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.

  • Brian


  • JB

    awww mann!!!

    im still waiting for my 05 jcw kit, im now told they'll be released in australia in january. mines been on order since last october, when i got my 05 cooperS and had it fitted with the jcw suspension kit. no LSD for me tho…. already my dealer is suggesting a trade up on mine to the LSD equipped beastie heh but with less than 5,000 kms on the clock, im thinkin i need to just be happy with what i have already. thanks for the reminder of how good it is going to be when it arrives

  • Matt

    gabe, so the braking felt “normal” to you then? if so, THAT's what it feels like to drive with the 17's?

  • dw

    Gotta love the JCW 210 Kit especially above 4500rpm. Sadly the suspension kit does not yet fit 04's so I'll just have to suffer with my H-Sport set up.

  • Matt – I've driven with 16″s, 17″s and now 18″s and I've yet to notice any braking feel difference. There's a slight difference in initial take off and low speed driving though.

  • JS

    Can we get some pics?

  • Sorry – didn't have a camera at the time.

  • Allan

    I can only dream.

  • allan MICHAEL

    “And the best part, you never have to worry about smelling something burning or hearing something knocking as you might with some aftermarket solutions.”

    …what do you mean by that burning or knocking? I have, as you know a CAI & 17% pulley in my '05 MCS and havent experienced knocking…. i have had the burning smell (what is that, btw?). thank you allan PS I hope you find a job soon!

  • allen – not sure what you're burning smell is but I'd have someone take a look at it.

    I was just making a very general statement though. Most smaller aftermarket pulley set-ups are fairly safe. The JCW kit has a 13.8% itself.

  • dgszweda

    Gabe, You are coming over to the JCW darkside. Ha! I really like my JCW 210 kit that I have on my '05. It runs so smooth and so well, that in my mind and for me personally it was worth the money.

    Thanks for the review. I haven't heard much about the 18″ or the suspension much so it is great to hear a review about it.

    The pulley on the JCW is more in the 14.4-14.8% depending on how you measure it. There appears to be some confusion on the 13.8%, but Randy Webb cleared up some of it over on NAM. It looks like it is more in the mid 14%. Some of the aftermarket pulleys are a little smaller than the tru 15% and I think that is where some of the confusion lie.

  • dgszweda – I've always been pro the JCW kit… check out our previous review 🙂

  • Paul

    Gabe, I've had my Cooper as long as you and last week ordered a solid black JCW'ed MCS from Olenick with every performance feature except the JCW suspension. I thought it was overpriced. 1. Does it make a noticeable difference on take-off? 2. It can be added later at the same price, right?

    I chose not to go for the larger wheels. Driving in Chicago, and a devotee of U-turns, I don't want my turning radius increased.

    Happy Holidays! Paul

  • Paul – The suspension can be added theoretically later at the same price. I think it's actually fairly reasonable. Do a search for JCW suspension for more info on the price and install.

    In terms of the 18″ wheels I'd say you probably wouldn't have to worry as much about u-turns as you would the bad Chicago roads. Granted the runflat's stiff sidewalls might take a lot of the punishment.

  • Chris LW

    Gabe, the link to the previous review seems to be a circular reference, it jumps to an intermediate page, that says “OK, The document has moved here” where “here” is a hyperlink which brings you back to this page….

  • C. Tate

    According to some people wh really care abut this stuff, the JCW is a %14.3 reduction.

    See the thread:

    “Let's Dispel the Myths” started by Ryephile on

  • Chris – it's currently working. Not sure what the issue was.

  • c bowens

    I cannot wait for a full review. My 02 “S” is equipped with the 210 JCW kit as well as the 18″ JCW wheels and I love it. I have had the 18″s since May and have found them to be for the most part as smooth as my 17″ s-lites (run flats on both) though not as smooth as my Antera 309s mounted on Yoko avs ES100s, even with the great roads we have here in upstate NY. The bonus part of my 18″ JCW wheels is that I have yet to see another set on any other Mini at any other Mini gathering. I await your full review because I would like to get the JCW suspension this coming spring.

  • gRegoRio

    I have an 03 MCS JCW 210 update. There is a significant seat of the pants difference. I can simply stab the throttle in first gear to break the tires loose. It also revs right up the the rev limiter before you know it. It just doesn't get any better than this. CHEERS!

  • allan MICHAEL


    Got on it today, on some sweepers and exits, and the burning smell is brakes (and a lil clutch)– duh! sorry.. btw, did you find a job yet?

    happy holidays -Allan

  • GrumpyGills

    The best of the season to you and the family Gabe.


    My MCS JCW is days away. I got the suspension too, but went with the 17″ wheels. Can't wait to peak at those red springs 😀

  • RHT3

    I have many “aftermarket solutions,” without any “burning smells” or “knocking sounds.” A

  • RHT3

    (apologies for the previous “premature epostulation.”)

