The MINI Cooper is a great British success story. From dominating the racetrack in the 1960s with a pioneering female driver (Pat Moss, the sister of Stirling Moss) to defying all convention with its comic size and over sixty years of triumph, MINI’s cultural impact is, ironically, massive.
Although the Leyland-built Austin Mini and Morris Mini cars were critically acclaimed on the circuit and won the hearts of a flowering power generation, the world changed in the 1990s, wanting something flashier, bigger and more powerful.
Subsequently, the MINI brand as we know and love it today has been produced by the Bavarian group BMW since 1996. Obvious controversies aside, BMW turned the MINI Cooper into a livable (though still relatively small) hatchback, destined for backroad blasts and tweaking cities like their true home, London.
In the 26 years under BMW ownership, MINI has grown to become a complete line of cars for everyone. There was the MINI John Cooper Works Coupé with snapback, while families have their choice of various four-door offerings. But underpinning it all is the mighty MINI Cooper lineup.
Three-door, five-door, convertible, S-trim, John Cooper Works and now even in electric form, there’s a MINI Cooper for every lifestyle. But what if your lifestyle doesn’t call for backseats? Maybe you put the pedal to metal craze over practicality, or maybe you’re the type of person who finds joy in the simplicity of driving. MINI also has the answer, with its John Cooper Works GP3.
Limited to just 3,000 units worldwide, the MINI GP3 succeeds the original GP1 and GP2 – both incredible machines – with even more power, drama and childlike behavioral tendencies. Rarity is one thing, but that’s not why you’ll want a GP3. That’s it.
As you can tell, this is not your average MINI Cooper.
Carbon fiber salvaged from the BMW i3 and BMW i8 is turned into bolt-on wheel arches (here marked with model number #0025). On the front is a smile bedecked with red lipstick and “GP” badges. The sides have red decals and unique four-spoke rims with red JCW brake calipers. Built into the rear is a large roof spoiler, obviously branded with more “GP” logos, and below that, you’ll find a split two-piece diffuser with twin-outlet center exhaust pipes that are larger than any found on other Performance-focused MINIs measuring 90mm per piece.
All 3,000 examples come in a “Racing Gray” and “Chilli Red” color scheme, with the only significant difference between each being their model designation markers. In short, this is a special little MINI, accentuated, widened, lowered, widened and angrier than before.
But these external details aren’t just for show. The wing, along with the diffuser, reduces drag but increases downforce – something we’ll get to later – while the wheels are the MINI’s lightest, providing better road feedback to the steering wheel and driver. Recycled carbon fiber wheel arches meet a wider track that allows for better handling and grip, but also channels air around the vehicle to improve aerodynamics, and the extensive amount of vents at the front allow the four-cylinder engine to two-liter turbocharged cylinders breathe. .
Scarce. Focused. No distractions. This is the ethos of the MINI GP3 and is carried inside for the driver and one passenger only, as behind the leather and Dinamica upholstered seats is a striking “Chilli Red” cargo bar. This strut not only replaces the rear seats, but also adds structural rigidity to the car, making it more balanced and poised on a tight race circuit where, as MINI hopes, the car will live most of its life.
But not everything is track and no talk. The brand’s all-new digital display reads all important information with brilliant clarity, while the infotainment system updates the quintessential round face with touchscreen capabilities, allowing you to tap the radio or receive detailed information about the car’s performance. .
Adding to the special touches, the MINI adds 3D-printed paddle shifters, a short thick automatic gearbox knob that can be used in manual mode (preferably on track or b-roads) and another plaque indicating the serial number. of the car to remind you and your passengers of its rarity.
Stripping away the interior and working with lightweight performance elements on the exterior, the GP3 is the fastest MINI ever. With a top speed of 164 MPH, a 0-62 MPH time of 5.2 seconds, 306 hp, custom shock absorbers, stabilizers and springs, a wider track, stiffer, lower suspension, and an eight-speed automatic transmission with A limit – slip differential, everything and the kitchen sink were thrown into this car to make it formidable on the track.
But how does this work in the real world?
It’s rigid. So hard, in fact, that the bumps throw the steering in directions you never intended to go. Likewise, with 450 Nms under the hood, the front-wheel drive GP3 struggles to put its power on the road with frightening amounts of steering torque. These numbers – and your ability to manage them – are not for the faint of heart.
Instead, the GP3 is a serious driving machine that should come with a warning. You better hold the sports steering wheel with steady hands because it will try to trick you; This is a small car with not so small features.
It’s as extreme as it gets in this industry, before you get into the world of the Audi Quattro and more HP with something like an RS3. However, once we got used to the car’s behavior, it became intoxicating to play with it.
Taming the GP3 is the ultimate goal, because once you do, it’s a riot to drive. Each turn comes at the end of a straight much faster than you’d expect, but your brakes are more than capable of stopping you before you make a turn. Steering is heavy and lacks the contrived feel we’ve come to expect from modern performance cars, favoring a real amount of feedback that lets you throw the car into corners with some confidence. Cut the power out of the corner and you’re hurtling forward with no torque steering, while the small but angry rumble of that custom exhaust fills your ears with exhilaration that spurs you on to push the car to the limit. Just be careful.
When the MINI John Cooper Works GP3 launched in 2020, it was priced at £35,345 GBP, or $45,750 USD in the United States. In any world, that’s a lot of money for a MINI, with the tier below it – a JCW Cooper – starting at £29,000 GBP / $36,000 USD.
However, the JCW and the GP are worlds apart. In addition to the performance and style described above, most GP3 owners bought this car for its rarity. As such it has increased in value since it was sold – the cheapest we could find on the market was £31,000 GBP with almost 30,000 miles on the clock, with most examples of light steering achieving the same as what they sold, and others that had been modified or mishandled past the £40,000 mark.
Comparatively, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another spicy hot hatch for a better price when new. A Volkswagen GTI wouldn’t keep pace, a Golf R, Audi RS3, Mercedes-AMG A35S or A45S or Honda Civic Type R are in another automotive class or price range.
When you buy a MINI GP3, there’s one thing this car promises above all else: exclusivity. You’ve said “no” to other two-seater sports cars and shunned the practicality of a hot hatch to enter racing pedigree. The result is a rare breed of car marked not just by the numbers on its carbon fiber wheel arches, but by the fact that it’s unrivaled by anything at the same price point.