MF Review: John Cooper Works GP

JCW GP doesn’t photograph well. I know you’ve probably heard and read it before, but you can’t get the full impression of what this car looks like from the photos. In person, the Thunder Blue body color reflects back its surroundings, and the red mirror caps and other accents are simply stunning.

Inside the GP it’s obvious MINI really sweated the details. Red stitching runs along the leather/cloth combo seats, and is also found on the shift boot and e-brake boot. Special GP carpet floor mats, included in all of the cars, are all black with red piping around the outside and a good-sized GP logo stitched into the carpet. The anthracite headliner is a nice touch. While not unique to the GP, the darker headliner and visors ground the interior color palette nicely. The seats, while not the Recaros that are standard on the Euro-GPs, are very nice and have lumbar support, something the cloth seats in my ’03 MCS don’t have.

Other interior features unique to the GP are the rear storage compartments, located about where the rear seats would have been. The foam compartments are nice and roomy — they easily accommodate three bottles of wine and a spray bottle of Meguiar’s detail spray — but the round latch for the cover of the compartments is cheap and difficult to turn. Not a big deal at all because the weight of the cover is plenty to keep it closed. It doesn’t lock so there’s really no point because there’s little likelihood of the cover flying open even with the most spirited of driving and stopping.

Alright, now on to the driving. It’s difficult to not simply type “Wow!” but I’ll try. According to one of the techs who was on hand to help with the GP delivery, the power band of this car is not unlike that of his E46 M3. Having never driven an M3, I will have to take his word for it, but the power band in the GP is extremely wide. There’s power and torque available in all gears at all speeds. Even in fifth and sixth gear the car wants to “go” with the slightest touch of the accelerator. This is a pleasant improvement over my 2003, which doesn’t really feel powerful until it hits 3,000-3,500 RPMs. There’s a feel of sophistication in the GP that’s not present in my 2003 MCS. The GP is solid and extremely responsive in every aspect from acceleration to handling to braking. The handling is rock solid. The GP is like a well trained dog waiting attentively for the next command from its master. And when the command comes, the GP responds with joy. I can’t emphasize enough how refined this car feels, a fitting swan song of this generation of MINI.

Finally, one of the first let-downs of the GP for some has been the audio system. The lack of rear speakers may be annoying, but MINI did everything they could to drop weight from this car. In removing the rear seats and adding the “luggage bar,” MINI eliminated a place for rear speakers. I don’t find this annoying at all because the GP sings its own tune that I like better than anything on the radio. The exhaust note and back popping when lifting the throttle and shifting is music to this MINI enthusiast’s ears. So far I’m not missing the back speakers, but audiophiles who want surround-sound quality out of their car audio systems will be disappointed. The head unit is totally different than any other US-spec 2006 MINI I’ve encountered. It seems that it is the same as the standard CD head-unit as found on most European MINIs. The functions and buttons are different from other US MINIs, but work adequately.

All in all, the 2006 MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit is a phenomenal car. MINI’s come a long way from 2002 to 2006, and if the GP is any indication of where MINI is going, I will be a fan for a long, long time.

  • Great review Todd. I can’t wait to add my own in acouple months time.

  • DB

    Excellent review! I can’t wait until Tuesday when I get to see it for myself!

  • GSKChicago

    How does one best express sheer jealousy? Well, I guess I just did. Congrats. Great write-up. I look forward to seeing one on the road in person.

  • I absolutely have to agree with the asessment that the GP doesn’t photograph well. A few weeks ago I heard my local dealer had one on display, so curious as I am, I went over there. While having been somewhat doubtful about the rear wing, the very open wheels and the dullish color, in real life it does work. The only thing I haven’t been able to get my head around is the black trim that doesn’t continue in the front apron.

    From a performance POV, I have very little reference, but seeing as a friend has had various parts of his S engine molten (!) because of the turbo that was fitted onto it, there must be something in the argument that there is nothing like a factory product when it comes to overall “tightness” of the package, and that having the top BHP on the block really isn’t as desirable as it might sounds.

  • Great review – I second the comment about the GP not photographing well. In the metal it looks far better than the pictures!

  • Jon

    I love the GP and since one will not be following me home I offer my jealous respect to the new owners. Great to see the review, hope to see one of these very cool little cars up close soon.

  • Awesome review, Todd. I can’t wait to see the other GPs that come through Dallas.

  • envy. i know it’s one of the 7 deadly, but it’s all me right now. if it weren’t for children i’d be writing that reveiw.

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    Congrats Todd! I LOVE the dark gauge faces set against the silver dash. Awesome!


    I think it may have been mentioned before but not confirmed, Does the US GP have a glovebox? Thanks Steve

  • way to go todd – great review! have a blast!

  • Yes it does have a glovebox AND a big cupholder…

  • LMB

    I couldn’t agree more.:o)

  • Stuart

    Great review, Todd. I’m really excited for you. And I’m glad you’re experiencing the refinements that MINI has made throughout the model’s life.

  • diego

    what a vicious cycle…every day i want to read more about the GP and then every time i do, it ends up with more longing for the day I finally get mine this fall.

  • Matt

    I live in Santa Barbara so i got to see a GP today. It looks so much better in person. The color is a cool silver blue. I saw so many MINIs today it was great. I work around the corner from the hotel they are staying at so maybe I’ll get to see the caravan roll out of town tomorrow morning.

  • The Professor

    same powerband as an e46 m3?? The M3 really comes alive past 5k…

  • Todd, I have 800 miles on mine now as of Las Vegas on MTTS. I took it up to 110mph in 5th gear on I-15 today in 108 degree weather and the car had not begun to get close to tiring. The handling is absolutely dialed in and I am thrilled to be so lucky to get one. It has to have been the best bargain in the automotive world for some time. The car rocks. Thanks for the excellent review. jj

  • Anyone know how many GPs worldwide there will be? How many RHDs? I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but I can’t find it. The UK model is on eBay now (selling the reservation spot).

  • 2000 cars worldwide.

  • Glen


    Can you still get one one these GPs or is it too late?

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  • hi all, i have owned my gp for 3yrs now,and cant find anything else that i would want,not even a porsche or ferrari,aston martin etc,you can park the gp up next to something really special like the supercars mentioned above,and people gather around the gp in awe,it really is a special little car with all the power you would need,and awesome handling,but overall its the looks that do it for me,when i find something that looks as good and drives like the gp i might consider changing,but i think that moment will be a long time away yet.

    • think i’m still echoing that sentiment now bud. 55.000 miles later

  • About sums up it up.