One of the little nuggets released yesterday with the new 2006 MINIUSA configurator was the full pricing on the US Spec JCW Cooper Sound Kit. The Sound Kit will retail for $1100 and will be available only as a dealer accessory. There’s no word on install time but expect at least 2-4 hours and $200-$400 added onto the final bill. Here’s the official product info on the JCW Cooper Sound Kit from MINI:

True, the John Cooper Works Sound Kit for the MINI Cooper does not replace the HiFi system in the car. But if the station search function is not able to keep up with the speed of the MINI Cooper round fast bends, the sound kit comes in very handy, this “radio straight from the engine compartment” ensuring perfect reception at all times: The special connection between the air filter and the interior is tuning for your ears, naturally live and with extra legroom in the front row.

The John Cooper Works Sound Kit also has an additional offer on the drive wheels: Together with modified engine management software and the stainless sports exhaust complete with the John Cooper Works logo, the sound kit increases engine output by 2kW/3 bhp, giving the MINI Cooper maximum output of 87kW/118 bhp. A certificate signed by Mike Cooper himself, finally, confirms that this is really genuine equipment from John Cooper Works.

[ engine cover ] [ exhaust ] [ air filter ]

MF Analysis: What’s a brand worth? How strong is it? Where should the brand head in the future? These are all things MINI needs to be asking itself wiith the addition of a JCW product like this. There’s no question that $1100 (+ install) doesn’t get you much of a performance increase with this product. Intead it gets you a badge, some bright work under the bonnet, an exhaust and an improved engine note. Is this the path that MINI wants JCW to head down? Sure there are other JCW accessories that don’t do much for performance (carbon dashboards anyone) but these are drivetrain components. Should JCW have left the Cooper alone since it already had a full JCW Engine Kit out since early 2001?

Or is this simply a scratch of an itch that a few Cooper owners have had over the years? Maybe MINI and JCW have done the right thing by bringing a simplified engine upgrade within the reach of more owners. Perhaps MINI feels that most Cooper owners don’t feel the need for more power and simply want a nice piece of kit for the commute?

Either way it certainly brings up an opportunity for some good discussion…