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The John Cooper Works MCS Kit Review

jcw

A lot has been said and written about the MINI Cooper S JCW Kit since its release a year ago. Yet, until now we hadn't had a chance to throw our hat in the ring with a full review. We had originally planned on having a review last year but schedules conflicted and things in the end simply didn't work out. However, I recently had a chance to “borrow” an MCS with the JCW kit for awhile and thought it was as good a time as any to add our voices to the growing number of reviews out there.

Many have slammed the car for its high price and lack of exterior differences from the stock MCS. Others have sung its praises as the ultimate (albeit expensive) factory-authorized MINI. I found that the answer lies somewhere between the two drastically different opinions. In fact, it really depends on what you want from the car and what you expect it to be.

My very first thought after driving the JCW MCS: wow. The engine felt as if it had lots of reserve power in every gear – almost an odd sensation for the MINI. In fact, cruising at 70 and punching it in 6th gear gives a similar sensation to cruising at 40mph and punching it in 4th gear with a standard Cooper. Further, going from 4th to 3rd and then punching it at 70mph is absolutely exhilarating. On the other end of the spectrum, it's hard not to feel cool blipping the throttle going from 3rd to 2nd knowing you have all that power at your disposal at any time. In an MC, or even to some degree an MCS, it's there but just not always immediate. In the JCW S you're really never concerned about where the engine is within the rev range.

jcw Another sensation that is almost un-MINI-like is having to properly modulate your power delivery out of turns so you don't scrub away too much of that newly found acceleration. Exiting corners is pure joy in this car. Where the MCS is eager, the JCW S is just plain rapid. Certainly we can thank the more robust power band for this sensation. Simply put power everywhere and you don't need to work at all to get it. Quite a change from the MC and even the MCS.

And that power is something that proves to be not only satisfying but also very addicting. The MINI has always turned and stopped very well. However, the JCW S is almost an epiphany with its power.

Of course, all this comes at a price tag. A $6000 price tag ($5200 for the parts, around $800 for the installation). One of the more popular opinions among the MINI faithful is the JCW S just isn't worth the money when you consider what else is out there in terms of aftermarket choices. This may be true. But who am I to say its overpriced to someone who (A) has the money and (B) wants the warranty and exclusivity? That's really the catch. The JCW S is completely covered under the MINI factory warranty and is as rare as the new MINI gets.

But what about that notion that you can get all the JCW kit provides and more from aftermarket parts? Well yes – you certainly can achieve similar figures using products from the growing number of reputable aftermarket companies that specialize in the new MINI. I've experienced a couple MCSs with aftermarket pullies, exhausts, and reprogrammed ECUs and found there to be a subtle difference between them and the JCW S. Both are powerful and incredibly fun to drive, but the JCW S felt a bit more polished and seemed to have a more linear powerband. It feels as if it came that way from the factory. Having driven an MCS with 200hp+ derived from an off-the-shelf mix of components, I can say the big advantage that the JCW S has (beyond the warranty) is its seamlessness. Along those lines it also seems to have an almost a perfect amount of power for the rest of the stock components. Personally if I had much more power than 200hp on my MINI I'd seriously consider larger brakes, a more agressive suspension set-up, and a limited slip differential. Now admittedly, this is just a comparison between three cars and there may very well be setups out there that better mimic the JCW S but it was something that was fairly noticeable on the three MINIs tested.

In the end, the advice I'd give to someone thinking about the JCW S would really depend on their individual situation. For those that have no problem with the expense and like the idea of a warranty, I think it's a no-brainer. On the other hand for a MINI owner that is wanting the biggest bang for their buck, its frankly not the best choice. It's also not the ideal choice if you'd rather be more adventurous with your modifications. For instance 17% and even 19% pullies are out and being installed in cars as we speak. Granted you won't find much, if any, warranty on items like that, but they will get you more speed then the JCW kit's 13.8% pulley.

So yes, the JCW S is as good as advertised. It's the most exciting thing to come out of MINI dealer showrooms yet. It just happens to come at a high price…another reason why it's so rare.

The graph used in the article is courtesy of www.johncooperworks.co.uk

Written By: MF Staff

  • lexbomb

    Great review. I've got the MCS and enjoy it very much. For me, the warranty issue was the big thing. It's my primary car and I plan on keeping it for a long time, so I really wanted to preserve the warranty.

    The only thing about the JCW is I wish that it came with a Limited Slip Differential as part of the package. When you unload an inside front tire in a tight turn and romp on the gas, the tach goes right on up to redline and nothing happens. A LSD would help to get the power down to the pavement. As soon as my warranty expires, I'm planning on having one installed.

