We’ve spoken a bit about the new MINI John Cooper Works Challenge before. Designed and built by a skunkworks team inside MINI, and only built for the UK, the MINI JCW Challenge is the most hardcore road-going MINI ever made. From the outside, it doesn’t actually look all that different to the untrained eye. However, underneath the unassuming skin lies something very, very special.
In this latest video from Carfection, we see why it’s so special.
Only 100 MINI JCW Challenge cars will be made and those 100 UK customers are very lucky. However, on paper, they may not look that lucky. Under the hood lies the same 228 hp 2.0 liter turbocharged engine of the standard JCW. It also only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox (thank the car gods). And, oddly enough, the Challenge is actually a touch heavier than the standard JCW. So, on paper, it doesn’t seem very impressive, performance-wise.
However, the real magic behind the MINI JCW Challenge lies in its ability to eat tracks for lunch. That aforementioned weight comes from a proper Quaife mechanical front limited-slip differential, Nitron adjustable coil-over racing suspension, 13 inch rotors with Brembo calipers at each corner and Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tires. So the MINI Challenge is able to make the best use of its chassis’ high potential. And for those of you who feel that BMW’s UKL front-wheel drive platform isn’t a proper sports car platform, MINI engineers will tell you otherwise.
But the way the MINI Challenge flat out bullies tracks into submission isn’t why you should buy one, if you live in the UK. The real reason you should buy one is the noise. Listen to that MINI Challenge’s new exhaust and you might find automotive nirvana. It’s wonderfully devilish for such a small little engine. Hearing the rhythm of its growl — pausing for upshits and back on the power — is intoxicating. It almost sounds like a mini (pardon the pun) BMW M4 GTS. In fact, in its loud-mode, it’s actually illegally loud for UK roads. Fantastic.
The best part about the MINI Challenge, and its delicious noise, is the fact that it’s a street car. It can be driven on the road, in daily traffic, and even has back seats to take the kids on their school runs. It’s a real car, one that can be used as a daily driver. All the while, it sounds like a power chord from hell and can beat up on much more powerful sports cars at the track.
Sure, the Challenge is expensive, costing about £35,000 (about $45,000 after exchange rates), which is about Ford Focus RS money. However, give me one of these over a Focus RS any day of the week and twice on race day. I don’t care if the Focus RS is faster, I don’t care if it has a gimmicky Drift Mode and I don’t care that people compare it to the BMW M2. The MINI Challenge is the more exciting car and it’s the more special car. Every bro-racer with a backwards Monster hat will buy a Focus RS. But only people who actually care about driving will buy a MINI John Cooper Works Challenge.