MF Review: 2007 MINI JCW Engine Kit

As some readers of MotoringFile may be aware, I sold my much loved 2005 Cooper S a couple of months ago for a brand new and fully loaded 2007 MCS. And instead of picking and choosing the best of the after-market as I did with the previous car (and the one before it), I thought I’d go a different route with my new R56. This time the plan was to go almost entirely OEM and in turn multiple JCW upgrades. First up was the Aero-kit which was installed at the VPC. Next was the JCW Suspension kit that was just reviewed last month on MF. But the big upgrade (and the one that many of you have been apparently waiting for as well) was the JCW Engine Kit that MINI just released last week.

The kit for the R56 is extraordinarily straight forward. In the US it simply consists of a more aggressive air intake, a free flowing exhaust, a turbocharger air filter air guide and the all important ECU upgrade.

This is quite a contrast to the previous kit available for the R52 and R53 that included such items as a new head and inter-cooler and pretty big freakn’ check from the new owner. In fact the new kit is almost 1/3 of the $6000 price tag the previous dealer installed version rang up. But is it even worth the lower $2000 price tag?

The JCW Engine kit takes the 2007 MCS from 175bhp to 192bhp. But more importantly it increases torque to as much as 200lbf-ft with the over-boost function. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the JCW GP had. Also better than the GP (and all previous JCW kits) is the throttle response. The ECU tuning sharpens the already faster throttle tip-in (with sport button on of course) to even higher levels.

While you feel the extra power throughout the band, the high-end is where it really impresses. While the torque curve is as flat as ever, the peak power comes on gradually throughout the range peaking at the 6000rpm mark (at 192bhp). This, coupled with the new turbo engine’s eagerness to rev, gives you the sense of having more than enough power anywhere and anytime. In fact, with all the torque down low and power up high, the FWD drive-train works hard to just get rubber down to the pavement in spirited acceleration. While the JCW Suspension (also installed on the car) helps keep weight from shifting too much to the rear on take-off, there’s still enough transfer that traction can be at a premium in quick launches.

As with the previous JCW kit, this upgrade amplifies the character of the car. Naturally this makes it decidedly different than the raspy, snarling character of the R53 JCW kit. But instead of the supercharger wine and the exhaust pops you get a mean sounding 4 cylinder that has a hint of refinement and sophistication about it. The exhaust has a deeper tone that (like the previous kit) is in no way is loud or obnoxious. It’s a character that fits with the new car and (dare I say it) is a little easier to live with day to day.

Comparing the two JCW generations, it’s really hard to feel a difference in speed with just the seat of the pants in a standard 0-60 test. And the figures below bear this out. However one area that you can legitimately feel an improvement is in mid-range 4th gear acceleration – the kind many of us enjoy on on-ramps or in passing situations. Here the car seems to have endless power similar to what you’d experience with the JCW GP. In fact, this particular time is actually more inline with BMW’s published data for the GP.

For reference, here are the official numbers. Keep in mind BMW is notoriously conservative with their figures. Auto mags routinely get at least half a second better times in most tests (previous MINI and JCW tests have born this out).

  R56 JCW R53 JCW
0-60 mph 6.5s 6.5s
50 – 75mph (4th gear) 5.3s 6.4s
50 – 75mph (5th gear) 6.6s 6.7s
50 – 75mph (6th gear) 7.6s 8.9s


Downsides? As with any OEM accessory price vs performance isn’t as high as it theoretically could be from the after-market. I also found it a little less satisfying not researching components and installing everything myself. Then there’s the notion that for $2000 you’re only physically buying an exhaust, intake and some pieces of plastic. Obviously there’s the BMW ECU tuning and countless hours of engineering and testing that also add to the cost. Yes, taken as a whole it’s easier pill to swallow than the previous kit. But still, for those who love building their own car via the wonderful MINI after-market, I have no doubt that this kit won’t be the answer their looking for.

But back to the question, is this all worth it? It really depends on what you want from the car and what you intend to use it for. If you’re budgeting about $2k on upgrades and you plan on extensively tracking your MCS, I’d actually recommend the JCW Suspension kit (or a quality after-market equivalent) over the engine kit. However if you’re going to be driving primarily on the street with one or two track days a year, than this kit starts to get very attractive. Yes there are and will be some pretty compelling after-market upgrades for the R56. And there’s little question that you can put together a list of after-market components that come in under $2k. But what MINI has done with the JCW kit is to create a cohesive upgrade that leverages the knowledge of those who designed and engineered the car. It’s almost as if these components within the kit are simply the final stage of production and they had been intended all along.

If you like the warranty, the power, the seamless feel, and the cache of those little badges, this kit is absolutely worth the money. And if you fall into those categories but still need to be talked into it, consider this fact; the new JCW kit gives you greater performance than the previous version at almost 1/3 of the cost. And if you have to, just skip the leather seats.

MotoringFile Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Installation

The tested kit was bought and installed at Knauz MINI in Lake Bluff (just north of Chicago). The MSRP is $2100 with a suggested time of two hours for labor.

Note #1: In Europe the JCW engine kit also includes an upgraded exhaust manifold. In a few markets (notably the US) the upgraded manifold is actually standard from the factory.

Note #2: All comparisons made to the previous JCW kit were specifically addressing the 210bhp version that came on the ’05 and ’06 model year MCS coupes.

Related:

[ MF Reader Review: R56 JCW Engine Kit ] MotoringFile