There are 28 people out there who have something I desire, almost as much as a life-sized working model of the Millennium Falcon.
It’s called the Mini John Cooper Works GP and it is as heroic and lovable as the above-mentioned space ship from the Star Wars trilogy. Only 30 will be imported to South Africa and 28 have already been scooped up by die-hard Mini enthusiasts.
I suppose we can always hope that one of these enthusiasts will grow tired of his car, but a quick scan of the web shows that only one previous-generation GP is currently on sale in South Africa and it still demands a premium compared to other hot hatches from that time. If you buy one of these, you hang onto it for life.
It’s easy to see why you’d have a hard time getting rid of it. The Mini JCW GP clasps itself to your heart quicker than a Disney character, not because of its cheeky styling or limited availability, but because it’s so much fun to drive. It’s one of those cars that will not only have you smirking from ear to ear, but laughing out loud in the pursuit of finding the perfect racing line on which to exit the mall parking lot.
A big part of this Mini’s want-one factor is down to the superb 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It delivers 160kW and 260Nm of torque - a substantial amount for a car as small as the Mini.
This equates to a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 6.3 seconds and a top-speed of 242km/h. It is currently the fastest car Mini has ever produced, with a highly impressive Nurburgring lap time of 8m23s.
Mini has also done a great job of upgrading the wheels, brakes and suspension. On the dynamic handling track at the Gerotek test facility, it was in its element.
The steering, brakes and throttle are so responsive and there’s a willingness to thrill that absolutely bowls you over by the time you’ve gone round the first corner. As an exercise in entertaining motoring, the Mini JCW GP is a stunning success.
Retailing at over R400 000, the GP is anything but cheap, particularly when you take some of the other cheaper and more practical options out there in consideration. Not that it matters, but one can always hope that one finds its way to a second-hand showroom floor in the near future.
The steep price makes more sense when you look at this Mini for what it is. In my mind it was never meant to be a serious competitor to the established hot hatches out there. It was built as the ultimate expression of the Mini hatch. Look at it that way and it’s much easier to hand over the cheque.