Reviews

2017 Mini Cooper Driving Impressions



The standard engine in the Mini Cooper and Clubman is the turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 124 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque (169 lb-ft for a few seconds during overboost). It can accelerate from zero to sixty in 7.4 seconds, and hit 130 mph. A three-cylinder that will go 130 miles per hour sounds like fun.

The handling and braking is superlative. The base Mini Cooper is our favorite, because it has all of the good handling while the three-cylinder engine is so squirty, and it’s much cheaper than the Cooper S. The little engine’s maximum torque comes at just 1250 rpm, and it peaks out at 4000 so it’s not a high-revver. We think the 6-speed manual works best with the three-cylinder, but at least the automatic is programmed to use the torque (though in Eco mode it’s downright dead).

The Cooper S is wildly fun but expensive. Its 2.0-liter turbocharged engine scoots it from zero to sixty in 6.4 seconds, one second quicker than the Cooper. It makes 189 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque (221 lb-ft during overboost).

You can get either a 6-speed manual or automatic transmission. We think the manual is a must in the Mini Cooper, although the linkage doesn’t inspire confidence and the rev-matching is aggressive. In the Cooper S, the optional paddle shifters are a must, to make the automatic more usable and enjoyable.

The JCW edition balloons the horsepower to 228 hp and torque to 236 lb-ft of torque, which makes it challenging to handle.

Driving modes are Sport, Mid, or Green, with red, blue, or green rings around the center display screen reminding you what mode you’re in. Sport mode holds the transmission gears longer, and stiffens the steering if you have the package with the firmer adaptive dampers that help keep the ride smooth. The base suspension is pretty firm as it is, while not crashing over the worst bumps.

There are a lot of wheel size and tire combinations available. As a good compromise, we like the 17-inch wheels with all-season tires on either the Cooper or Cooper S. The steering is quick, with a 14.0:1 ratio, making it twitchy on a bumpy straight freeway, but you’ll love it in the twisties.

Despite being heavier by more than 250 pounds, the Convertible keeps up the eager responsiveness. In Sport mode with the top down, its engine song is intoxicating.

Despite being longer than the base Mini Cooper by nearly 18 inches, the Clubman doesn’t feel stretched. It’s relatively easy to place all four wheels where you want them. The automatic does its best to keep the engine in its sweet spot, which is fairly low in the rev range.

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