    Please don't offend the hugely successful aftermarket community with hearsay references to unreliability. Many aftermarket-equipped cars are fast, reliable and MUCH more affordable than the JCW offering. I'm sure it's a nice car, but let's not bash the aftermarket. It's a BIG part of why MINIs are so popular.

  • LOL – I can't believe it's taken this long for someone to defend the MINI aftermarket. As somsone who has aftermarket performance bits on their MINI I'm well aware of the benefits of a lower cost, non-factory solution. However that doesn't change the fact that there's an undeniable difference between getting something that's backed with a full factory warranty (while increasing the value of your car) and something that is installed at a local garage (that in many cases lowers residual values).

  • Rodney

    Coming from a modified Miata I can say without a doubt, aftermarket will lower the value. I got $1000 dollars on a $8000 investment.

    Also the thing that sold me on the JCW is not only the warrenty but the many references to how much smoother the kit is compared to aftermarket. Not to mention the better resale value.

    I think I would miss the do it yourself satisfaction though.

  • dgszweda

    I don't think anyone is necessarily bashing the aftermarket. My first Mini was all aftermarket, and it was great. But the JCW has many other benefits and is an attractive approach for many reasons for a more powerful Mini. Needless to say I purchased a JCW for my second Mini.

    Gabe, did you feel the JCW gave you slightly better grip off the line compared to a standard suspension? The standard suspension gives a lot of squat and appears to shift the weight much more noticeably on fast takeoffs, which feels like it is taking traction off the front wheels. Did the stiffer JCW suspension alleviate some of this?

  • RHT3

    I'm a fan of the JCW's factory warranty and resale value vs aftermarket. However, “the best part, you never have to worry about smelling something burning or hearing something knocking as you might with some aftermarket solutions”

    . . . is CLEARLY bashing the MINI aftermarket.

    P.S. Other factory badges in the JCW's price range are Ferrari 308 and 328, Panteras, Porsche 914-6, 911, 944T, 928 and 930, and Audi S4 and TT.

  • Nicholas Perry

    Idon't think he was bashing aftermarket products…He was simply stating a pro of the bmw-backed jcw…if u smell burning, you are under warranty!

  • Dave & Stacy

    We LOVE our 2005 JCW Kit. The power is amazing and it feels so well integrated into the car. The piece of mind that comes with the warranty is wonderful.

    Keep in mind though that MINI Mania is also offering a warranty now as well on their performance parts.

    So…the warranty issue might not be as big an issue now.

    Anyway, all that being said….we love our JCW.

    -Dave & Stacy

  • I think it's great that MINI Mania is offering a warranty. I think there are several companies out there making great products that could easily be warrantied with no issues. That being said I've also seen some pretty scary stuff out there on cars. And I have personally experienced two heavily modded MINIs that did indeed produce various smells and noises.

    But for those who have money to spend and don't know which companies to go with or what items to get the JCW may be a better choice.

  • michael Boice

    Well, my 2005 JCW kit was installed as a 2004 kit; no 2005 airbox, no 2005 fuel injectors, no 2005 spark plugs and no 2005 ECU re-map. And I had to fight for 10 days to get the bones heads to realize they were wrong. Now the parts are on back order.

  • Wow – I can't believe a dealership woul d be that inept. Congrats on getting things sorted.

  • nrkist

    “And that red coil behind the red wheels is just so trick.”

    Red wheels? Really? I didn't know those were being offered. That would be quite a look in 18″.

  • mark

    Please explain what the LSD option is?

  • Ian

    Read here and especially here for LSD info.

  • John

    Can I get the JCW 210 for my 2002 MCS? I have been toying with the Hartge 210/245 options but worry about resale value etc?

  • Mikey Goodrich

    Is the 0-60 time reduced even more since the new Ss’ have a lower 0-60 time than that of the 02-04s’?

  • Matt

    Just received my 2005 Cooper S with JCW Works and Suspension as well as the LSD. Very exciting! The car is flatter in turns, but doesn’t feel harsh running on x-lite 16″ rims, or much stiffer that 2004 sports suspension plus. The 2005 gearing appears to be a great improvement. The car has only 75 miles on it since delivery, so I haven’t been able to drive hard yet. I will try and write a summary after running in, if folks are interested.

  • Mikey Goodrich

    Do this please! I am interested in the kit and suspension performance.

  • Edge

    I’m picking up my 05 MCS LSD w/JCW & JCS by the end of the week… very excited! I’ve also pre-paid for the JCB, but it won’t be available for another month or two.

    My own observations will be as a newcomer to the MINIs though, so if Matt is coming from an older model, his comments may reveal more about the differences.

