Logo



MF Review: JCW Stage I vs Stage II

JCW MCS JCW

Unlike the previous Cooper S, MINI has taken a two prong approach to developing a faster MINI or the R56 MCS. First out of the gates was the JCW “Engine Kit” which debuted in July of 2007. The kit developed 192 bhp and had 201 ft lbs of torque for an MSRP price of $2100 (plus installation). But unlike the previous JCW dealer installed kit, this new kit was easily installed in an hour and relied mostly on software to achieve its performance gains. You could think of it as a kit that unlocks the hidden potential in any stock R56 MCS.

We coined the term “Stage 1″ JCW for this engine kit when it became clear through sources that MINI was creating something even faster and more powerful. In July of 2008 MINI released the “Stage 2″ or factory JCW car to the public. This car was a little closer to the original R53 kit in it’s design. Not only did it feature revised software but also upgraded mechanicals. We won’t go into details here (you can read that in our full review) but needless to say it’s fast.

It’s also pricey. At $29,200 for a stripper, the JCW can get real pricey real fast. And that’s $6,600 more than a stock MCS. For that price you could add a JCW Engine kit, JCW Aero-kit, and most importantly the JCW Suspension. But how would that stack up against the increased power and better brakes on the JCW factory car? We thought we should find out.

In one corner we had a 2009 JCW press car from MINI USA (we’ll call it the “factory JCW for short”). Equipped with only a few options (sunroof, auto climate control, bluetooth/iPod adapter) it came in at $31,800. But where would we find the perfect MINI to pit against the new JCW? As it turns out that was the easy part. The 2007 MCS I recently sold had all the right JCW accessories to give the factory car a run for it’s money. Equipped with the JCW Engine kit, JCW Aero-kit, JCW Suspension and full of all sorts of JCW accessories. So in the other corner we had all the best that JCW had to offer without ordering the JCW from the factory (we’ll call it the “JCW MCS” for short).

Driving the two back to back you’re immediately struck by the sounds made by both cars as compared to the stock MCS. The factory JCW has more growl, pops and burble to go along with it’s deep exhaust note. And while the JCW engine kit lacks the burble, it does have an aggressive growl that almost equals that of the factory car. Almost, but not quite. The factory JCW (under full acceleration) can sound almost violent from a chase vehicle. It’s simply the best exhaust note we had ever heard from a MINI.

But the 2007 JCW MCS has one huge advantage in this test – the JCW Suspension. It allows the car to not only corner more effectively but also it’s helps transfer the 200 ft lbs of torque smoothly to the road out of corners. As anybody who has tracked or driven the stock suspension aggressively can tell you, there is a surprising amount of lift-off over-steer and that is exacerbated by the body-roll. It can be incredibly fun but it’s all the excessive motion from this that ultimately slows down the car in corners and let’s the JCW MCS (with the JCW suspension of course) catch up quickly. There’s really no way around it, the factory JCW is done a huge disservice with the stock suspension.

There’s little question that the factory JCW is the faster of the two in a straight line however. There’s simply more power throughout the range. There’s even better throttle response (something the JCW MCS already has plenty of compared to the stock MCS) which gives the car a more eager feel off the line. And it pulls all the way up to red-line in a fashion that reminded me a lot of the JCW GP.

Stopping all of this are four-pot Brembo brakes on the factory JCW. They live up to the hype in that they are better than the single-pot set-up on the stock MCS or the JCW MCS tested here. However more than one of us who drove the two felt that the stock braking set-up on the JCW MCS actually had more feel than the Brembos on the factory JCW. It could have been the extra 7,000 miles on them but they seems slightly easier to modulate. That said, if we had to choose one it would be the four-pot Brembos.

While there’s a lot to compare and contrast with these two cars (you can see in the photos the striking difference similar money can buy ) we’re sticking to just the mechanical differences here. And if you’re talking about the overall package, it’s the MCS with the dealer installed JCW accessories (specifically the suspension and engine kits) that feels like the special model out of the two. Yes the Factory JCW is the faster car in a straight line. It brakes better, sounds better and is genuinely a unique car considering it’s classified as a separate model all together. But knowing that approximately the same money can buy you so much more of an overall performance package, it’s hard to overlook the stock MCS specced with all the JCW bits. In fact it would be our choice.

