JCW MCS Long-term Review: Wrap-up

Over the last week or so my respect for the Cooper S JCW kit has grown immeasurably. Driving almost 1,500 miles in seven days is a great way to find a car’s potential and its faults. Yet with the JCW MCS, the latter was almost impossible.

But before I get to my final thoughts on the car let me recap a bit. MINI USA gave me the keys to a 2006 MINI Cooper S with the JCW package and basically said, have at it and let the world know what you think. As the owner of a Cooper S with a pulley and a number of other modifications, this was a chance to do a direct comparison between the two cars and see what it was like to actually live with the JCW MCS. The test car was lightly specced. Chili Red/White roof, Sport package, JCW package and 18″ Matte Black JCW wheels. From a performance standpoint one couldn’t ask for anything more save for the JCW suspension or a full-on GP.

So I set out on a week of driving that included trips to the USGP, northern Wisconsin and my usual jaunts throughout Chicago. Highway mileage, Chicago grid-patterns and curving country roads provided the test-bed. Four short reviews later and I’m here to give you my final thoughts.

Let’s start with the comparison that everyone seemed to be asking about. How does the Cooper S w/the JCW kit compare to a modified MCS? First and foremost the JCW is smooth. I know it’s been said before but you just can’t say it enough. The car feels as if countless hours of testing went into every component in an effort to make the drivetrain as close to perfection as possible. It not only shows in the power but in the way it drives at low speeds around town. Where my MCS with a 15% pulley, Supersprint exhaust, and JCW intake can feel a little urgent and, at times, frantic (not bad things mind you), the JCW feels completely smooth and unflustered. It’s actually easier to drive smooth than any other MCS I’ve ever driven.

The JCW MCS also excels when the comparison turns to sheer power. The pulley (and the other mods) increase power, but they don’t add it in such a unified manner as the JCW kit. The 210bhp of the JCW is seemingly everywhere, in every gear and whenever you need it throughout the rev range.

There’s also the badge factor to consider. I had more than one person come up to the car and ask how I liked the JCW package. One guy came up to me while getting gas in central Indiana and said “nice MINI”. He changed that to “really nice MINI” once we noticed the JCW badge. There’s no questions $6000+ can get you more respect from people in the know. But since the kit contains no visual additions to the car, any added attention is from either the educated automobile enthusiast or other MINI owners.

For those who couldn’t care less about added distinction, yes the kit’s performance is as good as promised. Simply installing a pulley on an MCS does not match the experience that the JCW gives you. But that performance comes at price that makes the value of the kit all very relative. $6300 is a lot of money no matter how you slice it. And with the sport package a mandatory option for JCW equipped MINIs in the US, the price of admission is a stratospheric $29,150 including destination. That’s $4,000 over the price of my very well equipped 2005 MCS.

But asking if the JCW kit is worth it is a loaded question because it’s such an individual answer. Sure you get enormous piece of mind and performance that is untouchable by most modded MINIs. But there are many out there that simply can’t justify the cost despite how phenomenal the car is. In the end you simply have to ask yourself one little question; How fast do you want to go?

If I could order my car all over again, opting for the JCW package would be a very difficult decision. Part of the fun of ownership is slowly creating a faster, more individualized car. With the JCW kit there’s simply less to do and less to be involved in when it comes to mechanically modifying the car. But I must admit the power is addicting on a level that surprised me. Having driven a 210bhp JCW before, I had expected not to be very surprised by it all. But learning to rely on that power and even taking it for granted while flooring it in sixth gives you a new perspective on what you need vs. what you want. And sometimes what you want is what you need.

Related: JCW MCS Long Term Reviews (Parts 1 through 4) ] MotoringFile

  • SB

    OK, I’m done … anybody wanna buy my 03′ MCS w/80K miles … I’ve gotta go get a JCW car.

  • Nice finish. I want to add this to my MCS, but I have to wait a bit for the cash. I hope this is something that is still available after The Garage closes.

  • Aqualung

    I justified my JCW by needing the extra oomph and not stall the car when the AC was on, LOL. No, I was intrigued by the smoother powerband and most importantly, the factory warranty when I bought my car — I wasn’t able to physically test drive one.

    I have been very pleased w/ the car, especially the torque that does seem available at all ranges. My b-in-law, who first got his MCS and influenced me to get mine, recently drove it and was favorably impressed as well.

