Motive Pits the JCW Against… Everything

Ok we’re being dramatic. But really Motive seemed to try throw down the gauntlet against the new JCW. The results? We don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s a great read for MINI fans. Here’s an excerpt:

The key to the Mini’s lively personality is its ability to do more with less. The retuned Cooper S 1.6-liter under the hood makes an extra 36 hp and 15 lb-ft of torque, but at 208 and 192, respectively, those are easily the lowest figures among these cars. Yet look at the track results, and you’ll see that the Mini hit the highest top speed and recorded the second-fastest lap of the day. Much of that is due to the JCW’s huge weight advantage, but it’s also the confident brakes that don’t mind being squeezed hard and late. Credit also the ContiSportContact3 SSRs — tires similar to those on the Cobalt, only slightly smaller (205/45R17) — and the sharp chassis, both of which allow elevated speeds in corners. The steering is the most direct of the group and the throttle responds quickly when the “Sport” button is triggered. The Mini provides constant and direct feedback through all of its controls and the free-flowing JCW exhaust spits and burbles and guffaws to further heighten the sensory experience. Said one of our drivers, an active racer of his first-gen Cooper S, “This is everything I want my Mini to be.”

You can read more below. And stay tuned in the coming weeks for our own review of the same car.

+ Turbo Toy Boxes 2 / Motive Magazine

  • The JCW Mini is quite a automobile but you got to hand it to the “bowtie boys”. The Cobalt SS clicks off 13.9 1/4 mile times, tops out at 160, fastest around the ring for a front driver, gets 30mpg on the highway, uses regular unleaded and with $1,500 cash back from GM is over 7,000 dollars cheaper than the Cooper. Plus you get things like bluetooth, cruise control, and an alarm without paying extra. I have a little girl and those extra two doors make the notion of getting her in that car seat that much easier. I know the Chevy isn’t the prettiest especially when viewed from the rear but I’ll take mine in Victory Red.

  • Mark
    I know the Chevy isn’t the prettiest especially when viewed from the rear but I’ll take mine in Victory Red.

    Yea, but you’re still driving a Chevy in the end.

  • Jon


  • MikeJCW

    I think I would much rather do 160 in a MINI than a Cobalt…….it may not stay together at that speed LOL. Got to hand it to GM for building this car, however. If Bob Lutz can’t instill some magic, then I don’t think anyone can.

    The Clubman version of the new JCW, which I am taking delivery of this December, offers more space for small families and others who need more room

  • Sean

    Great read.

    I gotta give Chevy credit on this one.

    Now, if only you could fix UGLY!

  • rkw

    They praised the runflats! And they loved the suspension (no mention of upgrades — it was quite possibly the base suspension).

  • greg

    Of course it was the base suspension. Why would Mini loan out something that would REALLY blow some minds (and sell more cars).

    A GM? I wouldn’t feel safe going 160 in a Vette.

    The guy who wrote this said “spot on”. ARRG!

  • Matt Train

    Make fun of the Cobalt SS at your peril. It is one HELL of a car. I drove the new TC and I have quite a bit of background with various MCSs. Now I haven’t driven the new JCW, butI know the guys at Motive, and they were RAVING about the Cobalt SS.

    I think when you factor cost into the equation, the CObalt SS stands on its own two feet…no ifs, no ands, no buts.

    That said…hell yes, I want a JCW….

  • Matt Train

    And yes, it was a lightly optioned, base suspension car.

  • Uberandreman

    Taking into account resale value I think the JCW might be a better buy. Personally Resale value is VERY important to me as I like to switch cars decently frequently (2-3 years).

  • kfmuller

    Thanks Uberandreman for reminding folks about resale. I can assure you that the minute you drive the Cobalt off the lot, it’s already lost 30% of it’s price – boy, there’s some good American value for you.

    The day MINI has to resort to giving cash back is the day I quit buying them.

  • Dr Obnxs

    Pretty good read! Thanks for sharing…


  • rs

    Have you guys ever owned a Chevy econobox? I have, What junk. I don’t care if they slap a 350ci motor in there. It’s still junk. For years, I’ve wondered what the hype was about owning a BMW or European car. I always bought American.

    I would have never believed it but the design and the build is apparent and distinct between American and European cars. After owning my JCW for 3 months now, I’ll never buy another American car again and especially the Cavalier/cobalt. Keep it. I’ll take the more expensive and slower JCW Cooper all day long! That’s why MINI Cooper is doing okay while Chevy is going bankrupt. Think about it.

