While not as cute or as quirky as the Honda e, the Mini Electric has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the Mini concept works without a combustion engine. The zippy performance is retained, as is the agile handling, and with prices comparable to the petrol Cooper S it isn't hard to understand the appeal. Now Mini is attempting an even bolder strategy: it's going to make electric JCW variants.
It's a more ambitious strategy, not just because a JCW will require additional performance (which tends to have a detrimental effect on range), but also because of how crucial the noise is to the appeal of a racy Mini. From those early supercharged cars to recent models like the Works 210 and its Bluetooth exhaust homologated only for track use, a distinctive soundtrack has always been a significant part of the JCW package. It'll be fascinating to see how Mini contends with that problem...
Otherwise the shift to electric is for obvious reasons: "The current focus on the development of a Mini John Cooper Works Electric demonstrates just how important electric mobility is in terms of the brand's future direction - the goal is a unique blend of sustainability, performance and passion", says the press release. An electric JCW will be sold alongside petrol models to ensure that "we're addressing the wishes and needs of performance enthusiasts all around the world." That's the view of Bernd Korber, Head of Mini. The pops and bangs of a modified Mini aren't going anywhere just yet, it seems.
As for the car seen here - a Mini identified in the picture file names as a 'GPE' - it's very clearly influenced by the latest John Cooper Works GP. They've even borrowed the test livery. Beside a missing exhaust and a slightly loftier ride height, it's a dead ringer for the 306hp Mini flagship, borrowing the arch spats, spoilers and wheel design. Similarly to the Mini Electric in fact, which can be specified to have very few visual identifiers, the idea appears to be that the EV iterations are recognisable as Minis first and foremost. With the brand as strong as it is, why wouldn't you?
Mini concludes by confirming that its new platforms "offer additional freedom in the planned expansion of the model range" - which presumably means that the standard Mini architecture is adaptable to the requirements of a performance flagship. Given how close to production this GPE prototype looks, it seems that an electric JCW can't be far away. More news as we have it.
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