The latest top-spec MINI convertible misses the mark on fun and functionality.
As a driver who previously fell in love with a MINI, you can imagine my excitement when a brand-new 2022 MINI Cooper JCW convertible was delivered to my driveway one sunny day. What transpired in the following week of test driving the convertible surprised me.
I was impressed but not nearly as lustful of the MINI as I had anticipated. In fact, I found myself wondering if maybe the topless top-of-the-line 2022 MINI Cooper JCW convertible wasn’t the way to go.
2022 MINI Cooper JCW Convertible Review
I vividly remember February 3, 2016. I drove to the San Francisco MINI dealership to pick up the car I had put a $1,000 deposit on a week earlier. The bright Volcanic Orange MINI Cooper S two-door hardtop had a six-speed manual and 30 miles on it. That love affair lasted 31,000 glorious miles.
Alas, the lease ended, and I moved to Los Angeles where I opted for the two-pedal MK6 Volkswagen GTI with a DSG gearbox. Compared to the MINI, I found the GTI to be sterile. I missed the sounds and sensations of my hardtop.
Fast forward to August 2021 when the 2022 Mini Cooper JCW convertible arrived in my driveway — with some lofty expectations to live up to.
Beautiful + Cute = Cuteiful
With the top down, there wasn’t a single bad angle on the 2022 Mini Cooper JCW convertible. The large, blacked-out JCW grill along with the large air intakes gave the front a hint of aggression. The round headlights with their ring daytime running lights added a cute factor to the MINI, giving it the appearance of a face that literally lights up.
The soft top folded down in about 15 seconds or could be left half-open, to mimic a car-wide sunroof. One downside of the drop-top was that the MINI does not have a dedicated space for the top to completely fold away.
The fabric sits above the rear seats, completely blocking the rearview mirror. A Lamborghini Aventador pulled up behind me, and I had no idea it was there until it snuck into my side mirror view.
With the top up, the MINI goes from looking great to looking okay. My tester was outfitted with the $500 MINI YOURS top, which has the British Union Jack across its length to match the taillights — a decidedly MINI option.
Same Engine as the Cooper S With More Power
Under the hood, the 2022 MINI Cooper JCW convertible gets the same 2.0L TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder that you’ll find in the MINI Cooper S. However, the JCW’s engine is tuned for 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. That’s 39 more horsepower and 29 more pound-feet of torque than the S model.
When comparing the two, the 0-60 mph only varies by 0.4 seconds, with the JCW reaching speed in 6.3 seconds versus the S’s 6.7 seconds. And while that’s hardly enough reason to justify spending $7,000 more on the JCW for an acceleration time that can be bested by a Toyota Camry, the difference between the JCW and the S lies in the handling and, more importantly to me, the braking.
To me, the biggest downfall of the Cooper S was the brakes. They felt mushy and seemed to be disproportionate to the car’s power. These brakes meant that I didn’t have full confidence in the car during a mountain drive.
Luckily, that’s where the JCW comes in. Up front, you’ll find four-piston Brembo brakes. They’re soft and similarly mushy at first press, but when you really need to slow the JCW down, they bite.
Aftermarket brakes for the Mini Cooper S cost about $2,000 plus installation. So, you might be thinking that $7,000 for the JCW still isn’t worth it. But wait! There’s more …
Dynamic Suspension: Hard or Harder — Your Choice
Dynamic Damper Control comes standard on the JCW with either the Signature or Iconic trim. In the car’s Green and Mid modes, the ride was smooth though slightly stiff over potholes and road imperfections. The ride was comfortable, but I still felt the road.
In sport mode, the dampers stiffened up enough to make the car feel much more connected to the road. My head would toss slightly with each bump in the road. There was no doubt about it — the JCW MINI had a sporty suspension. It was not a soft, luxury ride.
Cruising Comfort, but Only Up Front
If you’re wondering how many people comfortably fit in the 2022 MINI Cooper JCW convertible, the answer is two. In the front, the seats are very comfortable with thick bolsters and well-placed headrests — meaning you’ll want to be behind the wheel or riding shotgun.
Though the rear seats actually had a few inches of legroom, the angle of the seatbacks is almost 90 degrees — passengers sit upright and at attention. The best posture I’ve had in the past 6 months was in the back of this MINI. The rear headrests were a nice touch, and the seat materials were comfortable, but the lack of recline is a back pain starter.
The rear seats are better utilized folded down to add luggage capacity. With the top up, there is just enough trunk space to fit one or two carry-on bags vertically. If you plan to put the top down, the tailgate opening is very narrow, making fitting a backpack or duffel bag slightly aggravating, as you will need to wiggle it in/out of the boot.
A Quiet Convertible for Better — Or Worse
A common issue with soft tops is road noise. I didn’t find that to be an issue with this MINI convertible, and I drove a majority of my miles with the top up thanks to the harsh, midday LA sun. My favorite option was driving with the front half of the top ajar. This configuration let the air flow in and kept most of the sun off the back of my neck.
In terms of exhaust noise, the JCW could use a few more decibels for some added drama. On upshifts, it created a loud, rumbly pop. On downshifts, it crackled a bit but not enough to overpower music on the radio. A valved exhaust system would be a nice addition, as JCW is known for its aftermarket exhaust kits.
2022 MINI Cooper JCW Convertible: Came Up Lacking
At the end of the day, nothing about the JCW model blew me away when compared to the MINI S. It could be the fact that the convertible JCW isn’t available with a manual transmission — the convertible Cooper S is. If it were offered with a six-speed manual, I might have found the driving experience to be a totally different story.
Overall, the 2022 MINI Cooper JCW convertible experience taught me that less isn’t more. Less is less. I found that this convertible was less practical, less efficient, less fun, and less exciting.
To find your local dealer or to build out your own MINI Cooper Convertible visit MINI’s website.