• Dec 2, 2010
Further Evolving Sir Alec Issigonis' Original Idea

2011 Mini Cooper – Click above for high-res image gallery

Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche, Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler. All pioneers in the automotive world. But this list would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of Sir Alec Issigonis, the man most responsible for the design of the original Mini.

Issigonis once famously said, "When you're designing a new car for production, never, never copy the opposition." Sage advice, we'd say, as the Mini – a true clean-sheet automotive design, with its transverse engine, front-wheel drive and sparse seating – went on to become one of the most successful vehicles in history. And its name and likeness continue to live on in the form of the modern-day Mini Cooper, Clubman and, most recently, Countryman.

Despite the similarities from one modern generation to the next, the BMW-owned automaker is quick to point out the myriad of changes made to the Cooper for the 2011 model year, not the least of which are improvements to the engine and transmission options, resulting in more power and improved efficiency.

So, the logical question is: Do these changes make a better Mini, or are they so minor (or is that Minor?) you won't even notice?

Continue reading...



Photos copyright ©2010 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL

The most obvious place to begin charting the changes is the exterior. Up front you'll find restyled bumper fascias and larger fog lights, while optional black headlight housings are now available with adaptive Xenon lamps.

The electric Mini E's hood has been cribbed and installed on base Coopers, while the turbocharged S models still have their hood scoops and gain functional brake cooling ducts. At the rear are tweaked taillamp assemblies with LED fog lights along with a redesigned rear bumper housing the reverse lights.

The final notable tidbit is the availability of a new hue: British Racing Green II. Finally, a color that actually looks like the classic BRG we all know and love. It's about time, as the previous dark green, while perfectly acceptable, simply wasn't "British Racing Green." While that's a color we're excited about, perhaps now would be a good time to point out the, ahem, interesting combo of the vehicle in our photos. While there's nothing at all wrong with the new Spice Orange hue for 2011 or the Classic Green Lounge Leather (Mutant Ninja Turtle Green, as we took to calling it) interior... let's just say the two should probably never be combined on the same vehicle.

2011 Mini Cooper side view2011 Mini Cooper front view2011 Mini Cooper rear view

Minor changes filter inside, beginning with the standard dinner-plate sized speedo gauge mounted front and center. As ever, the unit's primary purpose is to house the speedometer, along with a much smaller electronic fuel gauge. Underneath you'll find the buttons and dials to control the audio, but what you won't find is the terminally confusing secondary dial on the center stack. Mini has nixed it for the 2011 model year, a development for which we can only offer three cheers. Carrying over from past models is the smaller tachometer mounted atop the steering column and directly in the driver's line of sight.

This arrangement may seem a bit odd for drivers accustomed to a standard gauge cluster, but it doesn't take long to acclimate. Style-conscious buyers are likely to love the refreshed Mini's key, which must be pressed into a slot in the dash before pushing the 'Start' button, but we wonder why it's not using a simple proximity sensor instead. And, of course, those well-known chrome toggle switches that control locking and power windows are still located at the very bottom of the center stack in front of the shifter – a stylish concession to functionality.

2011 Mini Cooper interior2011 Mini Cooper front seats2011 Mini Cooper rear seats2011 Mini Cooper rear cargo area

All of the surfaces the driver will come into contact with are high quality and mostly soft, including the shifter knob (do yourself a favor and choose the short-throw six-speed manual, please) and the excellent, small-diameter steering wheel. Another fashion-forward feature is interior lighting that goes from a sporty orange to a soothing blue in five steps.

For 2011 there are three audio packages to choose from, the first of which eschews any newfangled tech in favor of a simple CD player with HD and satellite radio all standard and pumping through six speakers. Stepping up a notch will get you to the truly innovative tech known as Mini Connected. Those who've never completely come to love the central speedo are sure to prefer this upgrade, which houses a 6.5-inch display in the giant gauge, placing the speed readout along the circumference of the dial. Aesthetically, this is a big improvement over the glaring white face of the standard setup.

2011 Mini Cooper steering wheel2011 Mini Cooper speedometer2011 Mini Cooper glove box2011 Mini Cooper instrument panel

When stepping up to the Mini Connected with Navigation, you'll get (rather obviously) a sat-nav system stored on flash memory cards that are accessible via a USB connection. There's a plethora of functionality with the Connected system, including Bluetooth audio, album art (similar to what you'd see on your iPod), Web radio streaming and even RSS feeds that can be read aloud. You can also send pre-written Tweets, update your Facebook status with location information or perform local Google searches.

