After what seemed to be an overly dramatic pause in information, MINI USA is lifting the veil on the GP in the US market. Yesterday they announced GP pricing to dealers via a bulletin that outlined standard equipment, allocation and timing. They still technically haven’t made this information public but give how they expect to sell the cars, we know they will shortly.
Check out the pricing and other info after the break.
The GP will retail for $39,950 including destination. While it’s a price almost $7,000 more than the 2006 R53 GP, the R56 GP promises to offer a more uncompromising experience and a more track focused set-up. We’ll get into what that money buys in a moment. But first here’s a quick look at other key facts:
- 500 slotted to US market
- Each dealer gets one car.
- All other cars will be available via a toll free number Mid-November with current GP owners getting first crack
- Standard JCW wheels and run flats available for $100
- Special delivery for 50-100 in early March (details TDB)
- US market gets Bluetooth, auto climate control, flat load floor, standard radio and Recaros.
- MINIUSA is working on numbering each car imported tithe US (similar to the 2006 GP)
At the heart of the new GP is an extensively modified JCW engine capable of developing 160 kW/ 218 hp. The responsive power and excellent revving ability of the MINI John Cooper Works GP’s 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine may not be reflected in gaudy performance figures but it should provide better performance and feel. Among the highlights are the aluminium cylinder block and bearing mounts, reinforced pistons, sturdier cylinder head, low-weight crankshafts and sodium-filled exhaust valves. It’s unclear at this time how different (if at all) the turbo unit is from the stock JCW but we do know that the engine isbaesd on the new Valvetronic version of the JCW engine which helps to maximise engine responsiveness and efficiency.
According to MINI the powerplant responds instantly to throttle commands and delivers maximum torque of 260 Newton metres from just 1,750 rpm. For extra punch when accelerating, peak torque can be increased for short periods to 280 Nm from 2,000 rpm, thanks to the overboost function. Maximum power of 160 kW/218 hp is delivered at 6,000 rpm. It is transferred to the wheels via a six-speed manual transmission that is carried over from the stock JCW.
Thanks to the extra power, the MINI John Cooper Works GP a 0 to 62 mph time of 6.3 seconds. Sounds quite conservative to us but then again BMW is known to play it very safe when providing 0-62 figures. Perhaps more impressive is mid-range acceleration; 80 to 120 km/h (50–75 mph) time in fifth gear is just 5.9 seconds. Top speed is a drag limited 242 km/h (150 mph).
With its distinctive appearance, the MINI John Cooper Works GP is in no way subtle. The body is painted in the exclusive color Thunder Grey metallic, with red for the edging round the bonnet opening as well as for the exterior mirror caps and the side air intakes in the front apron. John Cooper Works insignia appear on the lower air intake and the tailgate. The final proof of identity is provided by “GP”-badged side stripes running between the front and rear wheel arches. Notably gone are the individually numbered stickers above the doors. The reason given? There are so many unlucky numbers in certain Asian cultures that MINI felt it was better to lessen the visibility of the individual numbers. At this time it’s unclear whether MINI will attempt to give each a number at all. Our guess is no.
The standard specification of the MINI John Cooper Works GP includes xenon headlights in black shells, foglamps, sun protection glazing, air conditioning, DSC with special GP mode, and a Sport button.
The feel is continued inside by an interior ambience which, partly due to the absence of a rear seat bench, is focused entirely on the needs of the driver and “co-driver”, both of whom sit comfortably in Recaro sports seats with special GP stitching. A cargo guard prevents items from sliding forward out of the luggage compartment in sporty driving situations. The John Cooper Works thick-rimmed leather steering wheel and the gearshift knob with chrome ring and red shift diagram help give the driver a more direct feel for the car. Finally, with features like the anthracite roof liner, the piano black interior surfaces and door grips, and the anthracite rev counter and speedometer dials, this interior also helps to improve the driver’s concentration and focus on the road.
DIN Unladen weight of the GP is 2,557 lbs. How does that compare to a stock JCW hatch? Not as well as one would expect. According to MINI UK the DIN unladen weight of the R56 JCW 2,513. Why is the GP heavier despite losing the rear seats? And how did the original GP lose the 80 lbs it did over the standard R53? Let’s start with why the new GP isn’t lighter. The truth is we don’t have all the answers yet but we can start with what’s new on the car. For one the GP has substantially larger brakes than any MINI before it. Brakes that aren’t aluminum and are in fact rather heavy. Then there’s the more robust suspension and wider wheels and tires. It may not sound like much but it could easily add up to an extra 44 lbs.
So how did the original MINI lose just under 100 lbs? One of the biggest losses was the replacement of steel rear control arms with R56 based aluminum versions. It’s one major component of the loss in weight that the R56 based GP already has built into it’s base design.
