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JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit Review

mini

Here’s a review we’ve wanted to feature on MotoringFile for some time. This is the original JCW Kit for the MINI. When it was oiriginally released in 2001 it was the fastest factory MINI money could buy and was the basis for the original John Cooper Challenge cars. With the introductoin of the MCS in 2002, John Cooper and MINI turned to the JCW MCS kit and much higher power figures. But the JCW Cooper remains the first JCW car, the fastest naturally aspirated factory MINI ever and an incredibly rare piece if kit (especially in the US). This particular review comes to us from James Day who had the kit installed on his 2004 Cooper.

Having taken delivery of my 2004 MINI Cooper “Trevor” in March 2004, I just missed the availability of the John Cooper Works MINI Cooper Tuning Kit which was announced in April 2004. It was available for approximately two months before the model year 2005 update ended production of the kits in July 2004. Late last year, MyMini was able to locate one of the kits for me and I finally decided to have it installed. Downtown MINI in Orlando installed my kit in exactly the five hours quoted to me.

jcw

Note: this is not the new JCW Sound Kit but rather a full Tuning Kit which includes the following:

  • Machined cylinder head,
  • “Cat-back” sport exhaust system,
  • Improved-flow air filter,
  • Cover injection tube,
  • Updated ECU programming,
  • Engine cover, rear, and side vent badges (my kit is no. 475).

John Cooper Works promises 126 bhp at 5750 rpm. Peak torque is 114 ft.lbs. at 4750 rpm with an especially higher curve than stock between 2500 and 3500 rpm.

My first impression was very favorable. Right away the exhaust sound had improved (but I miss my stock “beer can” exhaust tip). After the install I motored to run some errands around town and on the highway. Immediately I noticed three major improvements to my Cooper:

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1. The sound is deeper with a slight burble, but not too loud.
2. The initial hesitation from start is gone.
3. Power is more noticeable in the 2000-4000 rpm range.

With the cooler weather in Florida, my MINI Cooper was already running a bit quicker. But the JCW Tuning Kit removed the last traces of hesitation and sluggishness. It pulls strong from 2000 rpm straight through to 4500 rpm into the normal Cooper power band. I need to downshift less when accelerating at speed. This is how the Cooper should come from the factory.

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I haven’t been able to get an accurate count of kits sold in the US. I still have not located another person in the US with this kit, so that makes my MINI quite rare. It is still possible to find a MINI Cooper JCW Tuning Kit, MyMini is currently offering one for less than retail. [ http://www.myminiparts.com/proddetail.php?prod=MCJCW ]

Related

[ The JCW Cooper Kit Coming to the US ] MotoringFile

[ The JCW Cooper Kit Components ] MotoringFile

[ Original UK brochure the MC JCW Kit ] John Cooper Works

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Written By: MF Reader

  • http://xp.solidhelium.com Lucas

    Nice review. However it is obvious why almost no one bought this kit, at $2400 USD at myminiparts (plus installation), you get a lot more performance just buying a Mini Cooper S in the first place.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Nice review. However it is obvious why almost no one bought this kit, at $2400 USD at myminiparts (plus installation), you get a lot more performance just buying a Mini Cooper S in the first place.

    The JCW kit for the Cooper was out before there even was an MCS. For a year this was the fastest factory MINI money could buy. For someone who want the looks of a Cooper and the purity of a naturally aspirated engine, this is the ultimate factory set-up.

  • dickdavid

    Ahh, so it isn’t another review on the Sound Kit. This is much better!

    Thanks for the write up and the pics. I love the idea of a rare MC, and although it isn’t as powerful as th MCS, it’s a nice little sleeper rocket nobody is expecting.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Ahh, so it isn’t another review on the Sound Kit. This is much better!

    Well actually there has yet to be an official MF review of the sound kit. The one previously posted was a reader review that was sent in. The upcoming JCW Sound Kit review will actually be more of an official review. It’ll also be an podcast review as well.

  • http://jamesday.net/mini/jcw James

    Thanks for posting my review. Any chance of a byline? 8^)

    Before there are 20 comments saying I could have bought an S for the same price: Yes, I know. I don’t want an S. I’ve had two Coopers and prefer them. I love my quick and rare JCW MC.

    I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has this kit. Find my threads on NAM or Sunshine MINIs and let me know you’re out there.

    James Day

  • http://www.club-nouvelle-mini.com PeB

    At our french Mini club, our president has got a Cooper JCW (from 2002/2003 I think) with the same kit, and now he did more than 200’000 km.

