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2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop

New MINI Hardtop maximizes motoring fun

 MINI has a deceptively simple message for its potential buyers, Let’s Motor!IMG_0864

Yet it delivers exactly that, simple motoring fun.

A new, larger MINI was reintroduced in 2002 by BMW, the former Mini was a British make. Now, a dozen model years later, its third and again larger (about 5 inches nose to tail) iteration, continues to be a cute boxy hardtop that is a blast to drive. This is especially true of the tested Volcanic Orange S version with a new 2.0-liter twin-turbo 4-cylinder engine.

That smooth running BMW-designed powerplant belts out 189 horsepower and features a torque rating of 207. It kicks you in the seat of the pants, especially when the car is set to Sport mode. The S model offers three driving settings, Eco that reduces power and saves fuel (MINI-malizing they call it), Mid (perfectly fine for nearly all driving) and Sport (booster rocket power).

You simply turn a ring on the base of the shift lever housing and once it hits Sport you know it. Power is instantaneous. The MINI zips forward like a race horse set free from a starting gate. Sport also firms up the suspension, which might be needed on the race track, but only further intensifies the rump thumping you already get in the MINI on the street. Despite the 2014 model’s wheelbase growing 1.1 inches, the ride is no smoother and the shock damping feels almost non-existent in the Sport setting.

IMG_0866The Mid setting eases shock stiffness some, as it does the horsepower and torque. But MINI still hustles away from stoplights quickly and power is near instant with the twin-turbo booster set at the Mid, default, level. Go Eco and you’ll feel the car ease away from a stop, but power is substantially reduced. This may work well in jammed city driving where you just crawl from stoplight to stoplight.

Handling is go-kart like responsive all the time, but extraordinarily quick in Sport mode. That’s what makes MINI so much fun, especially around town. You can flick the car into a tight curve or corner and zip out the other side like you’re an F1 racer on a quick practice lap. Steering is immediate and easy. Continue reading 2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop

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2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe

Two-seater delivers attitude, power, performance – at a high cost

 Perfect timing! I had just driven the raciest version of Fiat’s tiny 500, the Abarth, when an even racier MINI Cooper Coupe, the John Cooper Works, or JCW, edition slotted into the test garage.2012 John Cooper Works MINI Cooper Coupe

The Coupe is MINI’s new model, with no back seat and a lowered roofline that gives it a distinctive profile, and some might say, a more buglike appearance. Bathed in Midnight black paint with a red racing stripe – reversed on the red roof with a black racing stripe – the JCW was hot. Women loved it! Even my car-neutral wife commented on its great looks, and THAT’s rare!

Continue reading 2012 MINI JCW Cooper Coupe