  • http://none cjmcs

    Thanks for the unbiased review. It was great. I really like the MCS, but I am patiently waiting for MINI to offer a Factory installed JCW kit with European pickup, where I can spend months enjoying my dream car before I bring it home to keep forever!

  • Iain

    Great article. I am about to take deliver of my MCS and am seriously considering the JCW. Going to drive one for the first time tomorrow.

    Question: any more on the rumours of a 220HP JCW kit for the MCS?

  • GAJ

    Good unbiased review and much appreciated. I'd love to see a review for the JCW kit for the MC sometime if that's ever possible. I happen to have a non-rational preference for naturally aspirated motors and now that a MC JCW kit will be available, I'm considering but first would want to get some insight into how it affects the “feel” of the MC.

  • Superdave

    I was amazed at this review because the “qualities” that you describe are what I have noticed with my JCW kit. If you want muscle car power this kit is not the answer. If you want a MINI that is easier to drive faster and feels smoother and more linear on acceleration this is a great way to go. I also love the back-pressure burble of the exhaust system. I think the kit has given me what I wanted from it,and therefore it was worth the price of admission to me.

  • Greg

    I had a MCS Works as a weekend loaner a few weeks back. Your review is dead-on, Gabe. It was my first drive ever in the new MINI. It sold me. I'm likely going to place an order for a 2005 MCS with Works this summer.

    I'm sure you're on top of it already (btw, your site's awesome), but I am curious to know if the JCW package will remain the same for 2005 or bump up the power a few more ponies.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabriel Bridger

    I've heard various rumors about the 2005 JCW kit for the MCS but nothing confirmed at this point. The common theory is that it'll go up at least some small amount to keep the gap between the 2005 170hp MCS at an appropriate level.

    My thinking is if they add too much more power (220hp?) they'll at least need to increase the size of the front rotors to correspond with the extra power.

  • Scott

    My '04 MCS JCW is an absolute hoot. I've driven an MCS and an MCS JCW back to back and the difference is amazing. I've let a few other MCS owners take my JCW for a spin and they are quite impressed (and then try to figure out where they can come up with the money to get one!). I'm waiting to take an aftermarket pullied car for a spin, but I'm going to guess I'll have the same take that Gabe did. That seems to be the consensus that I've seen in some forums – JCW smooth, aftermarket same power but not quite as polished.

    For me, the warranty is what clinched getting the JCW kit.

    Great review – it's nice to see a clear, unbiased review instead of the garbage that exists in so many forums.

  • David S.

    Great Review! I really enjoy my JCW and the warrenty that comes along with it. I wish that I could just throw money away and slap on a bunch of boltons but I don't. Instead I spent enough to make it feel great and I can still trade in the MINI for a new one at anytime!

  • Matt

    this is most certainly NOT helping, gabe.

    i've got this irresistable urge to go see Dave at Knauz and place an order for a Hyper Blue 05 JCW S.

  • vadr

    Excellent review. When I first drove the MCS, my reaction was that it had super handling but was underpowered. The JCW package cures the power problem and pushes the handling capacity to its redline, but not beyond. The MCS with the JCW is the car BMW should have built in the first place. vadr

  • Superdave

    Matt,

    Look at mt watch.

    You must buy hyper blue works!

    When I snap my fingers you will feel rested and in a shopping mood.

    (Snap)!!!!

  • Alan Sadwin

    Gabe,

    Great review.

    Anytime anybody questions why I got an MCS and paid so much for a JCW kit, I just give them a ride. It is amazing how quickly people realize that the car is just about perfect.

    I am still shocked that my wife gave me the OK on the JCW kit, but she did.

    If you can afford it (or at least justify getting a JCW), then you should. Cooper really did it right. The power is everywhere at all times.

  • dgszweda1

    Gabe,

    Good review. I have always believed that the pedigree of the kit was the real selling point.

    On a side note, I thought your Works kit review for today was for the MC not the MCS. That is what I got from your posts in the JCW MC kit posts that you had earlier this week.

  • Iain

    I have just driven a MCS JCW for the first time. Fabulous! Soomth, fast, great pickup and revs like crazy to the redline. And the exhaust note is much improved over standard. As you said in the article, it really feels like it was 'designed in' from the start.

    And so I just contacted the dealer and asked them to fit the JCW kit on my MCS when it arrives in a few weeks. My wife said I should get it!!!!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabriel Bridger

    It was suppose to be but the MC kit didn't come in as expected. So I spend an evening with the JCW S instead!

  • http://www.minisoforlando.org James

    One thing to point out. Since this is a MINI Accessory, I assume the cost of the JCW kit can be financed in with the vehicle if ordered on a new purchase. Is that right? Too late for me, unfortunately, since I just got my new 2004 MC.

