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MINI Cooper S JCW vs. The Aftermarket

We’re getting to be bigger and bigger fans of the chaps over at Winding Road. While we’ve written about the topic for years, it’s great to finally see another outlet pick-up the story.

We recently featured their rather good comparison between the new Fiat 500 Sport and the MINI Cooper. They’re back, and this time with an in-depth look at what might happen if you pitted a factory Cooper S JCW against a regular Cooper S with aggressive aftermarket tuning. What kind of performance could the aftermarket provide, and for how much less than the $6,100 JCW premium?

The article breaks down the upgrades gained in the factory JCW, then explores what can be hypothetically be done at aftermarket tuning shops like Detroit Tuned and OutMotoring (who they mention specifically) and for how much less money. The end result of this little mental exercise? A savings of about $1,000 for similar or arguably better performance. There’s a catch though.

You see, modifying your car is a great way to void the factory warranty, should something go wrong because of your modification. Therein lies the appeal of the JCW, in that you can get a great deal of performance, with the security blanket of a warranty for less than $2000 over the price of the aftermarket car we just built here.

So there you have it. The JCW looks like the best choice on a new car. Once your Cooper S is out of warranty though, well, that’s a horsepower of a different color. Take a look at the full article over at Winding Road.

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Written By: Nathaniel Salzman

  • JonPD

    Good article in a good number of ways. From my experience though the dealers I work with generally are really good with mods, while its true that if a mod makes another component fail they will balk at covering it but I have not seen that often as an issue. Also many tuners are offering warranty coverage for their components.  While its true that the factory jcw is a very capable car its performance is decent though hindered by the conservative nature of its development (for sake of reliability, and desired performance). As I have stated before the way they build the current car for me still feels very kit like versus a overall package like a ///M car. Could be my faulty memory though I seem to remember MINI stating they wanted JCW to become the in house tuner like ///M I think they have ended up someplace very different. The fact that there is a huge aftermarket though does tell me that MINI is missing

    My compromise for this solution is while I have serious concerns over the R58 we will be picking it up and using it as a starting place for mods, right now trying to decide if it makes more sense to go with the JCW suspension or a set of upgraded aftermarket coil overs.

     

  • bee1000

    Don’t forget to factor this into the overall price: “Unlike Mini, I won’t be ignoring the suspension tuning, in an effort to tighten the Works car’s already sporting ride.” He went for springs and a rear sway bar for $550 (DIY install).

    Regardless of that, it seems silly that this was only a hypothetical exercise! To say that you’ll end up with similar power or a “better” suspension doesn’t mean anything. You have to drive actual cars, anything else is just more Internet noise.

  • Anonymous

    Very good read! I too have a great relationship with my dealer and they have no problem with aftermarket (as long as it is a quality part obviously). They have even offered to install aftermarket parts for me while it was in for service. I have heard the opposite horror stories of other dealers!

  • Slap

     Even if you save a fair bit of cash by modding it yourself instead of buying the JCW, when it comes time to sell the car you will probably end up having to sell it for quite a bit less than a JCW.   So the JCW could be the better investment (if you could ever call a car an investment).

    • JonPD

      This is true, most the people I know that did extensive mods usually reclaim the parts if they cannot sell it at a higher price point and a lot of that depends if your selling to the dealer or private party.

      I think what would be interesting is the amount of money spent after market versus the sales volume for the jcw’s. It seems that Gabe has said on many occasions that the jcw coupe was not selling hugely so I have always considered the aftermarket is huge compared to MINI jcw sales. Either way its hard to go wrong.

  • Anonymous

    They feel into the same noobie trap that hundreds of people do.

    adding an intake and exhaust will NOT net you  44HP – no where close.

    They’ve lost some respect from me for stating that.

    • Christ2

      +1.

      And what most people are doing with the ECU is some variation of tapping into the boost/overboost, and over time, the pistons aren’t up to taking the beating.

  • Dwight

    I’ve spent over 2yrs modding my ’08 MCS putting equal effort and $$ into suspension and engine. Made a few mistakes, but I now have an “MCS” that will run away from a factory JCW. That’s not my opinion, but that of the few people I’ve allowed to drive it. This one’s a keeper!

  • bee1000

    Thought of a couple more things about this. First, one thing not considered is that the factory car doesn’t just cost more than the mods: You also have to pay the whole $6,100 over an MCS upfront (or have higher monthly payments and more interest), whereas mods you can do one at a time as you save up money. Second, with mods you have to be careful whose advice you take! I am extremely pleased with the suspension Way Motor Works recommended and installed on my 04 R53, but could have been less impressed had I gone a different direction (or more impressed, I suppose…). Third, with mods you can get a car that suits what you’re looking for; you don’t have to buy from the one-size-fits-all JCW rack.

  • Harry Dill

    The most significant consideration is the warranty issue. If performance gains and cost were equal, warranty preservation and resale value are worth the extra cost. Modifications of any sort carry a significant price. I don’t necessarily think we are being gouged vis-a-vis the relative high cost of all consumables — discretionary and/or necessary. 

