With all the hype and build up of the rumored “lightweight” Cooper S, there was probably little MINI could do to actually impress everyone. With numbers like 230bhp and 15% weight reduction being bandied around, it would have taken a Herculean effort by BMW engineers to meet expectations and keep the car certified for sale around the world easily without spending a boat load of engineering time and money. Not to mention that all this work was going into a model less than a year away from being completely replaced. With that in mind, the JCW GP starts to make a bit more sense.
The JCW GP prototype shown in Misano ant MINI United was just that… a prototype. BMW/MINI engineers are still working on the final engine modifications, styling, and interior design. So with that said we’ll be offering our analysis on the car shown at Misano and the specifications provided by MINI Press.
Since we don’t have test figures yet, we can only judge the car by it’s raw performance.
Power: 218bhp (likely to be around 215hp for the US)
The JCW GP power gains over the standard MCS JCW are accomplished by modifying the intercooler and tweaking the ECU. Not rocket science but then again what could we hope for with a supercharged engine in it’s last year of production. But 218 bhp? Surely this special edition could be more special? I imagine the economic realities of tweaking an engine that was soon to be discontinued were hard to overcome. While MINI engineers surely could have squeezed more power out of the trusty Tritec, they most likely didn’t have the time, staff, or budget to get it done. Furthermore, they have to retain the engines eco-friendly qualities for it to be certified for sale on many world markets. So 218 bhp it is.
Weight savings: 40kg (or 88.1 pounds)
There were lots of rumors of carbon fiber but in the end MINI decided against it. Reportedly it would have been too costly to homologate for worldwide sales (the proposed thinner glass fell into this category as well). So that leaves us with aluminum control arms (not insignificant), deleted rear seats and sound deadening material. MINI is also planning to offer optional radio and A/C delete to further reduce the weight of the car. While undoubtedly the use of aluminum and carbon fiber would have been welcome by most, final costs would have sky-rocketed. And if costs weren’t the only issue with light-weight materials, you can bet that government regulations were right behind them.
I think MINI has walked a fine line rather well between weight reduction and producing a car that is still marketable to a wide audience. While engineers could have certainly pulled out more weight and in turn more creature comforts, the potential market would have likely been reduced to a level that would have not made the car economically feasible.
Improved Aerodynamics and Increase Downforce
As it turns out the JCW GP actually did spend some time in the wind tunnel. This is a nice surprise as it was assumed the body kit and wing were purely cosmetic. In fact it’s been reported that the JCW GP’s drag coefficient has been reduced from .36 to around .30. Since the MINI is known to get a little unbalanced in some high speeds situations, these are welcome additions. Particularly interesting is the “under body paneling”.
The other performance improvements on the JCW GP are no brainer. The JCW suspension kit helps get the power to the road and the car balanced in the corners and the JCW Brakes of course help it all come to a stop safely and quickly. However one aspect of the car that’s surely going to disappoint enthusiasts; the apparent brake cooling ducts are reportedly just for show. This is odd since JCW Motorsport actually sells a brake cooling ducts for the JCW Challenge cars. It would have seemed a no-brainer to integrate them into this car.
But all that said, the performance of the JCW GP isn’t necessarily where I’m personally disappointed. When one looks at the features and performance, for around the price of a well equipped MCS (roughly £22k or if we’re lucky low$30s), the JCW GP is not at all unreasonable.
Yes folks, this is where things get ugly. Let’s start with the front.
The MINI design team have chosen to go a bit more extreme with the front apron. On the face of it I have no complaints there. And I have to say the front of the car really succeeds in letting everyone know it’s intentions. With the color coded grille, the flat black in the air-scoop (a great detail), slick brake ducts (unfortunately faux), it would seem the designers really sweated the details and the car is better for it.
But wait… what’s this? Why does the beloved black fender arch not visually extend to the apron? There’s certainly no well crafted design theme on the car that would make sense of this. Yet the MINI designers didn’t stop there however. They extended this design language to the side skirts. Here too, the decision still makes little sense. Visually there a disconnect that is obvious to almost all who see the car. Naturally MINI designers didn’t want to paint the arches as it de-empathizes the corners of the car (one of the most integral parts of the design). So why not simply extend the black trim to the bottom of the front apron at the very least? Could this be a classic case of something working in the sketches that simply didn’t translate well to the finished product? Or perhaps this portion of the design isn’t complete? I personally hope it’s the latter.
As we move around towards the rear, some of my faith is restored in a fairly simple and well executed rear apron. The base design is essentially the same as a standard MCS. However MINI have added extended lower black trim and added two silver bits that look to be air defusers of some kind. While they may not be functional, they do a good job of covering the black stock rear grilles (which as we all know are also not functional).
The rear wiper deletion is actually quite a nice touch. Apparently the change also mandated the JCW GP getting the MINI Convertible’s third brake light. All welcome changes for a car that probably won’t see a lot of in-climate weather.
And what about that rear spoiler? I was inclined to dismiss it’s size and form as a product from a designer who’d seen too much WRC. However I’m now told that it was specifically shaped in the wind-tunnel to reduce drag and increase down-force. Again, all good attributes for a high performance car. So the wing gets a nod of approval from this corner.
The color is hard to judge at this point. The photos I’ve seen from MINI PR range from blue-grey to just grey. I imagine it’s makes a but more sense in the flesh. Yet I can’t help but feel MINI is missing an obvious chance to give the car more of a motorsport feel. A medium red (BMW’s Imola) or even a traditional non-metallic British racing green would have seemingly been more welcome. But I’ll withhold final color-related opinions until I see the car in person.
That said there’s one aspect of the color I’m all too happy to judge; the red mirror caps. I’ve tried hard to understand the logic behind them. I’ve tried looking at the car at every angle imaginable. Yet I still can’t fully understand the logic of red mirror caps on a blue-grey car. I’m told that once we see the final interior, they will make more sense. Perhaps… but you can’t see the interior from the outside.
But all this pales in comparison to those absurd four-spoke wheels. Now I have to be honest, I loathe four-spoke wheels in general. At best they look inconsequential and weak. At their worst they look simply terrible. I’m afraid in this instance the answer would be both A and B. MINI has succeeded in creating an 18″ performance wheel that neither looks big or athletic. In fact it’s hard to believe they’re 18″ wheels at all. And there’s really no other way to put it, they simply look weak and contrived. Or to put it another way, like the product of a design theme gone too far.
Despite this, there’s still hope for the JCW GP. As an owner, you could easily replace the mirror caps. And of course there’s three other fine choices for 18″ wheels in the JCW catalog (not to mention countless after-market options). What’s the point of buying a MINI if you don’t make it your own!
The better news is that MINI isn’t quite done with the JCW GP. The final production version (again the one shown here is simply a prototype) will be debuted at the Geneva Motorshow in March. This gives MINI a little more time to touch up a few areas and finish off what sounds like a very impressive interior.
It’s probably safe to say that the JCW GP isn’t the car that most of the hardcore enthusiasts have been waiting for. However (assuming our pricing forecasts are correct) it just may be a viable option for someone interested in a no-frills JCW MCS. And as a bonus they’ll also be getting the rarest and fastest production MINI ever.