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MINI's Grand send off. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

MINI's Grand send off
The old MINI goes out with a bang in the form of the range topping GP. The only snag? They're all sold.

 



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#02# After five years of booming sales, iconic fashion status and a cult following the new MINI goes into retirement in the very new future. Just before we drive the new car we thought it worthwhile to bring you this run-out model. The final hoorah for the outgoing MINI is the GP limited edition, or to give it its full title, the MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit. This is a strange review to be writing in some ways. I could rave about this MINI, but it wouldn't make a difference to a new car buyer. You see you can't buy this car; it's a limited edition and all 2,000 have long since been sold to enthusiasts the world over.

Putting this detail aside for a moment let's take a closer look at the car. It's eye catching, no? Where to start? The bespoke alloys were designed not just to be lighter, but also to feed air to the brakes and, handily enough, look ace; the unique carbon fibre (and you know how we love this stuff) rear wing designed to actually work, as well as look great; the aero kit with the heavily sculpted front end that marks this limited edition out from the lesser MINIs, and looks ace. You'll be noticing a pattern? We think this MINI looks fantastic.

The engineers at John Cooper Garages were given much more freedom in the GP's specification and it shows. It is a focused car, more so even than the fairly hard core S Works version we enjoyed a while ago. The Works GP, identified by the unique addenda listed above, the red door mirrors, discreet badging and large serial number on the driver's side of the roof, is an altogether more serious car.

Weight has been aggressively pared from the GP; 50kg to be exact, most obviously in the deletion of the rear seats, though some commented that this was actually not much of a penalty in terms of practicality... The air conditioning is also an option. Think BMW CSL type treatment. Underneath, the chassis has been heavily breathed upon; where those rear seats used to lay a thick alloy strut brace spans the gap between the two rear suspension turrets. The special design alloys reduce unsprung weight to further enhance the driving characteristics. #p##02# As befits the GP moniker the car benefits from a revised engine management specification to wring yet more power out of the humble 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. Blown by the neat little supercharger unit, it now produces 136bhp per litre, for a total of 218bhp at 7100rpm and 184lb ft of torque. It's a gutsy performer with a strong mid-range and a frenetic top-end that pushes the MINI to sixty in just over 6.5 seconds and on to a heady maximum of 149mph.

Keeping the performance in check are 16-inch vented discs at the front, actuated via a nicely-weighted brake pedal with ample feel to apply exactly the amount of force needed. The six-speed gearbox features perfectly-spaced ratios, but the shift quality is a little notchy. The upgraded interior of the GP boasts some lovely looking heated leather Recaro seats, but unfortunately they didn't feel as comfortable as those in the lesser cars. We also found them lacking in terms of range of adjustment such that, in tandem with the lack of adjustment of the steering wheel, left us with a less than perfect driving position. This doesn't mar the fun though; it just takes a little sparkle off what is a gleaming dynamic package.

On the road the steering is missing an ounce of feel, but is direct and well weighted. The limited slip differential (LSD) does a fine job of deploying the power in a fuss-free and unobtrusive way. Torque steer is evident in the wet, but only under heavy throttle applications. For the most part the GP goes where you point it. The chassis boasts oodles of mechanical grip and the latest suspension modifications give it fine body control. On some bumpy surfaces it proved to be just a little too stiff, but in the majority of circumstances it works well.

Cornering is flat and fast with the LSD allowing for fine adjustment of line via throttle inputs. It is a real hoot to drive fast and rewards commitment to the cause. Thrown around, or coaxed with some finesse, the chassis rewards. It's a great car to drive offering a huge giggle factor.

Other than the seats and some badging the interior is much akin to that of the other Cooper S models. This means it is a perfect blend of retro cool with modern features. The air conditioning is a no-cost option, one which we'd leave in place, but the rest would be familiar to a MINI owner. Of course the absence of the rear seats makes this a pure two-seater, but the rear seats of the outgoing MINI aren't the most generous and the load space left behind is actually much more usable than the boot of the standard car. #p##05# At the end of the day, the GP is a fitting swansong for the MINI. The GP is a very fine hatch, but at 22k it should be. In isolation it's hard to argue that the GP is 5,000 better than a Ford Focus ST, but in this context, as a car for fans and enthusiasts, it evidently is. All the cars have found homes. The fact that these cars are all sold makes our opinion somewhat worthless, but look at this as a second-hand car review and things become more relevant. This in itself is a double-edged sword; although these cars will become available on the market in time, all signs are of rock solid residuals, with some early cars commanding premiums at the moment. For those fans eager to indulge, the wait will be worth it. The MINI is dead, long live the MINI!

So this generation of the MINI is dead, in terms of the new car buyer at least, so what would we change about it now that we know the outgoing car so well? If we were pedants (which we are), things we'd hope to see in the new MINI are:
  • Improved wipers that do a more effective, and quieter, job.
  • Improved window design that doesn't drip water onto the seat when you open the door on wet days.
  • More useful rear seats.
  • Revised column stalks.
  • Less coarse engines.
  • Reach adjustment on the steering wheel.
  • More range of adjustment on the driver's seat.
  • A nicer steering wheel.
  • Improved pedal layout, specifically the clutch pedal.
  • A slicker gear shift.
All in all, not a very long list for an outgoing car and a reflection on the quality of execution of the first new MINI when BMW released it onto the market five years ago. The new car can't fail to be a success. Watch this space for our review.

Dave Jenkins - 24 Oct 2006









  www.mini.co.uk    - MINI road tests
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2006 MINI GP specifications: (with John Cooper Works GP Kit)
Price: 22,000 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 6.5 seconds
Top speed: 149mph
Combined economy: 32.8mpg
Emissions: 207g/km
Kerb weight: 1120kg

Full technical specifications

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.



2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 

2006 Mini Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP kit. Image by Shane O' Donoghue.
 






 

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