I remember when the MINI Cooper John Cooper Works GP was first announced and the promise of its light weight, extra power, and killer aero made it incredibly exciting. When it actually came to driving the thing, it was a bit disappointing.
However, much of that disappointment was due to its price, which was just far too high for the sort of fun and performance it delivered. But what if you could get it at a lower price? There’s currently a MINI Cooper JCW GP for sale on Cars and Bids and, at the time of writing this, its highest bid is $12,789, far less than its original $45,750 price tag.
At the time, the JCW GP actually seemed like pretty good value on paper. It offered a proper track-focused experience for less money than an Audi RS3. However, after driving it, many enthusiasts realized that the real-world experience left a lot to be desired. Not only did it not feel as special as a track-focused MINI should but it also lacked the performance of competitors like the Audi RS3. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good car, though. It just means that it needs to be had at the right price and this one might be able to deliver.
If it sounds like I’m being harsh on the MINI JCW GP, it’s only because it failed to deliver on its original expectations. But if you know what it is going into it, and understand its limitations, then it’s actually a cool little car to own. Don’t expect some hardcore, Nurburgring-honed experience (even if it was honed at the Nurburgring). Instead, expect a car that feels a lot like a MINI JCW just faster, sharper, and with much cooler looks.
The MINI JCW GP packs the same 2.0-liter turbo-four found in the BMW M235i Gran Coupe, so it makes 302 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. All of which is sent to just the front wheels via an eight-speed Aisin-sourced transmission. It also has a Torsen front differential, a lowered suspension, and low-profile Hankook tires. So it’s decently quick, getting from 0-60 mph in 5.0 seconds flat, and it handles very well. Its steering lacks feel and there’s too much torque steer, but it’s can be fun to chuck around if the road gets twisty.
I wouldn’t buy the MINI JCW GP if you’re looking for something that will light your hair on fire but if you’re looking for a car that you can use often (it has a practical hatchback trunk), have some fun on a twisty road, and take to the track often, it’s a cool car if it can be had for the right price. I still wish it had a manual transmission, though.