Small car, big price: Mini John Cooper Works GP starts at $39,950

2012 Mini John Cooper Works GP front three-quarter viewIn the automotive world, “small” is synonymous with “affordable,” as if cars are sold by the pound. The smallest cars are almost always the cheapest, and it’s hard to imagine someone paying ‘big car” money for a two-door hatchback like, say, the Mini Cooper. Mini is challenging that assumption with the 2013 John Cooper Works GP, which starts at $39,950. That is $9,150 more than the next most expensive Mini.

Buyers will be putting their money toward more than metal and air. Mini says the John Cooper Works GP is its fastest model ever. It does 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, has a top speed of 150 mph, and lapped Germany’s infamous Nurburgring in eight minutes, 23 seconds.

To achieve that performance, the John Cooper Works GP sports a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. It makes 211 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. That’s only three more horses than the current Mini John Cooper Works, but the GP has 68 more pound-feet.

To help drivers take full advantage of that extra torque, Mini played around with the car’s traction and stability control systems to give the flesh bag behind the wheel a little more license.

The John Cooper Works GP also benefits from new suspension with adjustable coilovers. Anyone with knowledge of suspension geometry can create the setup that best fits their driving style, while the rest of the suspension is tuned from the factory with reduced front-toe-in for better handling.

Completing the package are new brakes: six-piston calipers all around, with 13-inch rotors in the front and 11-inch rotors in the rear. Those brakes stop some unusual 17-inch four-spoke wheels, wrapped in 215/40/17 tires.

Mini also says the John Cooper Works GP is its lightest car ever. It certainly should be, given the draconian measures Mini took to keep weight down. The drive and front passenger wit in Recaro racing seats, while the rear passenger’s don’t sit anywhere: the rear seats were removed and replaced by a chassis stiffening bar.

If the litany of performance hardware isn’t enough to distinguish the GP from other Minis, the graphics package should do the trick. The body kit, gray paint, red accents, and GP stripe decals definitely make an impression.

While the “regular” Mini John Cooper Works is offered in nearly every Cooper body style (Hardtop, Convertible, Coupe, Roadster, Clubman), the GP will only be offered in basic Hardtop form.

It’s appropriate that Mini went all out on the GP, because it will be the current Mini’s swan song. When the first BMW Mini was replaced by the current model in 2006, the brand launched the original GP. So with an all-new Mini imminent, history is repearing itself.

The Mini John Cooper Works GP will launch in early 2013. Only 2,000 will be made. Like fun driving, exclusivity is something people are willing to pay for, even in small portions.

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