    I also thought that it might add to the resale value down the road, but it doesn’t appear to be having that great an impact. Perhaps as more cognoscenti are aware of the JCW as you indicate (“One guy came up to me while getting gas in central Indiana and said “nice MINI”. He changed that to “really nice MINI” once we noticed the JCW badge.”) Personally, I don’t have my badges on as I prefer to be more “stealth”. And, ideally, I’ll never sell it 🙂

  • Houston

    I’ve got a black 2006 JCW that’ might be for sale…

  • Nice review Gabe!

  • TiMINITim

    Too often I have provided a similar description of the benefits of my JCW to others and they are always skeptical. It is nice to have a well respected reviewer provide confirmation of what I’ve always known. It does not (and nothing ever will) settle the question of whether it is worth the cost, as this is a personal decision. It does, however, confirm for all that the JCW has very distinct advantages over after-market. Thanks for the review Gabe!!

  • great review gabe.

    such a shame mini couldn’t get this released for the mcsa.

    i do second your thoughts on the fun of updating the car piece by piece though. with so many warrantied aftermarket options its actually possible to spec out a car with a tuner that can best a jcw car. although that jcw “feeling” is something i would have really enjoyed owning.

  • mnycpt

    Just what I was looking for. I have a 220hp modded Cooper S and it drove rough. Huge flat spat at 3000rpm and very jerky going through the gears. Now this was only around town, but that’s what I mostly drive. Whenever I wanted to get on it all that was gone and the drive was incredible. You could feel the car pull hard no matter where you were at. So, I would side for the aftermarket mods if you’re tracking, but the JCW if you are mostly city driving. Another note to mention is that it looks that the 225hp package from John Cooper Motorsports might become available online for purchase and not just in-house availability. A GP beater.

  • Great to hear Gabe – what I’ve always said, the JCW is “more refined” than the equivalent aftermarket.

    Is it worth paying perhaps twice as much money – totally individual decision, but we MINI owners really love our cars, and the best way to love it is to buy the best 🙂

  • JD7
    But learning to rely on that power and even taking it for granted while flooring it in sixth gives you a new prospective on what you need vs. what you want. And sometimes what you want is what you need.

    Now “All Y’all”… that’s a different story.

  • JD7

    Awesome review. It must be great to get a car like that for a week! I am currently doing the aftermarket thing for my 06 but maybe next time around I will step up to the JCW.

  • dK

    Gabe, Hit it right on the head. I’m now on my third MCS and this time its a JCW, and it is as you say, “addictive.” Good review. Thanks for helping all of us JCW owners still justify the $pocketbook$ homicide.

  • JTC

    Very good review! Congratz 🙂

  • bluzeke

    AMEN Brother! Pay the price – it’s TWICE as NICE!

  • gokartride

    Very interesting and insightful. It’s tricky w/ MINIs I think….I drove a friend’s wonderful JCW and then got back in my lowly Cooper and was happy as a lark. How is this possible? Power is a wonderful thing (I think we all can acknowledge that) but MINIs, across the entire line, offer something even more. So the real trick is matching your wants/needs to the right MINI-motoring-machine and you’re good to go.

  • Mark Smith

    Indeed they don’t just slap some stuff onto the engine and call it fast. It’s tested and proven and worth every penny if you want the most refined modified MINI around. People need to read this review if they’re even remotely thinking about going with any mods. It can save you a lot of time and aggravation if you’re going to end up spending almost this much anyway on mods that aren’t as good as this JCW stew. Great Job on this review. Keep up the good work guys!

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    Thank you for the very nice review, Gabe. Two questions though.

    How many stars? and Does it change your review of a pulley 5 star rating.

  • Jon

    I have driven some nicely modded MCS, many of which have been powerfull and competent. However I have never seen a mod that feels as compleate as my JCW, they really did a excellent job creating a fun and excellent package. While I agree that the price si significant my last two MCS’s and my future r56 will all carry the JCW goodies.

  • How many stars?

    I think you can’t really rate a car on a 1-5 scale. It’s just too simplified a system for something so complex as an entire automobile.

    and Does it change your review of a pulley 5 star rating.

    No. The fact the JCW MCS is a great car doesn’t change the fact that the 15% pulley is an excellent (and inexpensive) modification to a stock MCS.

  • Siddhartha

    “you get enormous piece of mind and performance that is untouchable by most modded MINIs.”

    That says it all. Great review, Gabe!

    But still I can’t overcome the urge to modify the car. One has to look hard to find ways to mod a full on JCW, but I’ve found some: Randy’s new rear sway bar (still experimenting with the setting), a JCW wing (see MC2 article) and now . . . ta-da! . . . the front brake air duct kit from John Cooper Motorsports that replaces my useless fog lights and will hopefully keep my rotors from melting at Thunderhill in the summertime.

