What is it?
The Mini John Cooper Works GP, the second coming of the hardest Mini on the market. It arrives nearly seven years after the original GP, with a similarly hardcore makeover and two-seat layout. Costing £28,790, just 2000 will be made.
The GP is 20mm lower at the front than a JCW, 15mm at the rear, while adjustable coilover suspension can tweak this further. A new brake set-up at the front comprises six-piston calipers and 330mm vented discs.
The tyres are completely bespoke. Those four-spoke alloys – a GP trademark – measure half an inch wider than normal, so apparently the specially developed Kumho Ecstas they’re wrapped in can’t be transferred to lowlier Minis. The electronic differential gets a different set-up and the front camber is increased to accommodate the new rubber.
The steering remains the same, while the engine is simply a normal Cooper Works 1.6-litre turbo four with an ECU tweak taking it from 208 to 215bhp, maximum torque remaining the same at 206lb ft. As with its predecessor, the back seats are binned, while a bold diffuser and spoiler contribute to a 90 per cent reduction in rear lift.
What’s it like to drive?
We’ve already driven the second-generation Mini GP on track (review here). Fears that its stiff, circuit-friendly set-up might make it a mess on the road don’t quite materialise, but this is a notably hardcore car to drive, even more so than the already stiffly sprung JCW.
Combine this hard ride with a sensitive (though ultimately feel-less) steering rack and you end up with a car keen to torque steer and one which always feels on edge; hyper-alert and agile when you’re in the mood for it, or too keen to sniff out cambers, ruts and other road imperfections when you’re not. It keeps you on your toes but is all the more rewarding for it when you’re making faster progress.
Turn-in is cleaner and more precise than the standard John Cooper Works, and the GP’s a more predictable car as you approach its grip limits. The ESP can be pared back to a more lenient ‘GP’ mode, which solely brakes the front wheels to avoid understeer rather than frustratingly cutting power, while with its stability and traction controls disabled it remains a touch wild.
How does it compare?
If you want the maddest, most exciting new hot hatch, this is it. Similar money can buy a Vauxhall Astra VXR or a very well specced Renaultsport Megane 265, the latter remaining the best front-drive hatchback on sale, but the Mini is certainly more special (even if its supercharged predecessor shines brighter in this area regard). Stretch to £30,000 and BMW’s altogether more grown up (but brilliant) M135i looks tempting, though it’s very different to the Mini in numerous ways.
Anything else I need to know?
The new Mini GP costs £6000 more than a regular JCW, but that’s a sum of money you can easily add to a Mini with some innocent options box ticking. We reckon a set of new springs and dampers and a more alert driving experience are more deserving of the cash than a ‘Media Pack’ and some bonnet stripes.
The Mini takes part in evo Track Car of the Year 2013