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MF Review: R56 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

Written By: Gabe

  • ImUrTrboLvr

    Hey Gabe, next up, do yourself (and your car) a small little favor, get the Dump Valve specifically for the turbo R56 (for just 80 bucks) from Forge Motorsports. It sounds awesome, not too loud and annoying.

    VROOOOM…PSSHHHH…

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Would be interesting to see the power differences between your car Gabe and mine, which has Alta turbo back exhaust and cold air intake.

    Alta’s stuff looks great. Once they get some ECu tuning to go with it, I think that combo will be killer.

    I appreciate the picture you posted of the air intake. I was reading on mini-madness that the filter is too restrictive. What are your thoughts on that ? The suggested replacement costs $100, just curious if its worth it or a bit of a gimmick.

    Yeah it’s a paper filter and they can be restrictive. Minispeed sells the ITG filter for the previous JCW air intake that works like a charm. It’s relatively inexpensive and reusable as well.

    Wow – it looks like they already have one for the R56 JCW intake as well.

    Hey Gabe, next up, do yourself (and your car) a small little favor, get the Dump Valve specifically for the turbo R56 (for just 80 bucks) from Forge Motorsports. It sounds awesome, not too loud and annoying.

    Hmm… (thinking how I’ll explain the sound to my wife)… interesting idea :)

  • jas cooper

    I’ve only seen comparisons w/the R53 JCW. How do the R56JCW times compare to stock ( in 4th 5th and 6th)? I suspect that even a stocker will outdo the R53 due to the wide torque curve…

  • sandm4130

    Hello Gabe.

    Welcome aboard the JCW ship. The JCW kit engineering is a seemlessy reliable kick of whup-ss that so far on the my 2006 R53 has been flawlessly reliable for some 47k miles.

    One question about the use of aftermarket filters. If they are less restrictive can it be assumed that they let in more air as well a more debris?

    I have thought about a change of filters but I am not a risk taker.

    Enjoy

  • lavardera
    Hmm… (thinking how I’ll explain the sound to my wife)… interesting idea :)

    We promise not to bring up when you made fun of an Evo with a loud blow off valve on the dragon…

    oh, I just brought it up, didn’t I?

  • Jon E

    Thanks for the review. This is helpful for me since I am currently considering the pros and cons of the JCW upgrades vs. the Alta upgrades. I will likely go one route or the other, and not mix and match the two. I am leaning to the JCW simply because I like the idea of an upgrade path that has been engineered by those most familiar with the car. However Alta’s engineering is by all accounts (including friends who have used their products) excellent and they offer a more complete exhaust upgrade that appears to offer more hp/torque. It also sounds incredible (see Alta’s web site). They do not however offer (at least not yet) the ECU reprograming. How much, if any, of the JCW hp/torque increase is due to the ECU reprogramming vs. the change out of components; and how much of the overall “feel” of the upgrade is due to the ECU reprograming? Does adding any of the Alta upgrades void the manufacturer’s warranty?

    On a different note: Gabe your car looks simply awesome! I had not considered a black car, but I am now rethinking that decision (Astro Black with Lounge Redwood Red leather?). Years ago I owned a Porche 930 that had a custom black paint job. When it was clean and polished it was simply the most incredible looking car I have ever seen. However, it was so hard to keep clean (I live in the southwest with a frustrating amount of sand/dust) that I swore I would never again own a black car. We’ll see.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    We promise not to bring up when you made fun of an Evo with a loud blow off valve on the dragon… oh, I just brought it up, didn’t I?

    Don’t worry… you’ll never hear a giant sucking sound from any car I own.

  • Astro S

    This may not be the place, and if it’s not I apologize.

    I’m interested in talking to and discussing Alta vs. JCW with the other R56 owners that have made comments on this string. I’m not sure if you have a place for that here Gabe or should we take this to NAM.

    Again I apologize if this is inappropriate.