    Take it to the track, Jack.

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    okay, out of 10 stars? 100?

    I agree with you on the pulley, it is the biggest horsepower for the buck. It is also one of my biggest gripes of going to a Turbo charger.

    Video Friday! JCW review by top gear!

  • Mark (Ohio)

    Great review. Any thoughts on are the pulley/CAI/exhaust mods worthwhile as steps towards doing the full JCW engine upgrade sometime in the future?

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    Sid, You can’t brag about your girl without showing pictures!

  • Video Friday! JCW review by top gear!

    Keep in mind that review is 3+ years old and tests the original JCW MCS with the old gearing and 200bhp (rather than 210). That aside I agree with Hamster.

  • DB

    Great write up Gabe.

    Now to justify the extra $6K…

  • Yegor H.

    Thanks for the review, Gabe. I am glad you came up with it, since it’s very important to hear from a MINI enthusiast. This is the second time you’re giving me confidence. The first was when I bought my Ultraleggeras right after reading about them on MF and now, when my JCW is on its way.

    My uncertainty in doing right choice is completely gone. I am getting about $45K MINI (the most expensive options came along the JCW accessories, such as leather dash, steering wheel, spoiler and more) and was fighting with myself – should I go for it? How about the GP? Well, it might sound strange to many, but first of all, I don’t like the GP styling. Yes, it’s a special car and might become a historic, but not for me.

    I am going to take my JCW to track, but I also need the back seats so my kids can enjoy driving with me. I wasn’t looking for a race car. I am a designer and I want to make one of a kind MINI, that will stand out with delicate touches.

    Ok! So am I crazy? Maybe, but I believe there are more like me and have done this. The car I ordered is the only one around $45K price-range that I would like to buy and keep it for a long time.

    Someone help me to get JCW seats! 😉

  • mnycpt

    Gabe, any comments on the 225hp JCM kit being available to us in the near future. I spoke to Paul Cooper the other day and he says to keep your eyes on the website for updates.

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    Looks like the 225 Hp kit is there from JCG

  • mnycpt

    Correct but they don’t offer it as a mail order. This could change with the garage closing. Paul Cooper said the parts department is staying open.

  • Siddhartha

    Sorry, Cap’n.

    Gallery 1

    Gallery 2

  • j/c

    Oh, if only I would win a Lotto jackpot.

  • Jake

    Great review Gabe!

    I have come across three used JCW cars in Toronto and Vancouver over the last few months and it appears that in these markets even though the car depreciates, the JCW package appears to retain full value (a couple of these were certified pre-owned at Mini dealers).

    I agree that this would be a very personal choice. If you like to tinker, then adding various mods yourself is likely more appropriate. For myself, the JCW package will be the way to go!



  • Joel

    When I ordered my car I convinced my wife I needed the extra power of the JCW Kit to “get out of harms way.” When she ordered her 06 JCW it was because “you can’t be faster than me!” Either way it was well worth the investment (times 2).

  • CPUWiz

    I love my 2006 MCS JCW. I am so happy to drive such a beast. It is with out a doubt the only car I have owned that makes me smile!

    Frank Broadway

  • Bradee-oh

    I ordered my ’06 JCW a week ago for Sept. delivery and it was a very hard decision, knowing the available mods for the MCS and the R56’s impending intro.
    These reviews have made me alot more at peace with my decision, and the anticipation is rising at an ever-growing pace! I can’t wait… Thanks Gabe!

  • MINI Fireman

    I subscribe to your “OEM+” modding stategy on my new JCW. My intention with the car is that it will be occasionaly tracked for my enjoyment only, without using it as a “serious” track car. I love the power, but being raised a muscle car guy still want more.

    As I am mostly sticking to bolt-on mods and retaining the original parts I will have the ability to return it to stock JCW for resale if I ever need too. With the JCW kit, most of the performance mods I am doing are instead focusing on handling/suspension performance and appearance.

    I ultimately went with the overpriced JCW package for the smoothness of the power. The way it pulls in every gear throughout the powerband as you and others have described. It just feels like a more complete package (as it should) than a car with the standard mods (CAI, exhaust, pulley).

    Is it worth the money? Too subjective to say really. Am I pleased with it? Yes, unquestionably. To me it was the best starting point to mod with, yet retain the warranty & resale value. Ultimately, isn’t the individualistic nature of the MINI (and in turn it’s owners) what owning one is all about?

  • Maxwell H (SanAntoCOOP)

    Excellent review in every possible way, Gabe. I couldn’t have put it better in any possible way!

