DISCLAIMER: So because MA has apparently become an R53 only forum (even though this is in a so-called F56 section) here is a disclaimer: No, I didn't buy an R53. This isn't about an R53. No R53s were harmed in the writing of this review though some owners might get butt-hurt. Even with the issues with the body shop I have 1800 miles on my JCW that include: Road trip to Tulsa, OK, weekend fun runs, and daily commuting. I have a good feel for the car now. Ordering: I custom ordered the car in June and it was built July 3rd, 2017. It took about 6 weeks for the car to arrive. That was a long six weeks. Here is my spec sheet: 2018 MINI JCW with a Manual transmission Moonwalk Grey body and red roof and JCW stripes. Black JCW wheels still on the runflats. HK Stereo with Satellite Radio Comfort Access. First Impression: It's a MINI for sure. Feels like my R56 in many ways. It feels better in so many more. JCW steering wheel and sports seats feel great. I could AutoX in these seats without a CG lock. Shifter has better positive engagement and is shorter than the R56. However, whoever called this a "short throw shifter" should be slapped with a wet fish and made to drive a current gen Mustang with a Hurst short throw to understand what that really is. The features and gizmos are fun and work well. The voice system is vastly improved as well as the Bluetooth integration. Now, the best voice system I have experienced was the latest generation Sync from Ford. The voice system here isn't quite as good. I like the menu system as well. It makes sense to me. Having the entire car manual available from the incar system is also handy. Comfort access. Hands only lock/unlock start and stop is an overlooked thing until you don't have it. I had it in my R56. The Mustang and WRX that followed, not so much. It was one of those simple features that makes the day-to-day so nice. Driving impressions: Power. Lots of it. All over the damn powerband. It feels good. Is it 420hp like my Mustang? Nope. However, short of a racetrack or a hurried jaunt on the 130 I really could never use all of the power in the GT. Frankly, the case is close to the same with the JCW, but not quite. Enough places are available that I can rip through gears properly on the JCW and still not raise the ire of the local constabulary. Handling is leaps and bounds better than my R56 AND my "old" 2015 WRX. The WRX is an out of the box corner carver for sure but the whole car is stiff and punishing over anything that isn't a smooth road. Somehow the magical suspension gnomes at BMW have figured out how to make this car handle as well as the WRX (short of the AWD advantages under acceleration) without feeling like there is a 3 year old kicking my tail bone every time I went over a mild bump. That made the road trip to Tulsa much better for my wife and I. Runflats. So, this whole review is while the car is on runflats. I won't spend a bunch of time here but I will say runflats have gotten much better since 2010 when I had the set off my R56. I can't help but wonder what the car will handle like once the runflats are replaced. Right now, they are gonna stay. Torque steer. Where did it go? Seriously. I have dropped the hammer in sport mode without traction control on and the wheel barely moves. The car just goes. No drama. Well, aside from the drama of it actually pulling hard from a launch. Hell my R56 and my VW GTI MkV had some noticeable torque steer. I'm not seeing it here. Driving modes. I had already driven my Dad's F56 S and knew about the modes. I am all for it. It's a fun bit of theater that makes you feel good. The Green mode is actually helpful when I am stuck in stop and go traffic on MoPac on my way to work. I have learned to drive more efficiently because of that. I get between 30-32 mpg during a normal week. I was just over 37 mpg on the road trip to Tulsa. Normal mode is where I drive the car 80% of the time. Plenty of power for most things and a calm driven dimeanor. I can romp on the gas and get the grunt I need or drive gentle and smooth and put a passenger to sleep. Sport is just a bit extra, and awesome for it. The steering tightens up. The throttle response is increased and the sound. The glorious sound. I actually like the stock exhaust. It makes a good noise. It pops and burbles on downshifts. I don't care if it's "real" or not. It sounds great and makes me enjoy the drive even more. Road trip worthy. My wife and I took a road trip to Tulsa, OK for the USPSA Area 4 Championships from Austin, TX. It's about 7-8 hours of interstate. We had luggage for two adults and all of my shooting gear easily into the car. My wife (who drives a Cobb Tuned Stage 2+ 2008 WRX) really enjoyed driving the JCW. At the end of the trip she said, "I'm really glad you got this car. I like it." Highest praise I know I'm gonna get from someone who matters. The inevitable comparison: Is it "better" than an R56? Yep. R53? Yep. Better looking than both too. It looks like an R56 that grew up. It doesn't have that kicked-in face that R53s have. Remember: Better is a very subjective thing in this instance. Frankly, since I'm not a MINI only owner I have a wider array of vehicles to compare to and a different set of tastes in what I want in a car. This MINI fits the bill in every way that matters to me. I haven't felt this "connected" to a car since my R56. I enjoy driving this everyday. So, now you can tell me how wrong I am. How ugly my car is. How your highly modified R53 is faster, cheaper, better looking, and ACTUALLY mini. None of it will change my mind.