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2022 MINI Cooper S Convertible

Wild paint, cool ragtop make MINI S an extrovert’s dream …

Extroverts love MINI Coopers and they should, people chat you up when you’re driving a Zesty Yellow (looks like neon green) MINI Cooper S Convertible.

Tony was one. He stepped right up in the Woodman’s parking lot to declare the near glowing MINI a sharp looker, and that was before I showed him the amazing power ragtop all decked out to resemble a blacked out Union Jack ($500 extra). Subtle!

It’s that roof that makes this MINI maximum fun, first because it powers down with the flip of one toggle by the windshield’s top. Only takes about 18 seconds for it to fold back into what would be a trunk. More on that trunk in a bit. But MINI (a BMW sub-brand) has finessed the top to retract partially first, creating, for all practical purposes, an open sunroof. Then if you’re wanting total exposure, hold the toggle and the roof reclines completely. Cool! Tony, a Ford F-150 driver, laughed and declared it a winner. It is!

I’ve said before that driving a MINI is more fun than anything else you can do with your clothes on, and it still is. This 2022 S version is frisky and the test car’s blacked-out theme ups the cute factor to about an 11.

In addition to that snazzy darkened British flag motif on the roof the MINI logo on the nose and tail are blacked out, meaning flat black on gloss black. Then there’s gloss black trim on the grille and trim rings on the head and taillights too, plus on a rear trim panel. My buddy Paul suggested all the headlights lacked were fake eyelashes to go completely campy.

Well, that may be a bit much, but onlookers mostly gave the updated MINI an enthusiastic thumbs up. But THEY didn’t get to drive it, and that, mates, is where the fun’s rubber (summer tires here) meets the road.

See Mark’s video: Mark Savage reviews the 2021 Mini Cooper S – YouTube

MINI weighs just a smidge over 3,000 pounds so the S version’s twin-turbo 2.0-liter I4 gives it plenty of oomph with 189 horsepower and a torque rating of 207. Car and Driver reports a 6.2-second run-up from zero to 60 mph. That’s achieved by using a toggle low on the center stack to choose Sport over the Mid or Green power levels. Sport is the fun one and gives the MINI an instant burst of power once you tromp the pedal. Mid is fine for city driving and Green is primarily for show, but aims at gas sipping.

That’s not a big need here as even driving mostly in Sport I managed 28.7 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates this at 23 mpg city and 33 highway and this MINI prefers higher octane gas for maximum thrust, much as many of us do.

The expressive nose includes black rings on the headlights and a blacked out grille and logo.

Something younger folks may want to consider is something us oldsters mastered long ago, a 6-speed manual transmission. Not many sports cars, or many cars for that matter, offer a manual tranny anymore, but it makes putting that perky power down to the front-drive wheels a hoot as you work your way from first to sixth gear. I even spun the tires a bit, somewhat aided by damp fall streets.

An automatic is available, but for optimal fun, stick with the stick.

Handling is pure BMW, meaning road feel and feedback is primo and steering response quick. You pay for that a tad in somewhat heavier steering feel, but tossing this through corners on winding country lanes is so much fun you’ll barely notice. My only concern is the thick leather steering wheel, which might be a bit too thick for folks with small hands.

My other performance concern is ride. MINI rides on just a 98.2-inch wheelbase and with sport-oriented suspension the ride is rough, actually jarring at times. Comfort on Midwest roads is not its forte, although find a smooth blacktop highway and/or move to the South or West and pavement punishment will be less problematic.

Beyond the tooshie vibration, MINI’s Vibrasage ride is obvious because the passenger’s seat rattles quite a bit over bumps when no one is seated in it. I tried moving the seat to various notches, but to no avail. The rattle remained.

Otherwise the black leather seats here ($500 extra) are well formed so give good back and hip support. These are manual to save weight, but also provide a bottom cushion extension to help make taller occupants more comfortable, and the front seats are heated. That is part of a massive Iconic Trim package adding $7,500 to the price tag. Note that folks much taller than 6-foot-2 will find headroom more of an issue.