  • Matt Train

    Thats pretty sad you say that, rs. You’re missing out on some decent cars. My first new car was a 1998 Cavalier Z24 5 speed – at the time, quite respectable for cheap speed.

    If you buy right, you don’t lose too much money. Plus, the Cobalt SS-TC is in high demand. Look at Neon SRT4 residuals – they are going for double what the base Neon is going for. The CObalt SS-TC will likely be the same.

    I have driven the CObalt SS-TC – in anger – and its a FANTASTIC car that will challenge your every perception of what Chevy is capable of. To dismiss it based on your arguements is simply close-minded, but then again, I am a die hard car enthusiast. I dont care who makes it, it just needs to haul @$$.

    Your JCW better feel like a better car. You paid for it with your wallet. I’d bet you paid more for your JCW than you would have lost in depreciation on the C-SS-TC.

  • greg

    Being a self proclaimed patrion I wish I could defend American mader cars. They all seem to be of poor quality these days. The last one I had was a 2003 Thunderbird. A great looking car but a complete hunk of junk under the hood and inside the car as well. Paid 33k and was lucky to get out after a year.

  • kfmuller

    Hey Matt, I think I hear the Cobalt blog calling and they want you back.

    Seriously, I got something out of the glovebox in my 09 JCW earlier and as I was closing the door I thought to myself how nice the finish is now – the Cobalt can’t touch it. By the way, I’ve sold three MCS’s on Ebay over the last few years and each of them sold for nearly what I paid for them. You can’t do that with many cars out there in any price range.

  • rs

    Matt, yes, its sad. I wish America made cars that can make me “feel” as special as the mini cooper S or JCW for that matter.

    It will take more then the Cobalt or the Volt to change my perception of Chevy. How can you launch the Camaro with gas prices the way it is (or how it will soon be)? I love the new Camaro, but I won’t buy one. They didn’t see this coming? How can you make cars and not be aware of what the fuel to power these cars is doing? They don’t read the news about China and India coming on-line? To me, this is the mentality that gets them into trouble. They’re a reactive, rather then a proactive car company.

    Shove a worked motor into their econobox is their solution for performance. Like I said, they can shove a 350ci in there I won’t buy it. Have fun in your Coblt, I’ll have way more fun in my Mini.

  • lavardera

    Nice to read a review where the Mini is put up against larger cars, and is not loosing points because the back seat is not big enough…

  • Matt Train

    I can’t defend the way they do business. Suffice to say they made their bed. I am only referring to anyone suggesting the Cobalt SS isn’t a good car. TO them I say open your mind and go drive one. No its not as nicely finished as the MINI but for the price you pay, it doesn’t matter – the interior is plenty nice for the price.

    Obviously I am on a MINI site, so I love them a great deal. The truth is I love all cars – my current ca- er, vehicle is something that would make this board curl up in the fetal position and start fuming and ranting at me. Don’t care – I like it too.

    Will I buy a MINI? Not sure….I’d like to.


    Got smoked by a Cobalt, a year back, on here on the 101 in California and I thought to myself “I’m not going to let that ugly thing beat me”. I dropped down into 5th and finally did ketch, I thought, the fellow at around 115mph. He then steadily pulled away, not quickly but steadily. At 125 I just backed off. I will say that during some twisties I got the closest to him but it’s always easier to follow than lead.

    I own a 2004 S, I think a JCW or GP would have been a be a better match up. The car, then and now, are just stupid looking as are most of the other cars in the match up. What have they done to the Subaru WRX, it’s F’n ugly! Not to say the “Euro Pedestrian, kid mutilating tailpiped MINI” is much better looking. ;-]

  • greg

    What’s your other “vehicle” Matt? Don’t worry, the open minded folks here at MF love SUVs. My other car is an SUV and everyone ADORES me!

    RS, Chevy is launching the Camaro with a big ass eight cylinder so it can compete with the Mustang and the Challenger. Why are these cars being manufactuered? Because the market wants it. In the United States we still have a free open market and as long as these things sell (over sticker!) they’ll keep making them.

    They’re not my choice for a toy but I’m not in charge of what other people want. I do think the muscle car trend is great though. I love the Challenger (at least from the outside).

  • Matt Train

    Regarding the Camaro, you really should do some reading. The car is launching both as a traditional V8, and as a technologically sophisticated V6. Early drivers are coming back singing praises of the V6 as a geuinely fun, sporty alternative to the V8. Furthermore, the V6 is the 3.6 DI from the Cadillac CTS.

