Unlike my major I have known exactly what my first “new” Car will be for years, The MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works Edition. Most MINI models come in 3 variants, the 121 HP base model, the 181 HP turbo charged “S”, and the 208 HP “JCW” which is an “S” that has been severely upgraded (Think BMW’s “M” division or Ford’s “Shelby” Mustang).
In my eyes, MINI’s are effortlessly one of the most eye catching cars on the road and while their styling is visible to all, the presence of performance may not be. People in other imports like Hondas and Toyotas may not realize a stock JCW has more horsepower, a superior suspension, and more torque than their cars. I have been a huge MINI fan for years and thanks to the Motor-tober sales event this October, I was finally given the opportunity to drive one.
The Motor-tober event was basically an invitation to test drive a MINI at any dealership, so I invited one of my best friends to the closest dealer in Sacramento. I arrived at Niello MINI knowing they had only one JCW in stock; however this was no ordinary JCW. This year MINI announced they would be making a limited edition Hardtop JCW GP 2.
The last time MINI manufactured a GP was 2006 (the GP 1). The new 2013 GP 2 was limited to just 2,000 models and of the 2,000 only 500 would make their way to the States. With 211 HP and a top speed of 150 mph the GP 2 is the most powerful and fastest MINI ever produced.
After meeting with sales rep. Mark Shutten I jokingly asked to take the GP out for a spin, but was told that due to its rarity I wasn’t allowed. No surprise. So I chose to test a 2013 S hardtop. I’ve read up a lot on how the MINI’s sport suspension made the ride bumpy and uncomfortable, but honestly it rode smoother than my car, a Ford Focus.
Mark was great to drive with, he encouraged me to take some sharp corners to get a real feel for the Go kart handling the MINI’s short wheel base provides. He even let me screech the tires at a stoplight. Even though this MINI was only the middle child in terms of power, it was quick and very fun to drive.
The test drive took us from the Niello dealership to their future building currently under construction a short ways away. When I pulled into the parking lot I saw it: the GP 2. It was parked in front of the unfinished building. I stopped next to it and went for a short tour around the building in progress. After admiring the parked GP for a couple of minutes, Mark said he’d take us for a short ride around the empty parking lot.
He showed off the GP’s skills by swerving around the parking lot’s light poles, and then took my friend for the same ride (the GP is a two seater). After dropping my buddy off, Mark stepped out and said “Alright man, you get the hot seat!” I eagerly hopped into the rocket ship of a car and darted off.
It was amazing how noticeable the difference between the GP and S was. It accelerated from a stop like no other 4 cylinder car I’ve driven and the GP’s track day suspension and sticky tires kept me in control threw some sharp turns. Even though it was a short drive, I will always remember it.
They say “never meet your heroes”; I have never found this statement more false. I had a fantastic time finally getting to drive one of my dream cars. Unlike Porsches or Lamborghinis, this dream car is actually affordable, and I cannot wait to own one and drive the hell out of it.
Note: this article was featured in The Prospector Winter 2013 print edition