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MINI COOPER S REVIEW
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Dropped off my 545 for its new gearbox today (almost exactly 4 weeks since the repair was authorised, takes a while for a complete gearbox to arrive from ZF it seems). Rather than getting a diesel 3-series, this time I have a Mini Cooper S for a couple of days. Shame about the weather really; it's definitely not on winter tyres.

Unlike the last Mini courtesy car I had (a One D) this one has quite a few toys. Took me ages to find the auto wipers and I haven't yet found the pairing mode for the Bluetooth on the unintuitive computer (come back iDrive, all is forgiven!), but I was quite taken with the idea of driving something I'd never buy now.

Tested the ABS within yards of moving away; Sytner's parking area was sheet ice and some lackey cut straight across in front of me in a Mini Coupe. My 545 on its Falken ZE912s was pretty unconcerned about the same ice a few minutes before on my arrival, so I can't say I rate Hankook Ventus V12s in cold weather.

At first the Mini felt pretty rough and unrefined, quite different even to the One D which was smooth and nicely damped (everything from the clutch action to the ride was more pleasant in the One). There is a bit of a dead spot just below 2k rpm in the Cooper S; it must be turbo lag but by dialling out that sensation it just feels like bad throttle mapping.

From Solihull I had to do a few errands before heading back home, so took the lanes towards Kenilworth. Stupid move; they hadn't been gritted and immediately outside Knowle I managed a quite epic four wheel drift after trying out the throttle a bit more in 3rd. I suspect the ESP is what kept me in a straight line even though there was no grip at all. Gingerly I made my way back to a more well-used B-road instead.

After attempting to fall over twice on sheet ice in Kenilworth, the dual carriageway seemed the best route home. And I discovered, accelerating down the sliproad, that it's actually quicker than it feels at first. Hold onto the gears (well judged ratios, though it feels a bit busy at 80 in 6th at over 3000rpm) it makes a nicely raucous noise and feels like it's goading you a bit. Still feels like the natural change-up point is 4000rpm, dropping you back into the torque at 3000 in the next gear. Throttle response, which was annoyingly jerky at low speed, is much more appropriate driven like this. It is capable of cruising about slowly too, so it's not just one dimensional.

I've got to say that I prefer the way the One drove on softer suspension and smaller wheels and tyres, though. The steering feedback on the Cooper S is pretty minimal; I found some more ice just as I got near home and realised that the loss of grip isn't really telegraphed through the steering so much as your bum (which clenches). The economy is OK I guess, 36mpg average for me today; the performance is pretty sensible, quick enough up to about 90 and then you can tell it's got less than 200bhp because it doesn't keep hurling you well into 3 figures. I don't like it anywhere near as much as my 545, which I suppose is to be expected.

Hope the weather warms up a few degrees at least so I can go and drive it a bit harder, mind.

A new gearbox for your 545????? :shock:

Is this the famous germanic build quality rearing it's head again?

How much would that cost withought a warranty?

The Cooper S looks quite nice but like you I would never buy one now. We looked at one years ago then tested a Puma and at half (or less) of the money it was far more tactile.

The gearbox is about £5k including fitting and VAT. I have mentioned it a couple of times before.

As for the Cooper S, I'm really too old for something like that, but it's nice to have a go just to remind myself.

Updated December 5, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Daddydadbo said...

A new gearbox for your 545????? :shock:

Is this the famous germanic build quality rearing it's head again?

How much would that cost withought a warranty?

Do keep up Aggie !!!!!

I kinda miss my Cooper S but driving Fugly it's nice to have traction, in the wet trying to get the power down even on decent tyres was a bit of a nightmare.

I'd like to try a LSD equipped one though.

LSD wouldn't cure the lack of steering feel, though. It's funny how a Cooper S with, what, 180bhp feels like it's at the limit of how much power it can cope with through the front wheels but there are plenty of cars out there with a lot more.

Have they changed the EPAS system on the new models as I thought my R50 had decent feel, well for a electric system anyway.

Don't you have winter tyres on your MX-5? The wheels will swap on to the Mini if you can be arsed :D

--

Clio 182/Spazda MX-5/Honda CRF450R/VFR400/WRX Wagon

I can't be arsed, but the MX5 wheels are 14" so I suspect they wouldn't fit over the Mini's brakes anyway.

It must be EPAS, Mick. I bet I'd prefer the old Cooper S to drive but the prospect of 75% improvement in fuel economy must be worth the sacrifice of throttle response.

_Mick_N said...

Daddydadbo said...

A new gearbox for your 545????? :shock:

Is this the famous germanic build quality rearing it's head again?

How much would that cost withought a warranty?

Do keep up Aggie !!!!!

Sorry, not only do I occassionaly do real stuff but the PC has been in and out of local repairer since downloading a virus. It now redirects all searches to gambling sites and according to my Mrs some lass site. :(

So that's what you do when the kids are asleep and the wife is at work.

--

She's built like a steakhouse but she handles like a bistro.

Sounds ripe for a remap. Shame about the steering.
Mine was all about the LOO/ 4wdrifts/ power understeer.

--

Knackered old hairdresser's sh1tter

NotoriousREV said...

So that's what you do when the kids are asleep and the wife is at work.

:D

Kids sleep. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha :shock:

Now ctrs are less than 3k I thought about buying one for a runaround as I didnt get mine out of the system .... but like you say with the mcs I really reckon the solid ride would make me hate it in minutes.

Nice to see they gave you an 'equivalent' car :lol:

--

How about not having a sig at all?


Why is the ride on these moderns so shite. Friend had a series 1 Cooper S and it was awful. Our old 205 GTI is like a magic carpet by comparison!!

Often wondered if the road test cars were "tweaked". Seem to remember EVO clocking mid 16s 0-100 time for a standard Cooper S, from the experiences of the op, they arent that fast!

Are Mini's on runflats?

--

How about not having a sig at all?

I'm pretty sure Hankook don't offer a run-flat version of the Ventus V12, so I don't think so.

16s to 100? Possibly, but while a couple of seconds slower than my 545 it does all the work below 70, while the 545 is just getting into its stride at that speed and head butting the ton. Quite different way of performing. The Mini needs to be worked quite hard to go quickly; I rarely exceed 2000rpm normally in the BMW and occasionally extend it to 3000 just to show a 320d who's boss :D

Done quite a few more miles today; into Birmingham and out again, down the M5, most of the way to Hereford and back. I like it more, except for one thing: fwd. It might have an LSD judging by the way it tightens its line if you stamp on the throttle mid-bend even on a slippery surface, but it constantly feels like it's going to light up the wheels and lose steering ability. Rwd is better.

Oh, and it torque steered its way up the road in a most unruly manner when I gave it a standing 0-85ish run.

Updated December 6, 2012 at 2:50 PM

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