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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

  • http://www.outmotoring.com Aaron Cornaby

    Anyone notice the JCW Carbon Fiber rear diffuser on both the Red and Blue cars? It is in the JCW catalog but I can’t seem to find it in any of the USA’s dealer parts systems otherwise I would have it OutMotoring.com in a heartbeat.

    Besides that the JCW kit seems to be a knockout set of upgrades…it’s very tempting to just get this kit.

  • Bor

    Gabe, great review as usual !

    2 questions please:

    1. what’s the impact on mpg ?

    2. I just ordered an R56 – can/should I ask for VPC to install the kit or is it limited to dealer installation ?

    Thanks

  • greg

    I’m sick of all this attention to the JCW tuning kit. More Clubman articles please!

  • greg

    FINALLY! Been dying to read your opinion Gabe. Glad to hear you agree with the other owner’s review that this is even faster than the vaunted GP for only 2K.

    Now I await mine(Oct delivery) with even more anticipation. I got the JCW suspension and the R105 JCW wheels too hitting the dreaded $40k mark.

    This is the best picture of your car yet. May have to reconsider the body kit. Thanks Gabe!

  • Darren

    Another great set of photos…

    Gabe, have you lost the right hand part of the front splitter?

    Would also be interested to know about the MPG impact?

    And will the rear diffuser and rear wing from the Challenge car will be made available to purchase?

    Thanks

  • Jimskater

    Nice, impartial review.

    The driver’s side splitter does seem to be missing the under-mounted spoiler tab. Or is that an optical delusion? Hopefully it’s a cheapish part. If it’s like the GP splitter, it’s a rubber tab that simply screws in.

  • Victor

    Does it pull hard to red line or does it feel like it falls off near the end?

  • Paul V.

    When can we expect the re-designed JCW badges to show up?

  • curv872

    What does the “more aggressive air intake” look like?

  • http://www.minisinil.com brian

    “Gabe, have you lost the right hand part of the front splitter?” yea, i would have to agree, lots a little suspect

    “a turbocharger air filter air guide” What is this? pics?

  • http://www.minidomore.com Brent Breon

    Aaron,

    Is this the item you are talking about? Looks like Morristown has it but no part #

    http://www.trademotion.com/partlocator/index.cfm?action=MorePartInfo&PartID=502870&siteid=214217&catalogid=5277

  • gwalsh

    JCW carbon fiber rear cover for JCW aero kit:

    Cooper: 51 12 0 404 944 Cooper S: 51 12 0 404 945

    Retail price: $700.00

  • http://www.minidomore.com Brent Breon

    You can buy the parts at Morristown for $1680. I assume the dealer is still needed to install the software for the new computer. Wonder what that costs. Really, an intake and exhaust wouldn’t be that tough to install.

    http://www.trademotion.com/partlocator/index.cfm?action=MorePartInfo&PartID=503755&siteid=214217&catalogid=5277

  • miamijag

    Mmm, you are going for the Darth Vader of MINIs eh? Cool, very cool.

  • greg

    The most prevalent 0-60 time from the various reports I have read is 6.2 for a stock MCS. I recall a report on MF that showed consistent times as low as 5.6. Any guess as to what stage one JCW might do?

    Where will they put the front badge on mine as I have driving lamps ordered?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    what’s the impact on mpg ?

    Technically there is none.

    I just ordered an R56 – can/should I ask for VPC to install the kit or is it limited to dealer installation ?

    At this time it’s only available at the dealer (that I know of). However I could certainly see the VPC being an option in the future.

    FINALLY! Been dying to read your opinion Gabe. Glad to hear you agree with the other owner’s review that this is even faster than the vaunted GP for only 2K.

    To clarify, in some ways it’s faster. In other ways it’s not. In my mind the GP is still the ultimate MINI in terms of performance.

    Gabe, have you lost the right hand part of the front splitter?

    Yes – not sure when and where but the little plastic flap (aka the Deflector Lip part# 51110415352) went bye bye during one of its various meetings with the road.

    And will the rear diffuser and rear wing from the Challenge car will be made available to purchase?

    Doubtful as a standalone part but I’ll be first in line if it is.

    The driver’s side splitter does seem to be missing the under-mounted spoiler tab. Or is that an optical delusion? Hopefully it’s a cheapish part. If it’s like the GP splitter, it’s a rubber tab that simply screws in.

    Yeah it was “threatening” to break-off since days after pick-up. It’s screwed in towards the center of the car and the rest of it is secured in a plastic channel.

