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  • Fabulous smooth-road dynamics; great engine and gearbox; light weight allows brilliant economy; terrific Recaro sports seats
  • Painfully noisy on coarse-chip surfaces; doesn\'t gel on rough country roads; dated cabin; no rear seats; no cruise control

OUR RATING
7 / 10



Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
by Daniel DeGasperi

As a road car, the Mini Cooper JCW GP makes a great track weapon.

A 2000-unit limited edition – of which 50 have arrived locally, with our test car numero uno – the GP edition tightens the screws on the already-mental John Cooper Works (JCW) flagship Mini, itself a sportier version of the Cooper S.

By Mini’s own admission, the $56,900 Cooper JCW GP is engineered with a racetrack focus. That means the addition of adjustable coilover suspension with dampers that “increase longitudinal and lateral stiffness” compared with the regular JCW, increased front and rear camber, and front wheel toe-in, six-piston fixed callipers and a more relaxed ‘GP Mode’ for the stability control.

All the changes that you can see and feel include 17-inch light alloy wheels, GP badging on the bonnet scoop and front doors, a rear spoiler claimed to reduce lift forces by 90 per cent, snug Recaro front seats, leather-topped dashboard, and no audio or cruise controls on the steering wheel – well, no cruise at all. Nor is there proper iPod connectivity, as BMW demands a unique (optional) cable, and the characterful Mini cabin is starting to feel its six-year vintage, with plasticky controls and a small dot-matrix display standard.

The GP is also a two-seater with a bloody large boot. The rear seat is deleted, replaced by a single-bar brace to help increase body stiffness and, by extension, handling prowess.

Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review

But the addition of a few of the above items may help with race track performance – the GP lapped the Nurburgring in 8:23 minutes, eight seconds quicker than the regular JCW, but 15 seconds slower than a Megane RS 265 – but it has also resulted in a sharp decrease in liveability.

The suspension in the regular JCW is hard, but the GP is hardcore. Over urban roads it fidgets and jolts. At speed on country roads it thumps and bounces. It is creditable that such a little car can hammer over wrecked roads at pace and remain seemingly glued to the surface, but it isn’t very comfortable for the driver.

Nor does this fastest-ever Mini offer much mid-corner composure over craggy roads. Despite the inclusion of independent rear suspension, the JCW GP hops and skips sideways over nasties mid corner, erasing driver trust. A Megane RS has a supposedly less sophisticated torsion beam rear suspension – which essentially connects each back wheel via a single rod, meaning one wheel is affected by the other – yet it curiously has a much higher level of control on rough roads.

The JCW GP is also one of the noisiest new cars currently on sale. No doubt due to the deletion of the back seat, which in most cars normally compensates for insulation in the rear wheel arches, this Mini is deafeningly loud on coarse chip roads.

Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review

It probably doesn’t help that we drove the Mini Cooper JCW GP over some of the worst roads in the country – in the Hunter Valley of NSW, where the goodness of wine is in equal proportion to the badness of bitumen – but any twisty roads within cooee of Sydney (and other states) have similar problems. Which means GP drivers really need a race track.

Either that, or find glass-smooth twisty roads, because it’s there the Mini JCW GP shines.

Its 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces 160kW and 260Nm (or 280Nm on overboost), to push just 1160kg of Mini from standstill to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds. Teamed with a beautifully slick, short-throw six-speed manual transmission, the engine and gearbox duo in the Mini Cooper JCW GP are an absolute delight. The engine sounds great, too, with a deep, warbly engine note complemented by a backing track of pops and farts from the exhaust when the throttle is lifted.

The steering is so incredibly sharp that it requires attention and minute inputs into corners. That sensitivity – sneeze on the freeway and you’ll change lanes – would be a negative in a normal family hatchback, but in a car as sporty and agile as a Mini, it’s completely harmonious.

All the race-bred suspension technology added to this Mini makes it one of the quickest cars point-to-point (on dry, smooth roads) regardless of cost. The gearing of the manual gearbox is so short that we found 35km/h-signposted corners had the engine revving either too hard in second gear, or off-boost and lagging in third. That was at least until we realised the Mini begs for higher corner entry speed, which means tackling those bends in third and keeping revs above 4000rpm for a slingshot exit.

Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
Mini Cooper JCW GP Review

Do that, and giggle-worthy cornering is there to be exploited.

The stability control ‘GP Mode’ is terrific, too, subtly braking a spinning inside wheel mid-corner, but, Mini claims, never cutting power. It doesn’t work quite as well as a mechanical limited-slip differential – a la Megane RS 265 – but it still works damn well.

Short gearing also means the Mini is revving at 3500rpm in sixth gear at 120km/h, which could be to the detriment of economy. Yet an initial highway run had the trip computer showing 6.1L/100km, and even after a sub-1000km blast through the countryside, overall consumption tallied 8.5L/100km.

Light weight really does pay dividends in all areas.

Aggressively tight suspension and ripping noise insulation out of a production car does not, however.

As superb as this JCW GP is on smooth roads, many cheaper competitors (yes, we’ll mention the Renault Sport once again) are more talented both in terms of dynamics and overall ability. Similarly priced rivals (like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) offer greater pace and panache.

If this were a track test then we’d swoon, but the fastest-ever Mini is otherwise too compromised for victory in a road test.


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Mini Cooper JCW GP Review
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Mini Cooper Specs

JCW GP : R56 MY13 : 1.6L TURBO MPFI - 6 SP MANUAL - PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL - 2D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
MINI
Model
COOPER
Variant
JCW GP
Series
R56 MY13
Year
2013
Body Type
2D HATCHBACK
Seats
4
Pricing
New Price
N/A
Private Sale
$37,730 - $42,880
Dealer Retail
$37,370 - $44,440
Dealer Trade
$29,000 - $34,300
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
TURBO MPFI
Engine Size
1.6L
Cylinders
TURBO 4
Max. Torque
260Nm @  1600rpm
Max. Power
160kW @  6000rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
141.6W/kg
Bore & Stroke
77x85.8mm
Compression Ratio
10.5
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.647
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
PREMIUM UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
50Litres
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
7.1L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1130
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1407mm
Length
3714mm
Width
1683mm
Ground Clearance
116mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:0  Unbrake:0
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.7
Front Rim Size
7.5x17
Rear Rim Size
7.5x17
Front Tyres
215/40 R17
Rear Tyres
215/40 R17
Wheel Base
2467
Front Track
1453
Rear Track
1461
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Front Suspension
MacPherson strut, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Rear Suspension
Multi-link system, Coil Spring, Gas damper, Anti roll bar
Standard Features
Comfort
Automatic Air Con / Climate Control, Heated Front Seats, Racing Sports Seats
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Performance Brake Package, Performance Suspension, Traction Control System
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Multi Function Steering Wheel, Power Steering, Trip Computer
Entertainment
Radio Compact Disc Player, Sound System with 10 Speakers
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler, Xenon Headlights
Interior
Power Windows Front
Safety
Dual Front Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  25,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  999,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
Driver Side Inner Guard
Country of Origin
United Kingdom