Remember the Mini Cooper? That roller-skate-on-wheels that seemingly had a high rate of manual transmissions yet hasn’t offered one in several years? It’s a travesty what’s happened despite the brand having a full line of vehicles that includes two-door and four-door hardtops, convertibles, Countryman and Clubman, plus John Cooper Works.
But there is optimistic news on the horizon, folks, as Mini USA has just announced that the company is “bringing back the fun of driving a manual transmission” by launching a new Mini Manual Driving School at the BMW Performance Center in Thermal, California, in the Coachella Valley.
’’For over a decade, consumers have ranked MINI as the most fun to drive brand in America, which is exactly why we brought back the manual transmission,’’ says the Brand Communications Manager of Mini USA, Rah Mahtani. ‘’The course is not only informative but also a fun and challenging learning experience for a new generation of MINI drivers that they will remember forever.’’ Sure, Rah, but why did Mini skip out on sticks in the first place?
Of course, what good is track time if Mini USA doesn’t offer a stick? Well, that’s gonna be rectified too because, starting this month, two-door Mini hardtops will be available with a six-speed manual—this includes Mini Cooper, Cooper S and John Cooper Works. Not quite back to the wide availability of several years ago (even the Countryman was available with a manual transmission), but it’s a start.
The school will incorporate both a classroom portion and a hands-on driving experience on the track, which has catered to Mini owners since 2016. Specifically, the program will focus on “vehicle controls, finding the friction controls, finding the friction point, practicing smooth starts, stops, acceleration” and more. The course culminates with each student will be tested on a timed course to demonstrate what has been learned.
In this world of automated driving, EVs and even Formula 1-based sequential gearboxes, this attempt to preserve the fun of manual control goes a long way, even if they’re baby steps.