October 26, 2011

Mini Coupe S

Most of you will remember the convertible Mini that I drove during the Summer Car series.  This is not the same kind of Mini.  After the flop of the Clubman, Mini was looking for new models to expand its brand.  Enter the Countryman (review to follow).  The Countryman has done well for a model other than the original Hatchback.  One of my favorite authors, John Scalzi, has a Countryman and absolutely loves it.  Fiat got J-Lo; Mini could have a science fiction writer if they wanted…  The relative success of the Countryman inspired Mini to go ahead with plans for the 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe.

The look of the Coupe is striking.  It is an inch shorter in overall vehicle height than the Hatchback.  Not only is the roof shorter, there’s no back seat, but still enough room in the trunk for golf clubs or a week’s supply of groceries.  The sloped roof line makes this Mini look fast standing still.  The headlamps have the same distinctive Mini look and every component is out of the Hatchback parts bin, except the roof and rear spoiler.

The media center is the same.  It's not the easiest to use.  When I'm in a car for the first time, the car is running and rolling immediately.  Others take the time to set radio stations, mirrors, steering wheel, etc.  They all write for legitimate auto review outlets, so you won't have to worry about reading their work here... 
I’m not a huge fan of the massive speedometer in the middle of the car and in fact never really looked at it.  The tachometer has a digital speedo in the middle of the information center and that’s where I look to get my speed.  There is a button for interior lighting.  Two small LEDS up by the rearview mirror can be changed to match your mood.  It was a gray day and I was driving a small sports car, so I matched the paint scheme (Blue is my second favorite car color.).
                Without a back seat, there was plenty of room for the driver and front passenger.  This would not be a bad road trip car for you and a reasonably-sized friend. 
                The pedals are chrome with black accents to make sure your feet don’t slip off the pedals.  The accelerator goes to the floor easily under my regular size 12’s.  The pedals of the Mini make me wonder what I’m doing wrong in the Porsches I’ve been in.  I find it hard to believe that there is so much less room in a Porsche than a Mini Coupe.
                The one drawback in the interior is the visibility out the back.  The back glass is fairly small and over 50mph the spoiler raises to maintain down force on the back.  The down force is really nice to have, but the spoiler cuts out a third of the rear visibility.  There is a switch to keep the spoiler up all the time, but there isn’t an option for keeping it down all the time.

After taking the Coupe on a short road trip looking for the Ferrari Club of America’s local chapter, I happened onto some curvy, twisty roads (very European).  The Coupe handled the corners well.  The speed limit could have been exceeded if you weren't paying attention.  I loved moving through the gear box.  Every stop sign and stoplight was another excuse to start in first and see how fast I could get to the speed limit.  It didn’t take long…  The Coupe comes with the same 1.6L turbo-charged four cylinder engine as the Hatchback and the Countryman.  The turbo helps this engine turn out 180 horsepower while averaging 27 city and 35 highway.  The 0-60 time isn’t anything to write home about at 6.5 sec, but the turbo makes sure that you are never underpowered.  If you spring for an extra $6,600, you can shave another .4 seconds by driving the John Cooper Works edition (known as the Works).  To me that’s a lot of money for just.4 seconds, especially since there are not a lot of places to really open up the little four-banger.  On my test drive, I spent a while looking for a small country airport that might let me out of the runway real quick, just to open it up…  No dice. 
                The ride of the Coupe was “sporty.”  This is not a luxury cruiser.  This little car is tuned and ready to hit some corners at speed.  The Coupe has a sport button like the rest of the Mini’s and I immediately found and press this button.  All 180 horses really pull this car around.  There isn’t a lot of weight to the car, which makes it seem faster than it is.  The best part is once the engine warms up with every shift there is exhaust pop.  It sounds fantastic and guttural; like an angry machine warning all other vehicles to stay back. 

                The Coupe base price is $24,600; $1,500 over the Hatchback price.  That's more money for a sloped roof and a spoiler.  Plus the Coupe weighs more than its Hatchback brothers.  If I was forced to go for a Mini, it would probably be the Countryman because of functionality.  The acceleration would be slower since it’s a bigger car, but you don’t buy a Mini because it’s fast in a straight line.  All Mini’s handle well and the Countryman has an option for four wheel drive.  Mini’s are already a niche market that now has some competition from the Fiat 500, but the Germans (Mini) continue to bring sportier versions to the States.  Fiat needs to get their Abarth version here soon.  In the spring Mini is unleashing the Mini Cooper S Roadster (Convertible Coupe) and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of those! In fact I told Mini USA, I’d drive one down all of Route 66.  Chicago to LA in a sporty roadster!  What could be better?!?!  Mini has other plans sadly…

Thank you to Baron Mini for loaning us the Cooper S Coupe.
Mini has a string of ads for the Coupe.  Here's one that entertained me...

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