Outer limits . . . the Mini JCW GP takes the iconic British brand to a new level of intensity

Outer limits . . . the Mini JCW GP takes the iconic British brand to a new level of intensity

BMW’s Mini seems intent on becoming all things to all men and women, continuing to come up with new versions of the iconic British brand.

The John Cooper Works high-performance range is now offered in every model: Mini, Clubman, Coupe, Cabriolet, Roadster, Paceman, Countryman and GP.

John Cooper, who gained legend status during the 1950s and 1960s designing Formula One and Indianapolis 500 race cars, began putting a sting in the tail of competition Minis – he designed the first high-performance Mini Cooper for the 1960 Monte Carlo Rally – and perking up the performance of production models.

These days, many gentleman of a certain age glaze over at the mention of the Mini Cooper – enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. John Cooper died in 2000, aged 77.

Cooper’s son, Mike, has brought the same passion to the company as his father and John Cooper Works continues to pump JCW Minis into a market attracting enthusiasts of high performance vehicles with individuality, versatility and, in this case, an impeccable pedigree.

Heart and soul of the range is a new generation 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine featuring twin-scroll turbo technology, direct fuel injection, variable valve lift and timing, and a reinforced cylinder head and pistons, sodium filled exhaust valves and lightweight crankshaft, all fashioned from the racing-car list of goodies

Mated with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, an optional six-speed automatic transmission is available for all Mini JCW variants except the GP limited edition model.

Depending on the model, a Mini JCW sports suspension, with dynamically tuned dampers and anti-roll bars, comes as standard or as a no-cost option. Stopping is guaranteed with a standard high-performance sports-brake system.

A ‘Sport’ button on the centre console allows the driver to change engine response and accompaniment, as well as the power steering effort. In auto models, engaging Sport mode also quickens shift times.

With a maximum output of 155 kW and 260 Nm of torque, (280 Nm with overboost), which increases to 160 kW and 280 Nm (300 Nm with overboost) in the ALL4 all-wheel-drive Mini JCW Countryman and Mini JCW Paceman.

We tested the latter models to great effect in cold and damp conditions on several sections of the Targa Tasmania route outside Hobart. A raspy motor note rang out through the narrow, twisty tree-lined avenues courtesy of the standard JCW sports exhaust system, which was cut to popping and crackling on over-run. Smiles all round.

Precise speed-sensitive steering enabled the steerers to put the cars in perfect alignment over the fast and testing stages, while the tightly tuned suspension maintained the cars’ handling stability.

However, there was a downside, with the Paceman producing a choppy ride over uneven road surfaces. It was similarly the case with the GP on the track, a fact that was highlighted by the media minder for the day, Mike Eady, the BMW driver trainer flown in from New Zealand. A former racer in Europe with much experience testing on the Nordschleife of the Nurburgring where the Mini JCW GP was shaken down, he suggested turning down the damping a notch or two would not have sacrificed performance to the production of a smoother ride.

We humble scribes spent time under the direction of Eady in the Coopers barreling around Baskerville circuit, near Hobart, weaving through cones in a rapid direction-changing exercise and scorching up the straight to come to a stop with heavy braking testing to the full the ABS effectiveness.

No brake fade became evident in any of the cars – JCW hatch, Coupe, Roadster or GP – throughout the entire uncompromising workout.

Star of this event was undoubtedly the limited edition GP which, with its stripped-back 1160 kg unladen weight and highly modified 1.6 litre turbo engine pumping out peak power of 160 kW and maximum torque of 260 Nm, traction control system with a specific GP mode, as well as a bespoke racing suspension and braking system, is the essence of the John Cooper Works philosophy.

Aerodynamics, consisting of under-body panelling to reduce drag and a carbon rear wing to improve down-force over the rear axle, give the Mini JCW GP a strong street presence.

The driver and co-driver are securely supported in heated leather Recaro sports seats with contrasting red stitching and a special knee roll for bracing during all-out driving.

The fastest series production car to come from the British marque, only 2000 with a single specification will be produced, with 55 pencilled in for Australia, on test in the ‘Green Hell’ of Nordschleife clocked a very respectable lap time of 8min23sec, 18 seconds faster than its predecessor, the Mini Cooper S with JCW GP kit.

No doubt for the driving enthusiast with a fancy for the ultimate sporting Mini, the new GP cannot come quick enough.

Mini JCW: $50,400
Mini JCW Clubman: $51,800
Mini JCW Coupe: $52,600
Mini JCW Roadster: $55,100
Mini JCW Cabrio: $58,500
Mini JCW Countryman ALL4: $56,800
Mini JCW Paceman ALL4: $58,600
Mini JCW GPII: $56,900
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mini dealer for driveaway prices.

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *