How to Save JCW

Given the debut this week of the revised JCW, it seemed an appropriate time to take a step back and talk about the JCW line and how MINI could create something truly exceptional for the future. Yes there are a few nice changes to the 2011 model, but the profound additions we had hoped for (a year and a half ago) haven’t truly come to fruition. So let’s talk about how to fix things.

John. Cooper. Works. When I first learned about MINIs, these three words meant the direct lineage from the man who brought mid-engine cars to Formula 1 racing and tuned the BMC Mini to new heights. In 2008, it was announced that BMW was outright purchasing JCW in order to create a sub-brand within MINI akin to the M-division within BMW.

Unfortunately, the output has been less than impressive. Because JCW is owned by BMW now there’s an interesting new problem: overlap. Why would a customer buy a tricked-out JCW car when they could spend a fraction more and get the ferocious RWD 135i? And with a shared platform coming for the next-gen cars, the so-called ‘0-series’ will be an attractive option for those who want the prestige of a roundel instead of wings and a JCW ‘surfboard’.

So with that said, let’s talk about how to fix things. We’ve got two ideas on how JCW could become legendary.

Make JCW more like //M

The M division prides itself on creating the best possible versions of BMW models utilizing the best technology available. They create automobiles that use the existing platforms but taken to the next level with styling and chassis changes. It’s clear that this is the direction that MINI decided to push towards with the JCW cars representing the top tier of the models (Cooper, Cooper S, JCW). The difference between //M and JCW is that JCW cut corners with the R56 cars. Big time. If the JCW GP represents the high water mark in MINI factory modifications, the JCW R56 doesn’t live up to its forebear. Each generation of //M-car proves its worth by one-upping the last one and with the latest JCW should do likewise.

But if JCW is to be equivalent to //M, MINI needs to make the cars more distinctive in look, add more standard options and tune them to be much faster. That means including the JCW suspension, getting the Recaro seats approved by the DOT, Alcantara steering wheel for no extra charge, carbon fiber trim standard… the ‘W’ in JCW stands for Works. The way things are right now is more like ordering and paying for a pizza with everything on it and when the delivery guy shows up he hands you a pie with peppers and sausage. No matter how delicious that pizza is, it’s not what you were told you were getting.

Basic Tenets of the //M-like JCW:

  • Big performance enhancement
  • Impressive standard feature sheet
  • Distinctive sheet metal

BMW

Make JCW cars more unique and lightweight.

MINI has been an extremely unique company since it was introduced in that the cars are seemingly infinitely customizable. The prospective owner can add whatever features and knick knacks to the car and order it that way. JCW could take things one step further and make cars completely to order.

I think the key lies in weight loss and offering individually hand built cars. Options could include A/C delete, aluminum roof, rear seat delete, stereo delete, sound deadening delete… etc.

The entry-level car could be more like today’s factory JCW car with all the options but with a carbon fiber hood and a full JCW kit (engine, suspension, exhaust, intake). And how about this for an idea– automatic sport mode. It’s up to the customer to add or subtract from there.

This idea would take the JCW brand away from the impressive technological improvements that the M-division makes with its cars and towards a more Colin Chapman-like ethos. I feel that this solution could make the brand different enough from the low-end BMWs to negate comparison based on price and specs. It also lowers the necessity for the cars’ performance having to be really huge because of the weight difference. With an emphasis on light weight and extra HP, JCW could keep it real by shaving off every extra ounce from their cars. I feel that it could take JCW out of direct comparison with the Volkswagen R cars, the Audi S3, the Subaru STi and the Mazdaspeed 3 and place it in a category closer to Lotus.

BMW

Basic Tenets of the Chapman-school JCW

  • Effective but measured performance improvements
  • Individually hand-built and numbered
  • Emphasis on light weight and the option to strip the car to near bare bones

In the end, I’m counting on BMW to go with the first option. But I feel that the comparisons to other high-po compact cars is problematic and detrimental to the JCW image. The second direction that I dreamed up is much more compelling to me because it truly could cast JCW cars into a new image. It shows a lineage with the JCW GP, a car that is still the halo for the brand. But, things are about to get even more interesting given the involvement of Prodrive with the Countryman and perhaps a new injection of real racing heritage into the MINI brand (I wrote about it here for MF).

Realistically we expect it’s too late to make any radical changes to the R56 JCW. However look for information to pop-up soon on MF about something much more serious with the letters JCW attached to it coming soon. We just hope it’s enough.

BMW

  • Get article and could not agree more. I am starting to seriously think about replacing my 02 MCS and looking at various makes and models. The JCW just does not bring ‘it’ with respect to performance and style. Sorry MINI, but for the money a new 2011 WRX is looking better and better for my hard earned dollars.

    When I bought my 02 new, it was a great value. When a new nicely equipped MINI JCW approaches $32-35k, I just shake my head in disbelief.

