Car Review

2012 Mini Coupe JCW: Drives Like a Porsche?

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author photo by Brian Moody June 2012

Since the Mini Coupe John Cooper Works arrived in our garage, we've had nothing but praise for the car's sporty handling and brilliant acceleration. But recently, we had a Porsche 911 in our garage, too, and the comparisons seemed to start right away.

No one is saying a hot-rod Mini Coupe is on the same plane as a Porsche 911, but the JCW version transmits a distinct "baby Porsche" feeling. The two-seat cockpit, the rear wing that automatically pops up at 51 mph, the brisk acceleration, the short-throw shifter and the Mini Connected features are all strong indicators of a premium high-performance coupe.

Steve Greenfield, vice-president of product planning at AutoTrader.com, commented: "In some ways, the Mini is more fun to drive [than the new 911]. The Mini provides more of a raw driving experience. If only it had rear-wheel drive..." That's quite a compliment to the Mini JCW, especially when you consider Greenfield has a 1000-cc Yamaha R1 motorcycle on which he's logged some serious track time.

If you're looking to attack corners or do some club track days in this Mini, here are a few things to consider. Some drivers feel that the inside front tire slips too much under hard acceleration out of a corner; perhaps stickier tires are the answer? Also, depending on your size, the tachometer can seem oddly placed. Sometimes the steering wheel rim gets in the way of reading it at a glance. And since the tach is mounted on the steering column, moving the wheel up and down doesn't really help.

Outward visibility is also a problem. We get that the coupe's appeal is heavily based on its unique look, but although it's such a small car, it's difficult to back out of a typical parking spot. Also, there's a bit of disagreement about the interior: some find it surprisingly refined, whereas some former Mini owners think the current crop of Coopers feel too low-budget considering their pricing.

And price is really the main sticking point where the Mini Coupe JCW is concerned. Yes, it does feel a lot like a miniature Porsche, but it's priced more like a full-size Porsche. With an as-equipped price of $38,350, the Mini Coupe JCW provides a lot of bang, but we can't stop thinking that we might just prefer a used Porsche Cayman or Boxster.

Certainly, there's a lot of appeal in the Mini's look and attitude, so we certainly wouldn't knock anyone who opted for the hot-rod Mini Coupe despite the price. But, to our way of thinking, a Mini Coupe S might be a budget-friendlier way to get a cute little car that's both quick and different.

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Used 2012 MINI Cooper Coupe S
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Mini Coupe JCW: Drives Like a Porsche? - Autotrader