A few months ago, Mini taught me how to do high-speed J-turns, also known as a 180, also known as the “Rockford spin.” I also got a hot lap in the passenger seat of the 2020 Mini John Cooper Works GP, but now I get to drive it myself and I want to know what you want to know.
Full Disclosure: The Manhattan garage Mini uses for its press fleet management had me ride the subway for the first time in four months from Brooklyn to go pick up the GP, which was kindly topped up with gas and very shiny where it was supposed to be.
I don’t need to drive the GP to understand its critical issue, though. Unlike previous generations of the super-hot hatch, this latest 2020 model isn’t available with a manual transmission.
I was fortunate enough to drive a 2006 GP for 10 minutes last year, and it was one of the best driving experiences of my life—third only to driving an original, right-hand drive Mini for the first time just a few minutes prior, and another unrelated drive I can’t tell you about yet!
That original GP is visceral. The supercharger compresses the air in your brain and you become convinced the world is now going to sound like a Terminator cyborg’s digestive system when it tries texmex for the first time, forever. There’s also something very distinctive about the manual on both the original Mini, and the 2006 GP I drove that adds a ton of character to both cars.
To be fair, the original Mini I drove was actually from 1999, but it was not the BMW “new” Mini—just the most powerful and best-bolted swansong version of the original icon. But on those cars, when you downshift into the lower gears, you can hear the transmission gearing winding up, and there’s almost a high-pitched drill motor noise that fills the cabin for a few blissful seconds. It’s one of the most mechanical connections I’ve ever felt with a car, and it carried over to the 2006 GP’s manual transmission, too. It’s something I will never forget about those cars. The last Mini I drove just didn’t even bother to have a transmission.
Now, having cheated a bit and already driven the 2020 JCW GP from the garage already, I can tell you that its eight-speed Steptronic transmission is really good in traffic, but does not contribute nearly as much character.
Beyond that and the usual spec-sheet stuff, like the 2020 GP’s 306 horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder twin-turbo engine with 332 lb-ft of torque, and the car’s price of $45,750 MSRP, what do you want to know?