The hot hatch segment is one of our favorites. These are cars that are fun to drive, but also practical and affordable. The newest entry in the field is the Mini John Cooper Works GP. This car is intense, and pushes the boundaries with its hardcore performance. We found it to be a blast to drive, but it is also not for everyone. It will probably become a collector car since Mini only plans to build 3,000 units worldwide, so get one and stick it in the garage.
A lot of changes and improvements have been done to make the GP a special machine. That starts under the hood where there is a big boost in power. The engine is now rated at 306 horsepower, a full 75 horsepower more than the already potent Mini JCW and exactly the same rating as the Honda Civic Type R.
If you think Mini just increased boost, think again. Specific modifications to the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine include a reinforced crankshaft with enlarged main bearing diameter, new lower-compression pistons and new connecting rods. A newly developed turbocharger integrated into the exhaust manifold and fitted with a divert-air valve helps optimize response along with a new intake air duct. In addition, the GP features a model-specific engine oil sump with increased volume and a distinctive geometry. This ensures a reliable oil supply at all times, even during high longitudinal and lateral acceleration.
The GP is fitted as standard with a model-specific eight-speed automatic transmission. Mini claims it doesn’t have a manual transmission strong enough to cope with the GP’s power. The transmission has been programmed to deliver sharp downshifts and quick upshifts. It works well, but it is not as much fun as a manual transmission and it is not as quick as a dual clutch transmission. A car like this really deserves a crisp shifting manual transmission.
The mechanical differential lock integrated in the transaxle ensures that the drive torque is distributed between the right and left front wheels so as to promote traction during hard cornering. It is networked with the Dynamic Stability Control system and acts as a transverse lock to reduce the speed difference between the front wheels.
Under load demand, it is possible to generate a locking effect of up to 31 percent. The mechanical lock counteracts any loss of traction, in the case of differing friction coefficients and where there is a difference in speed between the right and left drive wheels. For this purpose, it directs a higher proportion of the drive torque to the wheel with better grip or the wheel that is turning more slowly, ensuring that any tendency to understeer or oversteer is prevented early on.
The GP was designed to be even more playful than other Mini models. The GP uses a single-joint spring strut for the front wheels and the multilink rear axle that have been reinforced. To increase agility, the track widths were increased and the body lowered by 10 millimeters as compared to the regular John Cooper Works. Specially tuned springs, dampers and antiroll bars are part of the GP package. New alignment settings with more negative camber also have been dialed into the suspension. Metal ball sleeve joints replace some of the rubber mounts in the suspension links while some of the rubber mounts have been stiffened up.
The brakes have not been forgotten either, with aluminum four-piston fixed-caliper disc brakes on the front wheels with 360 mm rotors, and single-piston floating-caliper brakes on the rear wheels. Unique 18-inch by 8-inch lightweight alloy wheels are fitted to the GP wearing 225-35-18 Hankook performance tires.
Visually, the most striking element of the GP has to be its wider wheel arches. They are made of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic. The raw material for the outer shells is a refined material that is recycled from the production of the BMW i3 and the BMW i8. The wheel arches allow the track to increase by 10 mm and contributes to the improved handling of the GP.
The improvements to the GP are evident from the moment that you get into the car. The back seat has been deleted for weight savings and the GP is now strictly a two seater. It is a quick car, with a 0-60 time of about 5.2 seconds with a top speed of 165 mph. The turbo spools up quickly but the sudden rush of power can overwhelm the front tires resulting in tire spin or torque steer.
The Mini was never known for a smooth ride and with the added stiffer components, we were worried that we would need a trip to the dentist after a drive. While the GP is not a limousine, it is firm, but not really harsh, either. The ride is totally in line with buyer expectations of the car. The bonus is that the suspension improvements have made the GP handle even better than before. There are a lot of supercars that may deliver more impressive numbers, but the GP handles like a racecar, and it is such a blast to throw it into a corner. The short wheelbase and the quick steering make for an extremely responsive and rewarding car to drive at the limit. Unlike those supercars, the GP is communicative with the driver, so it is easy to push the car to the limit.
The biggest problem with the Mini GP is price. It is expensive at $44,900. Fortunately, the options list is short and our car’s sticker price was $45,750. That makes it about $8,000 more than the Civic Type R which also has a back seat. The Mini has much less interior room and may be more of a sports car than a hot hatchback. However you look at it, the Mini GP is a riot to drive when the road gets twisty, and it is sure to hold its value.
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with double VANOS|
|Horsepower:||306 @ 5,200 rpm|
|Torque:||331 @ 1,250 rpm|
|Front Suspension:||McPherson strut|
|Transmission:||Eight-speed Steptronic automatic|
|Curb Weight:||2,932 lbs.|