2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Introduction
There are few things in life as beautiful to me as an empty stretch of twisting, turning, and undulating pavement viewed through the windscreen of a car that really loves to go. And yes y’all, the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP is a car really loves to go.
Streaking along the narrow two-lane like a laser guided missile, I am very thankful for the diminutive size of MINI’s latest grin-inducing creation. The lane is framed on both sides with heavy vegetation, and just to make it a bit more challenging, there are numerous blind curves.
And oh, did I mention it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the road — in my life.
Thus, the routine for cornering is heel and toe downshifts, feed the GP into the corner gently, reveling in the spitting and popping the 211 horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged four emits, while dancing ever so adroitly on the firm and quickly engaging brake pedal. The idea is to give us an entry fast enough to be entertaining, but cautious enough to allow us to reel the little bulldog shaped street racer in, should there happen to be say, a sleeping dog, or a more sluggish driver occupying the apex when the MINI GP and I get there.
Or, what could be even worse, one of my fellow GP testers — coming in the opposite direction.
I love my job.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Models/Prices
The most aggressive iteration of MINI’s Cooper lineup, the John Cooper Works GP is a limited edition model. The spokespeople at MINI say only 2000 are being built for worldwide consumption, 500 of which are coming to the United States.
A thinly disguised track day car for the street, indeed many of the aspects of the car were developed on various and sundry racing MINI models. The car’s key attributes are an extensively modified four-cylinder turbo engine capable of developing 211 hp, an adjustable coil over suspension system, an extremely robust sport braking system, and a unique set of alloy wheels wearing exceptionally grippy sports tires. Other distinctive features of the 2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP model include a two-seat interior configuration and an aero kit responsible for lowering the coefficient of drag by six percent in relation to the standard John Cooper Works car.
The suspension system is independently adjustable by the owner, permitting the car’s ride height to be lowered by as much as 20 millimeters below the factory spec. The front shock absorbers are mounted upside down in their tubes to enhance longitudinal and lateral stiffness of the front suspension system. In other words, their piston rods point down, rather than up. Front toe-in is reduced to sharpen turn-in, while rear camber is increased to keep the tires more squared to the ground when the MINI GP is cornering.
A strut tower brace is fitted beneath the engine cover to add rigidity to the body and the rear sway bar is thicker than one fitted to the standard Cooper Works cars to further reduce understeer. The GP’s vented front brake rotors measure 13 inches in diameter and are just less than one inch thick. Their six-piston calipers are fixed. The rear rotors are just over 11 inches in diameter.
While this is the second car MINI has offered with a GP designation, the previous car was considered a John Cooper Works car with a GP package. In other words, that one was a standard JCW car with GP add-ons. This 2013 car is a specifically engineered GP model of the Cooper hardtop unto itself.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Design
While the basic silhouette of the car is the now iconic MINI’s profile, everything added to that basic MINI Cooper bodyshell specific to get to the look of the GP car is performance oriented. The exterior body kit includes a high roof-mounted rear wing, a pair of side skirts, a front air dam, and a rear diffuser. And while you can’t see it, there is also extensive underbody cladding to help engine cooling and improve downforce.
Those aerodynamic body parts play a significant role when it comes to controlling airflow around the car. The rear diffuser, the underside panels, and the roof-mounted tail spoiler combine to reduce lift forces at the rear axle by some 90 percent. This greatly improves control during high-speed cornering and while driving the MINI GP at or near the limit.
Those features also produce a six percent reduction in drag compared to the standard Cooper Works cars. This results in improved fuel economy and a higher top speed. Airflow through the engine compartment is improved as well. In addition to pulling air in more efficiently, the body modifications also expel air more efficiently. The underbody tray is designed to literally suck air out of the engine compartment. This improves the performance of the turbocharger’s intercooler.
The Thunder Grey metallic paint is exclusive to the Cooper GP. The hood is trimmed with red around the air intake. The side mirror caps and the side air intakes in the chin spoiler are finished in red too. Just to make sure you know what you’re looking at, the John Cooper Works insignia is mounted on the lower air intake and repeated on the tailgate. Figuring that might be a bit too subtle for some of y’all, the MINI design team also specified two big-ass “GP” side stripes to run between the front and rear wheel arches on both sides of the car. Rounding out the MINI John Cooper Works GP’s exterior features are a set of black xenon headlights mounted in black shells, and a set of fog lamps.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Make no mistake about it; this car is biased more toward the handlings aspect of the ride/handling equation. It’s tightly sprung and exhibits next to no body roll when cornering. However, for a car of its capability, the Cooper Works GP rides pretty comfortably.
MINI’s product team’s decision to go with a 17-inch wheel and a resultantly higher profile tire than if they’d specified, say a 20-inch wheel, improves the ride quality of the 2013 GP considerably. (They say it makes the car handle better than a lower profile tire would too.)