  • Great article and could not agree more. I am starting to seriously think about replacing my 02 MCS and looking at various makes and models. The JCW just does not bring ‘it’ with respect to performance and style. Sorry MINI, but for the money a new 2011 WRX is looking better and better for my hard earned dollars.

    When I bought my 02 new, it was a great value. When a new nicely equipped MINI JCW approaches $32-35k or more, I just shake my head in disbelief.

  • Thank you Gabe. That’s the same the bottom line I had on bigblogg. I hope they start in Munich to listen to the mouthpieces round the globe.

  • Great article indeed. However, both directions start with one absolutely KEY underlying component. Three words:

    JCW SUSPENSION: STANDARD.

    ’nuff said.

  • Erik

    I believe that a factory JCW should be a fully spec car with the full JCW options on it as a standard. However it should have some visable features only found on a factory JCW. As an example, think about the GP against a dealer JCW. The GP looked a bit radical but still known as the supper JCW at the time. This is the way to go. Produce a factory JCW which stands out against a dealer S with the JCW parts. (with room for personalisation still there.)

    Also the JCW products range should be more sportier and have a wider colour range to match your car colour scheme. As an example, the red calipers look great but why not in black, yellow ect. We all know that the Recaro CS seats can be deliverd in different colours also. Again the JCW only comes in black. By widing up these kind of options you can take the personalisation of a MINI to another level.

  • I think the former //M style ethos could be applied to JCW and work well… unique aero kit, uprated suspension and a signifiant boost in power should do the trick.

    The latter stripped out, no frills version will only appeal to a very small minority and will fail to sell en masse… people wanting a lightweight track focused car would not buy a FWD MINI.

    MINI is a great car, but they can’t rest on their laurels forever.

  • B

    I think the Mini coupe and speedster may be the answers you are looking for. It would make sense. At least I am hoping the coupe is.

  • James Irmiger

    MINI is going in the right direction with it’s regular models, but I can’t help but think they’re completely missing the boat with the JCW. Here is a model with the potential (and history) to be something truly great, so why is it only a few configuration clicks away from a stock ‘S’ ?

  • Jon

    The answer is BEAN COUNTERS. Picture a boardroom at BMW headquarters. The creative, enthusiastic JCW “team” is seated at one side of the proverbial conference table, and the mean, stodgy and obstinate accountants are seated at the other.

    The JCW team presents what Brendan has proposed above: big power increase over a stock MCS, unique body kit, JCW steering wheel, JCW suspension, JCW Recaro seats, lighter through aluminum roof, etc.

    The accountants remain stoic, shaking their heads in disbelief. They do the math quickly, and point out that this wonderful idea for a car would cost $50,000.

    With an emphatic, “Nobody will spend that much for a small FWD car. Ze answer is NO!!!”, they storm out of the boardroom, leaving the JCW team in utter disarray.

    So you get the JCW we have now; a shadow of what this car should, and could be; because what we truly want will COST TOO MUCH TO MAKE!

  • Wolfgang Gullich

    I agree with most of what you’re saying Gabe…it’s just that don’t you think if JCW becomes more like M-Power, it’ll keep the price of such a car out of reach of most MINI owners. One of the best things about the original S models from the 60s is that the price point wasn’t a giant leap above a Mini-1000, and when you get into the unique sheet-metal idea, I think it’s going beyond anything Issigonis and Cooper intended. Cooper made the best of the available car…I know I’m going to get blasted, but I’m a Mini/MINI purist and a little old-fashioned that way. That being said though, I hope BMW does something to keep JCW afloat and the memory of John Cooper alive.

  • Rob

    I couldn’t agree with you more. The only problem is that you just described a $45,000+ MINI. Also I think it’s to late in the production cycle of the R56. It would cost MINI to much given they just did the midlife update. MINI has always listened to it customers and made appropriate changes. Hopefully they will listen to us with the next generation JCW.

  • Great write-up! I hope BMW achieve success with their upcoming rally programme as I believe that the ongoing success of M Division can be partially attributed to early motor racing success with the likes of the E30 M3.

    The JCW brand will become more desirable and will help afford a more premium price point if it can achieve the same motor racing success. Maybe that way BMW could justify more extensive investment with the likes of unique styling, engine, suspension etc. Difficult to argue against the current JCW cars being little more than high street wannabes.

  • For the record Brendan wrote this piece 🙂

    The answer is BEAN COUNTERS. Picture a boardroom at BMW headquarters. The creative, enthusiastic JCW “team” is seated at one side of the proverbial conference table, and the mean, stodgy and obstinate accountants are seated at the other.

    That’s sorta how things have gone. There are some passionate and intelligent people at MINI and JCW who want exactly what we all want. However MINI is a new brand and JCW even newer. With that there isn’t the level of respect to make the hard decisions (ie gambles) and expensive product development. My hope is that, as MINI continues to prove itself and make money for BMW, more investment is made in the JCW and ultimately the upcoming JCW products.

