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.

Written By: Gabe

  • 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

  • http://www.gbmini.net/ 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.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    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.

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