  • interesting, and i struggled with it as well-but-i had a budget, and i would have to have traded my leather,nav and premium packages to get it-wasnt worth it then, not worth it now-to me-i like the stuff i got for what i spent. however, for all you people getting it-GOGOGO!!!!

  • Aussom


    I have a 2002 MCS and a member of the “not enough money for a JCW” camp.

    Can anyone possibly point me in the right direction to find after-market parts to make the MCS first gear low-end torque curve smoother instead of currently having to rev the engine and gradually ride and release the clutch (otherwise I experience a jolt into gear, followed by the low torque flat point before the car picks up in the higher revs of first gear)? Second gear and upwards seem much smoother compared to first gear dramas.

    Or are my driving skills in dramatic need of improvement?!?

  • Robert

    Great looking MINI, ruined in my opinion by the ugly black 18’s wheel.

    Replace the wheels with almost anything else and it would be my dream car.


  • Chaz

    I GOT IT (JCW)




    ps. great review

  • Doug

    Good review. The remarks and observations mirror what I experienced in the JCW upgrade of my MCS (including the suspension package). On the autobahn in Germany heading to Munich I regularly had fun blowing people’s doors off and watching the look on their faces as I went past. It was possible to hit the rev limit and bury the speedometer at 240 km/hr (and it was still accelerating – I swear!).

    Then I read about the GP early this spring. Made a lame excuse to the wife about having to trade in the old MCS after 4 years in order to maximise resale value (she believed me), and ordered the GP. I think I got one of only 10 or so in Switzerland (very low 3-digit number), picked it up last Friday. WOW! Even though I have to keep it under 4.5 RPM during the break-in period, you can tell that this is a significant step up from the MCS with JCW kits. It really is different.

    Apart from being quite loud inside with noticeably increased road noise, the real difference is in the handling. As a racer of a classic MKII 1275 MCS (bored out to 1293cc) I loved the understeer. The new version, however, seemed absolutely neutral in handling. The GP seems to have a bunch of the understeer back – and it is twitchy! I love it.

    Negatives – the standard package does not include xenon lights and it is very easy to overdrive the standard lights with this thing at night. The individual number on the roof looks as if it will peel off after a year of sunshine and some water hitting it at 250 km/h. I expected something better (paint instead of a set of digit decals). There is a number on the dash passengers side – and this is done right.

    The only problem is the wife was quite pissed off when she got in and realised that our kid had to lay dangerously in the parcel compartment. I got a lot of stick for it being only a 2-seater. Oh well! Can hardly wait until the first 2000km are over.

  • Matt

    I have a 05 cooper with a cvt (the wife can’t/won’t drive a stick) and I wanted to know of any good performance mods that I can do. I love the car but 115 hp just isn’t enough. Any sugestions?

    Thanks, Matt

  • DB

    With the CVT you are limited to what you can do under the bonnet. You can add a cat back exhaust and I believe there is an intake that will fit but not sure if anyone is still selling it. It’s made by Pipercross (click here) and called the Viper. I actually saw one installed on an MC CVT. It is a little on the expensive, but it is also supposed to make impressive gains.

  • Mike C

    This is for Mark Hendrie. Are you seriously considering parting with you mini? If so, let me know at michaelnnoemi@hotmail.com.

  • Robin

    what is the 18 inch rim tyre profile? Is it 215 35? or 215 40? Which one is better for 18?

  • I waited 4 months for my 06 JCW Special edition (Canadian model) #1 of 64 made, and I am big time impressed with the power across all 6 gears. I had the Mini Cooper 03 model and was impressed with the ride and handling but this is ridiculous. This puppy came with everything, suspension,interior,horsepower, body kit, and I just love the fact that its a sleeper. I was getting around 495 kms per tankful and I’m still getting around 450-475 per tankful, unless of course I’m booting it all the time. As for the price, this factory edition commemorates Mini Canada’s Targa race, 64 were made and this is #1, and for $10,000 more than a Cooper S, it came with almost everything that JCW provides except I would love those Red and Black leather seats they have in Britain. All said,these guys have done an amazing job, this car drives like a go-kart.

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  • Just finished an 2000 mile roadtrip with my used 2006 JCW Mini that had 19,000 miles on it I have tosay what a pleasnt surprise as it exceeded all of my expatations , from its solid feel at speed to its great throttle response . I looked for something to nitpick dont know what that would be .

  • Zona

    Well, I have a 06 jcw and LOVE it. I have never driven a Gen 1 S so I honestly have no idea what that feels like. All I can say is, when I need power, it is there.