    I actually like the current JCW. I think the heart of the car, the engine, is exceptional and the best yet from MINI. However once you get past the engine and the brakes there’s really nothing special mechanically about the car. The suspension is the same, the steering is the same. Even the exterior look is more or less the same. This is what has to change going forward.

  • WxSquid

    Gabe,

    I agree on both points.

    However, in reading the archives about the JCW, I see that you mentioned that ///M had a hand (somewhat) in the engine development.

    Do you think that Dr. Segler will put more effort into getting some improvement pass said bean counters? I know that his plate has been full with the 1M and the new M5, but I’m hoping that he’ll spread some love to the JCW brand/division.

  • eysmahn

    The bottom line is, as many others have said, a MINI JCW built to these specs would cost too much. Which would only further the arguments for crossover. Back in ’08 I was looking to get a JCW, then I took a good hard look at the numbers… and got a 135i. I still love MINI’s, possibly even more so than my Bimmer. They just have that certain “something” about them, but I realized I would be a fool to spend that much on a special MINI when I could have a truly fantastic BMW.

    That being said, the only way to save JCW, is to make a car dedicated to all around performance, but cut as many corners elsewhere to keep the cost down. But in today’s automotive market, with the costs of research and development… that doesn’t seem very likely to happen.

    Price is the key with the JCW. If it gets too expensive, less people will buy it, because they will find much more attractive offerings from other manufacturers. Which is already happening with the current model, as pointed out by Mr. Tate, at the beginning of this post.

  • I think there needs to be 2 versions of the JCW.

    One for people who want the mostest.. More power, unique interior and exterior bits, pick any/all your options (sunroof, auto-trans, whatever).

    The second one would be the very limited, ultra light weight version with only one unique color choice, and no options. Same power as the other JCW but a few hundred pounds less weight. This would be the car that everyone wants, but only a few could live with..

  • jbkONE

    When people say “That’s a $50,000 MINI” I don’t believe them. Sure, the way they price things now it may be, but it can’t cost that much more to make.

    The upgraded engine can’t cost much more. Other than software there are a few upgraded internals to handle the power – maybe you’ve got $1000 in extra materials. For $1000, you can get a dyno tune and parts so the factory should be able to do it for much less.

    The interior? A new steering wheel and added stitching around the seats would add a bit in labor – maybe $500?

    Brakes and rims? another $2000 since you’re probably using lighter weight materials and drilling.

    And the plastic aero kit bumpers are the most egregious example of price gouging I know. The MINI already comes with plastic bumpers and you’re replacing those with the aero ones, so in materials theres NO extra cost! And they still get put on the same way. and for $2000? give me a break! (they may have more paint)

    Springs and struts can’t cost much more to produce except you’re making fewer of them. Another $500?

    They give you half (actually less) of the above and charge you $7000 for it and wonder where the sales are.

    I’m not one to bash MINI all the time like some, but when someone tells you the described would make it “a $50,000 MINI,” they’re not being genuine. I’m sure I got some numbers off so don’t bash – I’m making a point, not a spreadsheet. And I’m no manufacturing engineer.

  • Jon

    Economies of scale. MINI won’t be able to save money on many parts, because of the lower numbers of JCW cars. That’s just one of the reasons why things cost more for these more limited run MINIs.

    Even worse, take the wonderful European JCW Recaro seats. They would cost more to get US certification, wouldn’t they? That’s the reason we don’t currently have them. Recaro’s seats don’t meet US safety regulations. To make them do that, it would cost Recaro more to reengineer and consequently manufacture them, which would in turn cost MINI more to buy them, and that cost would be passed to the MINI consumer.

  • Even worse, take the wonderful European JCW Recaro seats. They would cost more to get US certification, wouldn’t they? That’s the reason we don’t currently have them. Recaro’s seats don’t meet US safety regulations. To make them do that, it would cost Recaro more to reengineer and consequently manufacture them, which would in turn cost MINI more to buy them, and that cost would be passed to the MINI consumer.

    The issue with the seats (and this is straight from high level MINI sources) – the seats MINI uses are off the shelf Recaro’s with MINI specific fabric. No other modifications were made. Why does that matter? Because the stock seats that MINI uses do not have the passenger side airbag sensor in them by default and thus can’t be used in the US.

    MINI could invested an enormous amount of money and had Recaro engineer the sensors into the seats for them. However they then would either have to make up the investment by spreading them across as many cars as possible (not what we want if JCW is to be unique) or price the seats like Porsche does (around $4,000).

  • Tim

    Having owned a E46 3 Series Sport and a E46 M3, I feel I am able to describe the difference in experience between the 2 (By the way, I will also mention I have also owned a MINI Cooper and currently own a JCW).

