In its previous iteration, the Mini John Cooper Works three-door was a bad little mother. It looked like an engorged puffer fish facing down a shark, sounded like squadron of hornets with even the tiniest provocation of the throttle, and turned corners like it was angry at them. It was hard riding and ill mannered in all sorts of daily driving situations, but supremely satisfying when used in the all-out-attack mode for which it was designed. I dug every minute I spent in one, when really concentrating on driving. (As a commuter or passenger, not so much.) It only took fifteen minutes of driving on the lilting, tree-lined roads outside of New Haven, CT, to realize that the 2015 Mini JCW Hardtop was a lot less pissed off. And with more power, refined ride quality, a better interior, and an available automatic transmission, a lot more suitable for a wide variety of drivers. The little hellion has matured. On that grownup tip, the first of the many '15 JCWs I sampled was fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission. Cue collective shocked gasp. I'll forgive you if you didn't know an auto was going to be available equipment on the JCW, as Mini product planners had to remind me that it had been offered for the first time on the model-year 2013 car. Even then, the manual trans saw an impressive 75-percent take rate, so it's not as if many of the auto-shifters made it to the street. That could change in this new generation, where the 6AT acquits itself quite well. Wheel-mounted paddles offer near immediate response to requested shifts, and programming for the sport setting causes gears to be held up to the top of the tach. The manual is far more engaging, even if the automatic is quicker than the human hand. The six-speed Getrag manual transmission is still the better option, even the car is two-tenths of a second slower to 60 miles per hour with it (6.1 vs. 5.9 seconds), and less fuel efficient in the city (23 vs. 25 miles per gallon). The manual uses a long-levered shifter that still feels positive going between gates, and a short-travel clutch that's got nice weight and an easy catch point. It also offers defeatable rev matching, smoothing out even very aggro downshifts. Mini measures the manual as slower than the auto, but I had a lot more fun using it to harness the increased power of the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine. For me, a hot hatch needs to be involving to succeed at its mission in life, and the manual is far more engaging, even if the automatic is quicker than the human hand. Raise the side-sloping hood of the Mini, and you'll find a new engine where the 1.6T used to be. The bigger four makes 228 horsepower and 236 pound-feet where the smaller power unit made 208 hp and 192 lb-ft. The new engine will dog under 1,500 rpm or so, but the added power …
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|MPG||24 City / 34 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd man w/OD|
|Power||189 @ 4700 rpm|
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