    Does it pull hard to red line or does it feel like it falls off near the end?

    It pulls hard all the way through the red-line. Maybe not as much as the GP does but it’s pretty damn close.

    When can we expect the re-designed JCW badges to show up?

    I’d love to know myself. Our sources just said look for a re-brand in 2008.

    What does the “more aggressive air intake” look like?

    intake

    “a turbocharger air filter air guide” What is this? pics?

    It’s a guide that… guide air into the air filter? :) Not sure beyond that.

  • greg

    Anoth nit picky question. On my ’05 JCW they put the back badge on the left as the regular S badging was on the right. Yet on yours there is only the JCW badge on the right. Is this unique to your car or standard?

  • maximusGeek

    Does the dealer remove the COOP S badge and replace it with the JCW badge? I like the look :) Mine is on order.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Another nit picky question. On my ’05 JCW they put the back badge on the left as the regular S badging was on the right. Yet on yours there is only the JCW badge on the right. Is this unique to your car or standard?

    badge

    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. It’s a subtle reminder that the car is something special :)

    badge

    You can see more here.

  • Ellis

    Gabe,

    How did you able to get rid of the “Cooper S”? Did it “hurt” the paint? I like your idea of ahving the look of your car “neat & clean”.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    How did you able to get rid of the “Cooper S”? Did it “hurt” the paint? I like your idea of ahving the look of your car “neat & clean”.

    The best way I know of is fishing line. However dental floss (not tape) will also work. You’re basically cutting through foam and then going back and cleaning up the residue with something like Goo Gone.

  • http://www.dickdavid.com dickdavid

    Good call on the boot badge placement!

  • ravenwood

    Hi Gabe,

    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.

    Great write up – I had been thinking there was too much Clubman recently and the new 2008’s being rolled out currently seemed to be pushed aside. I have an ’08 MCS with Sidewalk and JCW coming my way in a few more weeks – I loved reading this article, thank you !

  • Astro S

    Nice review Gabe. Not sure if this has been covered elsewhere but I assume the exhaust is a cat-back.

    I’m kind of torn, I must admit I’ve been seriously looking at what Alta can do with their full turbo-back exhaust and their CAI. Not sure when the JCW kit will be available here in Vancouver, Canada. They can’t even get me the suspension kit yet. Who knows about the engine kit ?!

    I’ve also got the Astro Black, won’t have the aero kit though I’m going for the “sleeper” look.

  • Mark R

    Gorgeous car Gabe…I have never had an interested in owning a black car (of any sort), but yours is simply stunning.

  • chuck

    Gabe,

    thanks for the review. I was wondering if you were going to do a before and after dyno on your car. The JCW mini site still confuses me when they show the Torque/HP curves for the R56 and JCW Stage 1 R56. The curves they show just don’t make sense so I was hoping you could clear this up for us by showing the curves for your car.

    -chuck

  • greg

    Ravenwood. and I thought I was the only one with Clubman burnout. Nice order on the SDWK JCW. Had a difficult choice between that and the JCW Coupe. My gal has a MCSC so I went R56. Enjoy and dazzle!

  • Mark Smith

    I have this installed and I’ve surprisingly seen a small (1-2 MPG) improvement in fuel economy. I’ve only had it a week and one full tank of fuel so I’ll have to get back to you with more observation.

  • JeffH

    I would like to know what difference it makes in the quarter mile. I saw that Car and Driver magazine rated the stock ’07 MCS at 15.0 @ 95, and 6.2 of 0-60.

  • mataku527

    What did you do for the Side Marker S labels?

  • lavardera

    Now what gets you the badges – does it have to be the engine kit, or will you get the badges with the suspension kit? Or do you have to do the grand slam engine-suspension-body kit to earn them?

  • Zack

    Is the time difference that BMW gives b/n JCW generations b/c of the added torque, or different transmission gearing?

  • Edge

    Great review, Gabe…

    The only curiosity – the review is showing up twice? It has the entire review, then it says “Related:” and “[ MF Reader Review: R56 JCW Engine Kit ] MotoringFile”, then the entire Gabe review is repeated a second time (identical).

    Twice the scrolling to get to the comments!

    Oops?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    What did you do for the Side Marker S labels?

    Nothing yet… but I’ve got a plan.

    Now what gets you the badges – does it have to be the engine kit, or will you get the badges with the suspension kit? Or do you have to do the grand slam engine-suspension-body kit to earn them?

