The NEW MINI GP3 - Will It Be An Enthusiast's Favourite?
By Marc Rutten
So there we have it! I had a few hours with the GP3 and I received a lot of information and a great first impression with the car, following its first sneak preview at the Nurburgring N24 a few weeks ago. I have to note that there is still a lot of information unknown about the car. Some of which I touched upon with the people from MINI during the Goodwood Festival of Speed last week. As a MINI fan and owner of a GP2, it offered me a great opportunity to touch on the new, upcoming MINI GP model and provide you with my thoughts on the new car.
First of all, let me comment on the fact that I still have doubts about the car itself. Although most of my major doubts left me when I saw the car in the flesh. I am still negative about a series of points, but the design in the flesh doesn't look as bad as in pictures. The main issue is that freaking wrap. Comparing those kind of photos with the real life looks of the car is an interesting experience. You really feel like you are looking at a different car, especially when you dive into the details.
Let me touch on a few points that we didn’t know yet. The colour of the car is going to be a dark blue/grey colour. The colour flips between the blue and grey when you put a flash light on it. You can spot the colour inside the fenders which are not covered by any of the wrap. It is a different colour from the GP2, but has some little resemble to what we have seen before on the GP1. The GP3 is way more blue than grey.
MINI GP3 teaser image of the body colour, left front wheel with GP-style center cap and the arches in forged carbon
The fenders are in real life not as in your face as you see on the photos. They are noticeable, but blend in way more than you notice when looking at the photos. The big issue of the current set up are those wheels. In real life not as horrible as on photos, but still not a favourite in my opinion. The front and rear look more in harmony with the total design, but a decent diffuser or front splitter are totally missing. The fenders are functional, with little air tunnels in them to help air flow. On the sides, you will find the lengthy GP stickers on the doors. Quite similar in design to the GP2! There is no number on the car like the GP1, but you can get this 3D printed for the dashboard and the side scuttles.
The interior is another point of discussion and is actually rather bland. You will find GP logos everywhere. The seats, (which are standard JCW with grey coloured side bolsters), the floor mats, the dashboard, everywhere… You will find quite a lot of them. Other than that, there is the new central digital dash that MINI released on the EV MINI a few days ago. It will then logically trickle down to all other models in the range. The stabilisation "rod to dry your laundry" in the rear is placed a lot closer to the seats (more forward) and is again not structural. Two other points in the interior are the iron 12h o’clock marker on the steering wheel and the iron shift paddles with GP engraved on it. Also the leather steering wheel has controls on it! Not like the previous GP’s. There is no Alcantara, only as an aftermarket option!
Looking at the technical side of things, I can share a few more things we didn’t know yet. The intercooler at the front is considerably larger than the JCW. The suspension struts are totally stock with stiffer dampers, stabilators and springs as was shared before. The wheels are Hankook Ventus S1 Evo Z, a more sticky version of the Evo 3 tire specifically developed for the GP3. Interesting are the width of the tires and the fact that there seems to be slightly more camber on the front wheels. The brakes are four-pots at the front and the rears are two-pot. Standard road pads were fitted and I did not hear them squeak one single time.
From the engine point of view we know all about the horsepower and set up. The exhaust note is horrible. It is too quiet, but that is mainly due to the OPF and European homologation situation. The exhaust is the JCW stock set up with bigger end pipes. The fact that the car will only come with an automatic makes it an interesting package, but also one that has a huge problem, and that is the MINI JCW Challenge which was created only for the UK market. From a technical point of view, the Challenge is superior to the GP3. If you look at the brakes, suspension, the track set up and the manual gearbox. It is more adaptable and more tunable, let’s call it more enjoyable for some of us. It is way more an adjustable track car than the GP3 is, and that is a weird thing to say.
The GP3 feels like a light version of the Challenge with a lot more oomph. No adjustable suspension, no manual gearbox option, no proper grooved or part-drilled brakes, and no adjustable track set up. Of course, the GP3 has loads more power (+70hp more) and might be lighter, but it might well be that the JCW Challenge is the more enjoyable car to drive! It offers the true enthusiast more room to adapt and more adjustability to set it up like they want.
To conclude this story, what is the GP3 then? The GP3 is a roughly 37K GBP including 20% VAT (I think) improved JCW with GP touches, different wheels and tires (finally decent ones), a funky design with those fenders and wing, a limited production run of 3000 pieces and a way more powerful engine. The improvements are aimed at outright performance and speed, not improved driving pleasure like the JCW Challenge. Horsepower came first with this GP and this is clear in its set up. Other points have been jeopardised and offer a lot of room for aftermarket improvements or tuning upgrades.
The GP3 is the single package for people that want to go fast without offering adjustability. The JCW Challenge is the enthusiasts dream that offers drivers input. The GP3 is made for business case, marketing of the GP brand and sales purposes. Making cash first, enthusiasts second. The Challenge was made for enthusiasts first and the bookkeepers second. In short that is what you feel if you look at the GP3. For the price tag of around 37K, you get a car which is 5K more than the Challenge and that money went into design changes, fenders, a wing and a much more powerful engine. Up to you to decide what you want… All I can say, is that if I take all that the Challenge offers (except the manual box) and add this into the GP3 it will be one hell of a quick machine, which might be a lot more fun to drive than a standard GP3 and maybe even quicker than the Ring time suggests.
This leaves me with a short moment to touch on my personal feelings. I am still not 100% convinced about the whole package and many of the choices MINI have made. As a MINI fan, it annoys me, but looking at the price tag above and with what I know and have seen now, it is a lot less worse than I thought. Personally, I have to see this car more as a sales exercise than a true thoroughbred. Although it might well still be a MINI, I hoped for a better version of the Challenge and that is not what we really have been given. In many ways it focuses on something totally different. Yes, it does still hurt my MINI heart a little bit, but I think there is a lot of room to get what we want out of it and make enthusiasts smille a lot more. It just requires a lot of effort and cash being thrown at it. Great tuning project for those who like this kind of thing!
I hope I covered all. Any questions, than please let me know me in the comments below!