  • Andrew Lee

    I just picked up my chili red 2005 Cooper S with LSD, works suspension, works brakes and works kit. I traded in my 2004 works to get the LSD. My first impression after 3 days is WOW! The car with the suspension is glued to the road and the LSD does work coming out of corners. I am extremely impressed with the balance and power in all gears. There is a noticable differences from a 2004 works to a 2005 works. Mostly due to the gearing of the 2005. I thought this car could not get better but it did. I just need to slow down because I am driving way to fast.

  • Edge

    Cool… as you just clarified, Andrew – JCB kit IS available now… I just got off the phone with my MINI rep, and the kit is in and installed… apparently the first one in my area (Northern VA). I just wish the calipers came in blue (to match my all-Hyper Blue MINI), but no matter.

    Nice to hear about your experiences… I’m PSYCHED!

  • Andrew Lee

    Here are some additional comments/differences from my 2004 S Works to 2005 S Works. Please understand that I am a very pleased Mini owner that is given his opinion.

    Dislikes: 1. Not sure if they were trying to save money here but the old NAV attenae (shark fine) was much nicer than the new one with attenae sticking out of it. It looks cheap.

    1. New Door handles on the inside have been changed to rubber/resin. I assume it is because some people reported freezing. They feel cheap in comparison to the chrome ones

    2. The new cup holder is just plain silly. I think that MINI could have embedded a cup holder that pops out of the dash like and Audi or Porsche. I took mine off.

    3. I do not want to pile on but the movement of the radio buttons to the front was a bad idea. I now have to look down and take my eyes off the road


    1. The car is always on at about 3200RPMS. I never used to drive in 6th but now I can and it always pulls

    2. 3rd to 4th is a big difference now. My head snaps back when I jam on the pedal

    3. Sound is a bit deeper on the exhaust.

    4. The limited Slip is like having 4 all wheel drive with 2 wheels. I can feel it working. The grip limits are high. I will be changing tires next month. Interested on how it feels with no run flats



  • I drove an 05 MCS with LSD in a snowy parking lot this past monday. You are one lucky MINI owner, Andrew Lee.

  • matt

    900+ miles with the JCW tuning kit/JCW suspension/LSD and I really enjoy the improvement in handling over my 2004 JCW. The car feels more buttoned down, flatter, gives me more confidence in turns than the 2004 JCW. The Suspension makes it easier to rotate upon throttle lift(similar feeling to when I added my H-sport Comp bar to my 2004). Can’t wait to add the H-sport Comp bar to the 2005. The Suspension is not at all harsh. The lowered ride of 1/2 inch is just right in my opinion. The revised gearing really helps acceleration. I can’t wait until I can rev past 4500 rpm. My only complaint with the tuning kit, and I don’t know if other JCW kit owners have this minor problem, is that the batttery cable doesn’t securely attach to the air filter housing. Overall, a great MINI, and I’m really looking forward to getting to the track.

  • Andrew Lee

    I have the same problem with the battery cable. It looks like the clip is not strong enough to keep that thick cable from pushing it up. I am bringing my JCW S next week to re-glue my JCW door sills. I will ask them about the cable

  • Jerry

    Greetings to all:

    I am an owner of a new S Conv; I’ve had it for a little more than a week and, living in Philly, and given the cost quoted by the local dealership here for the JCW + install of $7,000, I was shying away from installation. But the comments are so positive, the power and fun quotient so high, I am reconsidering. Couple of questions:

    1. What is the going price in the U.S.? $7 grand seems a bit high – is it?;
    2. In addition to the installation of the JCW what other options are worth serious consideration – works suspension? works brakes? Seems as if LSC is not an option since the car has been in my possession for a week and already has a few hundred miles on it – am I correct about this?

    Thanks for the help

  • Jerry – that price is way way higher than most I’ve seen. Typically prices (including install) are between $5500 – $6000.

    A word of warning – the combination of the new ’05 gearing and the 210hp will make a MINI without LSD a handful in the corners.

  • Jerry

    Thanks for the advice but then, as follow up, do you have further advice – is the LSD an option at this point? If not, would you recommend forgoing the JCW install?

  • I have finally broken in my 2005 JCW S Cabrio, just turned 1250 yesterday!! I bought mine in late December and had the JCW kit put on in January. In the US the JCW kit goes for $6000 installed($5200 for the kit plus $800 for install labor). The kit is absolutely amazing once its broken in, the engine pull from 5K to redline is just off the hook in every gear. I went this route due to the warranty and Im currently looking into other engine mods that I can do with out affecting my OEM warranty. One thing I was a little upset about is the intake they put on. Bascially they do nothing, but add a new filter and a nifty plastic top with a JCW logo……… BAAAAAAAAAAAAAH its crap…. Im looking to swap this out with the K&N Cold Air intake. After this I want to put in a Koni Stage III suspension(basically Koni Adjustables with a Graphich Strut Bar). Im hoping to get a warranty answer from the dealership this week… If all goes well, these babies are getting order ASAP…

