So, here it is: two and a half years after we first saw that extreme concept car at the Frankfurt motor show, the new Mini John Cooper Works GP has finally arrived.
Yes, it has been a rather drawn-out development cycle for the fastest road-going Mini model yet. Indeed, there were times when it appeared plans for a new GP had been abandoned for lack of any official confirmation on its progress. Still, you know what they say about the kind of things that come to those who wait.
Like its distinguished predecessors, the GP will be produced in a limited run of just 3000 examples, of which 575 are reserved for the UK. At £33,895, it’s a big (£7935) step up from the standard John Cooper Works. Two versions are on offer: a full-specification model and more track-biased ‘naked’ one, which goes without air conditioning or an infotainment system.
The good news is that Mini has stuck to its guns and delivered a car not too far removed from what it originally promised for its 60th birthday: one that incorporates all the gregarious spirit and driving enjoyment delivered by its various competition cars down the years.
Performance-wise, the third-generation GP raises the bar by a not insignificant 74bhp and 98lb ft over the JCW three-door hatchback, upon which it’s heavily based and alongside which it’s assembled at the Mini factory in Oxford.
The 2.0-litre unit delivers 302bhp, endowing this most powerful Mini with a power-to-weight ratio that’s up by 67bhp per tonne over its predecessor, at 241bhp per tonne. No less influential to the driving experience is the torque, which peaks at 332lb ft between 1750rpm and 4500rpm.
Changes over the engine used by the JCW include a new twin-scroll turbocharger running greater boost pressure, a reinforced crankshaft with a larger main bearing, lighter pistons, new connecting rods, a redesigned vibration damper, a larger sump and greater cooling potential.
Although it retains front-wheel drive, the GP is sold exclusively with an automatic gearbox. This seems an odd move, given its positioning as a road-and-track car. However, Mini says the ZF-produced eight-speed unit, with its unique, centre console-mounted gear selector and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, is key to providing the GP with the sort of performance to challenge rivals such as the Renault Mégane RS 300 Trophy and Honda Civic Type R – even though it retains the same individual gear ratios and 2.96:1 final drive ratio as the JCW.