MINI JCW GP. Volkswagen Scirocco R. Hot Enough For You?

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We make a return journey back down the same road, and immediately I’m having more fun. The GP’s clutch is perfectly weighted – heavy enough to feel involving but not so much that it knackers the left leg, while the 1.6-litre turbo engine is a hoot – far too laggy, but once the turbo comes on song it delivers its power in a dollop, spinning up the fronts in first and second and tugging just slightly on the steering wheel. Once I’m rolling, the feeling of contact with the road is much more direct through the front wheels than in the VW. Everyone keeps talking about MINI’s talent for making cars that feel like go-karts, and for good reason. The information reaching my fingertips genuinely reminds me of the endurance karts I race from time to time. I can feel the road surface tyres and can build up a much clearer picture of what they’re doing. They’re clearly not gripping as much as the Scirocco’s fronts, but I’m so much more aware of when they start to lose their traction, and it makes for a much more involving experience.

The MINI GP is all about the front end. It’s direct and quick to jump towards corners, and as Rami noticed the back can get a bit squirmy. But for me, that’s more fun. I like being able to place the front of the car exactly where I want, and worry about the rears afterwards – as long as I keep the turbo on song it’s easy to react to any squirming with a small throttle adjustment, and so stiff is the chassis (thanks to that big strut brace) that keeping track of what the car is doing is a cinch, even if it crashes almost painfully over bumps in the road. Only the gearbox is a touch disappointing. The throw is slightly too long and the action a touch numb, not as slick as I want or expected. It takes the edge off what is otherwise a pretty sharp and fun car.

Both of us agree that today, for this road, the MINI is the car to go for. It’s not the faster of the two, but it’s the one that puts the biggest smile on the face.

“The R is too serious for me,” says Rami. “There’s so much grip compared to the normal car that it’s not as fun. The GP, however, is a lot of fun. It’s loud, it moves around, you’re changing gear yourself, it feels like more of an occasion. The Scirocco is a bit numb in comparison.”

I concur wholeheartedly, but then we ask ourselves which one we’d want to go home again in. And both of us say the Scirocco. See, the MINI is very focused, which is great when you get to destinations where the roads are epic. But trundling along a motorway for an hour and the engine is load, the road noise is considerable, and creature comforts are few. The ‘Rocco has cruise control and a decent stereo.

Which leads us on to which we’d actually want to live with. Rami cringes as he thinks it through. “I’d pick the MINI, but I’d hate myself,” he says. And I know what he means. If I had another car for the week and could keep the MINI for weekend thrashes, it’d be no contest. But to drive every day on the commute, I’m not sure I could live with its stiff suspension and lack of equipment. And then there’s the price. At $43,561 the GP is cheaper than the standard JCW ($47,372) but it’s still really, really expensive. For manual, focused hot hacth fun, you can still get a Renaulsport Clio 200 for less than $25K. The Scirocco R starts at $34,032 and it’s a lot more car for a lot less money. It’s faster, more comfortable and even though it doesn’t stir the soul in the way of the MINI, if I were spending my own money, it’s the one I’d go for. Having said that, I’d still pine after the GP from time to time.

Volkswagen Scirocco R
Engine: Inline 4cyl / 1984cc / turbocharged
Power: 261bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 258lb-ft @ 2500-5000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed DSG / front wheel drive / XDS electronic front differential
Front suspension: Macpherson struts / coil springs / anti-roll bar
Rear suspension: Multi-link / coil springs / dampers / anti-roll bar
Brakes: Ventilated discs / 345mm (front) / 310mm (rear) / ABS
Wheels: 8 x 18in front and rear
Tyres: 235/40 R18 front and rear
Weight (kerb) 1344kg
Power-to-weight: 194bhp/ton
0-100kph: 5.0sec
Top speed: 250kph
Basic price: $36,500
MINI John Cooper Works GP
Engine: In-line 4-cylinder / 1598cc
Power: 215bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque: 206lb ft @ 1750–5750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic transmission / front-wheel drive
Front suspension: Coilover suspension / modified camber / upside down shock absorbers / anti-dive
Rear suspension: Coilover suspension / modified camber / multi-link axle with aluminium longitudinal struts / centrally pivoted control arms
Brakes: Vented discs / 330mm (front) / 280mm (rear) / ABS / EBD
Wheels: 17in front and rear / light alloy
Tyres: 215/40 R17  front and rear
Weight (unladen) 1160kg
0-100kph: 6.4sec
Top speed: 242kph
Basic price: $43,561

Categories: Editor’s Picks,Road


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