  • greg

    Jon E. That is an excellent color combo (AB/RWLL). I came this close to ordering that myself with custom RR sport stripes but opted for the punch leather/rooster red color line w/rr sport stripes on the AB. Went for “sporty” vs “classy”. I say go for it!

    Don’t forget int. chrome!

  • Evan

    Great review. It’s nice to know the upgrade is ~$2500 installed. The price of a few options one could forgo. I personally think a Clubman S with the JCW package will be great. Make-up for the extra ~170lbs.

    I am interested to see Gabe’s comment on the torque going down to the road smoothly. I noticed on just the stock R56 S that this was a problem. FWD is hard to work out when you get into ~200hp, especially in a smaller, lighter car like the MINI.

  • nuvolari

    I was kind of hoping they might redesign the JCW badge. Not pretty.

  • Devon K

    Wow – $40K US for a fully Works-kitted MINI (if the price posted earlier in this thread is correct). Got to wonder about the value proposition here, with BMW’s RWD 135i coupe with its incredible 300hp/300lbs-ft twin turbo and standard M suspension kit coming in early next year at an estimated $35K… I can’t wait to do a comparative test drive, but I’d be VERY surprised if any but the MINI-obsessed would find the Works MINI worth a $5K premium over the Bimmer.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Devon – your math is a bit off. A JCW MCS can be had with suspension and engine kits for about 26k. The 40k mentioned is a readers car with all the various options.

    and as an fyi – my pre-JCW MINI ran rings around every generation of M3 at a recent track day. Of course i’ll still be 1st in line for a 135i test drive ;)

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  • emtrey

    Gabe—saw your car at KNAUZ today… Looks great. Sounded much better than stock(inside, anyway)

    Anymore commentary on everyday driving/passing now that you have more seat time w/ JCW.

    I am more concerned with mid range grunt than 0-60. Have another car for that stuff. This is my daily driver and it does seem to flatten out above 5000 rpm.

  • rattmobbins

    Had a chance to check out a JCW at my dealer today, and I wasn’t all that impressed.

    I expected to be able to tell a noticeable difference in power and sound, and I just couldn’t.

    Seems like a lot of money for something that doesn’t feel or sound much different than stock. :(

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  • Motoring Advisor

    Got my JCW installed this week. It’s incredible!!! The torque is insane and it is always present. This MINI is WAY quicker than my 2005 R53 with the DINAN equivilant. WAY quicker!

    I LOVE IT!

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  • Plaz
    I removed the “Cooper S” logo on the back and put this on myself. I got the idea from the press pics of the JCW Challenge Race car. Personally I’ve always loathed the “S” logo on the back of my car and this was a great way to (A) get rid of it and (B) make the look a little cleaner. I love how there’s no reference to “Cooper S” anywhere on the car now. It’s simply John Cooper Works. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I like that look a lot… what did you use to reaffix the badge on the other side? Something special, or just some regular old double-sided tape?

  • Farfel

    Damn, I love this car! It’s like a 200HP go-kart. JCW 4Ever!

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  • mike

    Is there a comparison of the R56 MCS with the JCW Stage 1 kit and the Factory R56 JCW coming?

  • jake

    I absolutely love my regular “S”. Worth every penny. Maybe I’m getting old, but looking at the JCW’s stickers on the lot, turns me off. To pay on an average 10+ more thousand? For what? Quote: “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.”

    At that price point, darn near pocket change away from $40 grand, I would just as soon get a Series 1 BMW, which I consider, and many reviewers, the best iconic car to come from BMW in a while.

    The JCW should have something totally unique to itself. Not simple parts that can be bought for 1\2 the price at an auto parts supply store, a software upgrade, and skirts that are readily available to anyone in the accessory column. You can almost do it all yourself for a lot less.

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  • Rixter

    Gabe,

    First of all, beautiful black JCW you have there and a great review to boot!!!

    I’m interested in increasing the horsepower for my ’08 MCS. Its strictly for street driving. I can relate to your comments about needing the extra umph when in 4th gear.

