• Jul 24, 2008


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We've had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a few MINI variants, including a 2007 Cooper S and more recently a 2008 Cooper Clubman. Despite some quirky interior design cues and limited practicality, it's hard not to love the MINI for its superb handling and slick-shifting transmission. Still on our to-do list, however, was to experience some of the John Cooper Works options that were absent on our previous test cars. Fortunately we were able to schedule a short drive with a 2008 MINI Cooper S with a few select JCW options. Are the upgrades worth the price of admission? Read on...


All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.


Our MINI arrived in style with Lightning Blue paint and a handsome interior with Lounge Carbon Black leather seating, just slightly more subtle than the Leather Lounge Redwood seats in the Cooper S we previously tested. Our car was also fitted with the Premium Package with a panoramic sunroof ($1,250), limited slip diff ($500), computer NAV system ($2,000), and the leather sport wheel w/ multifunction ($250).

But enough with the "regular" options. We're here to test out the goods from the John Cooper Works parts bin. First up is the Tuning Kit ($2,100) consisting of a high-flow air intake box, a low-restriction sport exhaust system with larger diameter chrome tips, and a reprogrammed ECU that increases throttle response. The result is an increase of 17 horsepower for a total of 189, as well as a boost of torque to 185 lb-ft, or temporarily up to 200 lb-ft with overboost. Amazingly, that torque is available from 1,000 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm, and combined with the increased throttle response, it's nearly impossible to resist dipping into the throttle just for the fun of it. The exhaust note is also much improved, and the Cooper S now emits a proper growl. While $123/horsepower isn't exactly a great bang for your buck, there's something satisfying knowing that your extra horsepower is covered under the factory warranty. Plus you get those cool John Cooper Works badges!

Next up is the JCW sport suspension system ($1,295). The kit includes stiffer springs and new shock absorbers. MINI claims benefits of increased cornering ability and reduced body roll through the corners, and we'd be inclined to agree. We know the Cooper S can handle like a go-kart, and the JCW suspension enhances the MINI's corner carving abilities even more. The car exhibited practically no body roll even through the tightest turns, and the front wheels simply go exactly where you point them. The only downside is a slightly rougher ride that would become annoying if your daily commute involved potholes and uneven roads. We are 50/50 on whether we would check this option, and it would probably depend on if we used the car as a daily driver or a weekend toy.

The last set of JCW options for our Cooper S include the wheel, tire and brake packages. MINI has probably more wheel options for its cars than any other, with the John Cooper Works versions being both the best looking and most expensive. We liked the 18-inch double-spoke composite wheels wrapped with 205/40R18 run-flat tires, although they are a pricey option at $3,585. Since wheel design is a purely subjective category, we'll leave it up to you whether these are worth the money or if an aftermarket wheel would be a better alternative. As for the brakes, our car was fitted with the Sport Brake Kit ($1,360) as well as the option for drilled front rotors ($218). The package includes larger rotors and red-painted calipers as well as special brake lines for the rear brakes. While we didn't have the opportunity to test the brakes to their limit, we found them to be more than sufficient with excellent pedal response.

We immensely enjoyed our seat time in the JCW-equipped MINI Cooper S, but it's tough to say whether we would put the check mark in the option box for these items. The engine, suspension, wheel/tire, and brake upgrades added a total of over $8,500 to the price of our MINI, quite a sum of money considering the near $20,000 base price of the Cooper S. Adding even more JCW options like the carbon fiber interior accessories, aero kit, strut tower brace, roof spoiler, and more can push the MINI's price into the $40,000 range and even higher with additional options. With that sort of price you can buy a BMW 135i that offers more power and a better interior, as well as many other cars that offer more room and more power. When it comes down to it the MINI Cooper S is a fantastic vehicle for around $25,000, but the JCW options don't benefit the car enough to make it a good value at $40,000. Still, there are those out there that would rather have a Cooper S in the garage, and the John Cooper Works options offer the ultimate MINI experience straight from the factory.