    On the BMW front, the M3 feels like a totally different car. The wider fenders, the more aggressive body kit, the wider wheels, the lower stance etc. The seats are better sculpted and look the business too. under the bonnet you will find an engine completely different to anything else in the 3 series line up. The sound from the thing is just crazy and certainly makes you smile every time it’s revved. Driving is also completely different, it doesn;t need justifying but the chassis is tuned with performance in mind and it shows.

    Now onto the MINI. With a JCW bodykit, they look near identical (apart from the little touches such as scuttles etc.) Both MINI’s I have owned handled really well and even my first MINI with much less power was awesome on the bends. But, a factory JCW is the same as a normal S. The interior is also the same (oh I forgot, you get a little John Cooper badge on the trim!) At the end of the day, in the UK, someone down the road could effectively buy a second hand S, put a bodykit on it and remap it and basically turn it into a JCW. All for a fraction of the cost.

    MINI needs to create a proper JCW car. Unique body panels (flared arches, wider track, more agressive bodykit). A chassis tuned to racing perfection, and an interior that is special enough to warrant that extra money! But most importantly, one thing that I don’t think has been mentioned, a unique engine. A compact and lightweight 1.8 or 2.0 Turbo with RWD or 4WD.

    Don’t worry about the cost of all this either, MINI are charging so much already for the JCW because they know people will pay it. They could sell the current JCW for much cheaper than they are but because people are willing to pay a high price, why should they bring it down? Think about it, see all the additional work that goes into creating a M3, all the additional testing and unique parts (exterior, interior, chassis tuning, whole new engine)… and it’s £12k more… for all that additional technology and parts that make a M car as special as it is! A proper JCW that doesn’t cost your soul is possible… BMW just need to give it some proper attention!

  • DUDE

    Tim you nailed it. I have owned 4 JCWs in the last 5 years. My girlfriend has an S and not only are the visual differences barely noticible (only to an enthusiast) but the difference in performance is not much “different”. Especially not for $6k plus.

    This is an interesting thread, however, Mini/BMW does not care what you think or about what you want. They figure they will sell enough cars made their way for the profit they expect.

    And that’s fine. They’re in business to make a profit. No problem if that’s their choice. Therefore my choice was to go the Colin Chapman route and buy a Lotus.

    Mini may not be interested in winning me back. This can be done as I am still a fan. The Coupster could do it, but it will take a serious diet and more muscle than the current JCW.

    Yeah right. That’ll happen.

  • Am I a sucker for still wanting a JCW? that interior is HOT!!!

  • I completely and utterly agree with this. Send this article to the chubby German fellows who run MINI!

  • Hoover

    @Tim: It doesn’t seem like people are willing to pay for the JCW–at least not here in the US. The JCW is not a sales success in the US from all accounts–and that is an extremely important market for MINI. If I had an unlimited budget, I would go crazy with the JCW. If I wanted to track something, Brendan’s stripped out scenario is very appealing. But for something that I would use as a daily driver, the 2011 Cooper S is hard to beat. This discussion will change when the Coupe comes out. Then we’ll see a JCW Coupe go up against a Porsche–and I’m guessing that the 2 second difference will evaporate.

  • This is an interesting thread, however, Mini/BMW does not care what you think or about what you want. They figure they will sell enough cars made their way for the profit they expect.

    Not true. Yes they are focused on making a profit. But they also know they need to continue to build the brand. Because of this MINI reads and follows MotoringFile religiously. I’ve heard first hand how the Coupé is a direct response to the kind of opinions expressed in this article.

  • JonPD

    Great article Brendan

  • Kim Kman

    Well, I am happy with my 2006 JCW. Glad I bought it when I did and judging from resale value still very much in demand although its not going anywhere. To the point though if I could not have gotten the 2006 I would not have purchased one.

    For future unless there is a super JCW I will either buy a BMW or really would like a Lotus if I could swing it financially. The supercharged 2006 JCW will remain though.

  • Blainestang

    To echo what Gabe just said, MINI absolutely cares what the MINI enthusiasts that read Motoring File think and say.

    I was talking to Natalie, Communications Manager for MINI USA, at the MINI vs. Porsche event and she said that she invited Gabe to the Countryman drive in Austria because she realizes his influence through Motoring File. Obviously, if they think it’s important to reach MF readers, then it stands to reason that they think it’s important to at least consider what our opinions are for current and future products.

    Of course, that doesn’t mean they can build a new GP model every year, or build a Challenge car for public consumption for $25k… But they certainly take our opinions/comments/suggestions into consideration.

  • Aurel

    I am not in the market for a JCW, nor will I probably be, but been in the MINI family since 2003.

    As an outsiders point of view, I think if MINI wants something that is truly performance driven and and most importantly coveted, they need look no further than the GP formula that seemed to work so great for them.

    Here’s the car, balls out, no options to pick, and in limited numbers. Buyers came and will come running.

    I think the biggest issue they have is trying to leave the “personalization” aspect in the mix with the JCW.

