MINI enters its 60th anniversary year with a freshly revised JCW range and the promise of a new-generation GP track weapon

The mini cooper nameplate is set to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2019 and it’s going to be a big 12 or so months for the brand and for fans of hot hatches. A very limited edition John Cooper Works Millbrook Edition kicks off the MINI festival. Just 20 examples of the Millbrook will be available to Australian enthusiasts and each car is individually numbered. While the Millbrook is mechanically identical to the current JCW, it does feature a number of aesthetic differences to make it stand out, including a cool mint colour scheme. Our favourite design touch, and a nod to the Monte Carlo Rally success of the original Mini Cooper, is a set of driving lights mounted in the corners of the wide-mouth grille.

In a few months, the entire JCW range will be refreshed, largely in line with the new WLTP emissions regulations that have taken effect across Europe. Final details of the new JCW models have yet to be released, but they are now available to order in the UK and first European deliveries are scheduled for March this year. Australian customers shouldn’t have long to wait after the domestic release, with the new JCW expected in local showrooms before mid-year.

Like most manufacturers, MINI has met the new regulations by fitting petrol particulate filters to both models, integrated into the JCW’s sports exhaust system, so that they should still emit a suitably sporty tone despite the cleaner output.

Both John Cooper Works models remain equipped with MINI’s 2.0-litre, TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder petrol engine, which kicks out 170kW and allows the hatch to sprint to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds. In case you’re wondering, the power and acceleration figures are identical to those of the outgoing JCW, so emissions tweaks don’t appear to have impacted performance. Fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox, consumption is officially rated at 6.9L/100km, and an incredible 6.1L/100km when fitted with the Steptronic eight-speed auto.

The John Cooper Works convertible (which is obviously heavier than the hatch) is just a shade slower at 6.6 seconds to 100km/h, and a touch less frugal too, consuming 7.1L/100km with the six-speed gearbox and an impressive 6.4 with the auto. Like the performance numbers, MINI says that the economy figures remain unaffected from those of the outgoing models.

Along with the changes you can’t see, the 2019 John Cooper Works offerings feature piano black interior and exterior trim elements, synthetic leather bucket seats, and a new design for the 17-inch alloy wheels. Automatic front and rear LED lights are also standard.

A full equipment list is yet to be revealed and pricing is also currently unknown but expect a small increase on the old JCW’s price tag.

But the biggest MINI news is that the brand has committed to a new-generation GP model. BMW board member, Peter Schwarzenbauer, said, “we are working on a new Mini John Cooper Works GP, which will be launched in 2020”. Schwarzenbauer added, “the John Cooper Works GP is an important part of the Mini brand. It has worked well for us in the past. It embodies dynamic flair and the ultimate in driving fun”.

Due to launch in 2020, the third-generation GP will be based on the wild GP Concept that debuted at the Frankfurt motor show back in September 2017 and that has since been displayed at various other functions. MINI has yet to release any technical details of either the GP Concept or the eventual production car, but there’s more than enough to take in with the styling.

While we know that the Concept’s Mad Max-look will be toned down for production, we certainly hope that some elements of the aggressive, wide-body, ground-hugging design make it to showrooms in 2020. The front end is dominated by a jutting lower lip and huge air intakes that hint at equally huge power outputs (here’s hoping, at least). The extended front and rear guards sit over the metal body work like an exoskeleton; the rear guards standing especially proud with their top edges drawing your eye to the roof-mounted spoiler that’s a GP signature.

The interior of the MINI John Cooper Works GP Concept is pared back to its core elements, its roll cage joined on board by little more than a pair of low-mounted bucket seats with five-point belts and a cleanly designed instrument panel. All of the elements of the interior are trained squarely on the driver, though the passenger is guaranteed a thrilling ride. The display and control concept with digital instrument cluster and Head-Up Display places the relevant information for the situation at hand directly in the driver’s eye-line, allowing absolute focus on the road to be maintained. Interaction between driver and car is otherwise digital, notably touch-control adjustment of suspension settings in MINI’s familiar central instrument. As digitalisation dictates, the display here is now in large-screen format. It is left to the large emergency cut-off button and the traditional MINI toggle switches with start/stop button to provide a bridge between the digital and analogue worlds.

The doors are opened using recessed grips with fabric straps, leaving the driver and passenger to clamber out over the side-intrusion bars. Sadly a full roll cage or the side intrusion bars are highly unlikely to make production due to homologation regulations, but there remains a chance that the production GP could feature a half-cage in the rear. The previous-generations of JCW GPs have done without a back seat and the Concept takes the race-car aesthetic a step farther with an interior stripped of carpets or sound deadening. Again, such a hardcore, pared-back focus is unlikely to roll down the production line, but the idea of a MINI fitted with simple door cards with fabric pulls, fire extinguisher and a half cage is a tantalising one.
Bring on 2020. Jordan Katsianis