Can a MINI priced at £32,000 ever really be worthwhile? Well, yeah actually, based on our brief experience at the 2017 SMMT Test Day.
On the face of it paying the same amount as a Volkswagen Golf R, or a Ford Focus RS, for any MINI may seem hopelessly decadent, or even foolish. But stick with us on this, because the John Cooper Works (JCW) Challenge manages to back up the big price tag.
We were a little undecided on the regular JCW hatch when we drove it at the 2015 SMMT Test Day, with the automatic gearbox fitted to that particular car seeming intent on spoiling the fun. Thankfully a six-speed manual is the only option for the JCW Challenge – phew – and it fits perfectly with the hardcore ethos the car is meant to embody, being based on the Challenge race car.
This is, essentially, a parts bin special with a host of bolt-on goodies from aftermarket performance suppliers. Were this the early 2000s, the ‘shopping list’ decals on the doors would be very long indeed. Brembo supplies the four-pot brake calipers, whilst Mintex provides the pads. Michelin is responsible for the grippy Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, which wrap around lightweight 17” Team Dynamics alloy wheels. Finally, the two most important items are the adjustable coilover suspension from Nitron, and the Quaife limited-slip differential.
The latter two have a substantial impact on how the JCW Challenge drives. The Quaife automatic torque biasing diff is seriously aggressive, but allows the JCW’s 228hp and 236lb-ft to be transferred to the road with zero fuss. Add in the almost instantaneous turn-in response from the steering, to a rock-hard suspension setup, and the feeling really is like driving a giant go-kart. (more…)