It’s really hard to find a seat more comfortable than a Recaro; it’s also difficult to find a seat more supportive than a Recaro, which is why MINI fit a pair of them to their extreme performance model. To add lightness, MINI’s product team deleted the rear seat. This also improved cargo space commensurately, but honestly, who’s buying this car to haul a bunch of crap around? Still, a cargo guard, painted the same red as the exterior trim is fitted in the cargo area. While it looks like a rear strut tower brace, it serves no structural function.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
MINI’s famously quirky interior ergonomics carry over intact to the GP. If you’re familiar with the layout of the Cooper, you’ll feel right at home in the GP. The GP’s steering wheel gets an extra-thick rim, which feels absolutely wonderful in your hands. The gearshift knob is trimmed in chrome, and the shift pattern is rendered on a red background — to remind you you’re in a hotter MINI.
The leather dash is enhanced with red French stitching, as are the black Recaro seats. A set of red seatbelts completes the look. Some of the interior’s other esthetic features, while ostensibly in place to improve the appearance of the car, are intended to help focus the driver.The anthracite roof liner, piano black interior surfaces and door grips, as well as the anthracite tachometer and speedometer dials are said to help the driver concentrate on the road.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
Based as it is on the standard MINI Cooper, the 2013 John Cooper Works GP shares that car’s safety suite, as well as its safety ratings. Safety kit includes antilock disc brakes, stability control and front-seat side airbags. Traction control is standard and the bigger brakes added to the car aid its safety performance — in addition to its go-ability. While NHTSA has yet to issue crash test scores, the IIHS determined the Cooper earned its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test, and its second-best score of "Average" in the side-impact and roof-crush tests.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Engine & Fuel Economy
Generating 211 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 206 ft-lbs of torque at 1,750 rpm, the intercooled turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine displaces 1.6 liters. The powerplant is fortified for high performance duty with an aluminum cylinder block and bearing mounts, reinforced pistons, and a more robust cylinder head than that fitted to standard Cooper models. Other key bits include a low-weight crankshaft and sodium-filled exhaust valves. The turbocharger uses twin-scroll technology to reduce turbo lag and deliver higher boost pressure.
Meanwhile, direct fuel injection optimizes the air/fuel ratio for every given circumstance. Ensuring the free-revving nature of the engine is fully variable valve control, which takes advantage of MINI’s corporate parentage. Based on the BMW Group’s VALVETRONIC technology, the GP’s variable valve timing system maximizes engine responsiveness and efficiency.
The only transmission offered is a six-speed manual.
Fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 26 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
If you like the way MINIs drive, you are going to love the way the John Cooper Works GP goes. First of all, while 211 horsepower and 206 ft-lbs of torque sound meager these days, let me inform you the GP is some 67 pounds lighter than the already lightweight Cooper Hardtop. With only 2,612 pounds to move, the 211 horsepower engine is quite adequate — thank-you-very-much.
The fastest production MINI ever offered, 0-60 is estimated at just under six seconds, while top speed is quoted at 150 miles per hour. But all of that means nothing next to the way the GP chomps into corners like the bulldog MINI has adopted as the company’s mascot.
The car just plain sticks.
All MINIs are known for their ability to channel a go-kart in day-to-day driving. The GP takes that quality and amplifies it up to 110. The steering is exceptionally sharp, and when you press the “Sport” button just ahead of the shifter it feels even more so. This also adjusts the throttle mapping, so the already free-revving engine absolutely comes into its own.
Thanks to the responsiveness of the engine, the smooth clutch action, and the precisely calibrated gearbox; rev-matched downshifts can be accomplished with ease. These are accompanied by a cacophony of delightful spitting and popping sounds as the engine winds down. The brakes engage right at the top of the pedal’s range of travel and haul the little car down from speed sharply. Easily modulated, they co-operate excellently, delivering the exact amount of retardation you desire. The traction control system can be adjusted to only step in when all is about to be lost, and at that point, it simply makes the outside front wheel turn in more quickly to tuck the car into the corner tighter.
Technical jargon like 90 percent less rear axle lift might mean something to some of you, but for those who went — huh? It basically means the faster you go, more the planted the Cooper Works GP feels.
Incredibly confidence inspiring, the 2013 MINI John Copper Works GP is HUGE fun to drive.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
With all of that said, we’re still talking about a $40,000 MINI. Granted, it’s a badass $40,000 MINI, but $40k is $40K, and there are a lot of badass cars out there in that price range. However, if you love MINI, and you’re bound and determined to have the highest performing MINI available from the factory, here’s your ride. But you best git to gittin’; they’re only going to bring 500 of them to the United States and according to MINI’s spokespeople, a good 200 of them are already sold.
2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Distinctive appearance
• Fun to drive
• Fastest road going MINI ever offered
• Limited edition ensures high resale value
• A $40,000 MINI.
• No back seat
• Not exactly subtle looking
• Limited edition virtually guarantees dealer markup
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