It is such a shame that cameras don’t catch the colour orange in all it’s glory cause this MINI Cooper S wears a coat that is eyeball searing shade of dayglo. Fortunately this little shoebox won’t be mistaken for a pylon any time soon. This thing is quick!
I’m somewhat ashamed to say that this was my first ever drive in a modern MINI and it’s already in its’ second generation. Why? Well, the opportunity just never presented itself. Over the past few cars I’ve heard terms like rollerskate, go kart, formula car applied to the MINI and I was eager to get on with MINI experience.
While MINI’s clad in this special colour may not be a hit with the introvert crowd, here in The Garage it’s a huge hit. Then again, we’re all over the bright colours. Inside, things are fun and funky all over. This is a track test, so we’ll save a full review for another day, but there were two niggly little things that bugged me. It took a while for me to find the power window switches, and the top of the tach is obscured by the steering wheel. The Tach moves with the steering column, so this can’t be fixed by adjusting the wheel. These really are minor quibbles for such a cool package, call them character builders.
Of the line, the Cooper S pulls hard using all 191 lb/ft of torque, while creating little torque steer. There is a nice raspy note from the exhaust and just the right amount of whine from the turbo. Accelerating into the first turn, the MINI felt nimble and light on it’s feet. Now up to speed and into the second turn, the Cooper S turns into a full blown giggle factory. As a guy who used to rally front wheel drive cars, I was in heaven. The MINI might just be the most responsive car I’ve driven. Ever! The chassis responds instantly to the tiniest throttle inputs, meaning that very little steering input is used through the turns. Set the car up for the corner, then you can steer it through turns with your right foot. Up on the banks, the MINI accelerated strongly and felt stable and smooth. While not the fastest top end car of the day, it makes up for that in the infield twisties.
On lap two, I decided to kick things up a notch and really attack the track. The first thing I discovered was another quibble, this one would require a modification. The rear view mirror is huge and you can’t see the next turn. As every driving instructor will tell you, it’s important to focus as far down the track as possible and that’s not possible with the stock mirror. I’m sure that there must be a funky, slim line mirror available for the MINI. The next thing I discovered is the Cooper S absolutely begs to be thrown around the track like a full on rally car. The more you throw at it, the harder it charges. On lower speed corners, the adept driver can use a bit of light left foot braking to get the car sideways while keeping the revs up with the right foot, ensuring some killer exit speeds. Ramping the car up the apex curbing with the throttle fully applied and the car explodes out through the exit of the turn. Through all of this, the driver is held firmly in place by the super supportive seats that have definitely been designed with high performance driving in mind.
Did I mention the MINI Cooper S might be the most fun one can have on 4 wheels with a roof? Now if I can just figure out how to order one in that awesome orange!