Over the last several years MINI sales have been sliding along with all small cars (and most cars in general). Yet MINI can’t stand still and just assume that sales will start pouring in once the inevitable SUV/Truck backlash starts. They need something that can act as halo cars to get people truly excited about the brand. The 301 hp could be just the ingredient.
Over the last two years I’ve put over 30,000 miles on the latest JCW Countryman and Clubman. In fact a JCW Countryman sits in my driveway right now. With 228 hp, 258 ft lbs and a manual, it’s been the best daily driver I’ve ever had in a MINI. But both it and the Clubman have always felt like they were on the verge of being great performance cars if only they had a bit more power. Consider that problem solved with 73 hp and 73 ft lbs of torque. I know. I’ve recently spent some quality time (on the road and track) with the BMW X2 M35i. Equipped with this same 301 hp engine, it felt like an entirely different animal than the 228 hp X2 28i and the current JCW Clubman and Countryman.
And this is just the start. Next year’s JCW GP will feature the same 301 hp drivetrain (albeit in front wheel drive form). With a trio of 300 hp cars at the top-end of the brand MINI can rightfully claim to be a performance leader in the category and not just talk about nebulous things like go kart handling and driver engagement. The performance will be evident to anyone who can read stats.
Even 301 hp likely won’t make JCWs mass market products. But we think they will change MINI’s brand perception and drive interest in the rest of the range. It’s a range that is easily the best the brand has ever offered and one that is languishing a bit due to the downturn in small car sales. In short, 301 hp may just what the brand needs.