    It works still very good ! :)

  • dickdavid
    Well actually there has yet to be an official MF review of the sound kit. The one previously posted was a reader review that was sent in. The upcoming JCW Sound Kit review will actually be more of an official review. It’ll also be an podcast review as well.

    AWESOME! I can’t wait.

    Yes, I know. I don’t want an S. I’ve had two Coopers and prefer them.

    Me too! I had a chance to replace my first MC with an S, but opt’d to stay MC.

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    very cool review. for some reason i am just a sucker for all things jcw… ; )

  • Tim

    I’d heard of these I-prefer-a-Cooper-to-an-S people before, but I never thought I’d actually “see” one in the wild.

    Seriously, why do you Cooper people like it better than an S? The weight is about the same so I don’t think you could argue that it handles better. Is it simply the lack of a hood scoop that makes you prefer the styling of the Cooper? I could understand if it was a case of dollars and cents, but value doesn’t seem to enter into the equation for “these people.”

    All kidding aside, I’m really curious as to why some people would feel this way. Most people I’ve talked to, I’d guess 95%, would rather have an S. I have driven both and love the extra power that an S provides. Does the gearing on the 5 speed make for a better stop-and-go commuter?

  • dickdavid
    Seriously, why do you Cooper people like it better than an S?

    Without turning this into a “which is better” debate, I’d like to say it’s just a matter of taste for me.

    For the record, I love the S as well, but the bottom line is that it’s too excessive for my commuting needs.

    Also, there’s something that’s appealing to me about the utilitarian simplicity of a base model vehicle. I’ve always opt’d for the basic model of every vehicle I’ve ever owned, not only to save money, but to not exceed my basic needs.

    I guess I just have a thing for the underdog and the way it fits my lifestyle.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    I love the MC, both for what it is and what it is not. I love the lower hoodline, the cleaner appearance, and the lighter weight. I love the holies and MC’s that come without spoilers. I love MC exclusive colors like Silk Green, Velvet Red, Solid Gold, and Solar Red. I love that the MC gets better gas mileage than the S, is less expensive than the S, and still produces the same amount of fun as the S. I love the way a MC sounds with just an intake. I love the way a MC keeps the driver involved by not allowing horsepower to compensate for mistakes. I love the way the MC cleans up in H-stock. I love the way the MC looks more Mini than the MCS. I love the MC!

    FWIW, I have owned both and do “know what I’m missing.” By early 2003 my ’02 MCS had an intake, pulley and exhaust. I drove it for 70,000+ miles, then sold it and purchased an ’06 MC and I haven’t even toyed with the idea of going back.

  • greg

    James. You could have bought an “S” for the same $.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    I’m sure he was well aware of that long before your post.

    One of the things that make MINI special is the amount of customization and individuality that is available. Embrace that. Let others embrace that in their way. Not everyone makes the same choices as you do. It doesn’t make their path any better or any worse. What it does make it is uniquely theirs based on their wants/needs/desires.

  • Rocco Rocket

    I have to say after driving a Cooper as a loner, I own an MCS. I would buy one if I did the majority of my driving in the city. I can see the appeal of the normally aspirated engine and the non-run flats. But I have to agree with James the added power would be a must. MOTOR ON!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    That was a great way to put it Dave. Too many people try to impose their will and opinions on others when it comes to owning and modding MINIs. I can’t tell you how old this gets for someone who has been a new MINI owner since the beginning.

    And just because it needs to be said again… here is Dave’s last sentence:

    One of the things that make MINI special is the amount of customization and individuality that is available. Embrace that. Let others embrace that in their way. Not everyone makes the same choices as you do. It doesn’t make their path any better or any worse. What it does make it is uniquely theirs based on their wants/needs/desires.

    Oh and btw Dave, your earlier post is now the front runner for MF “comment of the month” ;)

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    fwiw, i’ve owned both – and i felt that my mc had a much “lighter” and more agile feel to it. yes my mcsa with jcw suspension and brakes handles like a dream, but my stock mc had a certain something…its hard to put my finger on it…it just felt more chuckable into the turns – almost like it was a bit more eager. any way you slice it, they are both amazing cars. i wish i could have kept both!

  • MINIAC

    I believe the original JCW Kit for the Cooper produced over 130hp and featured a cone filter …

    http://www.aopa68.dsl.pipex.com/mini2images/worksfilter.jpg

  • beekman

    A lot of enthusiasts prefer a lightweight, naturally aspirated car to a blown heavier one – I’ve heard plenty gripe about the new GTI being so much heavier than the original despite having twice the power. Subtle as it is, you do feel the extra weight in the MCS.