    Cobalt’s looks are subjective. I like them, you may not. I like (and respect) the car for what it is capable of. Obviously, cost no object, I would prefer the MINI, but you can drive a CObalt SS home for under $23,000. Thats a screaming deal.

    I am a car enthusiast and I like all cars equally. In my dream garage, a JCW Mini would be sitting next to a 430 Scudaria, which would be sitting next to a pristine 1991 Taurus SHO. My previous car, a Ford Focus ZX3, ran with some of the Chicago MINI guys last year on their organized drives, and we all had a blast.

    For the record, my current (and only) vehicle is a 7.4L Chevy Suburban 2500 set up to tow 8,000 lbs. I love it. And yes, I use its capability.

  • Shamus

    Hi, my name is James (he says standing), and I own an SUV too. Well, baby SUV to be precise. Maybe you should call it a baby SUV that eats small children and maniacally laughs at sports cars! My mean little black ’04 Subaru Forester XT (yes, that’s the one with the STI motor) gets about 13-16 city and 25-26 highway, and I love it. Welcome to MotoringFile Matt!

    I’ve now owned Euro, US, and Japanese cars and I can honestly say that while the US is still behind in overall build quality, they’re only slightly behind everyone else. The plastics are better, the gaps smaller, the creaks fewer. My biggest gripe has always been that their design departments are still pushing out 10 year-old designs. The new Cobalt is aa absolutely brilliant car. They put an ungodly amount of mechanical R&D into it, but the designs, while freshened, is still old and staid. The only bright star in their sky are the Opel designs they brought over from Europe and re-badged as Saturns. Combine the Euro design guys with the US engineering team that put this Cobalt together, and you might have something I’d buy.

    For now, I’ll gladly stick to my reliable, European MINI (which just got back from it’s third visit to the dealer in a year for rattles, engine knock, new clutch and loose suspension). Maybe we should all take a step back and look critically at our own cars before we’re so quick to judge everyone else. I still get startled when I see the size of my speedo!

  • greg

    Hold your water there Matty, I didn’t say a word about the Cobalt. You have me mixed up with the other snobs. I did read about the Camaro/six, just didn’t mention it because I don’t care. I’d rather waste some gas and kick some ass!

    A Suburban! That is a serious pisser offer of the green folks, however, I’ve promised not to taunt anyone anymore so I won’t elaborate.

    That’s alot of American iron in your garage. Thumbs up on your loyalty.

  • Like many American car dealers, Mini is resorting to giving cash back in my area of Long Beach, CA of $500 on any ’08 or ’09 model… even if ordering one; this cash could be useful towards replacement of one of the several cracked windshields the mini will experience during its lifespan with that .39 coefficient of drag. Right on with the Mini’s resale value and no brand can touch it. I also like the extra gear in the 6-spd and the rear rotates quite nicely. I still wish the R56 didn’t have a speedometer the size of a 2 buck Gino’s frozen pizza or a center stack designed by legoland. People talk about the Chevy being cheap; try the poor feel of moving the HVAC controls in a R56. Also where’s the boost gauge? There’s one in the A pillar of the SS or for $295 you can get a “reconfigurable performance display” (like a multifuntion display in a turbojet aircraft) which has info like boost, air/fuel ratio, cam phasing and inputs for shift light rpm in various gears. Incorporate the proper Recaros from Europe that meet safety standards in the U.S. and sell the base JCW for 27k and I’ll buy one over a SS. Until then, the SS is one heck of a buy!

  • Matt Train

    I wasn’t pointing you out greg, so no harm no foul there. This board runs a little differently than I am used to, so my thoughts kind of run together.

    I really don’t have an allegience or loyalty. I just like cars, specifically drivers cars and utility vehicles. American, german, japanese, korean, italian….don’t care. As long as its good. It just bothers me that here we have quite possibly the best econosport on the market aside from the MINI, and people are slamming it because its a Chevy. COME ON. Its faster than some “supercars” from 15 years ago in every performance measure you care to mention, gets 30 mpg, servicable at any Chevy dealer, and its under $25,000. If you are a real car buff, thats AUTOMATIC respect.

    ANyway, thats my tirade for the week. I still want a JCW, and may still get one. As for the Suburban, lets just say I make it earn its keep with me every single weekend. Every time I use it, its just awe inspiring what its capable of. Its even surprisingly fuel efficient for what it is. 🙂

  • Amen to that. I was within a whisker of laying down some money this Summer to order a new Cooper “S” until I got the news that I’d be furloughed this January as a pilot.

