Tested: 2021 Mini John Cooper Works GP Sets a Record

Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
From the car and driver
Mini expects 3,000 buyers who believe a 301-horsepower two-door mini hardtop, carbon fiber fender flares, and priced at $ 45,750 is an irresistibly good idea. The Mini Cooper JCW GP is certainly a novel idea. The 228 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder from John Cooper Works replaces an optimized 301 hp version of this engine. And if the fender flares weren't enough warning that this car is supposed to prove something, Mini removes the back seat and turns the GP into a two-seater. But what exactly is this mini supposed to prove? The performance limits of a hot front-wheel drive hatch? The limits of fender flares? That the Mini product planners have lost their minds?
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The GP turned out to be the fastest front rider we've ever tested with a 4.7 second run at 60 mph. It speeds through the quarter mile at 110 mph in 13.1 seconds. The Hyundai Veloster N DCT and Honda Civic Type R come closest to 60 with 4.8 and 4.9 second times. While the GP puts up some eye-opening numbers, its exhilarating power is locked in an ongoing battle with its front tires and the driver is trapped in the middle.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
BMW (the parent company of Mini) uses this engine in the M235i, X2 M35i and JCW editions of the Mini Clubman and Countryman. However, all of these vehicles are equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. Only the GP insists that the front tires drink from the 301-horsepower, 332-pound-foot torque fire hose. All this power accelerates the 225 / 35R-18 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo Z-tires without the advantage of a torque steering of a front strut with separate steering knuckle, as is used in the Civic Type R. The Mini miraculously accelerates a straight line without pulling too much or jumping across the lane. However, turn the Mini into a corner and press the accelerator pedal. The limited slip differential works to lock up. Suddenly the path you picked through the corner becomes narrower. It may not be torque control when pulling, but the unsolicited steering effect is just as unsettling.
Where the Type R and Veloster N like to throw down country roads, the GP only frustrates. Its impressive skid pad grip (0.98g) and braking results (70 mph to zero in 151 feet) suggest that it is great for off-road driving. But the journey conspires against any hope of happiness. Stiff and adamant, the GP's ride is irritating and verging on abuse. Your head will spin like you're at a Slayer concert. Ride and handling should be a compromise, not a competition that takes all winners into account. The GP never settles, never stops fidgeting, and while this is amusing in short bursts, the more you drive it the more it gets old.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
Earplugs are recommended for longer drives. At a steady speed of 100 km / h there is a 77 decibel noise that is a whopping three decibels louder than the already loud Type R. Even the 53 decibel idle is loud enough that you notice you're after Shouted into your phone. Stop the engine. A deafening 93 decibels at full throttle can't be ignored either, and if you ride hard you get to that peak often.
When you drive this car on the road it becomes clear that it is optimized for a racetrack. It can do a few quick laps but is prone to understeer as the front tires are constantly overwhelmed by their workload. As its acceleration indicates, the GP absolutely devours straight lines.
Photo credit: Marc Urbano - Car and Driver
You might be wondering what kind of race-ready gearbox would go with this extreme machine. Prepare for disappointment. The GP gets a conventional eight-speed torque converter automatic that you don't want in your hottest hatches. If Mini had insisted on an automatic, a dual clutch unit with a nifty start control function - as the Veloster N now provides - would have been a good start. The conventional transmission contradicts the specificity of the GP and ensures that the drivetrain doesn't feel as unique as the rest of the car. Adding a six-speed manual gearbox would likely make the GP more comfortable on the road, but it would likely add a few ticks to acceleration times as well.
We'd like to trade a little speed up for the inclusion of a manual. Our current selection of hot hatches, the Civic Type R, comes with a manual only. We can't stop thinking about the hot Civic. The Mini is raw, silly, and fast, and an R Type might not be quite as raw, silly, or fast as the GP, but not far away. A Type R drives better than the Mini and you don't suffer from having fun. The GP may be amusing in short bursts, but a Type R is the one you want to own.
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