A cynical marketing exercise, or Mini getting back to its pocket rocket best? Say what you like about the new (deep breath) Mini John Cooper Works GP, but there's no arguing with its raw specification.
With slightly more power (up to 215bhp from 208bhp in the standard JCW), it's the fastest Mini yet. It's also one of the priciest, at £28,790.
What are the 2012 Mini JCW GP's vital stats?
The power bump of 7bhp isn't especially headline-grabbing, despite what Mini calls 'extensive modifications' to the 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. At least the internals sound suitably racey to justify that hallowed badge: the block is aluminium, there's reinforced pistons, a strengthened cylinder head, and a lighter crankshaft.
It's a torquey little engine too, thanks to BMW's know-how in twin-scroll turbocharging, and direct injection. Maximum torque of 191lb ft troubles the front tyres from 1750rpm, and there's an overboost function that pushes output to 206lb ft for short periods.
Want some speed numbers? You'll hit 62mph from rest in 6.3sec (0.2sec faster than a normal Mini JCW) and 150mph flat out.
Surely this is a recipe for rampant wheelspin?
With all that urge being sent through the front wheels, Mini has sensibly upgraded the rubber to give the JCW GP a fighting chance of applying its power to the road. The wider sports-spec tyres are worn by 17-inch four-spoke alloys reminiscent of those fitted to the previous Mini GP, back in 2006. The natty two-tone rims are also lighter than those on the standard car.
The standard JCW is already a pretty fraught and furious steer, so it'll be interesting to see how the 200 GP examples destined for the UK handle our scarred blacktop, with their 20mm lower ride height and adjustable suspension. Give the Mini GP a smooth surface for best results: Mini are claiming an 8min 23sec Nurburgring lap time.
Track day fans will appreciate the upgraded brakes: 280mm discs on the rear, and 330mm vented discs at the front, grabbed by six-piston callipers.
And the Mini JCW GP's visual trinkety?
Under the stickers, you'll spot swollen front and rear bumpers, bigger side skirts, and a rear wing and diffuser combo that Mini claims lowers lift by 90%, and somehow manages to also cut drag (by 6%) as well.
Inside, the rear seats have been junked – though there's no weight saving due to the additions elsewhere. Other changes in the cabin are Recaro front seats, and a smattering of sporty stitching and badging. Unlike regular Minis, the GP won't be subject to the usual smorgasbord of expensive options – this is very much an enthusiast special, a one-size-fits-all spec. GP owners want less accessories, and more performance, according to Mini.
Any other Mini JCW GP business?
Just a few points you should know if the GP has rocketed to the top of your wish list. Firstly, you'll have to have it in grey just like the last GP. Second: despite the hardcore spec, there's no mechanical limited-slip differential – just a computer-controlled mimic act that replicates a proper LSD by sending power to the wheel with most grip when the electronics sense wheelspin.
And, if you want to clap eyes on one of the strictly limited run of 2000, you'll find the GP on display at the Paris motor show later this month. Chequebooks at the ready...