My Mini experience is more limited than others in the office, but I too agree that the JCW option actually detracts from the total package and driving experience. This car, with more power to accelerate at speed, is (marginally) better on the open highway than the "normal" Mini, but around town the torque steer is ridiculous -- and since you're shifting, the wrestling with the wheel is invariably one-handed.
I'd still love to own a Mini, and recently talked a friend into buying one, but for me, the greatest appeal to the car after the fun factor is getting out the door as cheaply as possible. At $35K-plus, the fun/cost ratio is seriously out of whack.
Matt Tierney, Art Director