Back seat? Yes there is, but no one with legs will be admitted. This is primarily storage room or could hold a suitcase or two on a trip. The trunk won’t be much help as it is rated 6 cubic feet in the convertible, and that’s being generous. An overnight case or three bags of groceries will fit.

Loading isn’t tough, the rear panel below the black soft top folds down like a tailgate. Inside are two levers that can be released to allow the roof’s lower rear edge to be raised to facilitate easier loading of that MINIscule trunk.

Otherwise the black interior remains its quirky self. Those who have seen prior MINIs will feel at home. A larger 8.8-inch round info screen is now standard, although some space is wasted at the top due to its rectangular info screen being housed in the big round gauge opening.

Love this blacked out Union Jack roof. Subtle yet cool!

All that is easy enough to see and use, plus there’s still the knob on the console to quickly scroll through the radio stations. That’s much easier than trying to slide the touchscreen up or down as you drive as it’s a bit touchy.

As for other buttons and controls, they remain much the same as past models with toggles at the bottom of the center stack and some overhead. The steering wheel is somewhat revised with buttons on the hub, but with a tight cockpit this could really use a flat-bottom steering wheel. Also there’s a fold-down armrest between the front seats, but it is best left folded back out of the way, otherwise the driver’s right elbow tends to hit it during shifts.

Safety isn’t neglected, naturally. Driving aids include an active driving assistant system with forward collision, pedestrian and lane departure warning, plus high-beam assist. Rain-sensing wipers are standard and there’s an emergency call system if the car is in an accident. Outside mirrors are heated too.

Also outside you may notice the 2022 MINI has a revised grille and front and rear bumpers, plus sharp new wheels. Combine those spiffy wheels with its bright paint scheme and more than one observer claimed this MINI looked like a Hot Wheels car. That’s all good.

What’s not is the wind and road noise cockpit occupants will hear. Honestly it always sounded like there was an air leak around the tail of the car’s roof, even at moderate speeds. On the highway the truck noise and whoosh of passing cars also were distracting. On a country road, just a bit of tire noise, or if the top was down, well, naturally more wind noise.

Still, if you want a convertible you expect that, although a Mazda MX-5 Miata with hardtop convertible is quieter. Just sayin’!

A cool feature is how the convertible top retracts like a sunroof.

Note too, the test car’s $7,500 trim package really drove the price up, but it includes a bunch of goodies you may want, from the fancy Harmon/Kardon premium sound system (hard to hear with roof down don’t cha know), summer tires, the manual tranny, a navigation system, heated seats, and body-color mirrors, among others.

So the MINI Cooper S Convertible that started at a modest $32,750, with delivery, ended up at nearly $42 grand. If you can live with fewer options there’s plenty of wiggle room between the two extremes.

These snazzy new wheels make the MINI look like a Hot Wheels!

Don’t forget that for the value conscious there’s a base MINI Cooper Hardtop Oxford Edition at $20,600. The non-S MINIs come with a 3-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine that makes only 134 horsepower. An S Hardtop starts at $27,750 while the base convertible lists at $28,750.

So there are ways to snag a sassy-looking MINI that various budgets could afford.

FAST STATS: 2022 MINI Cooper S Convertible

Hits: Fun looks, good power, great handling, power convertible top with sunroof feature, 6-speed manual, plus sharp wheels. Supportive seats with bottom cushion extender, heated seats, big info screen, cool blacked out Union Jack roof.

Misses: Miniscule trunk, rough ride, passenger’s seat vibrates on bumps when not occupied, wind noise and road noise, plus needs flat-bottomed steering wheel.

Made in: Born, Netherlands

Engine: 2.0-liter twin turbo I4, 189 hp/207 torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Weight: 3,018 lbs.

Wheelbase: 98.2 in.

Length: 151.9 in.

Cargo: 6.0-8.0 cu.ft.

MPG: 23/33

MPG: 28.7 (tested)

Base Price: $32,750 (includes delivery)

Invoice: N.A.