JCW Stage I Gallery

[pictobrowser bridger 72157601989050079]

JCW Stage II Gallery

[pictobrowser bridger 72157608479045128]

Written By: Gabe

  • lavardera

    I think you are ignoring the wheel tire set up in the review. The JCW factory is a better value if you forget about a sunroof bah, climate control bah, and spend that towards the suspension. And you really don’t have to get new wheels tires from the get go.

  • bluzeke

    Small point, but it does look like the JCW nose badging ends up in the traditional lower grill position afterall?

  • zm

    my question, as well– how much of the better handling on the JCW MCS was turn in & hold b/c of the tires, vs body roll & whatnot?

    the question is, which is faster on a non-super tight or all straight-away track?

    since you didn’t track them, did you get to ‘chase’ both cars around w/ similar drivers?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I knew there’d be tons of questions about this one. Obviously this is not a perfect controlled test. The cars had different wheels and different tires for starters. But the point of this test wasn’t to level the playing field entirely – you can barely do that to two stock cars fresh from the factory. Instead we wanted to look at what similar money could get you if you went another JCW route.

    Okay, onto the questions…

    my question, as well– how much of the better handling on the JCW MCS was turn in & hold b/c of the tires, vs body roll & whatnot?

    There was a difference in adhesion (due to the tires) and the handling (due to the suspension). The biggest difference (and the one I wrote about above) was due to the suspension.

    since you didn’t track them, did you get to ‘chase’ both cars around w/ similar drivers?

    I have tracked every flavor of factory MINI over the years. The last two were the stock MCS (with stock suspension) and the black car above. So that experience gave me a great baseline to start with comparing the two.

    I think you are ignoring the wheel tire set up in the review. The JCW factory is a better value if you forget about a sunroof bah, climate control bah, and spend that towards the suspension. And you really don’t have to get new wheels tires from the get go.

    I did that purposely. True that helps with cost. But there is some argument on the gain you get from larger tires and wheels so I didn’t want to open that can of worms here.

  • goat

    In my experience, it is the JCW suspension (or equivalent aftermarket) that transforms the R56 and finally gives it the “MINI-like” handling it is famous for, not the tires. Gabe has said as much in numerous previous reviews and owners who have fitted the JCW suspension have found this result consistently.

    It is a shame to see the factory JCW looking overpriced and awkward next to Gabe’s Stage I car. Power is fantastic – the more the better – but suspension needs to be tuned accordingly… we are not shopping Mustangs here! Really, MINI should have included the JCW suspension and aero body kit as part of factory JCW spec.

    Having said that, how about some vids so we can hear the incredible factory JCW exhaust! :)

  • zm

    gotcha.

    agreed–the jcw suspension really makes the car. i’ve been in love w/ it on my previous two r53 jcw’s.

    and, the aero kit is a must (also on my previous two).

    when i jump to an r56, i’ll prob go the gabe route–trade some top end speed for better handling & looks. esp, since i now live in the congested driving hell that is DC. never get a chance to really open it up, save weekend drives out of town.

    what’s the ride quality sacrifice b/n the r56 sport & jcw suspensions?

    i ask b/c the jcw suspension on my r53 actually made the car seem softer on small bumps around town.

  • Pingback: JCW v JCW - Page 2 - MINI2 - MINI Forum

  • Uberandreman

    Hey. So if you don’t mind me asking, with all that said once you let go of your JCW MCS, what are you getting?

    I thought you were thinking of going with the new factory car but now I’m wondering…

  • Pingback: JCW v JCW - Page 2 - MINI2 - MINI Forum

  • Ken Lucas

    “Hey. So if you don’t mind me asking, with all that said once you let go of your JCW MCS, what are you getting?

    I thought you were thinking of going with the new factory car but now I’m wondering… “

    A BMW 135i M sport convertible perhaps?

