(This article is specifically about the US-spec MINI JCW and not the version that comes with the aero-kit elsewhere in the world)
A lot has been made of the new factory JCW MINI not coming with the JCW suspension let alone the sport suspension as standard. In our review last week we found the car to be exceptional in all but two ways – lack of visual distinction and lack of an upgraded suspension. And it’s not rocket science how you fix both of those issues. JCW has the parts to do it, but they just decided leave the car relatively untouched and ready for each owner to tailor it to their own needs. Of course the problem (as we said in the review) is that MINI hasn’t done the JCW brand or the car any favors with this visual restraint. People simply can’t recognize a JCW MINI (like they do an M3) from across the parking lot and due to this there’s a lack of brand recognition as well. But worse for the enthusiast, the lack of an upgraded suspension signals a serious compromise in the character of the car. People want to believe in a brand and the ideals it stands for. They want authenticity. At this point it’s a little unclear how authentic the JCW is or will be.
But the good news is that we can fix that. So let’s put aside all of those issues and take a look at how we would have built and positioned the new MINI JCW.
To start with we’d change nothing with the drive-train or brakes. They are excellent and individually the best things we’ve ever experienced in a MINI factory car. But that doesn’t mean that the performance of the JCW is perfect. So we’d have put the JCW suspension on this car standard with the slightly softer sport suspension as a no-cost option. It’s less rough than people think and certainly livable with the wonderful 17″ Borbet wheels (owned by BBS in case you’re wondering). It would help immeasurably with getting power down in the corners and with the dreaded torque steer. And it wouldn’t really add that much to the cost of the car from a material stand-point.
Visual we’d change the car in a coupe of obvious ways. For one we’d add the JCW aero-kit as standard (yes we know this already comes standard in some markets). We’d also do something unique to the trim of the car to give it a bit more character. Something that couldn’t easily be replicated on a non-JCW car. Blacked out inner headlight trim would be a good place to start. Then maybe followed by a JCW Challenge car rear defuser tucked under the rear.
We’d stick with the 17″ JCW wheels as standard but would add an 18″ wheel as an option much like BMW has an optional 19″ wheel for the M3. This is a great money maker for BMW and gives consumers (theoretically) a cheaper way to get 18″s since they’d be available from the factory.
Inside we’d suggest using a similar grey palette that the MINI E has (without the yellow highlights) on the tach and speedometer along with the exceptional JCW steering wheel for a bit more of a beefier and sporty feel. Finally we’d offer a unique trim color that has the JCW logo cleanly integrated into it rather than the plastic sticker that currently adorns the JCW. Of course the anthracite headliner and JCW sills should be left alone as they are currently standard on the car.
But what does this do to cost and ultimately MSPR? What is described above would need to be priced higher in stock form than the current JCW. But knowing the material costs wouldn’t be dramatically higher, we’d hope that MINI would be able to keep costs down to levels similar to what you see the JCW at today. In the US our hope would be the $30,000 mark. While that is higher, than the car today, we believe the additions and the new found character would easily command this price difference.
Will this make a difference? It’s hard to say. As much as MINI reads MF, we’re not in charge. We can only offer suggestions based on our knowledge of the market and the MINI owner. But it’s certainly fun to imagine what the car would have been received if specced accordingly.
However let’s not end it here. What’s your take on the JCW car? Did MINI hit the mark? If not, what would you have liked to have seen added or subtracted?