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Ask MF: How Livable is the R56 JCW?

This next edition of Ask MotoringFile comes from Chris:

I’m considering r56 s with the JCW engine upgrade. Would like to know about ride/comfort? I don’t plan to track the car and it will be  an everyday driver (combination of local roads/interstate). How does it compare to WRX/VW GTI ?? Not looking for “cush” ride but also don’t want a ride that is track hard and requires dodging every pothole or pavement irregularity I see.

By June of this year there will be two ways to get the JCW treatment under your bonnet. The current option is the dealer installed JCW Engine Tuning Kit. We won’t go into all the details here (you can read a review and see details here) but suffice to say the kit adds power and torque along with improved power delivery. It’s priced just over $2000. However the upgrades are to the engine only and thus you can get any of the three available suspensions depending on your ride preference. The standard being more comfort based, the sport being… well sporty and the JCW suspension being meant for spirited and track driving.

The upcoming factory JCW kit will have more power 210bhp + and a host of other upgrades but will not include the the JCW suspension. The factory JCW car will go on sale in June of this year.

Now let’s talk suspension choices. The sport suspension compares favorably to the GTI and the JCW set-up literally would run rings around it. None of us at MF has driven the new WRX yet so we can’t comment. Based on your last sentence we would recommend the sport suspension and not something aggressive at the JCW suspension.

Related:

[ MF Review: Dealer Installed JCW Engine Kit ] MotoringFile

[ MF Exclusive: Factory JCW MINI Revealed ] MotoringFile

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Written By: MF Staff

  • nuvolari

    I’ve driven an R56 with Sport suspension and 08 WRX and the Subie was far more plush. Too much so, imo.

  • http://inomis.com iNomis

    To me my stock R56 MCS rides a bit more harsh than the GTI. At least over bad pavement. Ride is the one area the extra weight helps.

    Smaller wheels and higher profile tires, with any suspension, may give you a bit more cushion and confidence to not have to miss all the bumps.

  • Mark Smith

    The GTi has a longer wheelbase than a MINI does. Hence you feel the road more. Weight does not affect how a car handles bumps. It’s many things. The wheelbase is one of the major factors. The Cooper S with JCW Tuning Kit and Factory Sport Suspension is comfy and responsive. This is how my car is configured. My ultimate test is driving in NYC and it does just fine. Even over potholes but do avoid those as much as possble as they are not wheel friendly. Sometimes you just don’t see them in time though unfortunately. The MINI is a more fun machine in my opinion though. I’ve driven both on an autocross type course and the MINI kills it in transitions and sharp cornering. I haven’t driven the WRX though. You may want to consider cost of insurance when considering that car though.

  • http://inomis.com iNomis
    Weight does not affect how a car handles bumps.

    It has everything to do with it. It’s much easier to have a higher ratio of sprung weight with a heavier car like the GTI. The heavier sprung weight tends to remain in smooth comfortable motion while the unsprung suspension follows the road bumps. I think this is even a law…

  • Larkin W.

    I personally love feeling the road. All of the complaints about the R53 being too rough always bothered me as I have always loved the way it feels. Maybe its because I am also proud owner of an Integra Type R which you really feel the road with.

  • dave

    gti is known to be a good, reasonable compromise b/t civility and performance. compared to the r53, it’s not as hardcore a hot hatch, but it’s still pretty good. the new wrx is just simply a disgrace. as far as ride goes, it’s like what a british bmw magazine said about the 135i, if you complain that the ride is too harsh and the car too raw, then you’re too old for it =P

  • Jon

    Think ride quality is a highly personal thing. Depends on the quality of the roads you drive on. The feeling of the car on the road etc etc. Can put a large number of people into the same car and get a wide variety of feedback on the ride quality.

  • Chad

    It’s tough to describe though, no? If your dealer doesn’t have a demo car with the JCW suspension, you’re taking the risk you won’t like it. We can imagine what more HP feels like, and you have the option of going lighter on the pedal. But short of changing your wheels out, which is pricey and time consuming, there’s not much you can do to change the JCW suspension if it’s too much for you.

    So here’s a question… How would stiffer suspension with smaller wheels (wider sidewall tires) compare to the softer suspension with larger wheels?

  • Jon

    Generally I personally would recomend not going after the JCW suspension unless your diving habits are spirited (track days etc). It can always be added later.

  • nuvolari

    Based on my experience in an R56 with “Sport” suspension, I’d guess the JCW option might begin to bring it closer to the feel of the stock R53, but of course will not help the steering feel. FWIW, I adore my R53 with JCW suspension. :)

  • Mark Smith

    iNomis I believe you did not fully read what I posted. I said and I quote “Weight does not affect how a car handles bumps. It’s many things.” I may have worded this statement wrong. Weight is just one of the factors that affects a vehciles ride and not the main one which is the point I was trying to convey. The wheelbase also as I mentioned affects ride quality and is equal if not a bigger factor than weight. With added whellbase the vehicle can absorb bumps better since the vehicle would also be longer and have more body to be able to soak up the bumps so to speak. I am not disagreeing but merely clarifying the fact that weight is only one factor that affects ride. The GTio also has a longer wheelbase. There are many otherfactor’s besides these two that can also affect ride quality.