    Plus, the MC does get much better gas mileage, particularly if most of your driving is in the city.

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    i noticed better mileage in the city with my mc for sure. and yes, you do feel the weight for sure – although i still wouldn’t trade back my mcsa!

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    Gabe,

    Thanks. :) The month is young and no doubt Nathaniel Salzman will have an entry worthy of consideration

    The weight is about the same so I don’t think you could argue that it handles better.

    unladen weights from MINIUSA.com

    MCS 2678 lbs MC 2524 lbs

    Delta: 154 lbs

    Remove the MC spare tire and tools (~40 lbs) and your up to a weight delta of nearly 200 lbs. That’s a non-trivial amount of weight. ;)

  • Tim

    Thanks to everyone for their replies. I wasn’t intending to stir anything up; I was just curious why some people say that they prefer the Cooper. I thought the two cars had almost the same weight, but I guess I was mistaken.

    The price of a Cooper certainly appeals to me, but I can’t help but think that I’d miss the extra power of the S. Perhaps there’s that other intangible of the supercharger whine that’d I’d miss too.

    Sorry if this discussion took some emphasis off of the JCW Cooper Tuning Kit review.

  • http://dbmini.us db
    I’d heard of these I-prefer-a-Cooper-to-an-S people before, but I never thought I’d actually “see” one in the wild.

    Count me as a member of the ‘had both’ club. While I really like the extra power the MCS has, Dave hit the nail right on the head with his comments, especially the gas mileage. That, and I actually have one of the limited edition colors (you say discontinued, I say LE) which makes mine extremely unique.

    Besides, I like sneaking up on the MCS’s in the corners at the track and see the look of surprise of the drivers ;)

  • beekman

    drew – I agree, my MC felt a bit more eager also, but I wonder if it isn’t just down to the smaller, lighter wheels (15″ holies in my case). driving on nyc roads, you just get hammered with them big heavy boots.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    The supercharger whine is great, especially with the divider removed and the pulley added. That much I will definitely grant. However, I think the growl of the MC with an intake is an underrated experience. :)

    James: regarding your comment about missing the beer can exhaust. Do you have any pictures showing the new exhaust installed?

  • The Seeker

    My MINI’S and opinions : “Little Bastard” 2002 MCS JCW Never seen rain or snow. JCW + Upgrade, Black/Red bonnet stripes, Premium Pkg., Front fog lights, B&M/Hurst shifter, S-Lites, Various graphics. At 15mph in 1st gear, simply punch the loud pedal. Don Garlits style tire smoke and great big stupid silly fun. 3,500/4,000 on the tach positively exhilerating. Requires that you hold on. “Muscle” car like.

    “Rain Maker” 2005 MC Daily commuter. Premium Pkg., Front/Rear Foglights, Sport Suspension, Sport Seats, 5-Stars, Stone Guards, Mud Guards. At 15mph in 1st gear, a bit of a chirp. But still, a great drive. 3,500/4,000 on the tach brings a subtle and throaty surge. Requires appreciation of a highly tuned 4cyl. “Sports” car like.

    There is something special about how each MINI goes about it’s business. Very different personalities. I can appreciate both and understand that others can as well.

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    LOL!

    Oh man! The pressure’s on! Gabe, you’ll have to post something brand-related.

    I don’t think I can top your post Dave – a very eloquent and accurate portrait of the Cooper charm. I think every Cooper driver knows very well that horsepower isn’t the only ingredient in speed. How often do you really get to attempt the published 0-60 time on any car. There’s a lot to be said for the experience of judiciously using those 115 bhp to zip through traffic. In so many ways, that’s the essence of Motoring.

    There’s always April.

  • http://jamesday.net/mini/jcw James

    The tip looks almost like the chrome tip available as a dealer accessory. It is welded on, not held by screws.

    JCW Exhaust Tip Photo

    I can take a closeup tonight if you like.

    Most of my reasons for preferring the MC were mentioned above. Particularly, I like the smooth bonnet, bumpers (with more chrome), lack of a spoiler, more wheel choices, a spare tire, and better gas mileage. The JCW Tuning Kit allowed me to keep all the MC features I like, with a bit more bhp and torque, smoother revving, and a more aggressive sound. Gas mileage has actually improved 1-2 mpg despite being driven harder. Plus, I’m fanatical about keeping my MINI completely OEM.

    The JCW MCS GP is still heavier than a stock MC.

  • Phil Thomas

    This just goes to show you don’t have to get what everyone else has to have a very cool car. Congrats James. I think it might be time for you to visit the dark side and get a classic.

