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A sudden sense of liberty
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I had a chance to test drive a Cooper S yesterday. After driving the base Cooper a couple of months ago, I posted that while interesting and sort of entertaining, I didn't find the experience that remarkable. The engine's anemic power output meant that you really had to cane it to get anything out of the car. Later, after test driving a Focus SVT, I indicated that the Focus was all the car the base Mini is plus a whole heapload of practical acoutrements (like an actual trunk).

But the Cooper S is something else. It put the SAG on my face in a way that none of the other cars in the segment has. The extra power from the supercharger totally transforms the car; while the Cooper feels like a great chassis in search of an engine, the Cooper S has that balance of performance assets that BMW is so famous for. No one element dominates the car. Instead, the chassis is perfectly complemented by the engine, which allows you to whip from corner to corner with ease.

I still don't like the gimmicky interior (and though I suppose you get used to it, putting the speedometer in a fast car out of the driver's direct line of sight is like an open invitation to law enforcement officials). And I still think that, in the end, it's really too small to be used as anything other than a commuter/weekend toy. But, man, what a blast to drive. In terms of road feel and driving enjoyment, it really does feel like a 3/4 scale M3.
 

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I felt the same way.

It was like a MINI M Coupe.

Must resist urge to spend money and wait til next year arrrrrrrhhhh
 

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When I was heavily testdriving Minis I did not find the Supercharger to help in anything but higher RPM applications. The biggest gripe I've always had was that when cornering in a mini in the city at below 15, you have to downshift into first or you will lug it out. It was true with both the S and standard.

Above 3000 RPM, the S blows away the standard, but the standard isn't too bad there. I went from an Acura Integra (170hp) to a 2002 VW Jetta (115 hp) and would put the standard's overall performance between the two (just above the jetta)... except at the bottom of 2nd gear (where it simply sucks). The S would be just below the Acura. I hated my Acura and liked my Jetta... so I simply stopped putting HP ahead of all else in a small front wheel drive car.

I mostly commute with my Mini, so the S would not really help a whole lot in what is stop and go 50% of the time. The extra cost plus the extra insurance made it not as appealing... combined with the fact it still didn't help with the low end of 2nd gear.

Dave
 
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