Mini’s new JCW Convertible delivers maximum fun

Little car, big style, bigger smiles.

Cars have gotten so serious. All lane-departure warnings and advanced driver-assist, all active-braking and automatic lane-centering. Engage Autopilot in a Tesla and it’s no wonder drivers fall asleep at the wheel.

Yes, it’s all about keeping you safe and secure. But all this automotive nannying tends to make driving about as much fun as watching paint dry, or an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey.

That’s why, before we all get piloted around in our autonomous, self-driving electric SUVs, you need a Mini. Especially a Mini Convertible to put some wind in your hair. 

And for more smiles than a can of laughing gas, the adorable Mini Convertible John Cooper Works I’ve been driving, is the best.

Here is a true analog car in a digital world, a throwback to those Swinging Sixties, Michael Caine in The Italian Job and Austin “Shagadelic” Powers.  Yeah baby.  

The instant you slide behind the wheel, toggle the switch that whizzes the canvas roof back in 18 seconds, pull the shift back into “drive” and hit it, you just can’t help but grin. It’s that feeling of being a kid on Christmas morning, or getting your first puppy. 

What this pint-sized pocket-rocket does is transform every seemingly mundane trip — drycleaners here we come — into a fun-filled thrill ride. 

It’s the surgical precision of the steering, the tightness of the suspension, the superglue-like grip of the tires. There are go-karts that don’t feel this nimble or this alive.

While the base Mini Convertible comes with a turbocharged three-cylinder motor packing a meager 134-horsepower — there are Toro ride-on mowers with more power — it’s the John Cooper Works you’d want.

Its feisty 2-liter turbo four-cylinder cranks out 228 horses, and coupled to a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic, it’ll slingshot the drop top from standstill to 60mph in a zippy 6.3 seconds.

In case you’re wondering about that John Cooper Works badge, it’s a homage to the legendary British racer John Cooper. Back in 1961, he hotted up the very first Mini to create the Mini Cooper and built racing versions that, for decades, dominated motorsport. 

In our Zesty Yellow JCW Convertible — it’s a new color for 2022 — the Cooper connection means an extra 39 horsepower, a sports exhaust that delivers a symphony of of lovely crackles and pops, sports suspension and Brembo brakes, and eye-poppin’ 18-inch JCW Track Spoke alloys. 

Inside, you get JCW paddle shifters and a salami-thick Nappa leather wheel, and grippy sports seats with extra side, and under-thigh bolstering. 

Yes, there’s a compromise. Or two. The trade-off for that no-roll cornering is a ride that’s pretty firm and fidgety. Select “sport” mode and when you hit the gas as red light turns green, the front wheels can struggle for grip. 

And if you’re planning on sharing the fun with friends, that rear seat is pretty tight on kneeroom. Best use it for extra luggage space to compensate for the teeny trunk. And with the top up or down, rear visibility is also a challenge. 

But I love this car; love the way it makes every trip a blast; love the convertible, open-air feel of driving it; and still adore the way it looks. 

You’ll pay $38,900 for a 2022 JCW Convertible, but you’ll want to add the $6,000 Iconic trim package to get upgraded navigation and the head-up display, along with a booming Harman/Kardon stereo. So around $46,000 very nicely loaded. 

As for the way it puts the fun back into driving and a huge smile on your face? Priceless. Absolutely priceless.