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- "Mini offers maxi fun"
December 3, 2005, 9:13 am
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Re: "Mini offers maxi fun"
There's no way anyone could watch that quartet of Mini Coopers zipping
around in the 2003 film "The Italian Job" and not think to themselves:
Man, I'd love to do that.
While it may not have been the greatest car chase ever filmed, it
could well be the most fun. Driving them looked so easy, even
grandmothers in the audience could envision themselves behind the wheel
doing handbrake turns and tearing around snarls of traffic.
Like the Mazda Miata that paved the way for sporty little cars such
as the New Beetle, PT Cruiser and Cooper, it comes off as an everyman's
car that anyone can have a blast driving. Credit its diminutive size,
cutesy styling or even history; the Cooper is a car the public feels as
comfortable with as an old Johnny Carson monolog.
BMW acquired the Mini nameplate in a deal that also included Land
Rover and MG. After selling Land Rover off to Ford, it revived Mini in
2002 -- not as a BMW division, but as a totally separate brand -- and
the Cooper was launched. Although larger than the original and
reflecting advances in technology and safety, the new Cooper didn't
stray far from the British version's mission, styling, relatively
spacious cabin and bargain-basement price.
Although the original was offered strictly as a two-door hatchback,
in 2005, Mini introduced a convertible as the second model in the lineup.
No entry-level buzz bomb, the Cooper rolls the best of BMW
technology into a small, tidy package. Both the hatchback and the
convertible come in three versions, each based on its power source.
Without checking a box on the options list, the $22,000 base Cooper
convertible is well equipped with antilock disc brakes, power
windows/door locks/outboard mirrors, air conditioning, rear parking
assist and tire-pressure monitor. The 115-horsepower output of its
1.6-liter four-cylinder is along the lines of the Toyota Echo. This is
far from neck-snapping power, but somehow seems like more here than in
the Echo. Moving up to the Cooper S adds $3,450 to the bottom line, but
replaces the base five-speed manual transmission with a six-speed manual
Getrag, adds traction control and upgrades the engine to the
163-horsepower supercharged version of the 1.6L. Sixteen-inch wheels
with run-flat rubber replace the 15-inch wheels and tires found on the
Capping off the model lineup is the John Cooper Works package.
Until 2006, this was a dealer-added option, but can now be ordered from
the factory. The $6,300 premium includes a beefed-up supercharger
producing 207 horsepower, modified exhaust, limited slip differential
and more powerful brakes. In reality this package will cost an
additional $1,400 because the Sport Package with its 17-inch wheels,
stability control and auto-leveling xenon headlamps must be included.
Thanks to suspension and steering based on the BMW 3-series, the
Cooper is nimble and highly maneuverable in any of its iterations.
Consequently, even in the relatively underpowered base form, it remains
fun to drive. Moving up the food chain, however, to the S, brings a more
highly tuned version of the suspension along with reinforced anti-roll
bars. For the extra bucks required, the S is the way to go. The
additional juice and firmer suspension make a dramatic difference. While
it seems like a tremendous waste, a six-speed automatic transmission is
available as a $1,300 option. Something akin to installing a handbrake
on a roller coaster, the automatic dampens the overall Cooper driving
experience. The money would be better spent on the Sport Package.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, fuel economy in
the S is a very respectable 25 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg
on the highway. The more docile base version gets 28 and 37 respectively.
Inside, the Cooper convertible is remarkably roomy. While rear-seat
legroom is tight, front-seat passengers enjoy ample space. In yet
another homage to the original, the large, round speedometer anchors the
center of the dashboard. The tach is mounted on the tilt steering wheel,
which is fat and easy to grip. Toggle switches to operate things like
the power windows and door locks are arranged in a row on the center
stack below the audio system and climate controls. With the top lowered
the normal 6 cubic feet of cargo room is reduced to about 4 cubic
feet.Not completely automatic, the power convertible soft top folds back
flush with the rear deck. Pushing the two-stage switch once slides the
front panel of the top back more than a foot, creating a sunroof of sorts.
Pushing it again lowers the top all the way into its well behind
the back seat. Ideally suited for urban traffic warfare, the convertible
Mini Cooper provides sun-in-your-face fun, loads of standard features
and terrific handling all for well under $25,000.
And just a few grand more provides some credible performance, too.
Here ya go.....Sounds nice Mike.
Re: "Mini offers maxi fun"
Unless, of course, they had seen the real thing. The difference
between the great classic film and the formulaic pastiche of the
re-make precisely mirrors the difference between the Mini and the BMW
thing. Appropriate really.
Now, if you want to see a real Mini car chase in a modern film which
is already a classic, try The Bourne Identity.
Regards, David Betts
The Mini Gallery: