Overall rating: 4/5
You're looking at the fastest MINI ever built, with adjustable suspension, huge brakes, trick aerodynamics and an eight-minute 23-second Nürburgring time under its belt. Despite all that, and a two-seat cabin, it's all very familiar. Let's hope the cult following of the first GP model doesn't consign the GP2 to the cocooned garages of wealthy car collectors.
In the metal 5/5
Fast MINIs are nothing new, but the GP look started by the 'MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit' (yes, it really was called that) is distinct even from other JCW variants and thanks to significant aerodynamics work the new car looks more hardcore than ever. Rear axle lift is apparently down 90 per cent thanks to changes that include a big roof spoiler, flat panelling underneath and a diffuser at the back. The grey and black colour scheme remains, accentuated by red detailing here and there plus bespoke 17-inch alloys and plenty of 'GP' decals. Special tyres, a lowered ride height (adjustable) and noticeably increased front and rear camber all add to the race track refugee feel of the GP2.
Inside, the formula is as before. The rear seats have been ditched and the space filled by a particularly chunky suspension brace, while the front chairs are supportive Recaro items, though they're not uncomfortably deep to get into. Ahead of that is a tactile thick-rimmed leather steering wheel and plenty of grey, black and red to remind you you're in a John Cooper Works model.
Driving it 4/5
Before you read on you should know that our driving time in the JCW GP was limited to fast laps at the Circuito Mallorca RennArena circuit on the island of Palma de Mallorca. The surface is smooth as you'd expect, though this track doesn't really show the GP to its full potential. The surfeit of hairpin-like bends means the MINI is constantly struggling to translate all its power into meaningful momentum. Peak power of 218hp doesn't sound much in these days of 300hp hot hatches, but when 280Nm of torque is unleashed at just 2,000rpm a lightly loaded inside wheel has little chance.
That's despite the fact that this car has a 'GP mode' for the DSC. So selected, engine power is never cut, but instead the electronic differential lock comes into play, applying a brake to the spinning wheel. Even this has difficulty reining in wheel spin. We reckon this car would really benefit from a mechanical limited slip differential.
On the one high-speed section of this circuit the GP2 does come alive and despite all the talk of downforce, if you push hard enough there are gentle four-wheel drifts to be had such is the adjustability through the razor sharp throttle. Up front are new 330 x 25mm discs and six-piston callipers and they make light work of the 1,160kg MINI - no lighter than normal incidentally.
This short test was far from conclusive. It did show how stiff the structure is, how great the braking and how much grunt MINI has extracted from its 1.6-litre turbocharged engine, but more questions remain unanswered until we get the car on the road.
What you get for your money 4/5
While we wouldn't say that the MINI JCW GP is good value per se, the near-€48,000 price is almost irrelevant. The GP1 is still spoken of in reverential tones by MINI lovers and there's plenty of demand globally to snap up the 2,000 examples of the new car that will be produced. For what it's worth, important things like air conditioning and Xenon lights are standard, while buyers get to choose between the 'sports' tyres and a set more suited to climates like Ireland's.
For the record, the aerodynamic tweaks result in a surprising reduction in fuel consumption and emissions. MINI claims that the new front spoiler and shielding of the engine compartment underneath has resulted in a six per cent reduction in drag. Apparently slits in the under-tray are designed to actively suck air out of the engine bay, hence making the turbo's intercooler more efficient too.
Our short stint on a tight circuit probably didn't best show off the MINI John Cooper Works GP's newfound high-speed ability. It's undeniably cool though and the fact is that MINI probably doesn't need media reviews of the John Cooper Works GP to comfortably sell every one it makes. We do hope that some of those buyers drive it as it was intended.