    If you wanna live LARGE, you gotta pay LARGE, unless you have wholesale access to the factory parts bin and a capable mechanic friend wherein a net savings of at least 50% could be gained and possibly outweigh the warranty value. Even this scenario would likely sacrifice retaining optimum resale value. The other consideration that opting for aftermarket over factory is having the capacity to pick and choose everything according to personal preference and produce a truly individualized — bespoke, if you will, result. 

    My choice would be to go factory and over time incorporate personal stylization nuances. However you slice it — the price of exclusivity will diminish the size of your loaf.

  • Harry Dill

    The most significant consideration is the warranty issue. If performance gains and cost were equal, warranty preservation and resale value are worth the extra cost. Modifications of any sort carry a significant price. I don’t necessarily think we are being gouged vis-a-vis the relative high cost of all consumables — discretionary and/or necessary. 

    If you wanna live LARGE, you gotta pay LARGE, unless you have wholesale access to the factory parts bin and a capable mechanic friend wherein a net savings of at least 50% could be gained and possibly outweigh the warranty value. Even this scenario would likely sacrifice retaining optimum resale value. The other consideration that opting for aftermarket over factory is having the capacity to pick and choose everything according to personal preference and produce a truly individualized — bespoke, if you will, result. 

    My choice would be to go factory and over time incorporate personal stylization nuances. However you slice it — the price of exclusivity will diminish the size of your loaf.

    • Anonymous

       I feel the same way – For me it makes more sense starting with a JCW and then doing some minor custom styling or even later minor performance mods (suspension + new tires for example).

  • Harry Dill

    I think MINI pricing, across the board, is getting rather outrageous. Great things may come in small packages — and on occasion, very expensive, precious things. In MINI’s case, a MAXI price subverts the entire MINI premise —  an affordably priced car offering economical, sporty performance. From a consumer perspective there are numerous options available in the $30 — $40k+ price range that arguably offer more value at the expense of a smidgeon less cache. It appears that MINI may be losing sight of both its design and its pricing scales. Stay MINI and price MINI. It is a tradition we can all endorse and enjoy!

    • Flatlander_48

      Sir Alec’s late 50′s vision would be something like today’s Kia Soul. In other words, not something that I would want. If I did, I would have bought one instead of my MINI.

  • Gerarddm

    Harry Dill’s comment is especially true when you consider MINIs miserable JD Power reliability ratings. MINIs pricing wouldn’t hurt so much if everything on the car was rock solid, from the biggest system to the smallest nick-nack.

    • Anonymous

      I don’t put much stock into JD Power ratings – they are of questionable usefulness IMO… but reading forums would suggest general reliability is not up to snuff for a premium small car.

      • MINImofo

        We might not put much stock into what JD Powers says, but the lay person does and thats the problem…..

  • JCW Driver

    So, the next step is to start with a JCW and mod it.  The suspension is a net zero for both.  The wheels are already in place unless you want to go further.  The tires are a net zero once the OEMs wear out at 25 or 30k miles.  That leaves the engine.  JCW already has the beefier transmission to take the power safely.  The heads, exhaust, and in take is free flow.

    What would they do with JCW?  ECU tweak?  Surely it can go above 208HP.  I’d rather push the JCW because you are pushing it less.

    On my JCW, the 208 HP is not fully usable until 2nd gear unless you just like smoking the tires.  Unless you are on the track, 2nd and a little of 3rd takes to freeway speed.

    • bee1000

      Hmm…My R53 hits an indicated 70 (so around 66 actual mph) in second gear.

    • Anonymous

      My 2009 JCW had 220 WHP and 269 lbs torque at the wheels with just an access port and larger intercooler. It will spin (spin – not chirp) the tires in third gear.

      • Anonymous

        But what happens if your engine blows up? I’ve read that MINI can tell you flashed – even if you re-flash back to stock (??) and deny your warranty.

        • Anonymous

          Then I’d have to pay to fix it.   Isn’t that a big point of the article above?  You want to get more power at a cheaper initial cost then be prepared to pay more later.

        • Anonymous

           I probably missed some of the points of the article as I gave up when they indicated you get ?17? HP from an updated intake. :-P

  • Anonymous

    Because I drive approx. 35k a year, the factory warranty was gone after 18 months or so.  I had the factory JCW kit installed on an 07′ S @ about 20 thousand or so but I didn’t do any other mods until the expiration of the factory warranty.  It seemed like the right way to go with the then new R56.  As it turns out the subsequent suspension and engine changes I made haven’t caused any problems (to date) to the vehicle.  In the very near future I will be in the market for a new S but I am undecided over the factory JCW or a standard S and go the way I went previously.  At present, I couldn’t be happier with 115,000 miles  and 200+ HP… 

  • Dave

    While I like ‘most” of the JCW parts for the Mk1 MINI’s,  the statement that adding aftermarket parts to a new MINI would void ones warranty is for a lack of better words, a total load of BS.

