Bimmer Magazine has an article in this month’s edition that compares and contrasts a stock Cooper S to a fully optioned Cooper S with the JCW engine package. The goal (and it seems a little flawed to me) is to find out whether a $40,000 JCW MCS is double the fun of a stock $21,000 MCS. Since this article is not online we thought we’d offer a healthy dose of excerpts to give you an idea of their conclusions (big thanks to Marc for transcribing this):

>There’s really no car like the MINI Cooper S…Its styling is totally unique, flawlessly executed and instantly iconic without being annoyingly cute like the New Beetle.  Best of all, it is theoretically possible to buy a 2005 MINI Cooper S with absolutely no extra-cost options for under $21,000 before taxes.  In the new-car realm, deals don’t get much better than this.

>Most (MINIs) have a smattering of extra-cost features that bump MSRP closer to $30,000.  Then there’s the tempting John Cooper Works tuning catalog, filled with enough dealer-installed but factory supported performance parts to create the ultimate MINI – but at a substantial cost: Opt for the entire “Works” package and it’ll add about $13,000 to the bill, creating a $40,000+ Cooper S.  That’s roughly twice the price of a base Cooper S – but does it buy twice the car?  To find out, we spent some seat time in both a $21,000 “stripper” model and a well-optioned Works edition.

>…Needless to say, the JCW chassis does not ride as well as the base Cooper S, though it’s really not much more harsh than a standard car on 17-inch wheels.  We suspect that the deterioration of ride quality is more a factor of low-profile tires than the lowered suspension.

>Naturally, the grip is tremendous, and there’s very little body roll or under-steer.  The limited slip diff does a nice job of controlling wheelspin in tight hairpins, and there’s plenty of braking power available despite some initial mushiness to the pedal response.  As the Brits like to say, this chassis has been thoroughly sorted – we really can’t imagine it could be improved in any significant way.

>Despite all of the additional cornering ability that the JCW chassis brings to the Cooper S, some of the car’s charm is sadly lost in the process.  While the base model is almost too easy to chuck around on its 16-inch tires, the Works model needs more lock to change direction and consequently feels like a larger and less wieldy machine.  Nor does the chassis communicate with as much accuracy as the base model, leaving the driver a bit more removed from the driving experience.

>Sure, the JCW Cooper S is undoubtedly a quicker and more capable MINI, but we’re not sure it’s any more fun to drive.

>…For those who desire a MINI that can return the quickest lap times, it is probably money well spent.  If you are contemplating a new works-equipped Cooper S, however, we have some advice: Drive the car without any JCW equipment, at least for the first few thousand miles. You can always install the upgrades later (with full warranty intact) if you find the standard model too slow or unexciting. We suspect that you’ll find the basic version so good that the works package will become entirely unnecessary.

You can find Bimmer magazine on most major book store magazine racks. Again a big thanks to Marc for writing this up.

MF Analysis: In some ways I can’t agree more with a few of the authors points. The stripped down MCS (or even MC) is really a great car. The base car is lighter and has a hint of more agility without options such as the sunroof or insanely heavy S-lites. However (and it’s a big however) there are some very positive points to just about any option available. For one the lower profile tires can create a more neutral handling car and one that feel a little more planted and sure of itself in hard cornering situations. Having driven the entire range back to back to back (with all wheel size combinations) on an autocross track last year I can personally attest to this. So it’s not quite cut and dry as the author would indicate. There are lots of “right” answers depending on what the owner prefers both aesthetically and performance wise.

However it’s when the author talks about improving the ride that he really loses me. The MINI is a short wheel base, tightly spring car with run-flat tires. It’s going to have a rough ride. Going from 17″ or even 18″ wheels and tires actually doesn’t make the ride that much worse. Instead of relying on smaller wheels and tires to give a better ride (as he suggests), I would recommend trying new (non-run-flat) tires first. They do wonders on any of the stock MINI wheels in terms of comfort. If that still doesn’t do it for you try some sticky non-run-flats on 16″s or even after-market (wider) 15″s.

Above all, the biggest mistake the author makes is trying to somehow justify the purchase price of a fully loaded JCW MCS by expecting double the car. For one, with the options the author chooses, it would seem that he is simply setting the JCW car up to fail when measuring in those terms. When you start adding options such pricey options such as a body kit and carbon fiber dashboard there’s simply no way you can expect to compare the JCW car as tested with a stripped down MINI on value. In fact, if you go into any modification thinking in those terms, you’re bound for some disappointment. The stock car is just that good. However there are viable reasons for these performance and cosmetic mods that makes them worthwhile options to many out there. To dismiss most of them in such a simplistic fashion would indicate a lack of understanding of the MINI and the community that has been built around it.