MINI Cooper 2021 john cooper works classic

2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP review: Australian first drive

A rare and collectible model that's not as expensive as you'd think? Could Mini have created the ultimate car for the ultimate Mini fan? James lets loose in the 2021 Mini JCW GP to find out!
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Welcome to the world of the superfan. Sure, you can see the concert and buy the t-shirt, but these people are already backstage and on a first-name basis with the lead singer’s mum.

Superfans are plugged in, switched on and ready to take whatever comes their way to heighten the emotional fandom experience. We’re talking next-level engagement.

But a bootlegged acoustic album of unreleased collaborations with Sting is minor-league compared to a limited edition, hardcore automotive product.

A special colour here, and a signed build plate there, fan-service cars are a whole new world – and quite frankly, if you are reading about the 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP here for the first time, then it's already too late.

This is the ultimate Mini for the ultimate Mini fan. Of a limited build of 3000 worldwide, just 67 are heading to Australia, and I’m going to assume not one of them is going to a first-time Mini owner.

The fact they are all already pre-sold should give you an indication of just how keenly anticipated this thing was.

It is, quite simply, the wildest and most bonkers road-going Mini ever.

2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP
Engine configuration2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Displacement2.0 litres (1998cc)
Power225kW at 6250rpm
Torque450Nm at 1750-4500rpm
TransmissionEight-speed automatic
Drive typeFront-wheel-drive with mechanical front differential
Tare weight1232kg
Fuel claim, combined7.5/100km
Fuel use on test9.5L/100km on road loop. Much more on track.
Turning circle10.9m
ANCAP safety rating4 star (tested 2014 - Cooper 3-door)
Warranty3 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsHonda Civic Type R, Renault Megane RS Trophy, another Mini
Options as tested-

Priced from $63,900 before on-road costs, the GP is $13,000 more than a regular John Cooper Works hatch.

Don’t worry though, as you’d easily chew through half of that spare cash by adding options to the normal JCW car, so we’ll say the gap is more in the $7-9k range.

Even so, it makes the GP more expensive than an equally bonkers and be-winged Honda Civic Type-R ($54,900), but given all the GPs are spoken for, and Mini has just announced another special-edition version of the regular JCW hatch – which is mechanically identical but features some snazzy add-ons and black paint – that costs MORE than the GP (Mini JCW Nightfall Edition @ $70,990), it just shows that in the world of the superfan, price is hardly a primary concern.

Perhaps more relevant is the consideration that a world-limited production car, with plenty of unique components and fan-appeal, is available for a relatively accessible price. You don’t need to be a Sultan, a multi-dynasty family member or YouTuber to afford one.

You just needed to have acted before reading this. But, as a Mini hyper-loyalist, you already knew that.

2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP
Ground clearance134mm
Weight (Tare)1232kg
Wheels/tyres225/35 R18 - Hankook

To those lucky few then, the JCW GP is available in one colour (Racing Grey Metallic) and has no configurable options.

There is a unique front bumper and lower splitter, with deeper air dams for added breathing and cooling.

It’s 35mm wider than a regular Cooper hatch, thanks to carbon-composite panels on each of the wheel arches.

These look like fender flares, but with closer inspection are actually aerodynamic vanes, used to better channel airflow, and to allow the wider 8.0-inch wheels to fit. The flares are made from the same lightweight, recyclable material used on the BMW i3 electric car, and the front panels feature your unique build number etched on.

What’s amusing though, is that the wider front track of the GP will throw up rocks along the side of the car, which in turn are caught in the louvres of the rear panels. Think of them as souvenirs from your most recent drive!

And just, ah, don’t scratch them while parking.

At the back of the three-door GP is a modified rear valance, with centrally mounted twin-90mm exhaust tips, and what could only be described as a massive rear wing. Or specifically, wings.

The twin-looped high-mount spoiler uses the leading edge of the roof turret as a channelling blade to funnel air through each of the red-painted gaps. There’s a small gurney-flap on the top of each wing too.

I won't lie, it looks both silly and amazing at the same time. Many of you will remember the last time we saw a twin-hooped spoiler about a meter lower on the rear deck of a Subaru Liberty Blitzen. It looked crazy then, it looks crazy now – but in the overall context of the GP, suits the hyper Mini perfectly!

It’s not the only wacky component, either.

There are no back seats, meaning this is basically the most practical three-door Cooper on the market with a 731-litre space. Extra Uber Uber Eats perhaps?

There’s a bright-red bracing bar across the cabin, that isn’t actually connected to the chassis, so the only thing it actually braces you for is…

The front part of the cabin is essentially the same as every other Mini. Well, nearly the same, as you do get a trim cover above the glovebox that reminds you which GP you bought, so there is that.