    Happy Motoring 🙂


  • Jerry

    Been having great fun with my new Liquid Yellow MCS. After reading these postings and doing some other research I have found out several things:

    1. In Philadelphia the JCW tuning kit is $4650 + about $1300 labor plus tax;

    2. While it is possible to retrofit a LSD on the MCS, the dealer told me that they are not doing so, mostly because it is prohibitively expensive – instead a recommendation is to install a rear sway bar – maybe the H-Sport 25 mm – to stiffen the rear and help in cornering;

    3. Dealer told me that there wasn’t much real need for the JCW Brake Kit (about a $1500 install) – great news for the pocket in most “normal” conditions.

    Any thoughts on this all would be appreciated.



  • reddbear

    Have had my 2005 JCW MCS Cabrio since February. 18″ wheels. The power is fantastic. I even get a great kick while in 6th at 75mhp. This thing really shines. Drove a standard MCS rental while my MINI was in the shop for a couple of days, and whoa, is there a difference! Granted, the JCW option is not cheap, but the warranty combined with the fantastic grab and kick – too hard to pass up…

    I must admit though, that my Dunlop tires (forgot model number) on the Works 18″ wheels make me slip and slide in any amount of water. I’ve freaked out on a number of occasion during the recent southern California storms. This doesn’t seem normal to me. Any other’s have thoughts?

    I have no LSD option, BTW.


    -Jay Redd

  • Ian

    The 18″ wheels are very wide (worse in wet weather) and probably equipped with “performance” tires, designed for maximum dry grip – you could investigate different tires for better wet weather performance, but at a compromise to increased need for DSC on dry roads.

  • Aren’t the 18″ wheels still only 205mm wide (like the 17s)? I’ve have 215mm tires on my car for over two years now and have always had great wet weather grip. And living in Chicago I know something about wet weather 🙂

  • Frank

    I’m a long time admirer and soon to be 1st time buyer of the Mini. Do to circumstances beyond my control I feel that an automatic with the Steptronic Transmission will be the best option for me. I understand that they now have an S with this transmission. Is there a JWC package for this model, & if not what can be done to increase the HP & by how much with out voiding the warrantee?

    Suggestions as to where to find a used one would be helpful. I hate the idea of paying a dealership a ton of money.

  • Paul

    I put my deposit down in March on a 2005 JCW MCS and am told the allocation to build it may come in September. Which means I may get it in November. Talk about patience as a requirement. Ouch!

  • Siddhartha

    I can report that the JCW team did an excellent job with the suspension and brakes. I did laps with a highly modified and race prepped S with light wheels and sticky tires, driven by a very experienced NASA driver at Thunderhill last Monday. Although I couldn’t close with and pass him, he couldn’t lose me either. My setup is 100% factory stock including heavy S-lites and the performance runflats. Lighter wheels and stickier tires (along with more track time for me) might eliminate his advantage.

    Cornering is much flatter than my ’04 and not much different from what I was observing in his car ahead of me. Come off the gas and the car begins to turn in which helps set the line. The JCW brakes seemed to produce as much stopping power as my leader’s Brembo setup. If there was any difference, it was not noticable. My taller gearing meant I could do with 3rd and 4th what he had to use 3rd, 4th and 5th for.

    I’m also very pleased with the LSD which let me accelerate through the roundhouse Turn 3 that previously I could only skate around with my ’04 at the limit of adhesion and traction. LSD also allowed me to carry 20 more mph through Turn 15 onto the front straight which helped produce 115 mph at the start/finish. line. Understeer has been drastically reduced by the combination of JCW springs and shocks. I was originally planning on adding a rear sway bar to this car, but am putting it off now pending more track time to determine if it is really needed.

    The exhaust note is just right, the burbling backoff reminds me of Brit cars back in the day, and it makes sweet music in harmony with a Borla.

    To me this car is the epitome of early MINI production and as I am not a fan of turbos, will probably be my last one. But I intend to keep it for a long time.

  • Yegor

    Hi Gabe!

    I have a 05 MCS Auto and thinking to get JCW upgrade before I register for Phil Wicks driving school coming in December. Do they install it on MINIs with automatic transmission?

    Gabe, you mentioned that JCW kit is arround $6,000 including installation. Is that the only option they have?

    Thank you in advance!

  • Glen

    Hi Gabe,

    Have you ever reviewed the Mini-Madness Stage 3 or 4 Power Packages for the Mini Cooper S? Do you have any information or recommendations for after-market kits for a 2005 MCS? I am trying to decide between installing the JCW tuning kit or getting a different after-market kit that adds more horsepower for less money than the JCW.

    Thanks, Glen.