MotoringFile Review: R56 JCW Tuning Kit

In 2007 MotoringFile took delivery of our first R56 and with it a number of JCW accessories – most importantly the JCW Tuning Kit. With the F56 JCW Tuning being released this fall we thought we’d look back to remind ourselves what came before.

The kit for the R56 is extraordinarily straight forward. In the US it simply consists of a more aggressive air intake, a free flowing exhaust, a turbocharger air filter air guide and the all important ECU upgrade.

This is quite a contrast to the previous kit available for the R52 and R53 that included such items as a new head and inter-cooler and pretty big freakn’ check from the new owner. In fact the new kit is almost 1/3 of the $6000 price tag the R52/R53 dealer installed version rang up. But is it even worth the lower $2000 price tag? Especially now that there are so many aftermarket tuning options for the R56?

R56_JCW_accessories_369417178_123f91d4c5_b

The JCW Engine kit takes the 2007 MCS from 175bhp to 192bhp in original guise and a few more HP for 2011-2013 models. But more importantly it increases torque to as much as 200lbf-ft with the over-boost function (again more with the post 2011 facelift years). To put that in perspective, that’s more than the JCW GP had. Also better than the GP (and all previous JCW kits) is the throttle response. The ECU tuning sharpens the already faster throttle tip-in (with sport button on of course) to even higher levels.

While you feel the extra power throughout the band, the high-end is where it really impresses. While the torque curve is as flat as ever, the peak power comes on gradually throughout the range peaking at the 6000rpm mark (at 192bhp). This, coupled with the new turbo engine’s eagerness to rev, gives you the sense of having more than enough power anywhere and anytime. In fact, with all the torque down low and power up high, the FWD drive-train works hard to just get rubber down to the pavement in spirited acceleration. While the JCW Suspension (also installed on the car in question) helps keep weight from shifting too much to the rear on take-off, there’s still enough transfer that traction can be at a premium in quick launches.

R56_JCW_accessories_956492178_c933dffeea_b

As with the previous JCW kit, this upgrade amplifies the character of the car. Naturally this makes it decidedly different than the raspy, snarling character of the R53 JCW kit. But instead of the supercharger wine and the exhaust pops you get a mean sounding 4 cylinder that has a hint of refinement and sophistication about it. The exhaust has a deeper tone that (like the previous kit) is in no way is loud or obnoxious. It’s a character that fits with the new car and (dare I say it) is a little easier to live with day to day. It’s not nearly as refined as the F56, but then again that’s music to many of your ears I’d bet.

Comparing the R56 Tuning Kit with the previous R53 JCW, it’s really hard to feel a difference in speed with just the seat of the pants in a standard 0-60 test. And the figures below bear this out. However one area that you can legitimately feel an improvement is in mid-range 4th gear acceleration – the kind many of us enjoy on on-ramps or in passing situations. Here the car seems to have endless power similar to what you’d experience with the JCW GP. In fact, this particular time is actually more inline with BMW’s published data for the GP.

R56_JCW_accessories_369412112_cd7f90cbf2_b

For reference, here are the official numbers. Keep in mind BMW is notoriously conservative with their figures. Auto mags routinely get at least half a second better times in most tests (previous MINI and JCW tests have born this out).

  R56 JCW R53 JCW
0-60 mph 6.5s 6.5s
50 – 75mph (4th gear) 5.3s 6.4s
50 – 75mph (5th gear) 6.6s 6.7s
50 – 75mph (6th gear) 7.6s 8.9s


Downsides? As with any OEM accessory price vs performance isn’t as high as it theoretically could be from the after-market. I also found it a little less satisfying not researching components and/or installing everything myself as I had with the R53. But with time marching on the notion of getting under the hood seems like distant memory anyway.

Then there’s the notion that $2000 is only buying a few physical components – an exhaust, intake and some pieces of plastic. Obviously there’s the BMW ECU tuning and countless hours of engineering and testing that also add to the cost. Yes, taken as a whole it’s easier pill to swallow than the previous kit. But still, for those who love building their own car via the wonderful MINI after-market, I have no doubt that this kit won’t be the answer their looking for.