Options:

MINI Yours Leather Lounge, black, $500

Iconic trim (heated Nappa leather steering wheel, power folding mirrors, keyless entry, wind deflector, body-color mirrors, piano black exterior trim, auto-dimming rearview mirror, storage package, heated front seats, dual-zone climate controls, Harman/Kardon premium audio system, manual transmission, performance summer tires, touchscreen navigation plus with Apple CarPlay, and wireless charger), $7,500

Dynamic damper control, $500

MINI Yours soft top, $500

Test vehicle: $41,750

Sources: BMW/MINI, www.kbb.com

Photos: Mark Savage

Diecast: Auto World’s True 1:64 2020 Chevy Corvette and 1963 Chevy II Wagon

Mid-engine Vette and boxy 1963 Chevy II wagon are high-value DC

Two Chevys couldn’t be much more different than the mid-engine 2020 Corvette and the 1963 Chevy II Nova Wagon, but I love them both.

Different reasons of course, but here’s their appeal.

First, the new Corvette will be an icon for years, just like the original Vettes. Why? Because it shifts the engine to behind the driver and its looks are Ferrariesque, or maybe more McLarenesque. It’s swoopy but still with that pointed Corvette nose.

The Nova wagon? Well, as a kid my Uncle Mac and Aunt Vi each had a white Chevy II, before they became Novas. One was a sedan, one a convertible. I found them simple and useful, but somehow just a bit cute. They were the right size, back when compacts were compacts. So I’ve had an affinity for Chevy II models since about 1962.

For collectors, the good news is that Auto World allows us to enjoy both these models for next to nothing, just $7.99 a pop with its True 1:64 Sports Cars and Muscle Wagons series. Here’s my take, and these are both new castings from AW.

The Models

               This new C8 Corvette looks particularly sharp in white as the color accents its chiseled good looks from that piercing nose to its muscular flanks, plus a slightly flared rear spoiler. As with its front-engine 1:64 models, the mid-engine Vette’s rear deck easily pops open to reveal its V8. The nice part is that with a big rear window you can see the orange engine block whether the deck is raised or closed.

               Detail is what you’d expect at 1:64 scale, but the side trim under the deck is realistic in shape and includes the small trunk area just as in the real deal.

               I like that there are tiny molded-in mirrors at the A-pillars, the sculpted air vent openings behind the doors, accented with black paint, rear diffuser and chin spoiler, also both painted black, which sets them off on the white model. Head and taillights are painted, but properly shaped and there are two sets of dual exhausts protruding from the diffuser. The rear license is a Florida plate with C8 emblazoned on it, but you may need a magnifying glass to read it.

               Inside are red high-backed bucket racing seats and a black dash and steering wheel with enough definition on the dash top to look more realistic than you might expect at this scale. It’s not just a flat piece of plastic cut to fit.

               Wheels are a racy star five-spoke pattern in matte silver with rotors blended into the back of the wheels. Tires are treaded rubber. My only complaint is that one front wheel is misshapen so the sample doesn’t roll easily. That’s a problem if a kid is to play with it, but not for a collector putting it on display.

               The sample Azure Aqua Poly Chevy II Nova 400 Wagon has no wheel issues and rolls easily, plus it looks terrific in all its boxiness. Tires are rubber treaded whitewalls and the hub caps chrome for a little flash.

               Bumpers are a matte silver paint scheme and the same trims all the windows, the hood streak and of course the grille and wagon’s tailgate. The grille’s background also is painted black so the silver really pops. Headlights are painted white and the tiny stacked taillights are red over white.

               Side trim stripes are black and silver to just in line with the vent windows and then are silver all the way to the tail. There’s also a molded-in matte silver rocker panel. Door handles and the gas cap are accented in silver and there’s a Nova decal on the rear quarter panels and Chevrolet label on the tailgate.

               Under the hood, which easily poses in the open position, is an orange Chevy engine block with black round air filter. The rest of the underhood area is flat black plastic, including the radiator.

