The original MINI John Cooper Works GP was a highly focussed machine. It shunned the practicalities of its hatchback roots and shamelessly targeted the track-day enthusiast, swapping rear seats for scaffolding and suspension travel for horizontal cornering. On the right road it was an addictive bundle of fun, on the wrong road it was a jittery pain in the arse.
Now there’s a new one, acting as a last flourish before an all new MINI arrives later this year. The man from MINI assured me that this GP is slightly less hardcore than the last – the masochism levels have been turned down a notch.
The Nurburgring featured heavily in the GP’s development and its best time of 8 minutes 23 seconds is a huge 18 seconds quicker than its predecessor. The extra speed comes from a slight power increase (up by 7bhp to 215bhp), chassis and geometry changes to improve handling, stickier Pirelli tyres stretched around lighter 17-inch wheels and a set of stronger brakes.
The GP sounds purposeful as soon as you start the engine. The exhaust note is deep and burbly and the idle a bit rough, a reminder that this engine has been heavily tuned. The exhaust helps to add to the excitement of the GP with a rich note throughout the rev range. Lift off the throttle and you’re treated to pops and crackles, all adding to the fun.
Throttle response is sharp and peak torque of 260Nm is available throughout most of the rev range. At just about any speed in the first four gears the GP leaps forward eagerly and the 0-62mph time of 6.3 seconds feels like its within easy reach.
The steering is almost telepathically quick, the nose darting in answer to every turn of the chunky steering wheel. There’s barely a whiff of movement from the suspension and the car hunts apexes like a sniffer dog chasing an illegal consignment. It feels stable through the corners too, showing none of the pogo-ing nervousness from the rear that other JCWs suffer from in bumpy turns.
The downside is the ride quality. Or rather lack of it. Imperfections in the road surface are transmitted into the cabin with a thump and serious pimples in the tarmac come through with a wince-inducing crack. I hit one innocent-looking pothole and thought I’d broken something, such was the ferocity of the impact. Fortunately the wheels were still in one piece and the tyres were fine but it shattered any illusions of this being a car you could enjoy on a day to day basis.
The interior is typically MINI, which means you’ll either love its retro charms or hate its style-over-function design. It’s a good place for the driver though, with reasonably grippy seats and a great low-slung driving position. Alcantara and leather feature throughout with bright red stitching adding a splash of colour to the black and grey. There’s no forgetting the GP’s hardcore aspirations whenever you look over your shoulder – the bright red cross-brace that replaces the rear seats is a constant reminder that this is a MINI that chooses handling prowess over passenger space.
There are only 200 GPs heading to the UK out of a total of 1,000. With a price of £28,795 it comes in at over £6,000 more than the JCW hatchback. Is it worth the extra? That will depend on how many track days you’re likely to attend or how much your local council likes to spend on resurfacing its roads.
On a track or on the right road the new MINI GP is even better than before. On the wrong roads it’s still a pain in the arse. The question you should ask before considering buying one is how much time will you be spending on the right roads?
MINI John Cooper Works GP Specifications
|Engine:||1,598cc turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder|
|Transmission:||6-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
|Power:||218 bhp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque:||260 Nm @ 1,750-5,750 rpm|
|0-62 mph:||6.3 seconds|
|Top Speed:||150 mph|
|Fuel Economy (EU combined):||39.8 mpg|
|CO2 Emissions:||165 g/km (Band G)|
*Prices taken from MINI website, May 2013