Tuesday, 7 August 2012

MINI Cooper S: Zesty & Cheeky WITH Goosebumps

- by GB Bajaj, CEO & Strategist at GB LUXE LIFE for Stylefluid Trendz

7:46am – Just after the heavy showers have passed by, I am driving down Hanging Gardens, lush greenery on both the sides, the smell of rain, negotiating the s curve and the dip, blasting to Paul Van Dyk music, the early morning health freaks cursing me, open sunroof, strong breeze blowing into the car with the sound of the engine, wow what a feeling, the Cooper S is just a bloody awesome sports car. Off to Café Zoe for breakfast. It’s a thrilling experience to drive the Cooper S.

The vibrancy of the naturally aspirated turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine generating 184 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque is amazing.  I am goddamn wide awake, don’t need coffee for it, just the thought of Cooper S and sitting in it, rejuvenates your energy in S (sports) mode. The DSC Dynamic Stability Control is just hugging the road on the S curve, fabulous traction.
This Cooper S engine is suited with the standard six-speed automatic transmission, works perfectly well with the turbocharged engine which adds to the sportiness and makes the Mini Cooper fun to drive. Acceleration performance is quick.

With the standard six-speed automatic Steptronic, 0-to-60 mph is a quick 7.2 seconds and its top speed stands at 230kmph.  The way Cooper S gathers speed seems quite effortless, and its easy to zip past 120kmph sooner than you think. And the turbocharged Mini Cooper S engine reacts instantaneously to the gas pedal, with a tiny hint of turbo lag which produces perfect acceleration at all speeds. Its steady, even power delivery across a wide rpm range is impressive, as I've learned test driving on wet roads too.

Cooper S has boosted power by means of a twin-scroll turbocharger and an innovative VALVETRONIC technology, a variable valve management which not only provides high responsiveness and refined motoring but even fabulous fuel economy and optimized emission management. The technology package offered includes the fully variable valve management with gasoline direct injection and DOHC powered.
The engine produces maximum output of 184 hp at 5,500 rpm and has been established as among the world's highest rated engines. To put zest in the Cooper S, there is the S(sports) mode button that makes the car more aggressive, giving long gear ratios to keep power on tap. The sport button gives instantaneous throttle response and swifter steering ratio. Only if the exhausts would growl a little louder, will sound meaner.  In the sports mode at high speeds, the Cooper S requires solid traction and stability, so that it does not drift or spin out. The Dynamic Stability Control(DSC) in the Cooper S is combined  as standard for optimized traction. DSC makes an important contribution for safe and quick handling for very dynamic driving situations and on slippery surfaces.

The four-wheel discs brakes, ABS fitted are just what this car needs, providing quick and stable stop and good crisper pedal feel. The Mini’s braking is as tranquil as it can be and gives the best confidence at high speeds and providing best gripping at panic braking.  A safety feature of the Mini's brake cornering control, with the use of ABS to apply individual brakes to inside wheels to help get the car through a corner, absolutely no skidding and the Dynamic Stability Control(DSC) comes into play. When it comes to panic and abrupt stops, its extremely stable with no drama.

Highway driving speeds at curves, sharp bends the Cooper S is equipped with the best caliber of safety in critical emergencies and protected by ABS anti-lock brakes, EBD Electronic Brake Force Distribution, CBC Cornering Brake Control, ASC+T Automatic Stability Control + Traction standard on the Cooper S and with on-off control by the driver, as well as DSC Dynamic Stability Control make the passengers feel extremely safe. When it comes to safety, the Cooper S is fitted with six airbags as standard to ensure complete passenger protection on all seats. 

The sport-tuned suspension gives the Cooper S excellent and superb road handling and road holding at high speeds or maneuvering in traffic, even on wet roads, or while negotiating twisty roads, firmer handling renders a real refined precise handling, distinctly. Cooper S is provided with MacPherson strut front suspension which provides superb wheel location while the dynamic kinematics of the multi-link rear suspension maintain optimal road grip all the times. With front wheel drive, always the car is in control, there is no oversteer or understeer or spinning out, even with a sudden step down in the throttle or braking while turning. The Cooper S is solid and stable in corners absorbing small bumps and joints without discomforting passengers. The Cooper s is fitted with standard run-flat performance tyres which made me dread the monsoon potholes blooming on Mumbai streets. The ride is too stiff when the road is too bumpy, feeling the bumps directly to your body.It is advisable to switch to normal low profile tyres, maybe PIRELLIS, for a fabulous comfortable drive. 
The Suspension design with spring and shock rates match the Cooper S's sporty personality  and weight distribution, providing a solid and stable ride, keeping it firmly grounded.  Anti-roll bars reduce body roll to a minimum and make their own contribution to safety and agility, giving it remarkable handling characteristics. A very bumpy ride issues notwithstanding, Cooper S's responses are pure magical, earnest and sporty. 