               Inside are blue-green seats to nearly match the body color, plus a dash with air duct work and a steering wheel.

               Both cars have undercarriage detailing too, although it’s more pronounced on the Nova wagon with its big driveshaft and suspension components, especially in back.

               Finally, there are blue and white license plates front and rear that read Nova 400 and may be Ohio plates, but even magnified that’s a tough read.

               Note too that the Vette also is available in black, although I think the white is better for distinguishing the body lines. While the Nova wagon also comes in Saddle Tan with an Ermine White roof.

               The History

In case you just woke up from a Van Winkle-type sleep you should be aware that Corvette no longer is a front-engine sports car.  The C8 moves the engine behind the driver and does away with the manual transmission, just offering an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Watch Mark’s review and video of the 1:1 Vette: 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe | Savage On Wheels.

The 6.2-liter V8 cranks 495 horsepower and will do 0 to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds or less, say the car magazines. And all this for just $60 grand, as opposed to most supercars running in the $150,000-$300,000 range, or more. Corvette remains a hot rod that at least some of us might afford, if not loaded with options.

The Nova wagon on the other hand did not offer a V8 in the 1963 models, but did have a fine 3.8-liter 230 cu.in. inline 6 cylinder. A V8 was optional in 1964. Nova was the top of the Chevy II lineup that also included a convertible and hardtop along with the sedan and wagon. Nova replaced the Chevy II name in 1968.

Both are fine 1:64 die-cast cars on gorgeous and informative hang cards. AW just keeps making fun and unusual models in this small scale to keep augmenting car lovers’ die-cast collections.

New to Auto World are 1:64 scale decals much as you’d find in a plastic model kit.

Note: AW also has introduced decals for you to use to soup up and customize your favorite muscle cars, etc. The sheet has a little of everything from Johnny Lightning and Mobil decals to numbers and decals that say Rat Fink, Rad Rod, etc. Yes, Mooneyes, STP and Chevy are also here among many others. Just $9.99 and you could do up a bunch of your 1:64 collection.

Vital Stats: 2020 Corvette/1963 Chevy II Nova wagon

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/64
Stock No.: AW64312
MSRP: $7.99 each

Link: Autoworldstore.com

Die-Cast: DNA Collectible’s VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Golf GTI Clubsport S a hot hatch even in 1:18 scale …

Never as a teen or 20-something driver did I think Volkswagen would create a performance-oriented hatchback.

The Beetle was about to go away, the Rabbit was new, and the Dasher was sort of sportier looking, but really, not so hot. Yet over the years VW’s Golf has evolved, and in GTI trim has become a darned racy hatchback with great handling and good power.

Well, in Europe VW has taken the Golf even further, and that’s what DNA Collectibles shows off with its new 1:18 scale Golf GTI Clubsport S, a sizzling hot hatch only available overseas, at least for now. This fits right in with DNA’s, well, DNA of producing rare and limited run models from makes such as VW, Audi, Volvo, Saab, and Subaru. The GTI is No. 37 among its releases during its first several years of creating fine resin die-cast vehicles. Continue reading Die-Cast: DNA Collectible’s VW Golf GTI Clubsport S

Die-cast: Auto World True 1:64 Premium 2021 releases

AW’s twin 6-pack releases offer 5 new castings …

I love detail in my die-cast, so have tended toward the larger scales as an adult collector, but man, Auto World is starting to tug me big time back toward the 1:64 scale I loved as a kid.

Auto World’s True 1:64 releases are premium quality die-casts that are so well detailed that you can save a lot of cash and display space by going with these instead of larger models. The True 1:64 are budget friendly, yet so much fun to look at, hold, and display. Plus Auto World is rolling out a lot of new tooling for 2021.

For instance, the latest releases focus on Muscle, much like Auto World’s 1:18 scale American Muscle, but includes five new toolings.

Here’s the deal. Continue reading Die-cast: Auto World True 1:64 Premium 2021 releases