Test Drive: The Mini Cooper

By: Vanessa Burka, FW Writer

I come from a world where a car is just a means of transportation. I drive one of my family’s basic black SUV’s to get from point A to point B and that’s typically as far as our relationship goes. Cylinders and carburetors just aren’t naturally in my vocabulary.

It wasn’t until August Friday 15th, when I discovered that a clutch was much more than a Prada accessory and that speed can be taken to an entirely new level of fun.

From a neutral standpoint, I was asked to test drive a car and write about my experience; my new best friend – The Mini Cooper S. I arrived at the dealership and was led to a Hot Chocolate Metallic Mini Cooper S Clubman. Its polished
exterior glistened in the sunlight. “Anyone could look great in this car,” I thought to myself. With its tinted exterior windows, jet black roof and alloy wheels, it gets more then just a second, third and fourth look.

I took my place in the driver’s side and sat at ease in the leatherette sports seat; the cushioning hugging comfortably around my upper back and shoulders. Its two tone space gray and panther black leather interior with shiny carbon trim defined modish, while its ergonomics, space and user-friendliness reigned highly over any other vehicle I’ve seen or driven.

I looked around and saw an oversized speedometer in the center, and surrounding it, an array of toggle switches. I clicked one and both sunroofs open, also displaying a screen to give you just the right amount of sun. It is a sophisticated and highly structured interior, with its key audio controls (volume, mode and scrolling through the presets) mounted on the left side of the steering wheel, making it trouble-free to rotate through my new PCD album.

I pressed start on the engine button and the minuscule car roared, signaling my ready for departure. I threw my water in the cooled and illuminated glove box, pulled down the windows using its toggle switches, and chose my favorite
station among the 12 programmed AM/FM radio system. Blasting ‘All Summer Long’ from its premium 6-speaker sound system, I placed my hands on the leather sport steering wheel, put the vehicle in drive and was off.

Coming from driving a bumpy and very receptive TJ Jeep, this ride immediately felt smooth and effortless. The telescopic steering helped me attain a comfortable driving pose and its low-slung driving position gave me a heightened sense of speed. My size 8 flip flops fit very comfortably in the bigger foot box and within minutes, I felt right at home.

At this point, describing the experience in words became quite difficult. Perhaps “woohoo!” will suffice. With the Copper S, speed is a must. Its sport 1.6 liter 4-cylinder 16V engine belts out 172 horsepower. Darting around the downtown streets hasn’t been this much fun since discovering my freedom with a new driver’s license.
With its tiptronic clutchless manual system, it allowed me to smoothly switch from automatic to manual within seconds. Add the ability to push the sport button for quicker steering and throttle response and my heart was won over! The Mini’s firm, yet direct, “wheel at each corner” concept made me feel every contour and bend. I was instantly transformed into Danika Patrick (okay, well maybe only in my imagination).
With its highly active and passive safety features and standards, the Mini is virtually a bodyguard on wheels, promising you ultra protection from each side. With its sophisticated braking system, six airbags and ultra-rigid body the Mini dominates in security.

No longer was a car simply a mechanism to direct me from point A to point B. The road was my racetrack and the mini was my chariot. It is light, tight and tenacious when it needs be at a fast corner. The new turbo-charged engine pushes it to the max, which gives it a racecar persona with a modern sense of style.

Evaluating the overall package, The Cooper Mini is anything but mini. It has rib belts, a roaring engine, pigtails and even something called a spoiler, which makes it today and tomorrow’s most perfect accessory!