MotoringFile JCW Review Coming Soon

We’ve heard you. You want to read our review of the 2009 JCW MINI. In fact there hasn’t been a week that has gone by since spring that we haven’t gotten emails asking when we were going to drive the car. The wait is over. Our 2009 JCW press car will arrive tomorrow we’ll be putting it through its paces for an entire week.

While we weren’t able to get any track time booked, we’re going to be doing everything from spirited back-road jaunts to full-fledged road trips to ordinary commuting. As always we’ll give you a look at the car through the eyes of a MINI owner who has driven every single MINI model since the introduction of the car in 2001.

But we’ll also be working on a second piece comparing the new JCW with a fully prepped R56 MCS complete with JCW engine kit, JCW suspension kit and JCW aero-kit. That’s right, even though my MCS is technically sold, it’ll be brought of retirement (of sorts) and will be driven back to back on some of our favorite area roads to give you a full picture of how the two cars compare.

As always if you have any questions you’d like us to keep in mind during out test, let us know in the comment section below.

  • lavardera

    Not to go off topic on you, but since this was a bit of a site news post..

    When could we have an update on the start up sound in the new engine. Last we heard the condition was acknowledged by Mini/BMW and there was supposed to be a bulletin and a software fix for this. I’ve never heard of anything was issued or if a fix was on the street.

  • mini_cindy

    Which suspension will the loaner JCW have?

  • I currently have an 07 MCS with JCW Tuning Kit which I drive everyday. I drove the Factory Car and my MCS JCW back to back yesterday. Here’s my feedback:

    The first thing you notice are the rims and the brakes. They both look great! Next, once you start the car, you hear the exhaust. The exhaust is loud. No two ways about it. But, the gurgle is back. The exhaust was fun for the “test drive” but I just don’t know if I could handle the noise as a daily driver.

    Increased power and torque: definitely nothing to write home about. Compared to my MCS JCW I couldn’t discern the difference. However, I never got the car over 80mph. Around here, you run outta road too quick. Maybe the noticeable differences are on the track when you get toward the top end.

    The DTC: I did feel and realize that the DTC handles the torque much better than my car. Not nearly as much torque steer. It was especially evident when diving into a hard turn and smashing the pedal to wide open throttle. The tires held on to the pavement much better.

    The brakes: Awesome! My favorite part of this car. This car goes from 80 – 0 in about 4 inches. Just be careful, when braking as hard as I did, the rear definitely had a tendency to get a little loose and wanna kick out on me.

    Overall impression: It’s a $4000 premium over my MCS JCW for a Factory Car that is similarly equipped. Which makes this car a great value for what extra you are getting. The brakes and rims alone make up the difference. However, for those of us who don’t wanna spend or can’t afford the extra cash, the JCW Tuning kit is the way to go!

    Can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say about it. Enjoy the car and definitely push it!

  • CiaoBoy

    How about a comparison with the R53 JCW from the factory with its mechanical LSD?

  • Which suspension will the loaner JCW have?

    It has the stock suspension like all MINI press cars do.

    How about a comparison with the R53 JCW from the factory with its mechanical LSD?

    The R56 w/the JCW engine kit has the old school limited slip. And we’ve already done a comparison between the R56 and R53.

  • JP

    Like Luke (great review btw), i have a regular R56 but instead of the JCW tuning kit i just have the very basic of bolt-ons for power and only a rear sway bar. I have driven the factory JCW car not overly hard at all because i don’t want to ruin the break in for someone else.

    To be more specific, i have Alta’s turboback exhaust, boost tubes, turbo inlet hose, intercooler air diverter, rear sway barwith endlinks and short throw shifter, i also have DDMWorks Race intake and Helix13’s BOV. by the end of this week i will have their intercooler as well. besides that i have bone stock suspension (not even sport suspension because i knew i’d mod later…)

    I’d have to agree with Luke that the brakes and wheels on the JCW car are amazing! in terms of power, i actually believe my car is better with just bolt ons (i’d be amazed to know what would happen if you equip a JCW car with the same bolt ons i have..). i’d have to say right away though, the actual onset of power is a lil choppy in comparison to the JCW, which is much smoother most likely due to the ECU programing (which i have yet to do…) i like my own personal exhaust better because you get the deep growl when you’re on it WOT and a great rumble when you’re at idle, the JCW is louder and shows it means business in a more raw way which is probably extremely appealing to some extreme enthusiastic buyers.

    Suspension i don’t think it’d be a fair comparison because bone stock R56 vs a JCW with the JCW suspension… obviously the JCW handles better. neither the JCW i drove or my car has the JCW aero kit so there was nothing to report there (on whether the kit helps at speed or not…) one thing i do have to say after performing an initial beading in for the brakes, the JCW brakes absolutely shame the stock R56 brakes. Bigger Badder Better without being over the top. however, i personally, having a history of tuning, would have to say that with the same amount of money you pay for with the JCW brakes, you could easily fit better fluid, pads, lines, and rotors all around and get the same performance… maybe even a lil better. obviously the trade off is the lack of OEM bling that the JCW brakes give you. but obviously, your car, your way. if the JCW brakes weigh less i may end up going that round rather than maxing out stock calipers.

