If Bruce Lee somehow had a child with The Punisher, this is what would come out: the new Mini Coupé John Cooper Works.
Of course the late John Cooper isa racing legend. He used to tune the original little Austin Minis so expertly that they would regularly embarrass V8 Ford Galaxies around Europe's race tracks.
His spirit lives on here, since BMW paid a hefty sum of money for it. Or at least the rights to his name. Anyway, JCW means that this is the hottest iteration of Mini's hottest model, and as such it comes with the usual 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, only here it's been tortured to within an inch of its life until it gave up the location to each one of its 211 horses.
Now that they've all been herded together, Mini pushes the lot througha six-speed manual transmission (no, you can't have an automatic - go and learn how to drive) and onwards to the front wheels.
But of course if that was it, all we'd have on our hands is a Mini Cooper JCW hatchback, which has been around for ages. So what makes this one different is, well, everything else really. Obviously it looks like a coupé because it has two long doors, a low roofline and a bit of a boot (it's actually more accommodating than the hatch), but the trick is in the bits that you can't see in a designer's sketch. Mini not only dropped the height of the car by around 5cm for style; this also lowers the centre of gravity considerably and that means better handling.
The stiffer JCW-exclusive suspension, specifically tuned for the Coupé's improved weight balance, also allows you to carry more speed up that highway exit, and the additional downforce comes in handy for when you don't want to die. The engineers went with some hidden flaps up front to point the nose down, while BMW Group's first active rear spoiler (such a big deal was made out of that at the car's Munich launch!) hunkers down the rear end.
The thing is, the spoiler isn't very good at its job. While the Mini is superbly planted through fast sweeps, merely rotating around its vertical axis rather than leaning into the turns, it exhibits an insane oversteer addiction everywhere else. For example, you're committed to a flat-out right bend when the road suddenly tightens up and you're forced to lift-off throttle, and bam, the rear end's gone. Fine, that's more the fault of a driver shifting the weight balance too abruptly, but tone it downa notch there, cowboy. Transitional bends that follow into one another will also test your skills, and tight hairpin turns are best taken the same way this Coupé JCW wants to do everything: aggressively.
Maybe it hasn't been neutered or something, I don't know, but this thing ison heat, all the time. And that's precisely why it's so much fun to drive. Ever heard that old saying, "It's more fun to drivea slow car fast, than a fast car slow"? Well it's definitely true, because you couldn't get anywhere near the limit in a Nissan GT-R or most of the Porsches on sale on a public road. The Mini gives you your money's worth every time, because the engine relishes being pushed into the red, the crunchy gearbox invites vicious shifts (second gear is a bit misplaced in the gate though), and the wonderfully balanced chassis involves you to the point of mental exhaustion. It's a fantastic front-wheel drive sports car, and I can definitely see theLee-Punisher family resemblance.
0-100km/h: 6.4 secs
Top Speed: 240km/h
Shortly before I took the wheel of the Dodge Durango someone posted a bitter message on twitter about Durango drivers being tail-gating macho thugs trying to compensate for certain physical deficiencies. Pure jealousy if you ask me. The Durango is a reasonably affordable, thoroughly capable SUV that I drove to the peak of Jebel Hafeet with the ease of a chimp climbing a coffee mug tree. With plenty of space and ruggedly handsome (sort of like Keanu Reeves' head), it's an SUV that stands out among similar vehicles because of its distinctive front grill — a stone-cold design classic. The interior is a comfortable and roomy pleasure pod, with a glut of comfort-providing features for all three rows of passengers (the back row can be easily folded down for boot space). For those au fait with the old model, you'll be pleased to know that its unibody structure is 25 per cent stiffer than its predecessor. Ignore the SUV-haters, this isa great car. Dh164,900
- Craig Hawes
Like most Mini Cooper drivers, I snigger every time car marketeers unveil a potential rival. Truth is, most cars that step in the ring to take on the Mini leave the arena bruised. So when Audi unleashed the A1, I reckoned here was another upstart, another pretender to the throne. But after having driven one of these with the S-Line equipment, I do think we finally have a contender. Like all Audis, the A1 is beautifully proportioned - there's not a line out of place. Like with the Mini, Audi allows for the A1 to be customised in a bunch of different ways. The 1.4-litre turbocharged four-banger has 122 horses on a tight leash, enough to make the car dart around roundabouts with consummate ease. The wide track ensures that the ride is stable at high speeds and the interiors can be best described as minimalist chic. So can it take out the Mini? No, but who says there's no room for something that'sa little more grown up and a little more upscale than the Mini? Dh115,800