    In my opinion they should leave that to the standard line and build limited edition performance oriented one off’s with unique bodies. (I am not talking about lazy $150 scuttle changes)

  • goat

    Fantastic article Brendan. I have an R53 JCW Competition Edition, and it follows essentially BRAND/DESIGN PHILOSOPHY #1. All the JCW power upgrades + JCW suspension + aero bodykit + JCW interior trim bits (wheel, shifter, brake, side sills, anthracite, etc.). It’s a very well-rounded car that, I feel, does distinguish itself well in both look and especially drive from a regular R53 S. That all the parts were assembled at factory rather than at the dealer and that each car was numbered is also important and appreciated.

    Going forward, however, I think the most desirable approach JCW should follow is your BRAND DESIGN/PHILOSOPHY #2. Why? Well, partly for selfish reasons: I really like light cars… “underdog cars”, although not quite a Lotus I drive a miata so know what undercutting your competition by 700-1000lb gains you in handling and especially in driver feel.

    But also for some very “common sense” and market-conscious reasons: the “hot hatch” market has moved on to very formidable levels of performance. There are hatches flirting with 300hp and managing to put it down through front wheels or (preferred) 4 wheels. Most of these have “sorted” handling and make the “right” sounds as well. Alternately, and even higher performing, there are relatively affordable rally-bred cars like Subie STi and Mitsu Evo – at the higher price point that JCW’s can reach, you can bet these become compelling to many hard-core drivers. But all of these cars, fast and formidable as they are, are LARGE and more often than not HEAVY relative to what a JCW can be. So this second brand/design philosophy (lightweight focused driver’s cars, like the R53 GP but even more hard core) can be JCW’s raison d’etre, their market differentiator.

    Will it sell a crush of JCW’s? No, but it doesn’t need to for the brand as a whole to gain from this philosophy. It builds unique and serious sports driving credibility for the brand, it shines the JCW rally heritage halo (just in time for MINI’s return to rallying with Prodrive in the R60), it gives the auto journos a car to test that truly is “not like the others” yet wholly spectacular for taking the “design purity / lightweighting” route, it will yield engineering returns in lightweighting that can be applied to lower models just in time for upcoming more stringent fuel efficiency / emissions standards in all major markets, etc.

  • Versus

    Gabe,

    Since you said “the Coupé is a direct response to the kind of opinions expressed in this article,” are those of us who want a beefed up JCW hatch going to be left out in the cold? Supposedly the U.S. is not a great market for hatches and that coupes do better here, hence the 135i body style.

  • goat

    Finally… looking forward to seeing the Factory JCW version of the Coupster (and reading all the juicy details here on MF)! Hope and trust MINI gets that one as right as they got the GP…

  • Versus

    @ GOAT. I don’t always agree with your approach/solutions/opinions to posts on here, but you just provided a very well thought out & compelling argument. Well done.

  • Tim

    @Hoover, I agree with you in regards to not everyone are willing to pay for a JCW but the fact is people are buying them at this price. Another thing we could look at is the over inflated price for the JCW WC50. Here in the UK it’s over £33,000. To put that in perspective, you can get a 335i M sport for £4k more. That’s serious money for a MINI and I for one would find it extremely hard to justify anyone paying that for one. But… people have and will continue to!

    On the topic of stripping the MINI out, it’s a great idea for a Limited Edition, but not a full blown production car. Not everyone goes to the track and I don’t see it feasible for the mass market.

    PS. Great article! Hopefully, MINI reads some ideas and listens!

  • Cory

    Personally, I would love to see JCW go the Colin Chapman route. I’ve felt like MINI and Lotus are already pretty similar cars (small car philosophy, close-knit driver community, classic British marques, etc.,) but Lotus are much more purpose built. I would love to have on, but shelling out 50 grand for a new Elise (or sifting through the used market, which is filled with neglected, idiotically modded, or abused cars) isn’t too fun. Nor is driving six hours to the closest Lotus dealership. Nor is having cell phone pictures taken of your car at every stoplight.

    Seriously, though, if MINI would turn the JCW into a very good, very fast lightweight car, I’d be sold on them forever. Instead they seem to keep throwing all of their money into new colors and mobile integration technology. And advertising campaigns that do little more than confuse and divide their core customer base.

  • Alan Smithee

    Gabe, regarding the Recaros, from what I understand, the only missing piece is the sensor to detect whether the passenger seat is occupied or not (so as not to fire airbags unnecessarily in the event of a collision, thus saving insurance companies on repair bills). This certainly cannot cost “enormous amounts of money” to incorporate. (Contrary to popular belief, these Recaros do have side airbags)

    And Recaro sells the same seats for almost any vehicle application in the aftermarket, so economies of scale to add the sensor (and therefore avoiding a dashboard warning light) can be spread over FAR more than just the JCW, or even the entire MINI line (I certainly wouldn’t begrudge proper seats as an option on any MINI).