    The Federal warranty laws specify that is incombent upon the DEALER to PROVE that a aftermarket part in question was the direct result of any alleged warranty failure…..it’s not something they can easily hang their hat on, if ever……….that said.  Mod away !

    • Anonymous

      good luck with that.

    • Flatlander_48

      Proof or not, the Dealer is holding all the cards. You might ultimately get what you want, but at what cost?

    • Flatlander_48

      And no, adding aftermarket parts does not automatically void your warranty. It is what happens IF there is a problem or a parts failure afterwards…

  • steve

    All that said, for most people, it doesn’t usually come down to cost but rather whether they prefer a manual vs. an automatic. The MCS provides automatic and with some innocuous upgrades like CAI and FMIC gets you close to 200 HP. Put, say, and Autologic tune, and you are over the JCW in terms of HP and torque, and the MINI should not bother you — unless one gets crazy and pushes the car beyond reasonableness.

    • Anonymous

       True if you need an automatic, then the discussion would move to Cooper S Auto w/ JCW Kit vs Cooper S Auto w/ aftermarket. :-)

  • Harry Dill

    FYI — The annual SEMA show in Las Vegas presents an absolute treasure trove of aftermarket products, including a showcase of some interesting (not yet launched) discoveries usually displayed just outside the main exhibit hall in the corridor.

  • DoubleNick

    As an old guy, who should know better, I had a “super mechanic” put a pulley on my ’05 MCS. About 2,000 miles later it cost me around 2K to have the SC replaced by MINI. Lesson learned. Recently bought a new factory JCW and plan on leaving it stock. It truly is a MINI on steroids–and there is a warranty.

    • Krumb91

      Very surprised that motoring file would lend creedence to an inaccurate article such as this. They could not even get the name of the models correct. 2011 Mini Cooper S & 2011 Mini John Cooper Works are two distinctly different models in the lineup. I won’t even begin with the HP numbers they claim to get from a CAI and exhaust upgrade. Shame on you motoring file.

  • Huskdoc

    Bogus! Is it possible to make a S faster then a JCW yes but no that way.

  • 11′JCWowner

    Having a 2011 JCW, I decided to go this route rather than the mod an S and happy for it. I’m a heavy year mileage guy so I’m not worried in a year or two about the warranty.

    I’ve added the JCW suspension after I purchased the vehicle. Actually, it was part of my deal with buying the car. My local dealer had a holiday incentive and I bartered for the suspension and cash in total versus the total incentive in cash only. 

    Anyway, as always do what you enjoy and not what the so called experts want you to do! 

  • Erik

    Add a tune to a Cooper S and you will be well above the JCW power, with all stock S parts, including exhaust and air box. You’ll see about 210 whp and 230 wtq, which is about 235/260 at the crank. That will run you between $500-1000. Add in lighter wheels and upgraded tires for $1000-1500 and another 1500 for suspension and you’ll have a better than JCW performance for much less.

    • Christ2

      Maybe that money you save will be enough to rebuild the engine when you blow a piston, maybe not….

  • Christ2

    From Winding Road:

    “In terms of engine mods, the JCW features reinforced pistons, a lower compression ratio (10.0:1 versus 10.5:1 in the Cooper S) and more boost (1.3 bar in the JCW, 0.9 bar in the Cooper S) from a larger turbocharger and exhaust manifold.”

    Before you start modding a stock MCS, you might want to ask yourself WHY were those pistons reinforced.  It’s because they were blowing stock MCS engines far too frequently for the engineers liking when they started developing the kit.

    I’d mod a stock R56 MCS with care, much care.  Aftermarket header and exaust, after that, beware.  There are nice threads out there about piston failures on modded R56′s.

    The R53 is another story; it’s a different engine, and it can handle much more modification; people have just kind of assumed the R56 is the same beast.  The Prince, without upgraded internals, is close to maxed out with regard to what the internals can safely handle.

    • Really?

      Chalk up another one to the beloved R53.

      • Flatlander_48

        Maybe, but likely by accident. Either other more highly stressed applications were planned OR they made accommodations for other possible variants OR it was just over designed.

  • goat

    I’m a fan of the JCW route, but it must be said that pricing has crept way too high… $45K+ for a JCW R56 in Canada is typical. ($41K CDN starting price for a new 370Z, to name just one example of a thoroughbred RWD sports car similar pricing!) So on an overall “value” basis, a lightly optioned S continues to be the best choice for most. Still, if you have the means, a JCW is very very choice and I’d recommend it just for the peace of mind of the reinforced Prince internals.

    Always nice to see “factory tuned” versus aftermarket articles though. I’m a fan of both approaches…  my own experience as a driving enthusiast is that even a “factory tuned” model ends up with some aftermarket parts on it sooner or later.   :)


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