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- 2009 Mini R57 John Cooper Works Cabrio; 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol; six-speed manual; convertible - $56,900*
Words by Matt Brogan Pics by Brendan Nish
Mini's top-ranking John Cooper Works models have since their introduction come to represent all that's right about modified modern motoring.
The JCW recipe takes a brand already synonymous with ten-out-of-ten enjoyment and, thanks to a few simple tweaks, brings the Mini's competitive performance credentials to the fore.
To an untrained eye the JCW Cabrio may not look any different to its standard sibling, but therein lies its charm, for with under bonnet augmentation pumping the topless tuner's performance's credentials a further 27kW and 20Nm northward, you'd want to believe this is one Mini that takes itself pretty seriously.
Inside Mini's compact cabin the familiar funky retro styling is further enhanced by slick piano black trim highlights and matching door sill finishers. Even the gearknob gains a fiery red shift-diagram in a nod to the car's bolstered performance credentials.
Front seating is supportive, and surprisingly roomy, though the rear pews are only suitable for the occasional very short trip, stowing the handbag dog, or as additional luggage space to the rather limited 125 litres on offer up back.
The feature list is otherwise generous, as you'd probably expect at this end of the price range, with single-zone climate control air-conditioning, pumping six CD tuner, steering wheel-mounted cruise control, four-in-one power windows, electric mirrors, push-button starter, front and rear foglamps, xenon headlamps, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity and iPod auxiliary audio input.
Mini's dual-mode canvas roof too is completely automated, but somewhat slow at doing its thing, which is a little annoying when you're left holding the button for 25 seconds. The roof is also a little on the rattly side and dramatically hinders 'C' pillar visibility when locked in place.
But refinement aside, it's what's at the heart of any JCW Mini that serves to raise a well plucked eye brow.
In this instance the JCW Cabrio manages an impressive total of 155kW of power - and a whopping 280Nm (overboost) of torque - from its force-fed 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. Mated to a sweet, short-throw six-speed manual gearbox, acceleration is acutely sharp with 0-100km/h dealt with in under seven seconds, half a second faster than the regular Cooper S Cabrio on which it's based.
The JCW Cabrio also boasts a top speed some 17km/h greater than the standard 'S' while, curiously, also managing better fuel consumption figures - our test model consuming only 7.3L/100km (combined) this week - a full half-litre better than its generic sibling.
Adding to the beefed up powerplant, the JCW Cabrio gains stiffer suspension, brake upgrades (now 316 x 22mm front / 280 x 10mm rear), 17-inch "Cross Spoke Challenge" alloy wheels, subtle John Cooper Works badging front and rear, chrome plated side air inlets (without "S" lettering), as well as a raucous centrally mounted dual 85mm stainless steel exhaust that snarls and crackles playfully as you swap cogs.
It's terrific fun to drive too, with a wickedly responsive throttle, sharp brakes and super grippy handling that nearly defies the laws of front-wheel drive physics. On the downside however an over zealous right foot will induce torque steer that's about as subtle as the lyrics in a Cypress Hill song.
With pop-up roll bars, dynamic traction control with EDLC, plus front and side airbags the JCW Cabrio earns a four-star rating from the boys at ANCAP, and with pricing nearly as cheeky as it's personality, this little Mini scores the same from me.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go:
*Pricing is a guide as recommended to us by the manufacturer.