MINI Cooper S JCW F56 – TWEAKED

MINI Cooper S JCW F56 – TWEAKED

There’s an ongoing evolution in the upgrades of cars…..for the most part, there is less and less “modding” going on, as the cars now come from the manufacturer either well equipped, or the manufacturer offers performance upgrades / options, at the time of order.

This has gone so far as to now produce what was unthinkable even 10 years ago…..options like “coil-overs” and custom exhausts, track features, being made, supported, warranted by the manufacturers themselves.  But, where the manufacturer doesn’t fill in the holes, or if a customer buys a car, and now wants to add those features…that’s where project cars come in.

James’ MINI is just such a case in point.  The MINI has evolved a tremendous amount from the first new generation (2002 – 2006)…and has gained in many areas (including weight and girth).  The sporty feel is still there, but the edges have been rounded, smoothed, made subtle…and we’re not just talking the design.  The good news is that they have continued to add power / HP to the car, to continue to make it one quick, snappy, driving machine.  But, can we get more?  You bet!

James’ wanted to get more…in every area…..engine, exhaust, suspension, brakes, looks, handling….check off all the boxes.  So, if the cars are indeed so well equipped, what can be done?

ENGINE

The base car here is at the top of the food chain for MINI….not only is it a MINI Cooper S…but a JCW (John Cooper Works) version….which means it has all the factory go fast parts for the engine are already installed….turbo boost enhanced, intake, exhaust manifold upgraded, timing…all the right steps.  But, we wanted to take it just a little farther, to the boundaries of what the engine was designed to do.  Enter the “tune” from NM Engineering.  Simple, effective, cheap, easy to install, and it just perks up the engine just a little more.

SUSPENSION

Here James tossed and turned….do we go full hard core, and do “coil-overs”, but lose the current EDC, or stay within the boundaries, and keep the EDC but tweak it?  This is traditionally the hard question on suspension…do we want ultimate handling, or do we want a car that will serve dual duties (daily driver / commuter vs mountain driving / aggressive driving, even track? ) To date, there is no perfect solution.  The nice part of having the EDC dual mode shock settings ruled the day, and we went w sport springs (NM Engineering) more aggressive (but not too stiff), adjustable rear sway bar (NM Engineering), front strut tower brace, and rear adjustable lower control arms to allow us to get the alignment settings we wanted all around (NM Engineering), and provide some safety value as well (the stock arms can fold, snap, under hard driving or autocross type activity).

Notice that MINI is paying attention.  The early model MINI’s had problems if you upgraded the suspension, with the front upper strut tower “hat” mushrooming.  The new MINI, like James’s here, you can see that they upgraded the size, breadth, width, and thickness of the front upper strut mount.

EXHAUST

The one thing almost every car can use….is a better exhaust.  Not better in terms of performance, as almost all exhausts these days flows well. But better in terms of sound. Normally, we have to turn to the aftermarket to find the solution.  But not now, again, as the times have changed, manufacturers have gotten into the game, and are producing some good options.   Such is the case w MINI….they now offer a “valvetronic” exhaust, w remote.  Great fit, choice of sound level (with the valvetronic remote control), comes with a warranty….its amazing.  The exhaust even works w the ECU (ECU has to be coded for the upgrade, which we did), to enhance the performance, and to work w the automatic mode of the valvetronic as well.  The other suprising element about the exhaust was the price….you would think an OEM sport exhaust would be more expensive than the aftermarket alternatives, but not so.

WHEELS / TIRES

An area where there is still more choice, and more options, and better looking options is wheels.  The manufacturers are coming along in this area too, but for the most part, the aftermarket still produces the best looking, best performing, best fitting wheels for any car.  Our first choice for MINI’s is NM Engineering.  Their wheels fit perfect, look great (several styles to choose from), are strong and light, and come in several color options.  If we’re going to put better wheels on the car, then we need new tires.  The answer here is simple…you get Michelin tires (either the go to version, the “Super Sport”, or the new kid on the block, the “Pilot 4S”.  They didn’t make the new tire in the size we needed, so we went w the Super Sports.

BRAKES

For the most part, we’re never satisfied with stock brakes.  However, James’s car is a JCW version, and MINI makes a completely different brake solution for the JCW than the rest of the MINI lineup.  These brakes are great…bigger, more pistons, more pad surface area, better vented rotors, and they work.  So no upgrade needed here, just a set of stainless steel braided brake lines, and a brake fluid flush / upgrade.

ALIGNMENT

The one piece that almost all cars need is a change to the alignment settings.  This is guaranteed if you have upgraded the suspension, changed the ride height.  We’re not sure why manufacturers are producing or shipping cars w such poor alignments, if its just safety sakes (to produce more understeer to make them safer to drive at the limit), or some other reason.  But, this MINI could use it to further dial in the handling and responsiveness.

The final product is just crazy good…..we love the new transmission (and just wait for the next version from MINI…Wow), love the response, the ride is dual purpose perfect, the sound intoxicating, and the smiles HUGE.

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