First Drive in the 2005 JCW S

It’s four degrees Fahrenheit, a fine mixture of salt and sand is covering all roads and I’m behind the wheel of the fastest factory MINI ever made; the 2005 JCW Cooper S. Not a combination for the faint of heart. Hey I’m not complaining, but can you imagine worse conditions for a first drive save maybe a foot of snow?

While we expect a full week long test of the 2005 JCW MCS at some point, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get behind the wheel for a sneak peak. Especially considering this particular car had the highly anticipated suspension kit and 18″ JCW alloys. So without further delay, here are some very brief initial thoughts.

The suspension is generally a subtle improvement in regular driving. The car doesn’t ride much different than my current 2002 MINI with sports suspension plus. Granted my car was made before the shocks were softened in the spring of 2003 so it might compare a bit different to a new MINI with SS+. That being said there still are a few differences. For one there’s almost no perceivable body roll and the car feels very glued down over varying quality pavement. And that red coil behind the wheels is just so trick. But one of the biggest contributions of the JCW suspension is it’s ability to give the car an agility that allows it to put down that 210 bhp more effectively.

This is also the first MINI I’ve driven with the 18″ JCW alloys and while they have their detractors I found them to be surprisingly close in comfort to a 17″ wheel/runflat combo. There are some that say they are too heavy to be called a true performance option. Granted they aren’t the lightest wheels out there, but they are still lighter than the 17″ S-lites. Then there are others that complain that they limit the turning radius too much due to their suggested spacers. It’s true the current MCS wasn’t really engineered particularly well for wheels and tires this size. Yet despite all of this I can’t help but love the way they look and feel. To put it plainly it’s hard to imagine me not getting a set of 18″ wheels (be they JCW or not) for my next MINI. While I fully understand the rational against the wheels the fact of the matter remains I stop dead in my tracks when I see them. They just look phenomenal to me.

The 2005 JCW kit itself has been talked to death over the past couple of months. Yes it’s got a full 210bhp (207 hp). Yes it’s equipped with a new air intake and injectors. And yes it’s still not the most powerful thing out there. Yet that doesn’t change the fact that it feels incredible. The power from the low to the high end is just always there. You never have to think too hard about what gear your in, you just mash the go pedal anytime you need it. And the best part, you never have to worry about smelling something burning or hearing something knocking as you might with some aftermarket solutions.

I’m not going to go into too much detail here since I’ll be giving the 2005 JCW MCS a full review soon enough. But I will say that there is one option that will be paramount in getting the most out of this car on a daily basis. I’ll give you a hint… it starts with an L and ends with a D and it may have an S somewhere in the middle.

We’ll hopefully have more soon when we’re really able to put the 2005 JCW MCS through it’s paces.

In the meantime you can read our previous review of the 2004 JCW MCS here.