Sport Suspension package that fits more aggressive springs and dampers provides the result of a ride quality and can be jarring over sharp bumps. The result of all this stiffness and sportiness is that this MINI is a blast to drive while zig zagging.
Steering system has played an important role for the sporty feeling. The steering system is an electromechanically assisted steering, which uses an electric motor, instead of a hydraulic pump, for steering assist. The positive of this steering system is in tight spots while parking, where little effort is required to make large changes in any direction with smooth handling. On the highways , at a high speed the steering system gets firm and sensitive with equal rotation.

The steering is sports responsive with great road handling, brakes are powerful with sensitive pedal feel, auto transmission provides timing shift and throttle is instantaneous in turbo mode.

Its 6:30pm, all my friends want to go for a drive. Hmmmm, I say ok, as I slide the Deep Dish into the single mp3/cd, the high-powered Harman/Kardon system and its six speakers does its magical bit. A cluster of toggle switches feel like inside of rally car cockpit.

The  CD slot with audio controls and the tuning knob is centered and placed at the bottom of the speedometer with good ease of use and closer to the HVAC controls. The CD/Mp3 player in matte-grey finish is so neatly integrated, that its difficult to customize the audio system of the Cooper S.  Heating and air conditioning controls sit below the  speedo which are well marked and easy to use and the switch layout is easy to use.

Near the cd/mp3 slot are the ventilation controls, toggle switches for the power windows, fog lamps, central lock system and door locks. For operating the cabin lights and sun roof, the metallic toggle switches are placed next to the inside rear view mirror and while stability and sport mode are pushbutton ears on the shifter base. Like I say, MINI rally car cockpit.

A very functional armrest for both the front passengers is a small storage space in the armrest to store mobile phones, chargers etc  and a concealed cabin storage is in the glove box to store documents etc.

The Cooper S interiors were redesigned in 2011 for a comfy fit and improved interior noise reduction. The finishing of the cabins is crisp and cozy and of high standards and use of high quality components have a good feel to, thanks to the German quality control. The hand stitched seats in black leather and the door panels are of high quality, hope they could provide red stitching or blue matching the body color. The driver can manually adjust  height. Design and detailing in the cabin is very meticulous. 

The front seating very spacious, considering from outside looks cramped up, but my friend who is 6.4 feet, did not have a problem getting in, relaxing comfortably with good headroom, ok just 1 inch gap, comfortable he was untill I took him for a spin, he got a mini heart attack after the spin. At the rear, the quality and finish are just as same and do match the Mini's benchmark with the front.

There is ample space provided to the rear seats for the kids to sit behind or to keep the groceries/everyday supplies. Its very simple to sit behind, push the front passengers seat in the front, flip down the front seat, using the side knob, and the knob behind the passenger seat, reclines the seat completely in the front for easy entry/exit to the back seats. Don’t get that cramped feeling. Relax at the rear seats with adjustable headrest, truly  comfortable and spacious to seat 2 adults. 

The Chrome detailing in the cabin is high, making the cabin look very stylish and giving a classic feel. The Harmon-Kardon audio system rocks, and the cute mini iDrive-like knob controller is functional but the little inconvenient to navigate for its oddly location.

At the drivers seat, while checking the speed, the big round retro analog speedometer is placed in the center of the dash, the Mini's sporty tradition. The huge speedometer has a orangish  flower-shape for fuel level that draws the eyes with the audio controls at the bottom. I hardly notice the speed while driving, except on the sea link, ooopss cannot mention it here. The speedo is ivory white in background and its digits in black with the speedo needle in red, very classy. In the middle of the speedo is the infotainment system, a high-resolution color display , where the color LCD provides the required info for music, Bluetooth hands-free system , vehicle statistics etc. 
The tachometer is fixated behind the steering wheel with multi-function display, which provides digital speedometer in it and you can see the redline being hit through the steering wheel.The tach also has the display for miles, temperature, trip computer info and so on.