    The engine kit gets you the badges. Personally I think the suspension kit is as deserving but MINI didn’t ask me and I’m sure that doesn’t fit in as well with the JCW marketing.

    The only curiosity – the review is showing up twice? It has the entire review, then it says “Related:” and “[ MF Reader Review: R56 JCW Engine Kit ] MotoringFile”, then the entire Gabe review is repeated a second time (identical).

    I’m not sure I follow you. The “related” review is one done by Alex in Germany who is a frequent MF contributor. Totally different review with different text, photos and comments.

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    Edge, Thanks for writing that – I thought I must be mad since no-one had commented on the echo!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Thanks for writing that – I thought I must be mad since no-one had commented on the echo!

    Oh gotcha – I was just editing something and must have hit the “double” button. All fixed now.. thanks!

  • Zack

    Does anyone know, or does everyone know & I’m being too lazy to go research?

    “Is the time difference that BMW gives b/n JCW generations b/c of the added torque, or different transmission gearing?”

  • lavardera

    Hmm, I think they ought to limit the badges to the grand slam. Make you work for it!

  • Revhed

    Happy about the increased top-end power – It’s one aspect of the standard R56 S that I’m a little dissapointed with

  • Jon

    One thing for basic fact, and something Mini should be aware of.

    With major push of the Clubman notice that once a performance upgrade gets talked about how many replies and interest is made compared to the Clubman. Knowing that Mini is still developing a SUV mini while the Mini community shows time after time that its main interest in our cars is the performance aspect. Enough of a rant.

    Can’t wait until you get onto the track with everything now Gabe, having a little bit of time with the kit how do you think things would have worked out on your recent track time in comparrison?

  • http://www.myr53.com SB

    Nice review and it sounds like it should be worth it to more people now that the price is not as steep as the R53. The only problem. Remove the JCW badge from the boot. I found that it clutters the boot a little with its not so nice design. ;)

  • TomB

    Gabe,

    Is the cost of installation included in the $2100 kit price?

    At the end of your review you commented the new engine kit is almost 1/4 the price of the R53 JCW kit. My Dealer lists the R53 JCW kit for $5825 installed, so more like 1/3 the cost. It’s a minor point, but I plan on getting the JCW for my R53, so I need to look for any angle to feel I’m not getting totally worked over with the cost.

  • Zack

    I love my R53 JCW, but I’d never pay $5800 for the kit. Just shop for used MCS JCW’s going at a good price. I got both of my JCW’s for practically no markup over a regular MCS by shopping & waiting for a good deal. Just a thought.

  • Zack

    I love my ’06 JCW, but I’d never pay $5800 for the kit. Just shop for used MCS JCW’s going at a good price. I got both of my JCW’s for practically no markup over a regular MCS by shopping & waiting for a good deal. Just a thought.

  • rkw
    Hmm, I think they ought to limit the badges to the grand slam. Make you work for it!

    Anybody can buy badges from the parts department. I think they are over $100 each. JCW wheel center cap plaques are a bargain at something like $3 each.

    Gabe, are you going to replace your badges when the new JCW logo comes out?

  • rattmobbins

    Any chance of getting a sound clip of the exhaust? That will be my last deciding factor whether I am going to go with Alta or JCW.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I plan on getting the JCW kit for my R53 so I need to look at any angle so I feel I’m not getting worked over.

    Tom – there are a lot of ways to look at the pricing of the previous JCW kit. I’m rounding to 6k and should have said a 1/3.

    Are you getting worked over by getting the previous kit? Definitely not! You’re getting more power with similar performance figures and you’re car will have one helluva a nasty attitude that the R56 can’t touch :)

    I found that it clutters the boot with it’s not so nice design.

    No argument there. However I can only work with what I have.

    Having a little bit of time with the kit, how do you thnk things would have worked out on your recent track time in comparison?

    To be honest the JCW Suspension was probably more important than the engine kit for my specific track event. While more power would have been appreciated, at the end of the day it didn’t really matter as I reeled them in at the corners anyway :)

  • scott

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

  • Darren
    Is this the item you are talking about? Looks like Morristown has it but no part # http://www.trademotion.com/partlocator/index.cfm?action=MorePartInfo&PartID=502870&siteid=214217&catalogid=5277

    No, this is the JCW diffuser… I meant the Challenge car diffuser, see link:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/8180626@N04/1360907900/in/set-72157601851102887/

  • ravenwood

    Gabe, did you see my post on the air intake? my friends and I have been debating it and we would like your insights. Perhaps you have used both the stock JCW and the highflow already?!?

    Thanks!


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