Every generation of GP has been special. But after spending some hands-on time with the 2020 MINI JCW GP recently, it would seem that the 3rd time’s the charm. Based on what we learned first-hand from the car and MINI employees it would appear that the GP3 is the holistic JCW product that many of us have wanted MINI to produce since day one.


The 2020 JCW GP: More Like an M Car Than Ever

The headline of course is 301 hp. But in talking with MINI execs the reason that this GP is different is that this is the first car that is truly the full package. In development for substantially longer than any GP before it, MINI followed the BMWM formula of development. The vision was not just the fastest MINI ever but a track car that you could live with day to day. That last bit was critical in the wake of consumer feedback on the GP2. Tires that would crack under 32 degrees and suspension that had a 10,000 mile life-span wouldn’t work for the GP3. But still is had to be comprehensively faster than before.

To bring that to life MINI evaluated every component on the standard JCW. Revised suspension (based on the same geometry), larger brakes and lighter wheels is the foundation as it is with all GPs. But with this car MINI went further. The aero was perfected in BMW’s advanced wind tunnel in Munich with an eye on reducing the typical lift MINI’s have at high speeds. One piece of evidence is the rear wing which is slightly different in production form compared to the concept due to days to evaluation and design iteration. According to sources this gives the GP3 stability never seen on a MINI at v-max.

Additionally MINI has also revised the engine management system which gives the car better throttle response, one of our biggest complaints with the current JCW range.

The 2020 JCW GP: Solving for Torque Steer

Then there’s the power. 73 more horsepower going through the front wheels might sound like a torque-steer nightmare but MINI has solved this through the differential and software. Or more specifically a completely different hardware processing unit which allows the GP to make use of BMW’s new revolutionary traction control called ARB. Seen in the BMW i3s and BMW M135i, ARB puts the processing power much closer to the source creating 10x faster reaction times. This gives the system not only instant reaction to wheel slip but allows for a much smoother application of power.

This means you can stop worrying about torque steer and focus on all 301 hp and 332 lb-ft. (At 1,750 – 4,500 rpm) from the B48A20T1.

Speaking of the engine, MINI has heavily revised the previous JCW four cylinder with a reinforced crankshaft, larger main bearings and new pistons fitted with a reduced compression ratio (9.5:1 vs 10.2:1). This in turn allows for a larger turbocharger and increased boost which helps make that power. The intake airflow tract is also improved for higher flow while the cooling system has been upgraded with track duty in mind.

Yes the new GP will be automatic only. Why? Simply put BMW never had plans to offer a manual with the 301 hp version of the B48 and MINI doesn’t have the resources to independently engineer one. So it was an 301 hp with an auto or a 228 hp manual. Having driven all of the 228 hp JCW models we think MINI made the right choice.

Luckily the automatic is excellent. In our time with the X2 M35i (which has an almost identical Aisin 8 speed auto) we found it to be neck snapping quick when you wanted it to be and seamless and smooth when you didn’t. Reaction to shift is almost as quick as a DCT (you likely won’t notice the difference) while delivering greater levels of every day drivability.

Speaking of shifting, MINI is equipped the GP with unique 3D printed aluminum short paddles that not only offer more grip but look excellent.

The 2020 JCW GP: Styling Details and Numbers

There are two things that visually dominate the MINI JCW GP in person – the carbon fiber boxed flares and the giant rear wing. The combination of those two has altered the shape of the car and created something that feels brash yet purposeful. It’s also gorgeous in our eyes.

As MINI did with the original GP (and not on GP2), each car will get sequential numbers from 1 to 3000. The US will be getting a low number batch from what we hear allowing for some original GP owners to have a chance at identical numbered cars. It’s still unclear where MINI will place those numbers but we’re told they will be clearly visible.

There’s a legitimate excitement in the air about the new GP from folks at MINIs. More than one of them told me off the record that this may be the one they buy with their own money. They know that losing the manual is unfortunate but in talking with those who have driven this car the feeling seems to be that, like an M car, the total package will more than make up for it.