It’s OK though, as the sport seats are still good and just feature some unique trim. The updated cluster is lifted from the electric Mini Cooper SE and provides clear instrumentation, and the standard 8-inch LCD touch screen running the Mini Connected infotainment suite is the same as other Minis too.

You also get the Mini Connected telemetry application, so you can communicate with your GP from your phone.

But despite the standard cabin, wings and flares will only get you so far in the world of fandom.

It’s under the cheery bonnet where the GP really earns its keep. The high-output B48 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder has been lifted from the larger Mini JCW Clubman, offering a matching 225kW and 450Nm output.

It’s a chunky 55kW and 130Nm up on the regular JCW hatch too. That’s 33 per cent more power and 41 per cent more torque, which ah, is not insignificant.

However, the GP is nearly 300kg lighter than the Clubman (289kg to be exact), which raises the power-to-weight ratio from 148kW/t to 183kW/t, and boy oh boy, can you feel it.

From ignition, there’s a much more amplified burble from the stainless steel exhaust system, which pops and crackles enthusiastically the more you work the little Cooper around the rev range.

There’s a tiny beat of lag in that first spin toward 2000rpm, where you wonder for just a second if the GP is perhaps a bit soft-boiled – but when things heat up, they heat up fast.

The peak torque response band is between 1750 and 4500rpm, with peak power wound right out to 6250rpm. This makes the little Mini explode out of corners and continue pulling hard along straightaways.

As Patrick Bateman says, it is a laugh riot.

Power is driven to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission and a mechanical front differential. Sadly, there is no manual shift option.

Mini claims the Aisin auto shifts faster and more accurately than a manual, and enables the GP to keep up in the manufacturer lap-time bragging stakes against other fan-favourite specials like the Renault Megane RS Trophy.

While that may be the case, the box isn’t quite as sharp and fast as you would like in a car like this, especially when downshifting. And, considering the reality that normal buyers aren’t going to be issuing pink-slip throwdown challenges to every Megane RS they see, perhaps a manual choice would have been nice, for the ultimate in Mini driving engagement.

That said, when you aren’t pushing the little hotrod around a racetrack, the auto is very easy to live with, and makes the Mini an easier proposition when running to the shops. I drove it up the freeway for about 90 minutes and could have been in any other Cooper.

But that’s not a very exciting story.

2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP
ColourRacing Grey Metallic
Price (MSRP)$63,900
Options as tested$0
Servicing 5yr$1550 (basic) - $4154 (plus)
ANCAP safety rating4-star (2014)
Warranty3 years / unlimited km

Back in anger, the GP will wash off speed quickly, thanks to the 360mm rotors up front, which again are the same hardware from the heavier JCW Clubman and Countryman models.

Turn in sharply, the car performs cleanly, the 10mm lower height and wider track giving the GP exceptional grip, even considering we’re on performance road-rubber (Hankook Ventus S1 Evo Z) and not semi-slicks.

You do need to wind the power on judiciously out of a bend though, as too much throttle will encourage a strong tug of torque steer every, single, time. The front differential does help and you start to get used to what steering angle is ‘too much’, but it shows that big power and front-drive is still a tricky combination to master.

The GP has no traditional ‘Sport mode’ but does offer a nannied-down ‘GP mode’ by pressing the traction control toggle on the console. This helps you push a little harder out of the bends, but you can feel the tyres slipping under heavy acceleration and in a way, encourages you to be less smooth and more aggressive with the car.

It’s still a heap of fun, but I’d argue that keeping out of GP mode will actually make you become more respectful of the Mini’s strengths and weaknesses, and help you drive within its entertaining performance envelope.

Particularly when you can wind it out and really get a taste of the GP’s straight-line speed.

Remembering this is a hardcore, performance-focused car, the ride quality is pretty good. It was fine on the freeway and compliant enough over changing surfaces. It is firmer than a normal Mini, it is louder, it is harsher, but as a drinker of the Cooper-flavoured kool-aid, that is exactly what you’ve signed up for!

The 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP is the ultimate Mini for the ultimate Mini fan.

It’s not a sensible car, nor is it trying to be. As a rare and limited machine, the GP is meant to be owned and driven by someone who already knows what they are signing up for, good and bad.

As I said earlier, I'm already assuming all 67 are going to homes where they will not be the first, or probably even second Mini in the garage.

It would have been great to see it as a manual, or perhaps with slightly more interior flare, or even maybe with a more flexible front differential or traction control tune and the option of semi-slick tyres, but I’m only picking holes where fans will tend to seek for perfection.

If you’re not a Mini fan, this car will make no sense, but if you are, and you’ve managed to get your hands on one, you’re going to love it!

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