Mini Cooper - old and new

Wall Street Journal - April 27, 2006
The...Mini http://snipurl.com/Mini_Cooper was an instant hit when it made its debut in the U.S. in 2002, a favorite of fashionable hipsters
and driving enthusiasts alike. Given that corporate parent BMW has seen strong Mini sales every year since it launched the car, a good case could have been made for letting the Mini continue to motor. After all, the original Mini zipped on mostly unchanged from 1959 through 2000 before BMW completely reinvented the diminutive British car and the brand.
Alas, government regulations meant the new Mini wouldn't be allowed to stay in production for 42 more years. Since at least part of the car needed to be reworked to meet impending European pedestrian-crash standards, the Germans thoroughly attacked the rest as well. The result is an impressive upgrade of nearly every aspect of the vehicle, without harming its substantial charisma.
Consider: The top-of-the-line Mini Cooper S isn't only faster and more powerful than the car it replaces, but also weighs less and gets better gas mileage. (If only other car makers would follow the last half of that formula for improvement.)
This is all made possible largely thanks to a new four-cylinder engine. Its 1.6 liters of displacement are now abetted by a turbocharger (rather than the old model's supercharger) that helps turn out 172 horsepower, and much more importantly, 177 pound-feet of torque. Under full-throttle acceleration the turbo will even boost torque output to 192 lb.-ft. for a few seconds. That's enough to pull the front-wheel- drive Cooper S to 60 miles per hour in 6.2 seconds, transforming the Mini from a sporty little car into a little sports car.
Strangely enough, there's reason to bemoan this upgrade, as the new car's surfeit of power actually makes it less fun to drive in some circumstances. Where the old Cooper S allowed for plenty of exuberance behind the wheel while remaining reasonably within the boundaries of what's prudent (not to mention legal), the new car so effortlessly blows past those limits that you wind up caught in the supercar conundrum of being all revved up with no place to go. Still, with a starting price of $21,850, the Cooper S rates as a performance bargain.
Sports cars must do more than accelerate quickly -- they also must brake, turn and handle, all of which the Cooper S still does well enough. Testing by Road & Track shows the new model stops from 60 mph in 122 feet, one foot longer than the old Cooper S did when the magazine tested it in 2002. The old model also did better in carving through a slalom course, achieving a speed of 69.5 mph against 68.6 mph for the 2007 version.
One reason for the lower slalom performance: The suspension on the Cooper S is no longer race-car stiff. Seat-of-the-pants evaluation says the combination of a more comfortable ride and a 2.3-inch increase in the vehicle's length mean its handling isn't quite as sharp when pushed to the limits. But honestly, unless you're strapped into a five-point harness and wearing a helmet, you'll not miss the little bit of handling edge that was left on the table to make the new Cooper S less brutal for everyday use.
You will, however, grieve for the wonderful noise of the supercharged Mini's muffler. Yes, that raspy burble of the fuel-rich fumes detonating after you abruptly let off the gas is gone, replaced by an exhaust note twice smothered and the efficient hum of the turbocharger. The difference is like switching from AC-DC to Enya.
Literally doing that is now even more difficult in the Mini, thanks to a stereo system that's both dumb and dumber. First, someone at BMW thought it would be neat to integrate the audio controls into the Mini's speedometer, which sits atop the center console. Bad idea. Then someone dreamed up an illogical arrangement of buttons to resemble the winged Mini logo. Even worse. If there was one area of the old Mini in which BMW had room for improvement, it was this center console. If there is one area in which BMW has made the new Mini worse, this is it.
At least now the car has legitimate cupholders. Just as critically, it still looks like the Mini we've all grown so fond of over the past five years. If BMW didn't succeed in making the car perfect this time around it has unquestionably made it better.
Is there any other point to a redesign?
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... and made it technically into an 'ordinary' supermini, even if it still has funky looks.
DAS
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I have a '04 S and love it. It is a lot of fun to drive and manuvers easily in city traffic.
The enterior has a lot of room for the driver and passenger.
The attribute that makes it fun to drive is also the reason I don't like to drive it on long trips. The car hugs the road and is like a go cart. Unfortunately the passengers bounce around inside. I guess the 07 is designed for a gentler ride.
Can hardly wait for the club wagon in 08. Gotta get one.
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George Orwell wrote:

The other reason is the cupholders.

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