  • greg

    I had the stage one ’07 with the jcw suspension and jcw 18″ wheels and leather and other doo dads. Spent around $39k. I speced out the factory ’09 for the same or less by skipping leather and wheels. The wheels on the ’09 are great and the pleather is nice too. This comparison included the body kit and suspension. That’s what I’d do if I were pulling the trigger now. Already wondering if we’ll see another HP bump in the 2010 refresh like we saw in ’05. That along with midnight black may get me back into an R56. Sticking with ’08 JCW cabrio for now.

  • JP

    i’m not going to lie… i have an R56 MCS no JCW stuff at all. I currently am sporting only bolt ons, no ECU tune and a maxed out single pot brake setup with similar wheel and tire set-up and a Koni with TSW suspension springs…. i’d actually be curious to see how my car would fair with the factory JCW with all JCW stuff (aero, brakes, suspension, wing… everything)… reason being, currently my car fully loaded with what i wanted (very similar setup to your JCW Stage 1 setup, have, leather seats, heated seats,LSD, multifuction steering wheel) has the exact same amount of money in it as a loaded JCW factory car… (aka approximately $39k…)

    basically id’ love to see, and be willing to offer my car as an example, what a loaded JCW factory car would do against a similarly loaded, exact same priced stock MCS. i think it’d be fun :)

  • Spokane MINI

    I just finished two track days at Sears Point with my JCW Factory Car. There were two other Factory JCW’s there also owned by two instructors from the BMWCCA. There was an R56 Dealer JCW car there too. . Mine was the only one with the JCW Suspension, and seemed to be faster as I passed the dealer car and the factory car couldn’t catch me. The other factory car had too few miles on it to track. The JCW suspension is not enough for my needs, so the guy with the dealer car and sport suspension is considering buying mine when I remove it. Both the instructors also track Porsche’s and said their MINI is more fun! Reminds them of the early M3’s: light and tossable. The JCW Factory Car is great fun and is much faster than my 05 R53.

  • JonPD

    Still have to agree with Gabe, the biggest bang for the buck is the dealer fitted JCW kit between the two. At the end of the day still seems odd to me that on a Mini performance car they gave it a little better straight line speed while doing nothing with the suspension. The stock MCS suspension is fine for most driving on the streets but is completely lacking on the track. The acceleration between the two is funny because there are still a large number of cars that will out accelerate the JCW Mini, and I like most others that have tracked our cars spend most of the time gaining an edge on the more powerful cars in the corner. Which of course the stock suspension really takes away in my opinion.

    Guess my biggest complaint with the JCW Mini is that its message is not clear at all, is this a performance car or a comfortable family car. To each their own still.

  • Jon

    Calling any MINI a family car, (even a Clubman), is a stretch, (pun intended).

  • JonPD

    Lol Jon, actually even my GP is a family car for my household as we only need two seats for the entire family ;)

  • Mark DeRosa

    I have driven a Factory JCW and my JCW Stage 1 Tuning Kit and Suspension Car on canyon runs. My friend who owns the JCW likes to drive my car. I do not have the body kit but believe it or not the approx half inch lower ride height makes my car look better as well. It gives it an M car look with a slightly lower ride height

    My ideal car would be his JCW with the JCW Suspension but My car with all options including 17 inch webspokes and the JCW bits including Stage 1 tuning kit, Suspension, Grill Trim and Carbon Scoop amounted to a installed total of 28300. The same exact option configure I have on my car but in a JCW car would be 33800. 5500 dollars for 16 HP and track brakes sounds steep.

    After driving both cars as well I agree with Gabe completely.

    Anyone who wants a performance factory warranty mini will configure this way

    LSD, 17 inch wheels, Tuning Kit, Suspension Kit, at a cost of 27000. This is the best balanced R56 configuration for performance and Value

  • Mark DeRosa

    Question

    How much do the Factory JCW Wheels Weigh

  • rhawth99

    One thing to keep in mind that everyone seems to forgot is that the factory JCW has beefed up engine and transmission internals that you can’t get on the kit. This alone should add to the value equation as it should improve reliability and longevity.

  • zm

    @ rhawth:

    if you’re ballsy enough to keep a mini past warranty.

    as much as i’d like to, i’d be $K’s in the hole if i had kept any of mine beyond 50K.

  • David

    Question

    How much do the Factory JCW Wheels Weigh?

    Mark – too much to be called “light-alloy”, as they weigh 23 lbs. each. Great looking, but too heavy…

  • r.burns

    If you want to be correctly informed, I suggest you read the official bmw release press : you happened to know that the real JCW owns many many strengthened parts, like gearbox, clutch, pistons, which could be interesting if you go on tracks… And you have to know that in Europe, the Stage 1 kit isn’t mounted anymore because of… broken engines… (under warranty of course) The Stage 1 will soon be back as a factory part, with all the real JCW strengthened parts

    IMO it is not fair to review a real JCW on track, without JCW Suspension, even if the price is higher than a 192hp equipped with these suspension (once again the many strengthened parts justify easily the price)

  • DBM

    Just out of curiosity does the factory JCW require the spark plugs to be changed every time the oil is, or that’s only a requirement for the kit? What’s up with changing them every oil change anyway.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    IMO it is not fair to review a real JCW on track, without JCW Suspension, even if the price is higher than a 192hp equipped with these suspension (once again the many strengthened parts justify easily the price)

    So we can’t compare these two cars because of what you think might happen in 4-5 years with warranty claims? The JCW engine kit doesn’t generate enough heat or power to require the strengthened parts. I’ve had conversations with the actual engineers who created the engine about this.

  • r.burns

    Happily for the owners, there is no need to wait until the warranty is over since there already are problems, and the many sale adverts that proudly announce “motor change under warranty” can’t be ignored by the (also proud) engineers

  • Ken Lucas

    Gabe what’s your next car going to be, any decisions yet?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Happily for the owners, there is no need to wait until the warranty is over since there already are problems, and the many sale adverts that proudly announce “motor change under warranty” can’t be ignored by the (also proud) engineers

    Just to be very clear… we get 2-3 emails a day from people complaining about things from their MINI. We’ve never heard anything related to the JCW Engine Kit nor have we seen anything.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gabe what’s your next car going to be, any decisions yet?

    um…

    Hey. So if you don’t mind me asking, with all that said once you let go of your JCW MCS, what are you getting?

    hmmm….

    I thought you were thinking of going with the new factory car but now I’m wondering…

    uh….

    A BMW 135i M sport convertible perhaps?

    well….

    …I’ll make the announcement soon (hopefully).

  • r.burns

    So bad the links doesn’t work, but the problems still exist

  • greg

    In addition to all the internal “guts” of the factory JCW people are forgeting the wheels (NICE) and the LSD which I dropped $500 on for my ’07.

    Adding it all up, it’s not a bad deal.

    If the suspention was included from the factory at a price of $8k or suspension+aero kit for $9500k would everyone think it was a good deal.

    I’ll be honest though….it needs a bit more HP. Still not THAT fast. A 128i is faster and cheaper.

  • MarkD

    128i is not faster and cheaper. A good pass in a JCW Factory Car should be 14.3 @ 98 MPH based on my JCW stage 1 running 14.5 @ 96.0. The JCW will run circles around a 128i on a twisty or track. With comparable equiptment they are about the same price. With that said I would still recommend a stage 1 Cooper S with suspension at 26000 to 27000 comparably equipped.

  • greg

    Factory JCW 0-60 6.5 seconds. 128i 0-60 6.1 seconds. Spec a JCW with similar options that are standard on a BMW it will cost MORE. Check it out. Hey, I have a JCW that costs more than a 135i speced the way I’d order it.

  • Mark DeRosa

    Bench racing does not do much good. My 2007 R56 stage 1 does 0-60 in 6 flat and a quarter mile of 14.5 @ 96 the JCW Factory car will do about the same to 60 and 14.3 @ 98 in the quarter. I was at Fontana Street Legals 2 weeks ago and ran 14.5 to my club members 14.3 and there is no way in the world a stock 128i is doing that number. Again the JCW will beat a 128i on a dragstrip and destroy it on a road course. A base 128i and base Factory JCW both have the same exact equiptment so the price is nearly the same. It could not be logically argued that a 128i is near the performance car a factory Mini is. Which car is better overall could be argued eternally.

