Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop

The highlight of Mini's 2014 Detroit Auto Show stand was the arrival of the John Cooper Works Concept, a sportier version of the three-door hatch that presages the next JCW model on the new platform. Now, we have our first images of the production car undergoing winter testing way up north in Sweden.

Really, the Mini camouflage can't hide what this car is. Between the JCW-branded brake calipers and extra intakes in the front fascia, it's fairly easy to see that this is the sportier version of the car our own Jeremy Korzeniewski wrote about last week. We're expecting the JCW variant to pack a fair bit more firepower than the three-cylinder Cooper he tested, of course. Rumors have circulated that the hottest Mini model could jump to 230 horsepower, up from the current, non-GP car's 208.

There are a number of style features missing here, and while it's entirely possible we'll see things like the JCW Concept's diffuser and side gills arrive when this car is shown in production form (or even further along in testing), their absence in these spy photos is telling. We certainly think this car will become the production JCW Hardtop, but there may be another explanation. The lack of certain aesthetic features means this could be a test of the JCW Engine Kit, which in past Minis slotted in between the standard Mini Cooper S and the factory Works car. We'll admit, it's a long-shot, but there is precedent for it – the JCW Tuning Kit arrived a year before the factory model in the last-generation car. The same reasoning could be used to explain the presence of the JCW-branded brakes, which have been another well-known Mini accessory over the years.

As always, we want to hear what you think. Is this a production version of the Detroit concept car, or is it merely a test of the tuning kit? Have your say in Comments.