When it comes to sporty cars, abbreviations that get tacked onto the end of names tend to mean good things. And usually the more the better. So, when you see JCW, for John Cooper Works, added to a Mini Cooper hardtop along with GP, you know you're in for a good time.
Big fun in a small package is what the Mini Cooper has always been about. Now, over the years, Minis have certainly grown in size, but the brand has also highly evolved on the performance side as well, thanks to John Cooper Works, their in-house tuning division, similar to parent company BMW’s M. 2021 sees their most potent package yet, the Mini John Cooper Works GP.
John Cooper was of course a Formula One racing engineer who in his spare time helped turn the original British Motor Corporation Mini into a road and rally race winning car in the 1960s. And it was his namesake that adorned the Mini Cooper when BMW relaunched the brand for 2002.
We loved that reborn Mini, saying it was the perfect way to add a little sports car-like fun to your daily drive, while getting a taste of the spirit and character of one of history’s most enduring and endearing little cars. In fact, yours truly bought one of the first examples to arrive stateside and still enjoys it today.
Getting back to the JCW GP, you know it’s a Mini like none other as soon as you see it.
The huge multi-level rear wing, sliver roof, function over form carbon-fiber fender add-ons, and splashes of color added to this little 2 Door Hardtop indicate it means big business.
Even more so inside, where chassis bracing takes place of the rear seat. A JCW steering wheel, manual sport seats, and lots of red accents complete the package.
But, it’s the engine that really gives this car a B12 shot. JCW injects 112–more horsepower into the Cooper S’ 2.0-liter I4 turbo, for a total of 301, with 331 lb-ft. of torque. Technically, it’s not the same 2.0-liter; this one actually coming straight from BMW’s M235i Gran Coupe, but with a unique GP exhaust system.
No manual transmission or DCT even; just straight sport-tuned 8-speed automatic; sticking with front-wheel-drive as well.
It’s the closest Mini has ever gotten to selling a race car for the street, and you know it as soon as you start driving it. Ride is about as harsh as anything you’ll find on the road today; and it’s a hyper-eager handful, always making you feel like you’re holding it back from doing what it wants to do.
The front single-joint spring strut, and rear multi-link suspension, gets a total rework with new springs, dampers, and added anti roll bars.
At the test track, that translates into quick and accurate steering, with essentially zero body roll.
There’s a slight hint of understeer, but a tremendous amount of grip. It’s loads more capable than any other Mini, but not necessarily more fun; as it takes some work to get the most out of it. If you don’t plan on taking in track days, you’d probably have more fun tooling back roads in a Cooper S.
One run down Mason Dixon Dragway was all it took to for us to learn this is one insanely fast front-drive car, just 4.7-seconds to hit 60 is bonkers for a car in this price class.
Launch control is easy to engage, and you can feel it proportioning power to not overwhelm the front tires. But we got better results turning everything off, modulating the power ourselves.
While not having a manual is a downer for road course work, here at the strip, just letting the 8-speed auto have at it, is a thing of beauty. Fast, firm shifts time after time, taking you through a 13.1-second ¼-mile at 110 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 24-City, 30-Highway, 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon on Premium.
That’s an average Energy Impact Score; consuming 12.7-barrels of oil yearly with 5.5-tons of CO2 emissions.
All-in pricing of $45,750 may be steep for a Mini, but certainly not for a car with this much performance.
And the 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP is a performance car first and foremost.
It could be argued that such single-minded cars are not really necessary these days, with more and more carmakers delivering heaps of performance in comfortable, easy to drive packages. But, we’re sure glad the folks at JCW don’t see it that way.
Engine: 2.0-liter I4 Turbo
Torque: 331 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 4.7 seconds
1/4 Mile: 13.1 seconds @ 110mph
Starting Price: $45,750