  • dlaugh

    As I understand it, the JCW kit contains a ~13% pulley reduction, not a 15% reduction.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabriel Bridger

    Yeah it's 13.8. That was a typo – thanks for pointing it out!

  • jerry Bradbury

    My wife, bless her, said, “If you want it, you should have it.” My brother-in-law, a former Viet Nam river rat who flies jet airplanes for a living said, “Uh, Jer, we're doin' a hunnert, you plan on slowing down for this corner?” To which I could reply,” Yeah . . . when we get there.” My JCW MCS is more like one of my bikes than one of my cars. It always gives me a thrill to drive it, even across town. Thanks for the report.

  • Paul Chodkowski

    Most articulate description of the JCW mini, my May 2002 MCS got its upgrade in April 2003 and the fun has never been more appreciated. Pre and post track days at Watkins Glen and Lime Rock have been dramatic, NASA and PDA instructors beg to drive my JCW MINI and for good reason, it runs with the M3's and S4's . If you want a new car for $5,000 this is the ticket….

  • Paul Norton

    Good review but you missed an important fact. The JCW can be financed, try that with any other hop up kits. One of the other downsides it puts you into a different SCCA class. Ilove my JCW. Took it on the dragon(Rt. 129). It was definately worth the extra$$ I pay the bank.

  • Frank

    I have driven a JCW equipped MCS and the car is an absolute rocket from the get go. While I find the stock MCS (163HP) performance more than enough for everyday driving, I will get the JCW in the future…

  • John Rogers

    You nailed it, Gabe. After 27000 miles, I traded my 02 MCS in Dec 03 for an 04 S with JCW. The mid-band power is wonderful. The ability to roll the kit price into the financing and the full warranty made it an easy decision for me. We're at 7500 miles now and no regrets.

  • Scott

    Jerry – I got the same type of response from my brother-in-law – a state trooper!!

    Geez, ya figure those guys could handle going fast!

  • MotorOn

    My '04 MCS ran just fine…..before I had the JCW installled. As soon as I drove the car away from the dealer with the new JCW kit, there was pinging.

    Yes I live in California where 91 octane is the top octane available, and I only burn Chevron w /Techron. The shop foreman, AND BMW regional rep confirmed the detonation, but said that the latest software had already been installed, and there was nothing else that could be done and I would have to live with it! The head technician said that three more JCW kits installed since mine here in California ping as well. It ran fine when I blended in 100 octane unleaded race gas to get 93 octane.

    I ended up getting a custom tuned Unichip and now, there is no pinging at all, and it runs like a top!

  • GreenMeeni

    Thanks for all the great information. All I can say with regards to my MCS JCW machine is WOW! I have had it since the first week in Feb. 2004 and as the owner of a Corvette that thinks I have forsaken it…”I Have”! This is a great car and the JWC is worth the price if you have the money. 10K miles no problems, just lots of fun.

  • Thomas

    I have a jcw mini as well, i just would like to know what are some of the highest 0-60 and 1-4 mile times you have gotten, because i have heard much faster than 6.7

  • Mike B

    Great review, I've read all the comments and I can't wait. I have a 04 ordered it hit the dealer last Monday. They need to install my options which will include a Works package. I should get it next week. I'll be back to let you know what I think. I've wanted a Mini ever since my parents had a Austin America (sorry about the comparison). It was one of the first cars I learned how to drive in.

  • Mike B

    I took delivery of my 04 S Works Mini Friday evening @ 12:30 p.m., sweet…the most fun I've ever had driving. Can anyone tell me, in an area where their is no Mini Dealership (closest is 200 miles away) do we take the Mini to a BMW dealership for service work? And can they do Warranty work also?

  • Greg Blevins

    Thomas, my personal best is 14.7 @ 95mph on the quarter. i've only ran it on one friday night here in Florida at the gainsville track. The 60ft times were slow due to the tire spin. But what a blast!

  • Serge

    I did not buy it. MiniMania offers a lot more, with 2 year warranty… And the dyno results are much better…

  • Jon

    To Mike B:

    your question about whether you can take your Mini to any BMW dealership… No.

    You can only have your Mini serviced at a Mini/BMW combo dealership. Just plain-old BMW dealerships have technicians that simply are not trained in any way to work on your Mini, and also do not have the proper tools, equipment or parts to work on your Mini. So you're out of luck. You'll have to drive to that Mini/BMW combo dealership that is 200 miles away from you for service.

    Trust me, you're not at all alone; my closest dealership is 140 miles away, and I'd suspect there are tons of Mini motorers in the same predicament. Just pray for good reliability! Good luck.

  • sockdaddy

    i've got an '03 MCS and they didn't have the JCW available when i bought mine. too bad – cause i would have loved to roll it in to the purchase and finance it.

    (going out on a limb) is it possible to finance it through the dealer as an add-on?

  • Mike B

    Jon…..

    Thanks for the info about the warranty coverage on my Mini.

  • sam bellefonte

    thank you for the very precise review. Before buying my mini I drove the cooper s, the jcw and an extremly well prepared after market car putting out about 220hp (it felt like more!) I opted for the works car as most people who are concerned about the factory warrenty, and more importantly if you do decide to go for the cheaper radical route i suggest upgrading brakes and suspension to handle the extra power and a little praying that the car's other components can handle the extra power.

  • JC3 from Honolulu

    Your excellent review was one of the reasons I chose to invest in a Works upgrade when I purchased my MCS last month from Mini of Hawaii in Honolulu.

    It was the LONGEST week of my life waiting for the JCW installation (lights and gauges also) to be completed.

    JCW's are pretty rare here in Hawaii. At the time of purchase there were only 21 others in the state installed by Mini of Hawaii.

    I passed the 1200 mi. break-in period in under three weeks and have since been slowy working the motor through it's paces.

    The power band is fantastic I only wish we had more highway here on the island to really open up on.

    As it is our local PD seem to be everywhere with laser guns.

    Hi point of ownership came two days ago when I just happend to run into a British Racing Green 1967 Cooper in my office parking lot. Not very many exist here in the state.

    Boy, I thought my Mini was mini! Got some nice side by side images for my collection.

    By the way, adding the cost of the JCW kit to my MCS finance purchase only pumped up the monthly by about $70.00 here. Worth EVERY penny!

    Let's Motor!

  • gz

    I am waiting to order an '05 MCS w/JCW until they announce the HP specs. I am hoping for more than 200HP. If not I may score a used MCS w/JCW.

    Anybody know what's gonna happen with the JCW? I'm chompin' at the bit!

  • gz

    I am waiting to order an '05 MCS w/JCW until they announce the HP specs. I am hoping for more than 200HP. If not I may score a used MCS w/JCW.

    Anybody know what's gonna happen with the JCW? I'm chompin' at the bit!

  • rjpaf2

    Any info onjwc suspension mod?

  • David Lee

    After reading your reviews and comments from your fans, I thought you should know how lucky you are over there. I live in Cairns,Queensland, Australia and our mini's here cost A$41,500.00 for a MCS plus $9,600.00 for the JCW kit. Don't lose too many traffic light derbys here but after losing 12 points you lose your licence!.

  • Peter

    I have a 2004 MCS and was considering having it upgraded to JCW at Mini of Honolulu…I dont know if I heard correctly, but did someone say that they will finance it as an add-on?

  • 1FSTMINI

    I sell the JCW kit and to be honest….Its to over priced compared to the Dinan upgrades you can do now. I have driven both cars fully modded and was more impressed with the Dinan kit being its THOUSANDS less and is still cover under warranty.

  • Deep

    Ok, so I’m a Brit. Just bought a black JCW with custom silver viper stripes. Dont know about the US where you guys have straights, but here in London our streets have more twists than a corkscrew…which fits the mini just fine.

    Scared the bejesus out of a porsche boxter which had to pull over at 130mph. Nice car, pity it’s my wife’s….

  • http://www.nemini.org GMINI

    HEY 1STFST, like what happens when mini blames dinan and dinan blames mini?

    as i imagine it…

    i’ll pay out the ear just to avoid it.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    HEY 1STFST, like what happens when mini blames dinan and dinan blames mini?

    No kidding. I’ve actually seen that happen to a guy and an M5. Not a pretty situation.

  • GUY

    Hey, I live in California and I am seriously considering to buy a MCS with JCW kit. however my cousin owns a 03 GTI 1.8t which is faster and about 8,000 cheaper which one is more worth it?

  • Steven

    After 17,000 miles and 3 years I got the kit put on the S and it has a wonderful power gain. I asked the dealer not to put the JCW badging on the front and back. They sit in a little white cardbaord box in the trunk. If the wife got a look at those badges she would kill me as she reads my Autoweeks and can figure out how much that addition to the MINI cost. The S without the JCW kit always ran out of breath before every shift point. If you are buying a new S for all the right reasons, get the JCW option right from the start.

  • Jonathan

    agree with all the JCW comments but mine doesn’t burble or pop on the overrun…anyone any ideas why not? I’d like a bit more noise so considering UUC exhaust.

  • pex

    hey i am an 19 year old lebanese guy and i own a mini coopes s woorks and i can just say hat its perfect i wouldn’t trade it for anything the sensation that u get in that car are to powerful to be realll

    il love my cooper works its a peace of art

    so get it


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