Posted Dec 4th 2012 11:57AM
As car guys, we melt when we see vehicles like this come to market. Sure the appearance is race-inspired but all we have to do is hop inside and glance at the back seat, or lack thereof and are thrilled to uncover what other serious tweaks have been made elsewhere to make it dance around the track. And that is what we did, in Spain at the Circuit Mallorca RennArena in the latest MINI John Cooper Works GP.
Before we dive in to the specifics of this track test, we have to comment on the price. At $44,900 this is not an inexpensive car and will be over $50-grand out the door thanks to freight and the lofty ransom the Canadian government will take from you. However, it also limited to 2000 units worldwide (50 for Canada and we're told there are buyers with cash-in-hand waiting to pounce on them). What we do know, is that this will be a track-ready MINI that you won't have to modify and has proven itself (and its dominance over the last GP) on the 'Ring.
Arriving this month, this may be the only time we ever touch the MINI JCW GP. It's limited numbers means that it likely will be sold out and there won't be one in the press fleet for a week-long whipping. The tight circuit on the island of Mallorca is a more suitable environment anyway and a better (read: tighter) track for this model, is tough to find. We made our walk around of the car, strapped in and rolled out behind a pro driver in a Mini Challenge race car to set the pace for our hot laps.
Click here for more driving impressions.
Related Gallery2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP
This is a purebred MINI! It was quite apparent that this
was a highly tossable vehicle at just 1,185 kg (2607-pounds).
The 2014 MINI JCW GP is a massive improvement over the last version. Basically everything is upgraded across the board, as it is now turbocharged instead of a supercharged and beat the last gen on the 'Ring by nearly 20-seconds. At 8:23 it is inline with Porsche Cayman S, Lotus Exige S and BMW X5M.
The horsepower for the 1.6-litre turbo is bumped up from the JCW version... by 3 horsepower. So we're not sure if the 211 hp is something to trumpet and the 207 lb-ft of overboost torque is exactly the same. We can only imagine the vision was all about weight savings, upgraded mechanics and improved aero. With 75 kilos (165-pounds) shaved off in this current GP, this is a purebred MINI. It was quite apparent that this was a highly tossable vehicle at just 1,185 kg (2607-pounds). We never drove the last GP (it never came to Canada), so we couldn't gauge the weight savings benefits.
The running gear however appears very much up the task. Underneath is a proprietary (well, they wouldn't divulge supplier) race-ready set of coilovers. You can adjust the ride-height but they won't let you meddle with the dampening. The brakes are upgraded 330mm 6-pots up front and the tires were a bit of a curious choice to us, the Kumho V700 Ecsta. These non-run flat tires are the first Korean tires we can remember on a MINI (or BMW) product and we're left wondering if a set of something more premium was in order for this top-line MINI... well larger than 215/40R17 at least.
Although we weren't able to test the acceleration, the claimed
6.3-second run to 100 km/h (62 mph) is very feasible.
We had a chance to talk to Jörg Weidinger, who has the coolest job, well next to us anyway. Weidinger is the head of MINI driving dynamics and gets to track MINIs all year. He says the improvements to this model in every sense will make the lack-lustre outgoing model a distant memory and it beats the old GP on the track. He also confirmed there will be no other GP version on other MINI models or GP add-ons and packages.
Lapping a GP version like this around a track sounds amazing, right? And well for a couple laps it was, as we were chasing down the MINI Challenge driver in a full race car when not held up by the Mommy-blogger in the bunch. We held our ground against the Challenge car braking later and trying to continue to apply pressure. While we're sure he wasn't all out, the MINI JCW GP is a very capable street car that hold it down on the track. Although we weren't able to test the acceleration, the claimed 6.3-second run to 100 km/h (62 mph) is very feasible. This MINI tops out at a decent 241 km/h (150 mph)
There were some fantastically tight turns and a hairpins on this tiny island circuit and the MINI shredded them up proper. On the straights, there was nothing shocking about it's straight-line performance but we felt elated when the apex approached to brake late and hard, then turn it in with minimal understeer drama.
Inside, you have well-bolstered Recaro seats that look fantastic, a GP-only leather wheel and a solid shifter connected to a capable 6-speed Getrag box.
The late-braking heroics around the track definitely helped keep the pace car in-check. The braking was sure and fade-free but noted that the car tends to get light and wander in the tail as we mashed the slow-pedal. But when it did, we could simply ease off and then hop back on the gas to stabilize the GP. We were expecting all that aero would be a factor here but it was tough to determine if it could have been more involved to combat this.
The cornering is flat and predictable. When we tossed it in hard, we could feel the back-end articulating around ever so slightly and exactly that way we wanted it to. To stay near the Challenge car, we hit the rumble strips hard and the suspension soaked it up quite well for such a stiff car. Since the chassis has been cinched up nice and tight with added braces, there really is minimal flex in this car and that connected feel is ever-present.
Bottom line, MINI has a winner here for brand aficionados and track enthusiasts alike.
During our hot laps, we liked the tweaks the cabin and driver inputs have to offer. Inside, you have well-bolstered Recaro seats that look fantastic, a GP-only leather wheel and a solid shifter connected to a capable 6-speed Getrag box. Plus the pedal setup is ideal for heel-toe action too, MINI did their homework here and the upright stance of the hatch has great visibility and seating position.
Bottom line, MINI has a winner here for brand aficionados and track enthusiasts alike. Its factory-built capabilities are fantastic and other than R-Compounds buyers would have to really touch the GP. And considering it's limited production, owners won't be monkeying with it much to maintain their collector value.