    As for styling, I’m in the minority that prefers stealthy performance; any appearance modifications should be purely functional, just as BMW M-cars once were. Fake scoops and unnecessary plastic pieces should be left to the aftermarket for individual selection. Many willing to spend $30-40k for a MINI are more, um, mature, and will be alienated with a tacky boy-racer look.

    And overlapping the 135i in price shouldn’t be an issue; historically an optioned M3 has cost as much as a V8 5-series, and an M5 has cost as much as a long-wheelbase 7-series. Of course, the JCW would have to be as good as the M3 and M5.

  • BSUCardinalfan

    The only thing they REALLY need to do is put the JCW suspension and aero kit on as standard, for the same price. I’ve been saying that for years, and I’ll buy a JCW when they do, but not before. As it is now, the JCW is just a slightly more powerful S with nice brakes, and that isn’t enough to make it a ‘real’ top of the line car – expecially at over $30,000.

    Give me a $30,000 JCW with aero kit, suspension, the brakes and wheels, with a couple unique color/trim combos, and I’ll order one next week. I’ll even add the premium package onto it. Otherwise, I’m buying a CPO one series when my current MINI is ready to go.

  • I have an MCS, and I don’t even know why the JCW exists- it’s an engine option, right now. You can get many of the JCW add-ons as options. They need to go the route of //M and make the JCW come with the brakes and suspension expected of the top of the line model, and have performance to match.

    My MA bought a JCW and took me for a ride in it- when I said I wanted a stage 1 kit, he said the suspension was the biggest difference between the S and his car. And for $7k, that’s ridiculous.

  • jason

    If MINI is reading this, please build the coupe with the door straps found on some Porsches (it could be a nod to them after their win). That is at least a couple of ounces of weight saved, and it will give the car more personality. Speaking of ounces, go the Mazda route and look for weight savings everywhere after building it with a Chapman inspired mentality. Oh yeah, PLEASE!

  • goat

    @versus – thanks, seriously. Good to be getting along. 🙂 I do like to think that coherent and compelling is how most of my posts read… I can be a bit “blunt” at times but rarely am I being contrary for its own sake. PS. Happy Canada Day everyone!

  • Brendan

    @ Goat: Couldn’t agree more.

    For all those who bring up the cost issue, I present the 2006 JCW GP: Body in white made in Oxford, delivered to Italy, hand assembled by Bertone in a small quantity and sold at ~$32,000 before dealer markups. That car had an aluminum roof, unique body kit, suspension, rear control arms, aero body underpanels, rear seat delete parts, spoiler and intercooler.

    Adding a steering wheel, seats, suspension and other goodies would not bring the price up to 50K on a proper //M-style JCW car. The ala carte pricing of JCW parts does not remotely reflect how much the parts cost to manufacture.

    Also, I’d like to counter the idea that JCW has to be a big selling brand. The trend in the auto industry is micro-niching. The BMW X6 and 5 GT are examples. I’m not the right market for these models, but BMW seems content selling low quantities of unique vehicles built side-by-side with popular mainstream models (respectively the X5 and 5 series).

    Thanks for commenting everyone! It’s important to have a groupthink like this within the MINI community given the big changes (Countryman, Coupe twins) coming up very soon.

    -brendan

  • Tristan

    well this is what i think about the big picture- when people say hot hatch, they think about the focus rs, megane, and the r32 golf. the focus rs and megane both have trick front suspension that limits torque steer and the golf has awd. both of these companies have r&d money to make their hot hatches hot. mini has none with their limited line up and bmw probably won’t share. so lets wait for the new cars bring in new customers so mini can fund a jcw with goodies like (realistically) trick front suspension like the focus rs or megane or even an awd system.

  • Jeff

    For me, it’s the JCW needs more visual distinction and greater performance. The third tenet of Brendan’s recommendations (rich standard feature set) isn’t that important IMO for Mini purchaser, let buyers option up a JCW if they like, after all not everyone wants one with many options.

    That said, for the visual distinction, it could be bumpers, body kits, bolder wheel arches, wider track, hood bulges, unique colors/paint schemes, whatever can cost effectively be done that postively impacts looks and differentiates the JCW from lower MCS. I’d add, hopefully the visual enhancements are also performance generating. For example, bigger cutouts in front bumper that serve as brake cooling ducts.

    Performance wise, definitely needs to be a greater performance difference between the two models, particularly straight line performance and also overall track performance. For track performance not only the time, but also the feel. One of the rubs I read is the electonic diff doesn’t work as well, nor does it provide as positive or immediate feedback as a traditional LSD. There’s no excuse IMO for the top-tier model have that sort of feedback which is easily rectified.

    I think the 2011 enhancements are a step in the right direction, but I’m not sure it would be enough to put me over the edge.

  • DUDE

    Funny how revered the GP is now. When it came out in ’06 it was ridiculed universally here as ughly and underpowered.

