John Cooper Works started in 2002 as a dealer option for the then-new Mini Cooper. The upgrade included a new exhaust, a remapped ECU, and a few other go-fast bits. For the past few years, though, the JCW badge has been Mini’s full-on performance sub-brand, similar to BMW M. And much like its Bavarian brethren, JCW is sticking around in the electric era.
In an interview with Vice President of Mini Americas Mike Peyton, and Global Head of Mini Product Christian Wehner, the two executives remained firmly committed to JCW even as the automaker moves into electrification.
"John Cooper Works is so essential for our brand," Wehner notes. "Of course, our objective is always to bring John Cooper Works into the electric era." Mike Peyton reaffirms that thought by saying, "There are definitely some things in the works, because when you think about a more performance-oriented EV, that’s a nice fit with JCW."
But JCW EVs will still need to maintain that "go-kart" driving experience synonymous with the Mini brand, which can be tricky with heavy battery packs. The goal isn’t to have the best acceleration, Wehner says, but instead to find "the right sweet spot" between power and agility.
"All electric cars have good acceleration," he says, "but do all of these electric cars deliver go-kart fun? Definitely not. Because other things come into play, the weight of the car, the steering of the car, how it feels to sit in the car."
"At the end of the day, it’s gotta be a Mini," Sutton says, "it’s gotta perform like a Mini, it’s gotta drive like a Mini… so that is a little bit of a balance."
But the arrival of JCW EVs doesn’t mean combustion engines are completely dead (yet). Until the BMW Group reaches 50 percent electrification in 2030, Wehner says the company will still produce four combustion engines (alongside four electric motors) for its upcoming JCW cars.
"We’ve been talking about being more electrified or being electrified by the early 2030s," Peyton notes, "that still means we’ve got several years, particularly in North America, as well, because the demand is there for gasoline JCWs."
And as for the manual; we know already that manual Minis with the combustion engine are all but dead, but there may be a glimmer of hope for JCW EVs. "Definitely as you start to go toward electrification, that is a question we’re asking," said Sutton. "If you still want that experience [of a manual], how do you enable that? It’s on our minds for sure."