The 2015 MINI JCW is arriving at dealers as we speak and on paper it’s exactly what we at MF have hoped for since the brand’s inception. From the early years as a bolt-on kit to the never fully realized R56 JCW, the brand has had plenty of promise but never quite a cohesive statement (outside of the limited edition GPs). However the F56 JCW marks the brand’s first car that might just fulfill the brand’s promise. The only question left in our mind is if it goes far enough? That’s a question we won’t have an answer to until we get behind the wheel for a full test this summer. In the meantime we urge you to do two things. First keep reading. Second head to your local MINI dealer and test drive one. Third tell us about your experience in the comments. Now, onto why this JCW may just be “it.”
At $30,600 the JCW is, on paper, more impressive from a price vs performance metric than anything from the brand before. But it’s not just the 0-60 time that will define success for the JCW. For too long these cars haven’t felt exclusive enough. With the F56 JCW MINI has sought to change that. To start with the JCW has two featured colors, Chili red and Rebel green with the latter being 100% exclusive.
Starting in the front, the aerokit on the factory JCW is indeed subtly unique to the one available as an after sales accessory. There’s the red accent line across the grill for starters. But it’s the lack of foglights and the grills in their place that are more interesting to us. While the right grill is simply a blanking plate, the left is an air intake that leads to an additional radiator. This allows the engine to remain cool while running hotter churning out 228 hp and 236 ft-lbs. Early performance figures show some real improvements – 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 Seconds for the auto and 6.1 seconds for the manual. Elasticity has also been improved by 10 percent with a figure of 5.6 seconds for acceleration from 50 to 75 mph
The 17″ standard and 18″ optional JCW wheels are all unfortunately available to Cooper and Cooper S buyers along with the optional JCW Exterior package. This robs the JCW of more visual exclusivity while spreading the JCW look to the entire range. The one unique aspect of the JCW wheels (whether they’re on a real JCW or not) is that they bow outward in order for the four-pot front calipers to fit behind them. This in turn has dictated that the plastic wheel arches are subtly extended to fully cover the wider wheels.
Another detail on the JCW that might not get noticed is the side sill which is more aggressive than the stock Cooper or Cooper S design. This is thankfully done without resorting to the vulgarity of a faux air intake as the previous two MINI kits have had.
Around back the rear bumper isn’t quite what we saw on the JCW concept last year with its faux diffuser. That’s saved for the JCW Pro Aero Kit. However MINI promises that the Pro’s rear trim can be retrofitted to the factory JCW easily.
The exhaust on the JCW is different from the standard MCS and is designed to mate with the higher output engine and allow for freer breathing. However it isn’t quite as feature packed or even made as bespoke in construction as the JCW after-sales exhaust. Case in point the standard exhaust that comes with the JCW doesn’t have the electronically controlled flap that allows the driver to reduce or increase exhaust noise at will. That said MINI has assured us that the accessory exhaust should ultimately be able to be retrofitted on the factory JCW.
The stock suspension on JCW is identical to the sport suspension on the MCS. This makes is 30% stiffer than the stock MCS suspension (which is offered on the JCW as a no cost option). As expected the optional variable dampers are also available and are again identical to the MCS.
Why didn’t MINI go more aggressive? For one the sport suspension standard on the JCW already is quite stiff for everyday driving. But the real reason is the customer. According to MINI’s internal customer data, many owners who buy the JCW aren’t looking for the unilateral track car but instead are wanting the fastest and best MINI they can buy without sacrificing comfort. However for those wanting the ultimate factory track weapon, MINI will offer a fully adjustable JCW suspension as a dealer or port install. This suspension incidentally is similar to the R56 GP’s set-up.
The JCW’s engine, while labeled as a different power unit as the MCS is in truth quite similar. The turbo is different and designed for more output and to run hotter (which in turn is cooled by the extra radiator in the lower left side of front bumper). The pistons are also revised coated differently than those on the MCS. There are other physical differences but this engine’s headline story is the power and torque – 228 hp and 236 ft-lbs.
Braking is substantially improved over the previous JCW with a Brembo four-pot set-up in the front. Combined with much larger front rotors the surface area increase should allow for more stopping power and less fade at high temperature conditions (i.e. at the track).
Inside MINI has given the JCW unique seats with higher levels of bottom and side bolstering along with a unique standard Alcantara, leather and fabric trim. The seats feature a single piece back that both saves incremental weight and also seems to allow for room for helmets. The JCW seats are standard as are LED headlights.
Elsewhere MINI has added graphics that correspond with RPM levels around the center display. Additionally there’s the JCW steering wheel, shift knob and slightly revised speedometer and rev counter.
The option that a lot of you will be talking about are the JCW gauge cluster that takes the place of the also option heads-up display. The gauges are (from left to right) oil pressure, boost and a stop-watch. While we love the idea it’s worth mentioning that the gauges very slightly impede on visibility near the top of the hood and also make it impossible to opt for the optional heads-up display.
It’s hard to make any assumptions at this point. We know that the JCW is faster and more focused than any standard JCW model before and yet only costs $30,600 – $500 more than the 2013 model. But how does it compare to the revised F56 MCS not to mention competition from VW, Ford and the like? And what does this thing weigh compared to the already spelt MCS? These are questions that will have to wait until when we get behind the wheel in a few weeks.