Another fast Mini? I can't keep up...
This one's a bit special, a road-going evolution of the Cooper S Challenge race cars. Or, as the cynical might say, merely a PR stunt designed to maintain interest in the current Mini range before new New Mini Mk2 appears this autumn. Called the GP it's one of a limited run of 2000. Just 500 are UK-bound and all are spoken for.
What's so special about this, apart from it looking like a 12-year old designed it?
I see you've noticed the unique bits of spoilerage - the carbon fibre monster on the roof is particularly eye catching. Apparently they were actually designed in a wind-tunnel. The 18-inch wheels are new and each of the 2000 cars has its production number stickered on to the top of the roof. Oh, and did we mention that there's no back seat, just a polished brace linking the two rear struts?
It's sounding suspiciously Max Power so far...
Know what you mean. But the crucial thing is that this is a proper BMW-developed car, so it's far better than it looks. Because as well as losing the back seats, the GP loses its rear window wiper and some sound insulation and relegates air con to the (no-cost) options resulting in a 50kg reduction in kerbweight.
So it's a bit raw for everyday use?
Not at all. The absence of rear seats allows a little more road noise into the cabin but in the front it's just as plush as you'd expect a £22k Mini to be: sexy leather Recaro sports seats, full carpet and all the usual toys. And even at five years old, the Mini's brilliantly characterful dash seems as fun as ever.
But every tuned Mini needs a few extra ponies, surely?
This one's no different, but first, a recap: the standard factory S kicks out 170bhp from its supercharged 1.6 Chrylser four and the John Cooper Works kit bumps that up to 210bhp courtesy of a new high-speed blower. Now the GP takes things a (small) step further, a modified intercooler and tweaked engine management system squeezing out another 5bhp.
So it's quicker than the regular Cooper S Works?
Yes, but not massively so, sprinting to 62mph in 6.5sec instead of 6.7sec. The power curve seems much more linear than it did in our old long-term Cooper S Works though, while the distinctive supercharge whine is as addictive as ever. But the best news is the chassis. This is easily the most sorted S Works we've ever driven, grippy and controlled but far less bouncy than some we've thrashed in the past. The standard limited slip diff lets you put more power to the floor more often in the dry, but push too hard in the wet and the front slews sideways.
A £22K Mini with no back seat takes pointlessness to a brand new level. But it's serious fun all the same, the best Mini we've yet driven - so long as enjoyment is the only criteria. What a shame that needless impracticality seriously hampers its desirability.