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First drive: MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.

First drive: MINI John Cooper Works Challenge
Sharper focus for small production run of the MINI JCW Challenge.


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MINI John Cooper Works Challenge

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Track bias for MINI's most recent limited-number striped and piped special, the John Cooper Works Challenge.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: MINI John Cooper Works Challenge
Price: 32,000
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Body style: three-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 155g/km (Band G, 180 per year)
Combined economy: 42.2mpg
Top speed: 153mph
0-62mph: 6.3 seconds
Power: 231hp at 5,200rpm
Torque: 320Nm at 1,250rpm

What's this?

The JCW Challenge, or MINI Cooper John Cooper Works Challenge to give it its correct title, is the interpretation of a small team at MINI of a sharper and even more engaging JCW. They'll build just 100 and it came about because some in-house racers (dubbed 'OX4 Racing' from MINI's Building 71 at its Oxford plant) wanted a more track focused John Cooper Works. So out goes the standard suspension and in comes some Nitron coil-overs with plenty of adjustability; the set-up is largely based on that of MINI's proper racers.

There's a Quaife limited slip differential too, as well as some sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres on lighter Team Dynamics alloys. The brake discs are now drilled and there are more aggressive brake pads. Under the bonnet, it's unchanged, save for the suspension top mounts and the adjustability, though there is a noisier exhaust, switched by a Bluetooth fob (bizarrely). It's a richer sounding pipe when all the bits are closed and noisy enough to ensure you'll be asked to mute it on all but the most noise-enlightened track days. Elsewhere this car highlights its special limited edition status with build numbers inside and out, stripes up and over the bonnet and some unique trim pieces to further delineate it from the mere, circa 10,000 cheaper, John Cooper Works car upon which it's based.

How does it drive?

Given the intent that the chassis changes represent, it'll come as no surprise that the Challenge is a firmer, more reactive version of the car it's based on. We're basing that solely on four laps around Goodwood's circuit, but even leaving the pit lane's enough to understand that this is a MINI with track driving in mind. There's an immediacy to its responses that scream track car, the way it moves around and the communication that brings is indicative of the chassis people's fine work. It's adjustable, significantly so, so there's the chance to set it up as you like it, and owners are likely to find a range of settings that work on road, or track - it's unlikely there's one that's a cover all.

At Goodwood it's hugely entertaining. The turn-in is far sharper, the speed at which the nose reacts to input at the wheel significantly quicker, while grip and traction are greater too thanks to those Cup 2 tyres and that Quaife limited slip differential. It's no faster in a straight line, but it'll carry its pace through bends with more conviction, brake harder and longer and, thanks to that improved traction, put its power to use earlier. It's noisier too, though fully opening the exhaust makes it obnoxiously so, which makes it rather pointless. There will undoubtedly be a few compromises on the road for the Challenge's track bias, but given the adjustability those Nitrons bring it needn't be too much, and they're worth it around a circuit.

Otherwise it's standard JCW, though you're not allowed the paddle-shifter here, which is welcomed, even if the six-speed manual gearbox is not the last word in precision across its gate. The engine's plentiful urge isn't delivered with much character, but it's difficult to argue against the pace it delivers. It does everything those MINI people suggested it would, being sharper, more enjoyable and richer in feel, though we can't help but think a token boost in power to differentiate it against the clock for the pub bores might have helped justify the price hike further.


We like our cars with focus, and the Challenge changes unquestionably add that. It's not a perfect package though, as the gearshift could be better, it's no lighter and it's damned expensive. We'd chuck out the back seats, MINI GP-style and add some power if we could, but then again the idea was a track car that's useable as a daily driver, too. With that in mind it's successful, albeit expensive, but given the 100 build number and the effect that'll inevitably have on its future desirability it's not such an issue if you're a deep-pocketed MINI fan who likes the occasional track day.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3 3 3 3 3 Luggage Space

4 4 4 4 4 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Kyle Fortune - 28 Jul 2016    - MINI road tests
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2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.

2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.2016 MINI John Cooper Works Challenge. Image by MINI.


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