Works Cooper delivers barrels of excitement
This is . . . civilised. And that is true of the whole car
Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works GP
Model:Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works GP
Fuel:Petrol and diesel
Date Reviewed:May 25, 2013
FIRST DRIVE: The back seats are missing. That’s the first thing you’ll notice when you climb aboard the (deep breath) Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works GP. It’s a limited edition Mini, with just 2,000 production examples for worldwide sale, and it has been body-kitted, tweaked and tuned to within an inch of its tiny life.
But the first thing you’ll notice is that the back seats have been binned. That’s both weight-saving (the GP weighs in at an impressively dainty 1,100kg) and intended to improve the handling, thanks to the massive red strut brace stretched across the space where the seats aren’t. It makes the body stiffer, which in turn makes the suspension work more precisely, which in turn . . . you get the idea.
Under the bonnet, which is under some fairly silly GP stickers and some fairly lovely (an unique to the model) Thunder Grey metallic paint, you’ll find the familiar 1.6l turbo petrol engine that has been powering the Mini Cooper S since 2006.
For the GP it has had some tweaks over and above the regular Cooper S and the previously range-topping Cooper S John Cooper Works model, with its 210bhp output. It gets an aluminium cylinder block and engine mounts, reinforced pistons and cylinder head, a low-weight crankshaft and even valves filled with sodium to improve their cooling efficiency. And all of that jiggery-pokery gives you . . . 218bhp. Hmmm. So not a massive improvement in power, then.
But it must be a torque-monster, with that up-rated twin-scroll turbo, right? Well, no: 260Nm of torque (280Nm on short-lived overboost) is about what you get from a 1.6l diesel Cooper D.
This Mini is all adding up a bit oddly, isn’t it? The body kit, and those gorgeous 17” alloys, seem to be writing profligate cheques the engine can’t cash. And then you clock the time this car set around the Nurburgring race circuit in Germany. Normally, I regard Nurburgring times as pointless genitalia-waving but the Mini GP’s time of 8.23 is seriously impressive, and with that relatively underpowered engine it means the chassis must be doing something right.
Unique coil-over-inverted-shock front suspension is the first step, combined with reduced front toe-in, a 20mm drop in ride height and 330mm front brakes grabbed by six-piston callipers.
More impressive is the way it works on the road, and here again the Mini GP confounds expectations. Without rear seats, and with the strut brace, body kit and liquorice-strip tyres, you might be expecting a stripped-out, race-spec cabin. But no. There is climate control, an iPod connection, Bluetooth phone and a trip computer. Here too are lovely, leather-wrapped bucket seats that grip without squeeze and cosset without ache. This is . . . civilised. And that is true of the whole car.
Yes, it rides firmly and around town it bucks and skips over bumps in a highly irritating manner. But get it out onto the open road and suddenly the ride settles down, and aside from an occasional tendency of those specially designed 215/40 front tyres to tramline it’s just so poised and well set up that it can take your breath away.