Ok, for the regular readers of The Garage, I know you are thinking “What is Tom doing? Gary Grant already gave a Mini Cooper S convertible a whole review last month!” I know he did, and Gary loved it, as he loves all Minis. But today, we’re doing something new here at The Garage: a Counterpoint.
You see, this was my first stint behind the wheel of a Mini. Any Mini, for that matter. I knew The Garage had extensively reviewed the Mini, but as an enthusiast, I could not keep away from this car. I HAD to drive it. I owed it to myself. And it so happened the Ultimate Mini was on hand for me to enjoy, the King of the Hill JCW model. I knew I was in for a treat. Wasn’t I?
On the twisting roads surrounding Bear Mountain State Park, the Mini was definitely in its element-the brakes, steering and handling are as great as everyone says they are. The sun was shining through the trees, acceleration was brisk…but….why wasn’t I smiling? I’d waited years to drive a Mini, what the heck was wrong with me?
The cockpit of the car made me miserable. I wanted out. The over-sized shift knob of the six-speed manual had unusual sunken bevels surrounding the knob that made the normal tactile pleasure of shifting unpleasant. The dash layout and ergonomics are a nightmare (and this is coming from a guy who has owned British, Italian and French cars!). The speedo is the size of a small pizza and looks positively ridiculous. Although the tach is right in front of you, I thought it was too small and difficult to read, but that may have been due to the retina-searing Interchange Yellow dash and door panel accents that were a huge distraction.
Nearly inconsolable as I parked a car I swore I would love and want to beg, borrow or steal to buy one of my own after having finally driven one, I was nearly at a loss for words. As I climbed out, I kept telling myself:
“No, no….if she was British Racing Green, a plain black interior, it would change the whole character of the car…I know I’d love it then…wouldn’t I?”