Strong words. But after spending the last 35,000 miles in a JCW Clubman automatic and a JCW Countryman manual, I feel like I’m ready to make the statement that the worst manual MINI sold is still better than living with the best automatic MINI offers. Wait, worst manual you say? Well yes and no.
It’s a little know secret that the manual transmission in the JCW Clubman and Countryman (which uses the version of the B48 that outputs 258 ft lbs) do not have the customary Getrag six speed manual as all other MINIs do. Instead they have The Aisin BG6, a manual developed primarily for Toyota or Europe and used by PSA, Mitsubishi and interestingly in the Lotus Evora.
On paper they seem identical. However the Aisin doesn’t have the fluidity the Getrag does nor the quick 1-2 shift. Further the clutch and transmission engagement is a bit trickier as the engagement of the gears isn’t entirely consistent from 1-2 and 3-4. In total it makes the experience the least satisfying of any manual MINI sells today.
While that’s not a ringing endorsement, it does increase engagement in all other ways. The long throw from first to second is always a bit frustrating, but the control you have with the manual ultimately makes it more satisfying to us than the very good Aisin 8 Speed Sport Auto.
About that Aisin 8 Speed sport auto. We said it previously when reviewing our JCW Clubman last year and we’ll say it again. It’s hands-down the best automatic MINI has ever offered. But compared with the exceptional ZF 8 Speed found in BMWs, it still has a generation (or two) of development to make us choose it over even an imperfect manual transmission.