The interiors are provided with leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, power windows with auto-down, cruise control, remote keyless entry, outside temperature display, a cooled glove box, rear wiper and AM/FM stereo with a single CD/MP3 system with 6 Harman/kardon speakers which does its bit. 

Cooper S is quiet practical car even though it’s a two door car with a four seater, the rear seats can be used even for cargo. Mothers have enough room to place four kids to drop and pick them up from school or head to the supermarket and haul up reasonable amounts of their weekly grocery and supplies.  

The front seats are very comfortable and with good lumber support, feeling of snugged and bolstered enough while negotiating a C bend or for as a matter of fact zig zagging in the traffic, on a heavy rainy day, high speed cruising or for long distance trips. The driver position is pretty good enough, with all round visibility just perfect.

For giving firelife to the engine the Cooper S has a unique ignition key. The ignition key is in shape of a large slightly thick coin size which is inserted into a slot next to the steering column and next to it is the start/stop button. The start/stop button is cute and more effective than a standard key.

The dashboard is split in two tone color and material. The upper half in black and lower half in red leather covering. To keep the interior theme in tone with the dashboard, even the door pads have the same red leather covering.   

For different drives and moods, ambient lighting is provided for the cabin, change the light color suiting to your moods from orange to blue, positioned on the roof. The dashboard and controls do give a feel and look of sitting in a MINI rallycar cockpit. Awesome. Certainly Austin Powers would choose purple or pink ambient lighting for his drive to the office too

The powerful air conditioning is delivered through round shaped a/c vents with aluminum lining around them, pretty good cooling.  A single zone climate control unit is good enough to cool down the cabin of the Mini Cooper S.

For me the steering wheel of a sports car is very important. As I grasp the three spoke sports leather steering firmly, I could feel the car, the power of the engine, the way it would handle. I always enjoy my ride with good music, not jazz or fusion, but techno, trance, house etc, while driving it is easy to change the music with the multi-function controls on the steering, I choose to listen to Paul Van Dyk in Vonyc sessions. The paddle shifter makes it convenient to change gears and give that thrust, just check down to 3rd gear and off we go.

The coupe's drive character is beyond energetic, even with the automatic.
The paddles are fun, easy to use and return prompt shifts. In sport mode, things get even meaner that my friends were not fans of it at all. It's for the race enthusiast, the Sport mode, tuned perfectly to rock.  The steering-column stalk switches for wipers and turn signals are pleasing to look and satisfying to use. 

Interior storage space is not abundant, but it's adequate. There are bins in the door panels, map pockets on the front seatbacks, a small center-console bin and a decent-size glove box. The glove box can be cooled with the air conditioning, and it's enough to keep a bottled drink reasonably cool, or to keep chocolate bars from turning melted. 

The auto transmission shifter has been given a special and a unique S emblem inscribed in red on it and next to the shifter is my magic button, the Sports mode activation button, goddamn, move out of my way.

At a bumper to bumper traffic signal, as all admired with envy, I got asked many questions about the looks of the Cooper S, certainly got its own MINI sex appeal. Mini Cooper S models are distinctive from the standard versions. 

The front of the Cooper S, cute but bold too with the prominent hexagonal radiator grill with a thick band of chrome stripping and air-intakes, one on the bonnet just above the centre grill and two more intakes on the lower half of the front bumper just besides the round fog lamps gives a racy look and for cooling of the turbo engine. These air intakes provide cooling to the brakes too and at the same time controlling the airflow to reduce any drag. The chrome linings give a luxury look. The styling of the Mini Coopers was given a facelift in 2011 with new bumper, tail light and wheel designs. The head lights are round and large in size with chrome borders around them and indicator lights are now integrated in the headlight units. “In its exterior design, the new MINI is an evolution of its predecessor”, states MINI Chief Designer Gert Hildebrand.

The sporty pair of racing stripes starting from the front of the grill bonnet and run towards the wind shield of the Mini Cooper S, giving a rally car look to be challenged. The bonnet is particularly long with a blunt curve to accommodate the turbocharged engine under it for the Cooper S. The current larger Mini Cooper S stands at 3723mm in length, 1683mm in width and stands at 1407mm in height with a wheelbase of 2467mm. 