  • LTL M CPE

    This is a great article. As a two MINI and an M coupe owner I get it. The JCW in current format is no M version MINI. Going in that direction would be a way to go, but as many have mentioned need to keep costs in line. Hoping the coupster does this, but I’m doubtful at this point.

    Jim

  • This (Recaros) certainly cannot cost “enormous amounts of money” to incorporate.

    A new paint option costs 250,000 just to set it up. Engineering the recaros and then bringing them into the factory pipeline costs money. That would have to be passed onto the consumer in the form of a very expensive seat.

  • Versus

    I think the JCW taking a page out of the R32’s book would be a nice step forward. Granted MINI, or maybe I should say BMW, doesn’t have the financing like VW does based on sheer sales volume, I think with Prodrive & the Countryman coming together an AWD JCW wouldn’t be a stretch. Please, just spread the love between the twins and the hatch.

  • Gerarddm

    POWER.

    You don’t need to spend umpteen thousands of dollars to get more oomph. Just ask Jan.

    That and make the suspension standard, throw in some more colors, and get going performance wise.

    The market has shown that devotees will spend anything to get a more powerful, personalized car. All MINI has to do is to facilitate that, direct from the factory. What’s so hard to understand?

  • jpd

    Went to the MINI store in May to buy a JCW 2010. I found two. The first was pretty basic at $36K the other at $44K was loaded. I walked away with a 2011 BMW 135 at $40K. The other major difference for me was the torque steer in the JCW that killed it for me. The 135 one series is one of the most under appreciated cars in the BMW lineup. The one series barely exceeds 800 sales a month.

  • KevinR
    Engineering the recaros and then bringing them into the factory pipeline costs money. That would have to be passed onto the consumer in the form of a very expensive seat.

    VW was able to do this very thing for limited edition GTIs back in 2003-2004, so it’s not like it’s completely foreign territory for Recaro.

    Whenever I read comments on the internet about a “stripped down, limited edition, performance model” that people swear would sell like hotcakes, I am reminded of the E36 M3 Lightweight that you could find brand new and unsold on dealer lots two model years later. Don’t confuse the desires of fans with those of the general buying public.

    A friend is a small independent dealer. In February/March of this year he had in his inventory a 2009 JCW car with 7K miles. It had the aero kit, 18″ wheels and several unique options. He could not get anyone to come anywhere near it and ended up letting it go for $24K just to get it off his books.

    For whatever reason, the JCW brand doesn’t connect with many people outside of the MINI faithful.

  • Greg W

    I too agree Gabe. The John Cooper brand has been watered down with too many production models. A bit like saying a car is limited edition when unlimited in production. I never liked the idea of calling the main model Cooper. This should have been reserved for the genuine Cooper “hotter models”. The ordinary MINI One, maybe a MINI Two or MINI City would have sufficed for volume models. Of course now BMW own JCW they can do anything they want with the brand name. What is this about a “Broadspeed” model ? That was never an official Mini model but a tuning outfit in competition to Cooper. Then there is the AC SChnitzer MINI stuff. Time to have a sit down, rest, a cup of tea and rethink the whole darn thing in my opinion.

  • Blainestang

    Greg,

    The Cooper is one of the “Hotter models”. In Europe, there is a MINI One and, in some cases, a MINI First below the Cooper. MINI simply didn’t think that those would sell in the US with <100hp, so they just brought the Cooper. Would you expect them to rename the Euro “Cooper” to something else here in the states?

  • Mike

    As much as the current JCW is cool, I’d really like to see them apply the JCW “ethos” across the range, including the base Cooper. Frankly, I don’t need 200hp in a car the size of my MINI, but I’d really dig one with some wider fenders, maybe some 16×8’s, and a really “dialed-in” suspension. There are other ways to make a car fast besides more horsepower…a tenant that both John Cooper and Colin Chapman proved over and over again…and I’d like to see the folks at MINI give it a shot!

  • I think the cost argument is the wrong debate here… IMO it is the desirability of WANTING a JCW!!! It is that unabated LUST that one feels when they pass one on the highway that BMW must work on…Unless you know what to look for a JCW is just another MINI. MINI has to make people NEED the JCW…I can’t afford any ///M product, but it’s a brand people lust after…This is what JCW needs to create in the minds of the buying public. The only cure for this is TIME…now that BMW has control over the JCW name I am sure they will cultivate a truly phenomenal sub-brand worthy of the surfboard. Unfortunately this is not going to happen any time soon.

  • BSUCardinalfan

    the other thing, unfortuneately, is that to build that brand image, the JCW needs to be out there winning car magazine comparos against the competition. that’s why the aero kit and suspension need to be standard, as well as the better steering wheel and a few other cosmetic enhancements.

    sending a plus $30k JCW into that kind of competition when it looks (and pretty much drives) just like a $23000 cooper S is a losing proposition. it needs to be the best handling, most solid, enthusiast-oriented car of the bunch. make it significantly better in every way than a cooper S.

    just like in the mini vs. porche challenge, I think part of the reason that MINI used an S instead of a JCW is that as it comes off the showroom, a JCW isn’t significantly (if at all) quicker around an autocross than an S, especially if the S has a limited slip diff, yet costs a LOT more.

  • jon

    Actually I think the JCW versions of the Mini should be more like an Integra type-r; light weight no holds barred sports cars. The current JCWs just don’t make any sense to me; they have no idea what they want to be and the can run up to $40K! Yikes. I can think of many more cars that I would rather have at $35-$40K.

  • Mike

    I own a 2009 JCW and enjoy it very much, BUT I think the answer to making the JCW a truly great car, upholding the tradition of Cooper, Chapman, and Abarth is quite simple: BMW needs to RACE it against Subaru and other top WRC competitors and WIN. Carbon fiber, improved brake cooling, more horsepower, better aerodynamics, etc., will be mandatory adaptations. The JCW version does not really need to be profitable. Most people will still buy Coopers or S models. The JCW helps sell the standard MINI models by creating an image of the awesome underdog. The roadgoing JCW version should be well appointed, fast, and priced competitively, the flagship for MINI. I can envision a carbon fiber 1.8 liter, 300 BHP JCW with AWD. Maybe someday…

  • Removing the radio, air conditioning and sound deadening materials sounds much cheaper by way of the purchaser than to order it that way from Mini. Crank windows would be pretty cool, but in all reality it would be very hard to sell less car for more money, unless your dropping close to six figures on it (Porsche for example), where you are that much of a die-hard for performance.

  • BilboBaggins

    As much as I love my 2006 MCS the BMW 135i and WRX Sti Special Edition look a lot better than a JCW Cooper S as a future purchase.

    Sorry, MINI

  • Brandon Corie

    I have a 09 jcw. Love the car but I think it’s my last mini. I’ve owned three. The jcw even with my rmw tune just doesn’t do it for me. I want more power and better handling for the money I spent. A 300 hp jcw gp that comes in around 2200 pounds and can pull more gs than anything on the roads . And stop jacking with the ecu s on these cars so we can tune them easier . The 135 is looking better to me. The jcw mpgs aren’t that great with ethanol blended fuels. And the carbon build up in the intake is just wrong. Hell the volve c30 starts at 227hp and the aftermarket can easily get you 300 hp. If ford gets off there butts and brings the rs over here I’m gone mini. Gone….. And I’m a mini die hard . I have the mini flag in my garage . I love minis so do something mini. Bring us a mini super car . I want a car that the jerk in my rear view mirror riding my tail because I’m in a mini gets very small very fast. And when I let him catch up to me he can’t believe that lil thing is that fast.

  • PretzelBurner

    I’ll elaborate a little on what people already have stated. I think there are 2 big issues preventing a true “M class” JCW. The first is that it would cost too much to build this “M” car and second, there are more attractive alternatives at the current price point and even more alternatives beyond this one. Maybe the next platform will contain the DNA for a more competitive and realistic performer but unless the cost comes more into focus it will never bring in the interest that will make it profitable. I for one, own an 09 JCW and at a 32k price tag, it was borderline worth it. Had I been a little less smitten with the Cooper’s driving experience, I would not have purchased this car (I really struggled with the purchase decision, gas prices finally influencing my decision). 33k+, no way I would have purchased it. To it’s credit however, it gets great gas mileage, puts a smile on my face as I zip around traffic and it is different and unique from all the other offerings out there. It didn’t have to be the fastest, just the fastest mini available at the time. As a possible solution for all you wishers, order a stripped JCW (or buy a used one), gut it, put it on a diet, tune it and put every go-fast part available…you should have a pretty interesting performer at a good price…Happy motoring.

  • One thing to also bear in mind is that for some reason the American market gets MINIs at a ridiculously low price compared to Europe. If you build the same two cars on the USA configurator and the UK, the UK one is vastly more expensive. Even though the shipping costs are dramatically lower. So this raises two questions?

    Is MINI subsidising the price in America to get market share? Or is MINI screwing European owners to the wall?

  • hemisedan

    I wouldn’t say that the US prices are so rediculously low when you first consider that you get the JCW Aero package, have recaro seats and I believe you get the Sport suspension as well. Then you have the VAT, which our wonderful president thinks that we need to, so we aren’t so far behind you in that.

  • Mike

    To say that “BMW doesn’t have the money” to develop and sell a JCW version is absurd. Aston Martin has been competing at LeMans for years, with a company a fraction of the size of BMW. Lotus is producing awesome cars on a tiny budget. It’s about priorities. BMW wants to ride on the laurels of the vintage Cooper name, without playing the game. The game is RACING competitively. The JCW shouldn’t be for everyone. Those that want to drive a car for it’s cache, with fancy graphics, etc. should not be the one’s that buy a JCW. The JCW should be about performance. The original Cooper S cars weren’t about decals or scoops. The were fast and won races.