At this point if you’re considering the kit your Cooper S is either out of warranty or getting close to it. So it is this all worth it? It really depends on what you want from the car and what you intend to use it for. If you’re budgeting about $2k on upgrades and you plan on extensively tracking your R56 MCS, I’d actually recommend the JCW Suspension kit (or a quality after-market equivalent) over the engine kit. However if you’re going to be driving primarily on the street with one or two track days a year, than this kit starts to get very attractive. Yes there are some pretty compelling after-market upgrades for the R56. And there’s little question that you can put together a comparable list of after-market components that come in under $2k. But what MINI has done with the JCW kit is to create a cohesive upgrade that leverages the knowledge of those who designed and engineered the car. It’s almost as if these components within the kit are simply the final stage of production and they had been intended all along.

If you like the warranty, the power, the seamless feel, and the cache of those little badges, this kit is absolutely worth the money. And if you fall into those categories but still need to be talked into it, consider this fact; the new JCW kit gives you greater performance than the previous version at almost 1/3 of the cost. And if you have to, just skip the leather seats.

  • walk0080

    Those rims are one of my favorite of all time for the 1st and 2nd gen MINI. Great choice.

    Completely agree – JCW does seem to have endless power… flat torque curve but gradual power increase are all wonderful for city driving and of course highway on-ramps.

    Plus exhaust setup completely fits the car. Very deep growl that often shocks people not expecting it from a 4-cyl engine. Also the front brakes on the fJCW get their fair share of stairs, pointing, etc. as they are fairly large for such a small car.

  • Craig Engel

    I completely agree, the rims are great. Anyone know if something similar is offered for Gen 3 cars with the five lug bolt pattern?

  • The power figures for the JCW Tuning Kit seem to be all over the map.

    My 2010 last dyno’d 190 horsepower at the wheel (which almost it’s advertised to have at the crank 192) on the most recent software update for the torque steer fix, but I’ve seen others dyno as low as 170 at the wheel (still up by 10 horsepower). So while you will almost certainly get a power boost, it’s impossible to say just what the actual figures will be.

    I have all of the internal service logs from when it was one of MINI Canada’s hero cars for the 2010 MINI invasion and there isn’t anything in here that would explain the extra power (not that I am gonna complain).

    Mine is the mean-sounding black and red one in the video.

    • Also, if anyone knows how I can get the burble and pop during overrun on my 2010, I am all ears. So far nobody has been able to help.

  • sugurunishioka

    I love my 2011 MCS with the tuning kit. 2011+ kit includes beefier exhaust manifold which adds quite few hours to the installation time, but I’m very happy with the result. As Gabe said, 4th gear pull is real, and I feel it everyday in my commute. Throttle responsiveness and mid-high rev gain were also very noticeable. I drove my friendss regular MCS and loaner roadster S after getting used to mine, and I don’t think I can go back to regular MCS again.

    I guess I’m in the minority here but I like the fact you can make JCW tuned car with less racy looking none aero exterior of regular MCS. My Hot Choco MCS with white roof doesn’t look aggressive at all from outside, but she easily take on any on-ramps or in passing game, and push around big cars with 2x hp figure in twisties all no problem.

    Not the tuning kit but the JCW steering wheel and the shift knob also add quite a bit of driving fun as well.

    Now that my car is out of warranty I don’t have to stick with JCW parts, but I still like the togetherness of the whole thing as I feel they were really designed together, and I’m contemplating adding the JCW big brake kit in near future. (and possibly front/rear sway bars)

  • jcwcoupe

    As I type my R58 JCW is getting the JCW suspension kit installed! Can’t wait!

  • Vic C

    I have the tuning kit on my 2007 MCS and I would agree that the power is really nice after 2nd gear. The exhaust sounds great and the chrome JCW exhaust tips look awesome!!! They still look brand new after many years exposed. JCW/BMW equipment is also very expensive but they are built well. I have JCW rims, body kit, etc., and all look so awesome. The downside, you have to change your spark plugs every other oil change. I never noticed a big yellow sticker under my hood stating this. Also, I’m now at 75,000 miles and my engine burn’s oil soooooo fast. I hear R56’s are known for this but it’s ridiculous how much it burns. Planning on selling my MCS very soon. ;-(