    I’m not able to install the JCW kit all at once, due to finances. I would like to start with the CAI. Is the CAI an easy DIY mod (for a completely non-mechanical type like me)? It looks like just a bolt on.

    If I don’t get around to doing a new exhaust for a couple of years, is simply starting with the CAI going to cause me any problems?

    Thanks for your help.

  • Jimbo

    Love this write up. And your car Gabe. What kind of difference in performance could be expected with the exhaust manifold. I noticed too the the Tuning kit here in the states omits that part. Why?

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  • Matthew Rapaport

    Read article on JCW tuning kit with great interest. I knew I wanted it and went ahead with it — I have a 2009 clubman. It does feel good that little bit of extra power, but with respect to its impact on gas mileage I have to say I was taken by surprise. I was getting about 30mpg on average (I drive at 80+ when I can on the highway) and that’s now dropped to something under 27, more than 10%! Anyone else have any experience with this?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1232156929 Mike Roberts

    I see a significant drop in MPG when I drive 80+. Keep it to mid 70s and you’ll get your MPG back.

  • Matthew Rapaport

    Thanks Mike, that was quick. But hell, I could cruise at 75 in my old Subaru! :-)

    Now having a few days of play with the new JCW upgrade I am hearing a rattle under the floor of the car when I go over bumps at low to medium speed (can’t hear it on the highway) that wasn’t there before. Maybe just a loose screw on the exhaust system or something. I’ll take it into the dealer and let them have a look. I’ve done a few instrumentation upgrades with them (MINI in Mountain View CA), and they never seem to get it exactly right the first time. I always end up going back to tweak something. They are polite and do the correction fast and well, but would be nice if I didn’t have to do that (sigh).

    Otherwise, I love the kit. Now must consider the suspension upgrade :-)!! Hey if I don’t throw money at this car, my divorce would have been all in vain!! :-)

    quine@sonic.net

  • Matthew Rapaport

    An update… It isn’t a rattle, it’s a pop… The car is back-firing. Not all the time. Mostly at lower speeds in lower gears, and especially when down-shifting. From the inside it sounds like a screw loose somewhere, but from the outside it is distinctly a pop. I’m taking it in today. I hope it’s an easy tweak!

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    You can buy cheap Fitflop Gogh clogs on sale online with as much as 30% off selected sizes. All the colours and types including the ever popular chocolate and brown ones. These are some of the most popular types of footwear that Fitflop do and you wont be surprised to know have been selling like hot cakes all over the world.

    Discount Fiflop Gogh Clogs really are some of the most comfortable footwear you could ever own. If you spend a large part of your day on your feet or walking then you will often know your feet, legs and sometimes even your back can ache at the end of the day. This is normally because the footwear you are wearing isn’t giving you sufficient support. Try out some clogs and you will be pleasantly surprised with the improvement that you feel.

    The unique selling point of the profession design FitFlop Gogh Clogs are that they can aid you in getting fit. Just walking in these will help you get fit due to the specialised mid sole that will challenge your feet and tone them with every step. The personality design of Fitflop Gogh clogs even feature faux sheepskin to add to the comfort.

    Sounds good but what do customers think?

    Well this has been one of the highest rated and best selling clogs online at sites such as Amazon. The customer feedback has also been terrific.Many of people have commented that these really are the most comfortable shoes you will ever wear. We have heard from people who have to work retail jobs which require them to be on their feet all day and they say these are like a blessing to them. If you have to stand all day and constantly end the day with aching feet then these will get rid of that problem. There are some that even said the shoes really helped with the problems they had in their lower back.

    Some people even bought these just for the cool look. These can be a great casual shoe to wear if going out shopping or to meet friends for coffee.The shoes appear to be really durable too with many people saying they got at least a few years wear out of them before having to buy a new pair. So at such an affordable price these seem well worth it. These really will make both your work and social life much better!

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JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
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1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
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