    Now, it’s nice to see some competition out there for all our hard earned money. To me, as mentioned in the prior post, it’s about the performance of a car, and how it puts a smile on your face at an affordable price… not necessarily about allegiance to just one brand. American cars have come a long way in recent years and just check out J.D. Power and Associates top ten manufactures with the least amout of problems: 4 of them are U.S. car companies. Incidently, Mini is ranked number #25 – just ahead of Chevrolet.

  • C4

    I have not driven the Cobalt SS but I have read about it being a very respectable machine for the price. The first Cobalt SS were supercharged and the 2008s and up are Turbos.

    The problem with the Cobalt is that it still looks too much like a Cavalier in the eyes of buyers. But I do agree that this car is light years away from any Cavalier-derived crap mobile from yesteryear.

    The upcoming Chevy Cruze will replace the Cobalt and it should be interesting to see in what direction GM will take that platform, provided that GM is still in business.

    My sister has a 2008 Impala LS sedan and while it is no MINI or fun to drive, has proven to be a very reliable and solid car. The interior is very nice and a far cry from the fisher price-brittle plastic GM interiors of the past.

    MINI needs to step back and re-visit the MINI pricing. The car is getting too expensive for what it is. I paid $29K for my Clubman S back in Feb when all was said and done. My Clubman is a “bare bones” S model with just automatic transmission, MFSW and metallic paint. Had I added sunroof or any of the packages the price could have easily climbed up to the mid $30Ks. Sorry to say, but once you break the thirty grand barrier, there are lots of nice choices to be had. I would rather pay $35K for a bare bones BMW 128i over a fully loaded MINI.

    If MINI wants to keep and justify the “Premium” feel of its products, they need to dial back the prices and/or add more features as standard equipment to better compete with lower priced offerings in the same segment.

    But when it comes to common market sense, the Germans are one stubborn bunch.

  • rs

    Yeah but Matt, kids love candy, does that mean you’ll give them candy anytime they want. No. Does that mean you’ll make v8s v6s for the masses because they want it. Maybe to a point, but it can’t be your only thing. You have to invest in the future. Bring the future to the present as much as you can. If you do that, people will come around. That’s shaping your company’s future. Not the other way around, the trends shaping the company’s future…

    I think the challenge that the big 3 failed to address is that they failed to make more attractive, viable models, focusing on what consumers want, not what they need.

    As far as a v6, what happens when gas hits 8-9-10 dollars? Do those cars become more popular or less? I’ve read all about the Camaro. I was really excited but I knew that car was not in my future. Why? It was already outdated even before it hit the show rooms. It can’t compete with the price of gas. I have not seen anything “new” come out of Chevy since I was first aware of them, nothing earth shattering or innovative. Just shove a bigger engine in something and people will buy it… not anymore.

  • mtbscott

    I got to test drive a factory JCW a couple weeks ago, and despite having a 2008 MCS that’s only 6 months old, I had to order one. I didn’t beat on it but the almost 20% power gain is noticeable even at 4K rpms. I consider myself a car enthusiast (without listing them all, let’s just say I’ve owned some pretty cool cars over the last 36 years of driving) and I chose the JCW without even considering any of the other cars in that comparison. The fact that it won it is just icing on the cake. Cars are more than just numbers and I know what I like, and 10 minutes in the JCW was enough. I’ll report back after I get it in January and have driven it more.

  • greg

    Not anymore? Er, why are eight cylinder Challengers and Mustang Cobras selling at huge premiums?

  • greg

    Great to hear from JCW owners that are enjoying the car. Nice to read “go fast” threads vs clubman/crossman/mpg threads. I would love to see more comments from these enthusiasts.

    This is a performance/fun car first and foremost right?

  • mr.m8o

    A seemingly livelier discussion here than on Motive’s own forum. 🙂 The Mini JCW’s such a blast… did some seriously spirited driving home today on a road that doesn’t have a single address on it for many miles. What a blast. Poor me, my average MPG dropped from 29.5 to 29.1 … boo hoo!

    Seriously tho. As the other 3 vehicles I own get about 15-16.5mpg, given gas prices and and where it’ll go over the years to come, my loaded JCW will completely pay for itself by 100K miles or thereabouts! 😀

  • pete

    now lets throw in an 08 sti..

    just a couple grand more than the mcs jcw..

    we’ll see who the winner is