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2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Mini John Cooper Works


BMW is famous for smooth inline 6-cyl. engines, but Munich makes a mean 4-cyl. and sells lots of them in Europe and even the U.S. Its N20 4-cyl. turbo won Wards 10 Best Engines trophies in 2012 and 2013.

Replacing the N20 is the B48, and it comes from BMW’s new family of modular engines. The first applications of this high-output 2.0L in the U.S. are the Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop and the BMW X1. WardsAuto editors are evaluating the Mini this fall for 10 Best Engines.

Like the N20, the B48 uses direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger to send more power to the front wheels. The turbo is integrated in the cast-steel exhaust manifold, and a short route back to the combustion chamber mitigates turbo lag. Plus, this engine breathes easy with the help of Valvetronic fully variable valve control and double VANOS variable camshaft control.

The result? This Mini jumps at the slightest tap of the gas pedal, and the maximum torque of 236 lb.-ft. arrives at only 1,250 rpm. The B48 2-liter loves to rev, reaching its peak 228 hp at 5,200 rpm. It’s the most powerful engine fitted in a production Mini, capable of 153 mile per hour and a sprint to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. A lever near the gearshift lets you switch into fuel-saving Eco mode or into Sport mode, which makes the throttle even more responsive and amps up the exhaust note as well.

This engine in the BMW X1 should be just fine, but the Mini John Cooper Works is nearly 800 lbs. lighter, so it’s a hoot to drive. But it’s also sedate and docile while puttering around town. After a weekend of hard flogging, the John Cooper Works was reporting better than 28 miles per gallon.

This year for 10 Best Engines, the Mini goes up against 2.0L turbos in the Volvo S60 and Subaru WRX. Those are both returning winners, but Mini seems ready for a fight.

Tom Murphy


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