Review of the 2024 Mini Cooper GCW at BMW Arena in South Carolina
- Mini is phasing out most of its current generation models, but we wanted to give the outgoing 2024 Mini Cooper JCW one last spin.
- Cruising around South Carolina State Stadium, BMW’s US headquarters, the most advanced Mini is unsurprisingly German.
- With sharp steering, powerful brakes and a commanding stance, the Mini Cooper JCW is not only less fun but also better than ever as it transitions into a new generation.
It’s no secret that the Mini Cooper is a uniquely European design. From their inception to their modern-day reincarnations, Minis have had a certain style, attitude and feel that simply can’t be found in a compact hatchback from Detroit. The Mini isn’t just a cheaper, more compact tool for hauling trinkets and people around.
This is reflected in the price, of course, as the 2024 Mini Cooper JCW we tested at BMW’s North American headquarters in Greer, South Carolina, cost $43,795. That includes a $995 destination charge and a $7,400 option called Iconic Trim, which adds features like adaptive dampers, a six-speed manual transmission, and heated seats.
More expensive than the Volkswagen GTI, Hyundai Elantra N, and Honda Civic Si, Cooper’s top-of-the-line product isn’t the most economical or even the quickest. Powered by a 228-horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the Hyundai and Volkswagen easily outdo it, though sheer power is rarely a sign of dynamic greatness.
Given its historic name, John Cooper, the JCW Cooper was specifically designed for outstanding performance, particularly in the design of the suspension and brakes. At a glance, the suspension is nothing new, with MacPherson struts front and multi-link rear. But the electronically adaptive dampers provide a firm but absorbent ride, even at the limit.
Its braking setup is similarly adequate, with Brembo brakes with four-piston fixed calipers up front and single-piston calipers at the rear. However, a series of electronic teammates slowed the Mini Cooper JCW more than expected. Specifically, electronic brake force distribution and cornering brake control systems allow for consistent and playful back turns during braking.
Paired with a 2,900-pound chassis, this iteration of the F55 JCW Cooper is razor sharp. While chasing the BMW M3 CS up and down the Paris Mountain, the Mini was an agile dance partner on such a narrow road. Even at full hairpins or 90-degree downhill corners, slight near-dead wheel rotation corresponds to sharp changes in direction.
With its grip, quick steering and poised front end, the JCW is a high-performance kind of car, allowing for big throttle inputs early and often while exiting corners. But the welcome presence of the short-ratio manual transmission adds some — dare I say it — old-school driving performance.
Small cars have always been praised for their pedal spacing, and the previous car is no different, with perfect side-to-side proportions and when braking for heel-toe shifts. The shifter itself has a weird shift knob that fills the palm, and throws are precise if a little rubbery and lifeless, diminishing the lively feel behind those brushed aluminum pedals.
It’s this dichotomy between subtlety and emotion that sets JCW apart, as he’s more than capable of doing antics that rival class without encouraging you to do so.
Even on a hot lap around the BMW Performance Center test track with Charlie Cooper, the model did exactly what he asked, pivoting around its rear axle with heavy braking, without offering much more (except for shredded tires).
This ethos carries over into the design and interior as well, which is certainly on its way out. As minimalist, LCD-screened interiors become popular, the final era of Mini’s aircraft-keyed interior will soon be coming to an end. But the best bits of the Mini Cooper interior were retained in the F55 generation.
Headroom is generous and the space between front seat passengers feels roomier than in some crossovers. The seats are comfortable and made of hot-weather-friendly fabric, although the driving position is best enjoyed with the pill-sized armrest up. My only real complaint is the slightly busy instrumentation, which is a true modern BMW trait.
The 2024 Mini Cooper JCW may be built in Oxford, but it’s undeniably German. Serious, powerful, and expensive, the Mini Cooper has retained its smaller size if only for heritage, shedding its troubled historical standing alongside it.
When faced with a proper Volkswagen, Hyundai or Honda, it loses out in the personality department. But this does not mean that the 2024 Mini Cooper GCW is not worth a look, especially with the new generation arriving at dealerships and prices dropping. If the route is in the near future, the current JCW will likely offer the best package ready for continuous loading.
Micro-ownership is an experience in itself. Packing inside the bland exterior is a sheer fury to grab every corner at your own pace, especially in the JCW marque. And while it may not be as lively as its German counterparts, the desire for pure efficiency is commendable.
This bodes well for the future of John Cooper Works, he was told Car Week In an interview with Mini Americas Vice President Mike Peyton and Mini Global Head of Products Christian Weiner. When asked what the future of Mini’s performance arm in the electric car world looks like, the pair assured Mini fans not to worry.
For starters, executives emphasized that demand for internal combustion Minis remains strong and said the JCW lineup will be offered with a high-performance gasoline engine for the foreseeable future. Likewise, explosive acceleration won’t be the main focus of future JCW Mini models, even as the company transitions to electric vehicles in the 2030s.
The current manual transmission ratio is 50% on JCW models, although the manual transmission is unfortunately going away. However, Peyton and Weiner emphasized the continued desire to make Minis about driving, something we can all get behind in the age of electric cars.
Can Mini successfully transform itself into a crossover/SUV-forward brand? Please share your thoughts below.
Emmett White, a New Yorker hailing from the Pacific Northwest, has a passion for everything: cars, bikes, airplanes, and motorcycles. After learning to ride at 17, Emmett worked in the motorcycle industry before joining Autoweek in 2022. Alternate side parking issues kept his fleet idle, with a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta GLI and a 2003 Honda Nighthawk 750 parked on his community street South Brooklyn. .