So when I backed out of my driveway in the 2015 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4 door, I couldn’t help but want to race through the streets of Eastern Europe with a trunk full of stolen gold (of course I beefed up the suspension first). Sorry – I couldn’t help but include the Italian Job movie reference. Even sans gold and narrow European streets, I was still a bit giddy to drive this iconic sports car thoughtfully crafted by BMW.
Lets start out with the good stuff. And its really good. A 2.0 liter MINI TwinPower Turbo delivering 189 horsepower with 207 lb-ft of torque straight to ultra sticky Pirelli P Zero runflat tires via a manually shifted six speed gear box. In this new era of the clutchless paddle shifter (Ferrari, Porsche, etc.), a manually shifted 6 speed gearbox seems about as rare as . . .well . . . as rare as a manually shifted 6 speed gearbox. I raced around town from the grocery store, to the kids’ baseball practice, to the kids’ swim practice, working my way through all six gears like a Nascaar driver loving every minute of it. Need a loaf of bread? Sure! I’ll run out to the store – be back in an hour!!!
With an ultra wide stance from all 4 wheels being pushed to the corners and its near perfect front to back weight balance, the MINI delivers on its claimed go-kart style handling. The MINI Cooper S, when in sport mode, is lightening quick and with its suspension aggressively stiffened, corners like its on rails. If it weren’t for the sticky Pirelli P Zeros, I would have been drifting in the parking garage at the mall and looking for a new set of tires by the end of the week. For regular driving, the default mid-mode still allows for reasonable acceleration and handling. The green mode (as well as the automatic engine off feature) provides the environmentalist in each of us with a good feeling when we are in that commuter hell called the Beltway, but I found the car to be quite sluggish and not much fun to drive in this mode. Perfect for commuting, but you are going to want it in sport mode when cruising around town.
You can’t go wrong with the styling of this iconic car. The Moonwalk Gray metallic paint ($500 option) paired with twin black bonnet stripes is a great combination that turned heads and coordinated nicely with the Lounge Leather Satellite Gray ($1,750 option) found in the interior. Notwithstanding the great exterior styling, it was the interior that won me over. The retro style switches (the ignition start/stop button is a fire engine red toggle switch) and the interactive LED ring that surrounds the 6.5 inch high-def LCD display that houses the MINI Connected system ($2,250 option) is about as eye catching of an interior as I have seen in a car in this price range. The LED ring changes color as you increase stereo volume and turns from green to yellow to red when the backup camera ($500 option) is in use and you are closing in on that hard to see post behind you. In addition to the LED ring, the entire interior is lit with LED mood lighting that you can customize to any color in the rainbow to reflect your mood at night. I wish my 1983 Mazda RX7 had this when I was in high school and dating for the first time — I might have ended up with more second dates. I’ll admit these are perhaps not the most essential of options that you might wish for, but they sure are fun.
The MINI S has all of the creature comforts you come to expect in a car in this price range and class: heated seats, thermostatic climate control, automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, and the MINI Connected system which houses a host of performance, entertainment and communication technology that we can’t seem to live without. The MINI Connected System houses a searchable electronic copy of the owners manual, provides individual tire pressure, checks the oil level and provides a plethora of other analytical data, including when using the “Excitement Gauges”, real time power and torque. It also provides entertainment, blue tooth connectivity, nav, traffic, weather and location updates, among other things.
The MINI is definitely a small car (certainly more mini than maxi), but on the inside its not claustrophobically so. The panoramic moonroof opens up the interior and helps to give it a more spacious feel. The front seats house a 6 foot tall person comfortably and even the back seats can hold two six foot tall passengers reasonably comfortably. Certainly for around town cruising, four adults fit fine – for a long road trip, however, you might want to make sure you are the first to yell shotgun. To fit the as advertised five passengers in this car however would require you to be a member of Cirque du Soleil.
I continue to be dumbfounded by the Germans refusal to use LCD touch screens and electric adjusted front seats. When I pay over $30,000 for a car, I don’t want to adjust my driver seat manually and when I touch the LCD screen, I want something to happen. I also would certainly like to see more than one cup holder and at least one powerpoint and USB port in the rear seat. But these are pretty minor complaints for a fun little car that has almost everything going for it. It’s a fun, iconic in-town cruiser that puts some of the fun back into driving. If you are tired of the same old four door practical sedan and want to have some fun on the way to the grocery store, then the 2015 MINI Cooper S may be for you.