  • paulsminis

    One of the things I have always enjoyed about Minis/MINIs has been the amount of personalization that exists. One can attend a British car show and never see two MINIs/Minis alike. When it was announced that BMW was bringing out a “New MINI” I was fairly sure that I would have to have one. The first week they were available in the US, I drove the 70 miles to my closest dealer to take a test drive. At that time, one could only get a Cooper as the S’s were not out yet. After the test drive, I put my name on the dealer’s wait list and was told that it might be a year before my name rose to the top.

    My impressions of the New Cooper were that it was a very nice madern car, it handled beautifully, braked extremely well, and had that certain “Mini-ness” to it. I will add that I drove to the dealer in my 63 Morris Woody Traveller. When I got back in the woody to drive home, I was disappointed that the New MINI Cooper now felt (to me) sluggish in comparison — and this is with a rebuilt engine that I was carefully breaking in. During the trip I went over the test drive in my mind — New MINI weighing over 2400lbs with 1600cc engine — Woody weighing about 1400lbs with a fairly hot 1275cc engine, say around 85hp, all set up for autocrossing — of course the new car seemed a bit sluggish. On the other hand, the New Cooper took me to over 85mph in a quick burst in 3rd gear, effortlessly, smoothly and without a fuss — something that occurs in woody only with tons of noise, thrashing valve train and not very comfortable ride to boot.

    I really admire folks that can find a car they like, drive it and enjoy it — the smile on their face says it all.

    …and you might ask, what happened when my name rose to the top of the dealer’s list? ….. I plunked my money down on a MCS, and almost left the dealer without a test drive. I turned around and took the test car for a quick ride — hmmm, not at all sluggish. Happy customer! I, too, have a smile on my face and even wave to all MINIs/Minis with the best of them. Keep motoring!

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    Wow, I always thought that I would go the ultimate route and ‘roid my MINI to ~270 bhp but after I saw the video friday of the top gear review of the JCW MCS and a comparision (wish I could find it, or I would repost it) between other aftermarket kits and I can see that a MINI can have too much power (BBS’ 270 bhp MINI was just too much.) Enjoy your MINI your way.

  • http://jamesday.net/mini/jcw James

    Phil, I will have a classic Mini in the near future. And it might even be a Mini Cooper S! 8^)

  • greg

    Dave. I was well aware he was well aware of it. Get a sense of humor. What’s with all the poems honoring MC’s? Everytime I see one a middle aged woman is driving it. Because they’re uh, er…boring.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Greg – I don’t think the sarcasm comes through very well on the web unfortunately.

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    amen gabe ; ) and i must say, i think this is THE MOST CIVILIZED “mc vs mcs” debate/discussion i have ever witnessed. kudos to all.

  • Edge
    Plus, I’m fanatical about keeping my MINI completely OEM.

    Hear, hear! Even though our paths are different (JCW MC vs JCW MCS), it’s nice to see that James and I share a similar fanatacism…

    I do make exceptions though… for stuff that simply isn’t available as an OEM part. The Schroth harness, for example.

    I’ve been made fun of for being “Mr. OEM”, but there’s something about modding the car without bastardizing it that I just can’t put my finger on. It feels good!

    Nice review James, I look forward to checking out Trevor at MINIs on the Dragon!

  • http://www.minisoftampa.org Lance

    Fantastic car, this guy is a fanatic for keeping his MINI solid MINI only parts, no mods, no aftermarket. In 50 years this car will be worth far more than all our modified, customized, tweaked out rides.

    Now if I can get him to let me drive it………..

  • http://www.minisoftampa.org Lance

    Oh yeah……

    You need a classic also!!!

    Make it MATCH and wow that would look good……

  • http://www.jamesday.net/mini James

    Edge, I’ll look for you at the Dragon. We might need to plan a meeting of Team Craptastic.

    A note: the first version of the MC JCW Tuning Kit was the 133 bhp “motorsport kit”, but was UK only. Apparently you can still get that kit installed at John Cooper Works in England.

  • KLF23

    The reasons already mentioned for choosing the Cooper over the S also apply to me, but I have a few more. Just as horsepower isn’t the only ingredient in speed, speed isn’t the only ingredient in motoring enjoyment. The chassis of the Cooper is the same as the S and can be enjoyed as much at slower speeds and acceleration.

    The style of the bonnet was also a large influence, not only because I prefered the low curve that enhanced the raised lights, but because of the mail slot*. I reasoned that many people would know an S from a regular cooper from the hood scoop. WRXs, EVOs and the like might want to do a bit of a traffic light drag if an S pulled up beside. This has not happened with my Cooper, but often happened with my last ride that had a rear spoiler.