    I have the LSD from the factory. compared to the DTC, i’d actually say the DTC does have an advantage, not much in terms of feel, but i’m sure that at the track if it came to win all or nothing, i’d trust the DTC for as long as i can (till electronics fail and then i’d prefer mechanics to take over ;P ) which is one of the big issues i have with the new Nissan GT-R but that’s for a completely different forum and time.

    Basically in my own personal opinion, the JCW is a fantastic car right out of the box. but from what i’ve seen and felt, for the same money saved you can do just as well if not better yourself by getting a regular R56 and modding it. if you really want the sticker JCW then go for the JCW car, and the nice part, if you really like the quirks of both, you can mix and match. get JCW without JCW suspension and do your own set-up, or take a modded R56 MCS and throw the JCW brakes on there… ergo the amazing part of minis!!!!! 😀

    Hope this second review helped some people since it added in a separate kind of car in the mix.

  • Fabrice

    If you have time could you test the actual real life 0-100 KM/h (or 0-62 mph) sprint. All the other reviews i’ve read simply state the BMW claimed 6.5 secs but I believe it would be quicker.

  • greg

    Best thread in months! Thanks to everyone for truely interesting comments. As a former stage one JCW owner, current R52 JCW owner, and recent test driver of two factory JCWs, I find the comparisons facinating.

    All three have their merits as do modded stock Ss. Looking forward to Gabe’s review!

  • JonPD

    Really look forward to this review Gabe.

    Currently I don’t think the small gain in performance for the JCW Mini really works out well when you have the dealer kit R56 installed. A pretty hefty premium for the JCW Mini.

    Guess my one question is how the suspension will work out, I have driven several R56’s so for with the stock suspension. So far I would say its decent though seriously lacking for higher performance driving. It will be interesting to see your feedback on the difference between the JCW suspension on your prior car and the stock suspension on the JCW.

  • Bob Hill

    Gabe – I’m really looking forward to the review and I’d be interested in your feedback on the electronic traction programming. Unless there were specific technical reasons, I wonder why Mini elected to make DTC and the E-Diff functions mutually exclusive. It’s great to have a program setting for the track, but driving aggressively on wet roads for example with sport mode on and just DTC results in a lot of wheel spin. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’d like the option of having the dynamic stability functions still present with the added traction capabilities of the electronic differential lock.

    That said, they got a lot of things right on this model… I love the exhaust note (loud, with great “special effects” but not as boomy as the Stage 1 JCW to my ears), beautifully matched power band/gear ratios and those excellent brakes. To me it has a balance to it that feels edgy, but just right.

  • Leigh

    Since the JCW comes with the standard MCS suspension, is the optional JCW suspension a must or is the optional sport suspension also a good choice?

  • Eliot R.

    I’m surprised to hear a couple of people raving about the JCW brakes. The thing that I have been most surprised about in the magazine reviews is that the upgraded brakes are rarely or very briefly and incompletely discussed. I like the standard MCS brakes but there is definite room for improvement. I’m very, very curious to know exactly what the upgraded JCW brakes are giving you in terms of performance differences (not specs). It would be an expensive upgrade but I have no shame in spending a lot on brakes, but only if they genuinely improve the braking performance beyond simply fade.

  • JonPD

    The stock suspension is good for most of what Mini drivers do. Though for a “performance” model which one might presume will be pushed harder I think it leaves a lot lacking personally. The Sport suspension is s decent upgrade though I still personally believe that JCW suspension is the one that belongs on a performance Mini. Heck even the JCW suspension on my GP still lacks somewhat though light years ahead of the stock R53 suspension. By the seat of my pants can say this is still the feeling between the stock and JCW suspension in the R56/R55 family.

  • Eliot R~

    The difference between the MCS brakes and the JCW brakes are night and day. This car stopped in a much shorter distance than my car. They are confidence inspiring and allow you to push the car much harder. When I got back into my car, I was cringing at how poor the brakes are!

    I’ve driven a lot of cars and the R56 MCS brakes are by far some of the worst I ever felt. Soft and not very powerful. I know it’s not just my car because I’ve driven 7 different MCS cars and 3 different Clubman S cars.

    While the JCW brakes might not be as great as other “big brake” options (I don’t know I’m speculating) they are a huge improvement over the standard MCS brakes.


  • Mike J

    I just brought one!

    I went to the dealer to turn in my 2005 Cooper S lease with the intention of getting another S. Well let me tell you, one test drive, and I was SOLD. I can’t speak to people that have already had the upgrade kit since I never drove one. But what a difference from my old car. It handles better, its crazy fast, and sounds amazing! I decided to buy this one cause I can’t imagine having to turn it in.

    Outside of performance, I’m also pleased with the interior. Its roomier, and the seats are much more comfortable. Its just flat out cool.