  • greg

    Now for you the R56 is the best of both worlds. Great sporty performance and BMW like comfort. The leather seat in the R56 are extremely comfortable and even with the JCW suspension the R56 feels like a Lexus compared to the R53. Actually the JCW suspension doesn’t make for a rougher ride. It is just more responsive when you wish to drive “sporty”.

    If you want an R56 JCW similar to Gabes…. BUY MINE!!!

  • Revhed

    There is another important factor that affects the ride of the MINI – runflats. Smooth surfaces are fine but the stiff sidewalls make the ride busier on rough surfaces than a GTI.

  • Brendan

    Since my wife has a GTI, and I have a sport suspension R56 I think I have a good viewpoint to answer this one. The GTI is MUCH MUCH more compliant than the mini. If you want a similar feel to the GTI I’d personally say get the mini with the stock suspension, not sport. I have the sport and 17″ it is way more harsh than my wife’s GTI with 17″ s

    Hope that helps! The best way to decide is to make sure you drive all of them. It’s fun, and you’ll know which one to choose.

  • Ryan

    How do you know if your Cooper S comes with a standard suspension or the “Sport” suspension? I know there’s the JCW, but I was not aware that there’s the “Sport” AND a standard? I thought all Cooper S’ have sport suspension built in? I have a 2007 model.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Based on my experience in an R56 with “Sport” suspension, I’d guess the JCW option might begin to bring it closer to the feel of the stock R53

    Not from my drives. The Sport suspension feels as aggressive as the R53 SS+ but without the harshness. The JCW suspension is essentially identical to the R53′s JCW suspension.

    but of course will not help the steering feel.

    Honestly the difference is beginning to get blown way out of proportion. It really isn’t even noticeable to most people. While the feel isn’t the same, it’s not the biggest difference between the two cars.

  • msh441
    Based on my experience in an R56 with “Sport” suspension, I’d guess the JCW option might begin to bring it closer to the feel of the stock R53, but of course will not help the steering feel.

    If your hot to have an R56 feel like an R53… get some lowering springs. Not only does it get much of that stout MINI look back… but the ride tightens up and that mid-corner bump steer goes away. Helps with steering feel too, as the wheels track and hold a line better.

    The biggest improvement in steering feel I’ve found to date (in addition to lowering) has been wheels & tires. I’m in an R55 service loaner with SS+ and 16″ all season runflats. It in no way compares to 17″ wheels on real rubber. 18′s are probably even better. The next step might be Alta’s PSRS adding some caster, anti-lift and feel from a solid bushing up front.

    Bottom line: Like all MINIs to date, there’s not much in the R56 that can’t be tailered, tweaked, or tuned to give whatever visual or performance result you desire.

  • nuvolari
    Honestly this [steering feel] is difference is beginning to get blown way out of proportion. The difference really isn’t even noticeable to most people. While it’s there it certainly isn’t the biggest difference between the two cars.

    Maybe not the biggest difference, but for me it was the biggest disappointment in the R56 as compared to the R53.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Maybe not the biggest difference, but for me it was the biggest disappointment in the R56 as compared to the R53.

    Me too. It’s not a huge difference but it is there.

  • edijak

    Started (3/30/07) with a R56:MCS w/ sport suspension. Later added JCW Aero Kit and JCW Tuning Kit. Cosmetics look great and the Tuning Kit has added much punch and deeper growl. Sounds like you only need the Tuning Kit unless you want to spend big bucks on looks only. The ride was changed significantly since replacing the OEM 17″ Crown Spoke Wheels/Conti RunFlats with OZ Ultraleggera/Bridgestone Performance Tires. If you want a smmother ride get rid of the run flats, buy some slime and take advantage of Mini’s Road Side Assistance. If you want the punch get the Tuning Kit and if you want the looks add an Aero Kit. Test drove the GTI and the MCS is hands down the better handling. Nephew as an ’07WRX and the ride is much too soft.

  • rkw

    Gabe, I wonder if you could help clarify a question that comes up occasionally on the forums. Exactly what components are changed with the sports suspension option? Some contend that it updates sway bars, springs, and shocks. However, the MINIUSA website and configurator mentions only stiffer sway bars, and someone who asked his dealer said they could not find anything that indicates other than sway bars are involved.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gabe, I wonder if you could help clarify a question that comes up occasionally on the forums. Exactly what components are changed with the sports suspension option? Some contend that it updates sway bars, springs, and shocks. However, the MINIUSA website and configurator mentions only stiffer sway bars, and someone who asked his dealer said they could not find anything that indicates other than sway bars are involved.

    The Sport suspension has upgraded sway bars, springs, and shocks.

  • greg

    Gotta disagree with you Gabe. The difference in steering makes ALL the difference IMO. Even with JCW suspension the R56 is dramatically different in steering feel. “Softer” is what comes to mind. Again, for many people this is a plus, and overall I think the R56 is a vastly improved “car”.

    But I wanted my go cart back!

  • r56mini

    Who invented runflats?? Let’s sue her.


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