Suspension & Brakes
The MINI John Cooper Works GP’s exclusive suspension technology relies heavily on motor sport. For the first time on a MINI, it features an individually adjustable coilover suspension, which allows ride height to be lowered by up to 20 millimetres. Among other things, this means the suspension set-up can be fine-tuned to different circuit conditions whenever the MINI goes out onto the track.
The front shock absorbers are mounted upside down in the tube, with the piston rod pointing down, in order to increase longitudinal and lateral stiffness.
The front camber has been increased compared with the regular MINI John Cooper Works, so that the performance potential of the sports tyres – which differ significantly from road tyres – can be used to full effect, without the penalties of early understeer, inevitably leading to increased tyre wear. Other features include reduced front-wheel toe-in and increased rear camber, which alters the forward weight transfer so as to give more speed and more neutral steering when driving close to the limit. At the same time, the reduced toe-in improves agility and cornering confidence.
Track-worthy braking performance is provided by the MINI John Cooper Works GP’s racing-derived sports brake system, featuring six-piston fixed-calliper disc brakes, vented at the front. The front discs are 330 millimetres in diameter and 25 millimetres thick, with 280 x 10 mm discs at the rear. The low-weight 17-inch alloy wheels, again exclusive to the MINI John Cooper Works GP, run on high-traction 215/40 R17 sports tyres. Optionally, standard-size 205/45 R17 tyres are available on the same wheels, offering a good sporty balance between performance and good handling in wet or low-temperature conditions. The 7.5 x 17 H2 ET45 wheels, which were specially developed for the MINI John Cooper Works GP, are derived from the MINI Challenge race car, and feature lightweight contours on flow-formed rims.
On the MINI John Cooper Works GP, the DSC Dynamic Stability Control is not combined with DTC, as would normally be the case, but with a special GP racing mode. Under hard driving, the driver may often not want ASC engine power reduction cutting in, so instead this system offers just ASC braking, based on the EDLC (Electronic Differential Lock Control) subfunction. The EDLC software brakes the wheel on the inside of the turn, and the drive power that would otherwise be lost at this wheel is redirected to the outer wheel, where the contact forces are greater.
The aerodynamic body parts like the large front and rear aprons, striking side sills and model-specific roof spoiler not only add to the appearance but also play an important part in controlling air flow. The rear diffusor, together with the underside panelling (some of which was taken from the Cooper SD) and the roof-edge spoiler, reduce lift forces at the rear axle by 90 per cent, for impeccable handling control even under high-speed cornering and when driving at or near the limit. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; this GP isn’t about weight loss as much as it is suspension and aero.
A six per cent reduction in drag is reflected in improved fuel economy and a higher top speed. The air flow round the front of the car has been significantly improved with the help of a large spoiler and full aerodynamic shielding of the engine compartment underside. This aerodynamic shield not only reduces drag and front axle lift, but also improves air flow through the engine compartment. Slits in the centre of the shield help to expel air from the intercooler. The slits are situated in an area of fast air flow and high vacuum force, so that the air is literally sucked out of the engine compartment, thereby improving the performance of the intercooler.
Unlike the first GP, MINI now has access to BMW’s new industry leading wind-tunnel at its Environmental Testing Center in Munich. That gave the team developing the GP more opportunity to carefully hone the aero both on the bottom and the top of the car.
A Different GP
Even though the styling of the new GP is very reminiscent of the old, MINI’s making a clear change in direction with this GP. This is a car that was engineered from the ground-up to be exceptional on the track as well as the street. The first GP was created quickly with a number of accessory parts. The new GP seems as it’s cut from a noticeably different cloth. Designed, engineered and then tested over two years, the new JCW GP is a car much closer to an M product than any MINI before it.
No there’s no weight loss. And no there are no big power gains. But in talking with the GP’s head of development, Jorg Weidinger, it became clear that he wasn’t just a product manager for MINI but a racer with more than 15 years experience at the professional level. A quick online search and you’ll find Mr. Weidinger’s personal racing site with his full history dating back to 1994. Why is this a big deal? The GP’s development wasn’t led by a marketer, but by a racer with years of experience at the ‘Ring and throughout Europe’s best tracks. This is why the GP has 17″ wheels, non-runflat tires. This is why the suspension is full adjustable and why the brakes are unusually large for such a light car.
Even if final power and weight figures disappoint some, we expect this GP to easily be the fastest and most track focused MINI to date. And we can thank Mr. Weidinger and his team for bringing new thinking reminiscent of BMW M to the JCW GP brand.
We’ll have MUCH more on the GP in the days and weeks ahead.