The side profile with flushed large glass windows stretching round the passenger compartment looks aesthetic. 

The doors are attached with oval shaped rear view mirrors, with body color as an option will add sex appeal to it and have chrome door handles.  To give the mean sporty look, a large fibre band runs across from the front wheel arches to the rear wheel arches and a foot board which gives under body protection and magnifies the visual appeal of the sides.

The rear profile blends well with the Cooper S, the striking shoulders at the rear have become rounder than on the former model and with retro looking tail lamps with chrome borders. Above the registration plate, a large thick chrome stripe, the length of the registration plate and the COOPER S emblem above smartly gleaming on the boot lid with a central dual exhaust. 

The trunk space seems limited as the rear deck ends abruptly with storage of 8.5 cubic feet, and the cargo/seating compartment with 6.0 cubic feet. With folding of the rear seats forward, it provides good spacious cargo space.  

This roof spoiler is fully integrated into the styling of the helmet roof. It has an opening in the center which allows the airflow over the roof to be directed out of the rear window. This reduces rear drag and improves the driving dynamics of the MINI Cooper S, an innovatively designed roof spoiler. The rear roof spoiler gives a lot of sporty personality to it as it assists in high-speed stability.

On the rear bumper, chrome border LED retro styled stop lamps are fitted with the honey comb mesh air dam for the MINI look. The twin exhaust pipes pointing upwards, centrally spaced below the rear bumpers, sputtering like a mini machine gun. The Cooper S rests on 195/55/R16 fitted on rib spoke rim design, black finish alloys, size 6.5Jx16. I would make the rims the body color and the disc brakes contrasting, more sexy and sporty.  

The build quality on the outside is top notch and the Mini Cooper S is available in 13 colour shades to choose from; the best and most striking shade being the one I drove is Rooster Red (Bright Red). Colors available in Non-metallic would be the Chilli Red, Pepper White and Ice Blue.  The metallic colors are British Racing Green, White Silver, Hot Chocolate, Midnight Black, White Silver, Lightning Blue, Reef Blue, White Silver and Spice Orange.

The beauty of the Cooper S  is sitting inside and seeing the raindrops falling on the twin panoramic sun roof along with glossy black roof bends or dazing at the stars.

The Cooper S is clearly distinctive by the chrome badge, black wheels, central exhaust, black mesh grille and brake duct openings and an S chrome badge ahead of the doors that also houses signal repeaters.  

The chassis is the main foundation for the road handling and road holding, and it is truly spectacular for the performance of it and for the rally car handling. The accuracy of its Electric Power Steering,  responsive brakes and specific designs for its optimized torsion rigidity provides the driver with an excitement filled drive.

The performance of Cooper S, attracts competition from  Audi TT, Porsche Boxster and Cayman to name a few, but the dynamics of the Cooper S is too superb and brings an affordable sports car fun to a segment who cannot afford a Porsche Boxster and/or Cayman and still enjoy the performance of a german sports car with excitement.

As I have been blitzing and blasting across town for various tasks and functions in the Cooper S, whatever you may call it, baseball cap, bulldog, go-kart and last but not the least, a skateboard, the Cooper S is truly a fabulous and spectacular sports automobile, completely luxurious and powerful with comfort and safety. Ofcourse with BMW engineering it is a class apart sports car for its price for India.

It does deliver graceful and nimble handling with precision and crisp performance, all this for an efficient front-wheel drive package and with plenty of space and comfort for front seat passengers. On a different note, i feel it  looks like a cute bulldog.Is that my imagination ????

The Mini Cooper delivers quiet good fuel economy in spite of the performance of a sports car, with an average of 7kms/litre in city and 12kms/litre on the highway. Turbo charging adds thrust to pump up the adrenalin.

I have even gone ahead to define the term for MINI lovers: MINI CHAUVINIST  PERSON (MINICP).

What is MINICP?

mini chauvinist person/mini chauvinism

A male/female who acts superior to and aggressively towards other sports cars.  

Who is a confident, ambitious, sporty person with style and chilled out, little attitude, the good kind.

Refer to an attitude of mini superiority or mini entitlement to power over sports cars.

The MINI is a cult, having sold more than 2,000,000 units in over 90 countries, an overwhelming successful and sustaining MINI from its predecessor.

Buckle Up for safety.

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