All photos Copyright ©2008 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 22 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have an 2008 S model and I am getting the JWC suspenion kit next week. The car handles great already, but will be even better. $1,900 for total upgrade

      I'm not sure why Mini offers 208HP from the factory and only 189HP if you have it done at the dealership.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sweet MINI...
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is it even *possible* to order a JCW that doesn't have bi-xenon HID headlights? Conventional reflector-style bulbs just look so cheezy in 2008.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I've got an 08 S and i LOVE IT. its so much fun. but this JCW must be a BEAST! Im looking forward to getting the JCW tuning kit. the torque steer isnt bad at all, and like someone said you really need to romp on the loud pedal to get it to show. but the car handles great and its such a hoot, the suspension is pliant, altho i can imagine what the jcw sport suspsention is like, but overall the car is really quite livable as long as you dont have 4 people in the car on a regular basis, i usualy keep it to my self and one other person in the car and its great, people are always stopping me and asking about the car and i let them take a seat, and they always say its bigger then they would have thought, it returns close to 40 on the highway, and im above 33mpg around town even with all my first gear blasting. my only quarrel is that i think and so do many other people, that the JCW factory car should come with the body kit, right now the only thing that really shows that its a factory jcw is the special R112 rims you can get only with a jcw from the factory (not the rims pictured above as they said those ones cost an extra 3k) so many things drive the cost up of these cars, you can have them for reletivly cheap money, but i was playing with the config lastnignt and had to check every JCW option to get it to $40k and that was with a bunch of packages and options that arnt JCW like the leather seats and premium packages and cold weather, hifi, xenons, trim..ect. mines very nicely eqqupiped and rang in at about 30k, many people nearly choke when i mention that but if you couldnt tell i love this car and i wouldnt have it anyother way. MINI FTW!
      • 6 Years Ago
      The regular MINI Cooper S offers more performance than 95% of will ever need, why waste the extra money on this model? I think the Cooper S is one of the better bang-for-the-buck cars out there, along with cars like the pre-2008 Subaru WRX.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Exactly (@Torrent)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Won't the Mazdaspeed 3 absolutely destroy this thing? Its not as cutesy, but come on.
        • 6 Years Ago
        No offense... but Mazdaspeed 3's are a dime a dozen. Go to the mall & you find 3-4 in the lot easy. The JCW Cooper S is not a car you will find on every corner.

        How many $30,000+ cars can you say that about?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I've been in a ....hmmm how to say this correctly, good natured contest between my 07 MCS and an 07 MazdaSpeed 3. I noticed him as he blew by me on a tollway, straining his neck to look back at me. I took that as an invite, and showed him how the MCS pulls in third from 4000 or so. The cars are comperable, but I had no problem running up to his bumper! We took an exit and at the light I got the feeling I was about to see the full power of a mspeed3. To my surprise, I was able to stay on his bumper, even had to ease on the throttle several times to avoid hitting him. Dont know who was more surprised, me or him! We stopped and compared notes ( he was sure I had modded mine all to hell) but both were stock. He wasn't aware of the turbo for '07. Said he had little trouble getting away from 1st gens (stock, that is. ;-)
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh I assure you, a MS3 will not compete with a Mini cooper, particularly in terms of handling.
      • 6 Years Ago
      A MINI Cooper S is a definite must test drive for me before I finally make up my mind as to what I'm going to buy. But there are no dealers within a 2 hour drive from me. Hopefully by the time I get ready to shop for a new car, my area will get one of the new MINI dealerships that are scheduled to be added.
        • 6 Years Ago
        is there a carmax in your area? they have free transfers if you can find a mini in another nearby city.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Uhh. Last time I checked the JCW's were being sold as 2009's.
      • 6 Years Ago
      with such a plentiful aftermarket support who in the right mind would check any options at all? Cooper s, manual. end of story.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Note about the brakes... The standard R56 already has the JCW R53 brakes as standard equipment. The current BBK is a carryover from the JCW R53, while next MY gets the 4 pots from the Works car. So it's basically $1300+ for red calipers (with a sticker) and the cross drilled rotors.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I owned a first-gen Cooper S and I've driven the MS3. The MS3 has gobs of HP but also has gobs of torque steer to boot. The MINI was more refined but both cars have a purpose and I don't think you could go very wrong with either of them.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I thought for the first few years of this beast that it was a rear wheel driver -- everyone was making such a huge deal about its handling and such. Humor me ... is it a fwd vehicle? Has anyone here driven one? What's the torque steer like?

      My wife has been jonesing for one, and I had to break it to her that supply is gone for the next several months!
        • 6 Years Ago
        Torque steer in MINI's is minimal as they have near equal lenght drive shafts and with the LSD, next to none. I own 2 of them, an 04 and 05 w/LSD. The 04 has some, but you really have to get your right foot into it deep. The 05 w/ LSD, no matter how deep the accelorator goes, no torque steer. Ironically, when autocrossing in a very tight corner, it wants to straighten out the wheels, so I guess you could call that "anti-torque steer."
        • 6 Years Ago
        FWD. Never driven one, but unless you're a RWD elitist, it seems like you'll like the handling. Basically anyone who can get past the size, interior, and price should get one. (non-JCW, btw)
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