While we wait for the MINI GP3 to come in early 2020, we thought we’d revisit the ultimate MINI to date – the R56 JCW GP
Six years ago I fell in love on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean. The 2013 R56 JCW GP carved the mountain corners of Mallorca like it was designed for them. Since then I’ve driven a lot of quick MINIs on the road and track. But nothing yet has come close to what the 2013 R56 JCW GP delivered.
Those are the type of drives that linger with you. Which is why the R56 GP came to mind when a reader wrote in asking about the best place to find a well specced R56 JCW. After some conversation it was clear that he didn’t need rear seats and wanted something seriously sporty. My recommendation was obvious – find a GP. More specifically a 2013 R56 GP.
The original 2006 JCW GP is a special car. Thrown together at break-neck speed and mostly made of existing components, it had no right to be as good as it was. Yet the R53 GP is one of the most satisfying cars I’ve ever driven at any price. Sure, MINI had some trouble selling all initially, but since then it’s become a classic with ever-slowing depreciation. Simply put the original MINI JCW GP is in a league of its own in terms of immediacy and driving satisfaction in a front wheel drive package.
In contrast, the newer R56 GP is a car with much more engineering strength behind it. Road testing and development took place primarily at the Nurburgring, led by the same BMW engineer and test driver that lead development of the 2016 BMW M4 GTS. Instead of a few months, the second generation JCW GP was two years in the making. In those two years, MINI JCW fitted an entirely new, bespoke suspension. MINI spec’d unique tires and a specially-matched six-pot braking system that was designed to stop cars almost 1,000 lbs heavier. The result was nothing short of phenomenal. Whether on the track or on the road, the 2013 JCW GP is astonishing in its ability to change direction, stop, and go. Yet it’s not just the quickness of the new GP that exhilarates. It’s the car’s feedback at every touch-point – something other R56 generation cars tended to lack.
While it lacks a bit of the rawness of the earlier version, the R56 GP is so much more capable and over-engineered it represents a race car style approach to creating a car that we might not see again.
The 2006 R53 GP produced 180 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm. The 2013 GP made due with 192 lb-ft (207 with an overboost function) at 1750 rpm. Compare that with the 2015 JCW which puts down a staggering 236 pound-feet of torque starting at only 1,250 rpm. This figure more than the power is the key difference between all the JCWs and this new 2015 model.
What does this mean for 0-60 times? The 2006 GP, the 2013 GP and the 2015 JCW (auto) have identical 0-60 times – 5.9 sec. However looking at 0-60 times are a bit of a fallacy here given that traction is the limiting factor because of the front wheel drive set-up. More torque and power wouldn’t really change the 0-60 time much without different tires or a real differential.
What has all of this meant for the values of the 400 R56 GPs that MINI USA sold? They’ve dropped. A lot. And based on our professional intuition they’ll continue to drop for the next few years. The original R53 GP MSRPed for $31,150 – $9700 difference over the Cooper S at the time. Currently they represent an excellent used car value in the $13-$18k range. The R56 GP, with it’s much higher spec and bespoke components retailed for $39,950, well almost $15k more than the Cooper S of the time. As you’d expect depreciation hasn’t been kind to the newer GP either. If you can find them examples are often in the $20k-$24k range. That last point is key. There are two types of buyers selling either GP. Those who know the provenance of the car or those who are simply selling a JCW MINI. The latter can pave the way for some smoking deals on either car.
Buying either GP isn’t for everyone. You’ll likely not have a warranty and you’re certainly not getting the latest tech. What you are getting (in both cases) is a pure driving experience that is difficult to find at any price. It just so happens that these days, that price isn’t the barrier it once was.