    Well done on the most civilized debate folks.

    • Not meant as a derogatory comment.
  • http://owenkelly.com Owen

    How is this the fastest naturally aspirated MINI Cooper? It’s only 126Bhp? MTH will give yu 135 through software alone, and up to 150 with minor modifications. Don’t get me wrong, the appeal of JCW badges is more than tempting, I’m just saying there’s more efficient ways of getting power for less money.

  • rc

    just to let you know, there were 26 kits imported in the US . this info comes from john cooper garages in the UK. I also have one and love it

  • http://jamesday.net/mini/jcw James

    Only 26? Wow.

    rc, please tell me what number kit you have and send me a PM via NAM. I am jamesday24 there. Thanks.

    A Texas owner contacted me, so that’s 3 spoken for.

  • dickdavid
    How is this the fastest naturally aspirated MINI Cooper? It’s only 126Bhp? MTH will give yu 135 through software alone, and up to 150 with minor modifications. Don’t get me wrong, the appeal of JCW badges is more than tempting…

    I believe he wrote:

    the JCW Cooper remains the first JCW car, the fastest naturally aspirated factory MINI ever

    which implies, to me, OEM. I think the MTH is very cool, but it isn’t for me while I’m still getting factory warranty work done.

    I didn’t think MTH could get you that +20Bhp. I’d love to see some dynos on that!!! That would be awesome. Also, how are you picking up an extra 15Bhp after that, with minor modifications?

    Finally,

    …I’m just saying there’s more efficient ways of getting power for less money.

    Of course there is, but…

    One of the things that make MINI special is the amount of customization and individuality that is available. Embrace that. Let others embrace that in their way. Not everyone makes the same choices as you do. It doesn’t make their path any better or any worse. What it does make it is uniquely theirs based on their wants/needs/desires.
  • dickdavid
    A Texas owner contacted me, so that’s 3 spoken for.

    If you are talking about MININANA, I think she’s going to sell hers. :-(

  • Art

    Nice reveiw James wish I could afford the upgrade…

  • Evan

    I have a MC and love it. Do you need to rev it a bit more? Yes. Is doing that fun? Yes. Do I get great mpg? Yes.

    I’ve driven the MCS, and while it is a hoot with crazy pick up and that unique whine, I believe it’s too easy to go too fast. I already go too fast with 115hp, I couldn’t afford to go any faster.

    I think the MC is great b/c of its simplicity and amazing execution. It always brings a smile to my face.

    In the end, thank MINI for having the option of normal or supercharger. Now, let’s wait to see about normal and turbocharger….

  • rc

    james, i have number 510 tunning kit.

  • http://xp.solidhelium.com Lucas
    ’ve driven the MCS, and while it is a hoot with crazy pick up and that unique whine, I believe it’s too easy to go too fast. I already go too fast with 115hp, I couldn’t afford to go any faster. I think the MC is great b/c of its simplicity and amazing execution. It always brings a smile to my face.

    Exactly how I feel about my MC. I had such a blast today (first day in 3 weeks with dry roads and above freezing temperature!) I can’t afford to go any faster either!

    Don’t get me wrong (1st reply of this review), I love the MC, I have an MC, I wouldn’t get a MCS. Its just that personally, if I were to spend $2400 I would get a MCS instead.

  • http://www.atlantaminis.net M. Dillon

    …don’t get me wrong…I understand that from a price point of view that the MCS is a much better deal;however,when I saw,”Sade” being off-loaded from the car hauler at Hank Arron MINI on Dec. 20,2002,I said,”…damn’ that…I got to have her!!!” “Sade”,as far as I was concern IS the perfect MINI for me,simply because she gave me the,”old school” look of a old,classic,British car that one might see in an Sean Connery-James Bond movie;plus,when I test drove her,she gave me enough quickness to make me feel good. Besides…I make my living as a Trucker,therefore I KNEW I didn’t need an MCS to increase my chances of getting a ticket…thus,messing up my,”meal-ticket”(CDL A,HAZMAT,Doubles,Triples,Tankers).(click the,”link” button above,then click the,”members”,next click the section for,”D”). You’ll then see personally why I picked,”Sade” over an MCS. BTW: I call her that because like the sexy,singer herself…she is Black,White…and British.

  • Al Darko

    Thanks for the fantastic review James… I like yourself prefer a bone stock MINI. I have a 2002 MCS and I intend to keep it stock forever. Perhaps our Two MINI’s will be side by side at Pebble one day..LOL


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