LOS ANGELES — The 2020 Mini John Cooper Works GP is an interesting machine. While it shares a lot in common with its predecessors, such as the big rear wing, no rear seat, four-spoke wheels and other aggressive design cues, it has a number of distinct differences. In particular, it has a massive amount of power relative to old models, and it doesn't have a manual transmission. This all left us with some questions that we brought to some Mini representatives.
We'll start with the big one: "Where's our manual?" The representatives said a lot about how manual take rates are declining, and the smooth, quick-shifting automatic transmission fits a track-oriented car. But they also eventually admitted that they don't have a manual transmission available that would be strong enough to handle the turbo 2.0-liter engine's 301 horsepower and prodigious 332 pound-feet of torque. On the other hand, the engine, which is also used in the John Cooper Works Countryman, Clubman, and small BMWs, already has an automatic developed. And obviously, the company didn't feel it was worth it to develop a stronger gearbox for a run of just 3,000 cars. At the very least, having experienced Mini automatics in the past, they are good, and to make the experience a little more engaging, Mini has custom 3D-printed aluminum alloy shift paddles for the GP that do feel good.
Another thing we were curious about was the disappearance of the Nürburgring lap time from the dashboard. Spy shots showed a time of 7:56.69 on a 3D-printed dash panel. The 3D-printed dashboard remains, but it will now have each model's production number instead. The display car uses 2020 as an example. The Mini representatives said that past customers cared more about which number of car they had, rather than a lap time. This is also in keeping with past GP models that all displayed their production numbers somewhere in the interior.
The new GP's most striking features, though, are its carbon fiber fender flares. They serve a couple of purposes, such as accommodating the car's wider track and tires. According to one of the representatives, they also help direct airflow and reduce drag, but she didn't say by how much. Then there's the appearance, which is unusual at the least, looking almost like vertical wings, and it's inspired by the outrageous concept. Although they're made of carbon fiber, it's more of a molded style than the woven variety seen on many cars. From some angles, they almost look rough, but they're covered in a satin clear coat that apparently doesn't require any special maintenance. Though you might want to keep the polish away from it to maintain the look. The representatives said that the appearance of this carbon fiber was chosen to differentiate from what BMW does. One other interesting fact, the carbon fiber used in these fender flares comes from leftovers from BMW i3 and i8 production.