MF Review: JCW Alcantara Steering Wheel
The steering wheel is the single most used interface of a car and it’s the most important input device for both the track and the road. Generally speaking, thicker wheels with softer, grippier surfaces are preferred by performance oriented drivers. And since the E28 M5, BMW has been installing just that in it’s M line of performance oriented cars. So it makes sense that MINI would offer something similar from the JCW brand.
With the current generation MINI, BMW has decided to sell much of the components typically standard on M cars as a la carte options. Because of this, the JCW steering is a stand-alone accessories that can only be ordered at MINI service counters. It’s a beneficial strategy for those who don’t want or need the full JCW package, not as beneficial for the owners who just shelled out $30,000+ for a car with a standard steering wheel.
The JCW wheel comes in two flavors, full leather and alcantara/leather. Both retail in the US for $585 and are available worldwide (and for cheaper if you shop around). My alcantara and leather wheel came from newministuff.com in the UK.
One thing that seems to have confused many of those looking at purchasing the new wheel are the carbon fiber inserts that were shown in the original press pics. Most seemed to assume that meant the wheel was only available with those inserts and only available without the multi-function controls. Both of these assumptions are incorrect. The carbon fiber inserts are purely optional. And for those with a MFSW, you can easily move over your existing controls to the JCW wheel. In fact that’s exactly what I did when I installed mine.
And speaking of installation, it’s a very straightforward procedure. Not counting the disconnecting of the battery (a must when working around the airbag) the total time it took to swap wheel was around 20 minutes. The one tricky portion of the install is carefully cutting two small slits in the back of the airbag cover (exacto knife preferred) and releasing the clips that hold the airbag. However once you get the feel for it, it becomes a quick procedure.
One of the biggest improvements the wheel makes is in grip. Behind the leather and alcantara is a layer of what must be some kind rather resilient foam padding. This allows for both more grip in spirited driving and greater comfort on long trips. The leather (on both versions) is also softer and of a seemingly higher quality of that found on the stock three-spoke steering wheel. It feels indentical to the leather found on the M3 and Z4 M Coupe wheels.
Unlike the full alcantara wheels found in some BMWs, the alcantara JCW wheel uses leather on the portion of the wheel that would see the most wear. This addresses the wear concern that many have with the suede-like alcantara. It also gives a defined tactile point that subtly reminds a driver where they’re at in the turn to lock ratio while in tight corners.
The palm rests are also a bit more pronounced on the JCW wheel while being slightly shorter. This, combined with the thicker of the wheel, has worked very well with my larger hands. The end result is a wheel that feels as if it has been tailored to fit me like a glove.
On the face of it, a $500 steering wheel seems like a ridiculous luxury considering the stock MINI wheel is more than adequate. However I will say this, once you feel this wheel, you’ll have a hard time not wanting it. So if you’re on a MINI related budget, don’t even look at it, don’t pick it up, and for the love of God, don’t sit down in a car with one. In fact, if the MSRP was closer to what NewMINIStuff charges for the wheel in the UK (under $400) this could have been our second perfect score review. It’s that good.
There’s this intangible feeling you get with a thick, soft wheel covered in something like alcantara (or even soft leather). It gives you the impression of something substantial and sure-footed. Perhaps the greatest gift the JCW wheel gives to the performance minded driver is confidence. That, combined with greater comfort on longer trips and an subtly improved look, make the JCW steering wheel a must have for the MINI owner looking for that final touch. It would also be a great first first modification or a GP owner.
MotoringFile Rating: 4.5 (out of five)
Where to Buy: The JCW Leather or Alcantara/Leather Steering wheel retails for $580 and is available at all MINI dealers worldwide. However you can find it from several MotoringFile sponsors for much less:
DIY: Official MINI Installation Instructions PDF (thanks Dave)
Installation Note: The JCW Steering wheel only works as an upgrade to the three-spoke wheel available from 2005 onward.
Photos 2 & 3 taken by Brian Lalor.
Written By: Gabe
Sort by MINI model
- Silvercar and the End of the Car Rental Nightmare
- The Future of Mobility by MINI and Designer Jaime Hayon
- MINI Does Gran Turismo 6 with the Clubman Vision (w/Video)
- Leaked: Clubman Vision Gran Turismo Concept
- New Report on MINI’s Rumored Small Car
- A Video Tour of the MINI Exhibit at the BMW Museum
- EVO Races the MINI GP against MINI Challenge Race Cars
- The F56 JCW Tuning Kit Put on Hold for the US Market
- MINI Clubman to Feature BMW’s Air Curtain Technology
- Steering Feel: F56 Cooper S vs R56 Cooper S
MotoringFile on Instagram
- The 3 Series & 4 Series Variants – How Do They Break Down in Sales?
- The Next Generation BMW 3 Series Comes into Focus
- An Owner’s Six Month Review of the BMW M4
- Does the Lexus RC-F Stack up to the M4? Chris Harris Finds Out
- Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson Pits the BMW M3 vs the i8
- Preview: BMW at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show
- BMW Motorsport Announces Shell Sponsorship in the DTM and USCC
- Interview: Development of the New BMW M3 and M4 (Part 2)
- Apple Hires Head of Mercedes-Benz R&D
- World Premier: BMW M4 MotoGP Safety Car
- Video: 2015 Vespa GTS 300 ABS Wins Midsize Scooter Shootout
- Two Tiny Vespas That Make a Big Impression
- Video: How to Ride a Vespa
- Video: Resurrecting a Ruckus
- Video: The Gogoro Electric Scooter
- New Scooter-related Laws for 2015
- Two-Wheel Injuries and Fatalities Dropped in 2013
- ScooterFile’s Top Five Stories of 2014
- The Morning Scooter Commute
- The 2StrokeBuzz 2014/2015 Cold Weather Challenge
MINI Model Cheat Sheet
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F55: Five Door Hatch
F60: MINI Crossover
Advertise with MotoringFile
MotoringFile Buyers GuidesR50 ('02-'06 MC) Buyers Guide
R53 ('02-'06 MCS) Buyers Guide
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range