We roll out of the airport’s underground car park, blinking in the Lisbon sunshine. Less than an hour earlier, we’d completed a 9-hour, 8340km flight from Dubai in order to test the new Mini Roadster in Portugal. With route map at the ready and PR chaperone Meabh clearly in our mirrors in a John Works Special Cooper, our convoy was about to find out if the company’s first ever open top two-seater really was a Mini at heart.
A fully manual six-speed gearbox is a bit of a result, even if heavy traffic means we only test second gear for the first fifteen minutes. With the roof down and surrounded by the crisp morning air, neither my co-driver nor myself are overly concerned. Picking up speed, the mild breeze across our shoulders is soon eradicated by the (very) effective heated seats.
Through the traffic and heading onto the auto-estrada on-ramp, I slot in third gear and give the right pedal a bootful. The unsuspecting Cooper Works quickly gets smaller in the rearview.
Despite extra weight balancing the missing roof, a lower centre of gravity means the traditional Mini nippiness has survived unscathed, the 1.6l engine pulling obediently on its way to the redline. The weighty clutch pedal soon encourages sporty driving, and we are all keen to hit the green hills.