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MF Reader Review: JCW R56 Engine Kit

The following review written by long time German MF contributor Alexander Lipphardt. Alex is also the owner a JCW GP, making his opinion especially relevant to the new R56 JCW Kit.

As a longtime MINI enthusiast I today had the chance to test-drive the brand new and highly anticipated R56 JCW tuning kit. In germany these kits will be available in the next 2 or 3 weeks or so and I know quite a few MINI dealers (and especially R56 owners) out there who are still waiting for the final delivery – so I was pretty lucky to take one of the first ever fitted kits (#22) for a spin.

So….where should I start then? Maybe right from the start: It was a Pepper White Cooper S going for close to $40,000 which had almost everything fitted you can currently find on the “MINI Extras” list: Navigation, Leather, Sport Button, JCW Aerokit, JCW Brakes, JCW 18″ JCW Suspension, JCW Wheels etc. In other words, a real nice and mean lookin’ machine!

Fitting the kit took some 6-7 hours and “flashing” the ECU took almost a full day as every R56 needs to be updated with the latest software (and re-booted) before the modified JCW engine software gets uploaded onto the ECU. So you can expect a 2 days job altogether! This is a real pain for every mechanic as flashing a MINI ECU nowadays takes ages compared to the good old R53 MINI where it was just a question of more or less minutes doing this. Further the Works software comes on a CD which is particularly related to the VIN so it is impossible to upload the software onto other ECU’s – interesting idea!

Visually there is no real difference between the standard R56 exhaust and the JCW exhaust besides the bigger JCW exhaust tips. Its a “non-cat-back” system (as you can see on the photo) compared with the old R53 JCW exhaust. Same thing for the manifold which is not “polished” or anything like that – just made from more heat resistant material to manage higher engine temperatures.

Thats about enough thoughts on the plain JCW parts. Now it gets interesting – what is it like driving the Works kit I compared to my JCW GP? Is there a huge difference in terms of performance, sound, handling, power and…..FUN??

So here I go: Sat down, turned on the engine and I really was wondering if that JCW exhaust sound would finally be meaner, or more aggressive as this is something I particularly miss on the new R56 models. From the inside: compared to a standard R56 MINI there is little if any real difference. Maybe a little “deeper” when in neutral or “idle” position. Of course the engine just had a few miles on the clock so I really wonder how the sound may change once it’s broken in? From the outside the change is not bad at all. But you can judge for yourself:

[ Engine Cold ] (Quicktime / High Quality)

The funny thing I noticed is that the exhaust sounded better when it was cold.

[ Engine Warm ] (Quicktime High Quality)

So…. lets drive! I was sitting on the co drivers seat in the beginning. First impression of a passenger after flooring gears 1 and 2 with “Sport button” turned on: this machine is really really moving and kicking forward without having any major traction problems – a nice surprise! We did not hit the famous german “Autobahn” to do some top-speed testing but I have no doubt that the new Works will run straight down to 240 km/h and more based on my time with it.

The brakes are also just perfect – maybe not “enough” for driving 20 laps on the “Nordschleife” but in normal conditions this set-up is just more than sufficient. The JCW suspension is also just perfect and allows for excellent handling. The car could have been slightly lower but thats just a personal opinion.

Coming back to the sound question. Wonder what the new R56 Works sounds like at speed? Check these out:

[ Pass 1 ] (Quicktime / High Quality)

[ Pass 2 ] (Quicktime / High Quality)

Now it was my turn to drive. I clearly have to admit: the new Works is bloody fast and the engine is clearly better than the standard R56 version. You get serious power and torque starting from 2400 rpms `till the high 6000´s. There is never ever a feeling of being underpowered. I also believe that this kit will beat any R53 JCW! But still…..there was something I personally missed. I mean: hey, I am sitting in a Works! It’s just that when I floor my Works GP I always get this feeling that I’m about to take off the ground. I start to sweat, the supercharger is whining beautifully – especially at 4500 rpms and the exhaust sounds like a F-16. Its just pure adrenalin. Maybe I’m a little to “MINI old-school” for missing all of this?

I think it’s the fact that, compared with the old Works generation, the performance and the power-curve of the standard R56 and of course the new R56 JCW is different. This is of course related to the Turbo and I know that comparing the power-curve of a supercharger with the power-curve of a turbo is like comparing apples to oranges – totally different character and totally different concept!

So what’s my conclusion? Well, if someone would have asked me directly after the ride how the new Works performs I probably would have chosen three words as an answer:

Very powerful understatement!

No question, the new JCW Kit I is really worth every cent and after driving it for the first time, I expect the Stage II JCW Kit to be nothing less than a rocket!

Alex Lipphardt (Macmini from www.newmini-technik.de)
PS: Thanks to my MINI dealer (BMW Hansa) for making this ride possible!

Gallery

We’ll have our full (and official) review of the kit in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Written By: MF Reader

  • jimskater

    msh

    Lower grille on the driver’s side is an historically accurate placement (at least to 08/2006).

    That’s where the front badge is on my GP. ;)

  • Pingback: Debut New Product- 'GTT Stealth Sports Cat' (R56 MCS) - Page 3 - MINI2()

  • Steve S

    Looks fantastic but wow, 40k for a FWD mini, that takes a really dedicated buyer.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Looks fantastic but wow, 40k for a FWD mini, that takes a really dedicated buyer.

    Keep in mind that you could get an MCS with the JCW kit for around 23,500 if you didn’t want any of the other options.

  • chuck

    Gabe,

    I want to thank you for all the great information you have provided us mini owners (well mine is about to be shipped). I have been a reader since I decided to get a mini in May. Your site always seems to have the info first so thank you.

    Ok here is my question. Link provided:

    http://www.mini.com/com/en/john_cooper_works/

    when you look at the torque/Hp curves for the JCW mini and the standard R56 S, it seems to be puzzling, well at least to me. I thought that HP = RPM* Torque/5252. If that is true and the JCW R56 has the same shape torque curve but more torque over the same RPM range, how can it have less HP than the R56 S until around 4000 RPM? I am scratching my head on this one. Maybe the graph is incorrect and the peak torque for the JCW R56 starts at a higher RPM than the R56 S.

    thanks,

    chuck

  • Craig

    I expect the badge will be relatively easy to re-position. The grille is incredibly easy to remove (4 plastic rivets and a couple clips) and the badge is probably just clipped to the grille from behind.

  • Pingback: First review of the R56 MINI Cooper S JCW package | Review Cars Blog()

  • Willie

    Since you mentioned that Chuck, I looked at the power graph curve as well, and have the same confusion as you do. It appears that a MCS with Stage 1 Kit will have less power over most of the normally used RPM band.

  • greg

    Your opinion on this Gabe would be very interesting…….

  • Pingback: JCW Stage 1 tuning kit released - Page 11 - MINI2()

  • mike

    hey gabe, any update on this kit?

  • Pingback: Autospot » Blog Archive » Un vistazo al Mini Cooper S con el kit John Cooper Works()

  • Pingback: JCW Stage 1 tuning kit released - Page 14 - MINI2()

  • Dennis

    Gabe,

    Which Chicago area dealership did the installation of your Stage 1 kit and how was your experience? Thanks

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Knauz – they did a fantastic Job. Tell them I sent you :)


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