August 16, 2003


Covered about 600 kilometres yesterday in the Mini. First impressions: build quality is extraordinary, controls are helium light, gearing (especially third) is possibly too high, sound system is great (test tunes came from Son Volt, the Fun Loviní Criminals, and Zevon), engine is revvy but needs another 30 or so horses (and gets them in the S version), pedals are perfect for heel-toe work (although itís easy enough to coordinate things so you can ignore the clutch), ride is firm but compliant (Iíd opt for slightly firmer, better to exploit the laser-accurate steering), headroom is minimal (and Iím only five nine), and the handling is ...

Maybe I should give up this car-testing caper. Even ten years ago it was no big deal for a reasonably capable driver to take a mid-priced sedan to the limits of its adhesion. These days, with modern tyres, and especially in things as sharply designed as this Mini, the grip levels are so high that in ordinary-speedy driving you never get close to discovering where those limits are. By the time you do, youíre travelling at speeds that make recovery ... er, problematic. And thatís from someone whose daily driver is a Miata/MX-5. I know grip.

Another 300 kilometres to come today, from Albury to Melbourne, where Iíll explore some favourite, usually cop-free, bendy roads. Thus far, very impressed.

Posted by Tim Blair at August 16, 2003 12:29 AM

Tim's a Miata driver! I spun out in one of those doing over 100 miles an hour and lived. What a wonderful car to drive those are ...

Too bad you aren't in America - MiniCoopers come standard with Sirius sat radio - 60 channels of digital test tunes!

Posted by: Bill at August 16, 2003 at 12:56 AM

The Mini has been getting rave reviews but looks like a woman's car. I want to drive a Superlight R500 at least once before I die.

ď0-100mph time of 8.1 sec almost beggars belief. Consider that Lamborghini's brutal 569bhp Diablo GT can only manage 8.7 sec!Ē R500 - AUTOCAR

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 16, 2003 at 01:23 AM

The new Mini Cooper S is a lovely machine, even if its just a BMW 3-series with a new body. I wouldn't mind having one that is for sure.

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge at August 16, 2003 at 02:48 AM

How'd you figure that a very compact front driver hatch is a rebodied 3 series, which last I checked was a six-cylinder (in the US, anyway) REAR DRIVE sedan/wagon? (and I know about the 3 series Compact hatch...that's not sold in the US, and it's a lot bigger than a Mini.)

Posted by: Lancer at August 16, 2003 at 04:26 AM

Why does this picture always come to mind when I think of a Mini?

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at August 16, 2003 at 04:34 AM

"Cop-free", huh? I will assume that description includes police implements, such as fixed speed cameras and the like. :)

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel at August 16, 2003 at 07:27 AM

So many great small little many unrealistic open road speed many photographers.
Try my present wheels next Audi TT 6 speed Tiptronic. You just might be equally impressed

Posted by: galen at August 16, 2003 at 11:41 AM

God damn, does the Pooper Scooper suck. I propose a Jesse Owens type sprint against one of them shoeboxes and me on my bike, 100 yards. I have half a chance...

Posted by: Roger Bournival at August 16, 2003 at 02:20 PM

Back when I was young, irresponsible and childless, I wanted a kick-ass car. For under US$7,000 I could have bought either a Shelby AC Cobra 427 or a Corvette 427. The Corvette was the more American of the two so I opted for it. In hindsight I should have opted for the Shelby because it is the kick-ass car of all time.

Anyway, the point is that back then it was possible to buy a reasonably priced car that was very fast but without all of the luxury crapola like heated seats and electric windows. There is nothing like driving a car with 400+ horses and 400+fp of torque knowing full well that the slightest lapse in concentration will get you dead.

If I wanted to buy a kick-ass car today it would be the Caterham Superlight R500. It would be great fun blowing the doors off of everything from Porsches to Monaros. The best part, the Caterham doesn't have electric windows because it doesn't even have windows.

Posted by: ZsaZsa at August 16, 2003 at 02:50 PM

"0-100mph time of 8.1 sec almost beggars belief."

Yeah, it would beggar belief if it was an open-class sportbike, too. People would say, "I don't believe it... did a sparkplug wire come loose or something?"

48 of the 50 fastest street-legal vehicles sold in the US are motorcycles. You want performance, get a bike. You want groceries, get a car.

Posted by: Dave S. at August 16, 2003 at 03:33 PM

Onya Davo. if i wanted to go quicker than a bike i'd use plastic explosives. just as safe too...

Posted by: roscoe.p.coltrane at August 17, 2003 at 06:49 PM

I passed one of those modern Lotus Super Seven type sportscars like he was standing still on my BMW R1100S - because he was stuck in traffic. I did mention to him as I passed that it was light, but still too wide! It is so easy to talk to drivers when they have no roof or windows!

Posted by: Seza Geoff at August 17, 2003 at 07:38 PM

FYI: that little lever to the front of the driver's seat adjusts the seat height in the car. I'm 6'5" tall, and have plenty of head room in my MC. Other than that, you're bang on with your review.

The Mini Cooper does need another 15 - 30 HP, which can be added on via a John Cooper Works kit, under warranty no less. Unfortunately for American drivers, the only Works Kit available here is the one for the Cooper S--meaning we can pay an extra $10,000 for an S to get 48HP and 17" wheels. Dead on handling, an eager motor & local mountain roads make for one happy guy.

Posted by: Jim at August 27, 2003 at 04:04 AM