    I know this not your typical techie review with specs n all. But rather a review from someone who is more than pleased with his purchase!

  • Mike

    I’ve had my new JCW for about a month now and I enjoy it very much. I previously had a 2005 Cooper S, which is also a great car. In comparison, the JCW is much quicker as expected with 40 more horsepower. It handles better, but this is probably due to a large extent to the sport suspension on the JCW vs the standard Cooper S. The JCW also brakes significantly better, as it should. With the JCW aero kit, it looks just great. Importantly for me since the JCW is my daily driver, it gets better gas mileage (typically 27 to 28 vs. under 25 in the city), the ride quality is vastly superior, and it is quieter in terms of interior rattles, squeaks, and rumbles. The exhaust sounds really good. It cost a lot more than the old Cooper S, but for me personally it is just a HUGE improvement and worth the extra money. It is my 2005 Cooper S refined to another level in every measurable way, without losing the spirit of the old car.

  • Dylan

    My question to Gabe: if you were buying your MINI over again with your own money, would go down the factory JCW path or go for another R56 Cooper S and pocket the difference. I think we all know the JCW will be the better car, but when it’s your own money, you ask yourself just how much better it really is. Thanks.

  • mike

    How about a comparison of the JCW and the MCS with JCW Stage 1 kit?

  • hector M.

    Gabe My question to you is about MPG between the kit car and the factory car. Thanks.

  • How about a comparison of the JCW and the MCS with JCW Stage 1 kit?

    Mike – read the 3rd paragraph.

  • JP

    just to add to Luke’s comment about the brakes, The difference between the MCS brakes and the JCW brakes SERIOUSLY is night and day. This car stopped in a much shorter distance They are confidence inspiring and allow you to push the car much harder, not to mention extremely easy to modulate and the feel of the brakes are amazing! like Luke,when I got back into my car, I was almost ready to cry when my foot alone was comparing the two brakes’ performances. not that the stock MCS brakes are terrible (especially considering i used to drive a volvo.. dies).

    I do have to say, i’ve driven the Helix13 Shop car (R56 that is) and they have the stoptech BBK on their car. just from a personal view… they squeak a lil bit under soft braking… probably cuz they were relatively new, but still if that persisted it could be a small problem for most people… i rather enjoy the JCW kit a lot more tho in all honesty. i mean come on… it’s BREMBO! 😛 just taking the name into account is a lot… mini did a great job providing an upgrade for the stock brakes… and considering the stock R56 brakes are last years JCW’s (R53 that is)… just wow! hahaha it’s amazing all around!

  • greg

    Anybody know if the factory JCW brakes are available a la carte? I have the “old” JCW brakes on my factory JCW cabrio which I know are the same as stock R56 brakes (are they really bad? hope not). Will they fit on an R52?

  • Yes – if they aren’t currently in the parts system they will be shortly. Will they fit on an R52? I believe you’ll need new R56 brake lines and larger wheels so the calipers fit. Otherwise I would guess they might work.

  • greg

    Larger wheels? I have 17’s, same size as JCW.

  • cct1

    It’ll depend on which 17’s you have–not all will fit. It’s not just diameter, it’s offset and distance from the spokes to the calipers that’s important too (For example, I have 15 inch rims that fit just fine over my BBK on my R53, but had to get rid of a set of 17 rims that didn’t that didn’t even come close).

  • mike

    Gabe wrote:

    Mike – read the 3rd paragraph.

    I’m a designer. I CAAAANN’T REAAAAD!

  • greg

    R91s (cabrio sport package). Anyone take a guess if they would work?

  • Mark DeRosa

    I am looking forward to this review. I have contemplated myself many times what the advantages would be to have a JCW with Stock suspension Vs a JCW Tuning kit and Suspension Cooper S. I suspect the Stage 1 car with suspension, mechanical LSD, and tuning kit might just be the perfectly balanced Mini that is the perfect compromise of power and balance

  • Greg M

    I bought (leased) my first MINI in Aug. ’08, an ’09 JCW Hdtp. My first impression when I test drove an S, was this is fun (much like my vintage ’71 Porsche 911T). Also, I am a big guy (wide, not tall) and I can fit in it very comfortably. So, why did I get the JCW, well, as an older guy who wanted a GTO in high school (in the 60’s) — I figured the JCW might satisfy that desire. And, in a way it has. My first impression — it is fast; a bit too fast for my skills; but I am working on them. My second impression — it feels very solid for such a small car. My third impression — I have got to put BREMBO brakes on my other cars, if it is possible. And, my fourth impression, now I want a ragtop JCW too. Unfortunately, I don’t have any first hand knowledge about the differences in a Cooper, or an S. But, I leased, instead of buy, as a cautionary way to evaluate. My conclusion, MINI’s are fun, no matter which one you have. Gotta, Wanna, Hafta, Getta MINI (a quote from a Southern restaurant chain.) If you aren’t happy with what you have, trade, they are holding their value incredibly well.