Cooper Works Roadster should be what you test drive first, so that everything else has a benchmark to meet.