  • JonPD

    A standard S with a JCW suspension would run circles around the JCW Mini through every corner too. With the money saved spent on track days it would also make it around a track faster too. For me the JCW is a easy choice over the 128i however getting the JCW to be properly laid out would leave me with a 135i which would smoke a JCW in most circumstances.

  • cct1

    0-60 times for a car like the MINI are pretty much worthless, IMHO. It’s not an easy car to launch, although it goes pretty darned good once it has a bit of momentum. And obviously 0-60 times don’t take handling into account…

    A MINI will kill a 128i at the track, I have an R53 JCW (with JCW suspension), and its no contest. It’s the 135i/335i that is more in line with the MINI; they’re very close, although it depends on the track–long tracks, like Road America, I get dusted, there are too many long straights. Shorter tracks (same drivers and same cars), with lots of turns, its the other way around. But the 128i? Always in the rearview mirror. :)

  • Mark DeRosa

    cctl

    I agree with your comparison. I have an R56 S with JCW Tuning Kit, JCW Suspension, JCW Grill and Trim and the Carbon Scoop with grill removed. I also have the Factory Cars Inlet Tube, ITG Filter, and Boost Tubes. My car in total cost under 28000 and I would laugh at a 128i on any track. The 135i with sport package is 37000 minimum and like your experience was not even as fast on the Big Track 2.8 mile at Willow as my car. At road America it would beat me but lets not even get started on Autocross. I think a 135i would have trouble with a Factory Car with the JCW Suspension and a 18k mile tire any where any time. The Factory Car would be 5k cheaper. Back to the topic at hand it does seem like a stock Cooper S with LSD Tuning Kit and JCW Suspension with a 17 inch 15 pound wheel and ditch the runflats comes to about 28000 and may be the best performance value of all. Saving 32 pounds of rotating mass over the factory car would probably make up for the 18 HP and bigger brake advantage of the Factory Car and save 5000 dollars over the Factory Car.

  • TK76911S

    Mark,

    What 17″ 15 pound wheels are you running? What about the tires? Thx.

    TK

  • Pingback: MotoringFile » Archive » MotoringFile’s Best of 2008

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=54901784 Nebo Murisic

    The dilemma I have is connected to your reviews and comparison between your old car (R56 with JCW goodies) and ’09 JCW factory car. As you tried both I trust your opinion.

    If everything else is the same (interior accessories, color etc.), which one is preferable if one intends to use the car as mostly daily driver and as track car only several times per year:

    1. the base JCW factory car with only the $500 sports suspension added

    2. the base R56 Cooper S with $500 sports suspension, $500 lsd, $2100 JCW tuning kit, and 17″ OZ Ultraleggeras.

      The option 2 would be 2-2.5K cheaper.

      In case you suggest choice 1, would your choice change if package 2 also included the JCW Brembos?

      Thanks for your time and help.

      Cheers

      Nebo

  • Pingback: 192 hp versus 208 hp? - MINI2 - MINI Forum

  • AlohaDEE

    Interesting article/blog:

    While I have a Factory JCW 10 Cabrio, I was rallying with another (She had a 2010 Cooper S) – she was on my tail through Malibu Canyon…

    So what is better value? Kelly Blue Book regardless we are out once we crossed the sidewalk… so it’s our enjoyment…

    Agreed the factory probably is overpriced and doesn’t have all the goodies… Otherwise, $ for $$$ wish I added the suspension/etc…

    again appreciate the posts…


Sort by MINI model

MotoringFile on Instagram








MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

Advertise with MotoringFile

If you or your company are interested in advertising on the most influential MINI website in the world, please visit our Advertising section. If you have further questions about becoming a sponsor or would like to see our rate sheet please feel free to contact us directly.
mini mini
Translate MotoringFile with Google: 
 

BF

MotoringFile Buyers Guides

R50 ('02-'06 MC) Buyers Guide
R53 ('02-'06 MCS) Buyers Guide

BF

SF



MotoringFile Reviews

Reviews:
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range


cafepress