We found the technology package fairly easy-to-use and navigate, despite the fact the screen is not touch sensitive. Instead, you toggle through the menus using a control knob mounted between the front seats. If that sounds complicated... well, it is a little complicated, but we're pretty sure most anyone shopping in a Mini dealership will be able to figure it out.

2011 Mini Cooper headlight2011 Mini Cooper emblem2011 Mini Cooper exhaust system2011 Mini Cooper taillight

We're happy to report the 2011 Mini Cooper drives almost exactly like the 2010 Mini Cooper – no real surprise considering the limit of the changes. A boost in horsepower on standard models from 118 to 121 horsepower is nominal, but the Cooper S gets a bump to 181 ponies (up from 172), which can be felt when accelerating up a hill or on-ramp. Electronic power steering has allowed the crafty German engineers to add anti torque- and anti bump-steer to the Cooper's repertoire, and the modifications were obvious when compared to last year's model. The new suspension tricks were particularly transparent under hard acceleration and even more pronounced when matting the throttle on the turbocharged model, with its 'Overboost' function delivering up to 192 lb-ft of torque from 1,700 rpm onwards.

Despite the added power, Mini has managed a slight increase in fuel efficiency across the board, with the standard model now registering 37 miles per gallon. Perhaps more impressive is that the Valvetronic-equipped S makes even more power while earning a 36-mpg highway figure.

2011 Mini Cooper engine

We also noticed that the S model's computer allows the turbocharged cars to 'pop' under deceleration more than before when in Sport Mode (activated from inside the cabin with a console-mounted button), a quaint nod to the Minis of yore.

We won't employ the terminally-overused 'go kart' descriptor (dammit, just did), but if you've driven a modern Mini, you'll be instantly familiar with the quick, slightly darty steering and lively ride. Step it up a notch by ordering the Sport suspension and those adjectives change to firm and even borderline harsh on some pockmarked roads. But you're rewarded with a direct connection to the tarmac that fades away only when the stability or traction control decide to intervene... which sometimes happens far too early. Do it right (or get lucky...) and you can turn the telltale understeer into a surprisingly neutral drifter that's hilariously fun when the road turns twisty.

2011 Mini Cooper rear 3/4 view

While it may not bear much in common with its iconic predecessor, the 2011 Mini Cooper retains all the charm and panache buyers have come to expect since the brand's rebirth just a few years back, and the added improvements just sweeten the deal. There aren't any cars currently available in the States that can match the size, fun and refinement offered by the 2011 Mini. And even in it's current form, we have a feeling Sir Alec would approve.



Photos copyright ©2010 Jeremy Korzeniewski / AOL


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 47 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd like to note the rather cheesy rims on the pictured model. I hate fake rivets on a one piece wheel that try to make it look like it is a two or three piece. It's downright "ricey."

      For the same money as an S model, I don't see why people would pick this instead of something rwd with a 300hp V6 (genesis coupe, mustang, camaro, challenger.).
        • 4 Years Ago
        Get your facts straight. The "web-spoke" wheels are actualy 2-piece wheels.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I don't know about that. Motor Trend did a long term test of the longer, heavier Clubman JCW last year, 0-60 in 5.7s, 1/4 mile in 14.3s, & top speed 149 mph. Seems more than competitive in the hot hatch segment. Price as tested $32k, expensive, but not terrible.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yeah, 2 piece from BBS.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's all about choice and demographics. The people that buy Minis don't want a large, heavy overtly aggressive muscle car that delivers inferior fuel mileage in comparison. They also prefer the nimble FWD characteristics over RWD. By the same token, most Camaro / Mustang buyers would not cross-shop a Mini. Apples and oranges...

        Having driven several, one of which was tuned and stupidly fun and fast, I'm a big fan of his car. However, it's expensive for what it is, especially the S / Cooper models. Just for fun I recently optioned out a John Cooper Works convertible at over $52k! This is where the Fiat 500 will make a killing.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Ok, okay, in that case, i am impressed that real 2-piece wheels are available as an oem option. Is there even any other automaker that sells oem 2 piece wheels on a car that costs less then say, 70k? Nonetheless, I bet they are a seriously overpriced option.

        @Shiftright,

        I understand what you are saying about the apples to oranges comparison. And that is hilarious about the 52k JCW after options. I must say though, I am impressed with how many combo choices there are using the online configurator. Certainly more than any Scion, which were one of the biggest proponents of "Our brand is better because we offer ways for you to make it unique."

        Nonetheless, I too can appreciate that Mini is achieving a fun and peppy handling with decent acceleration, but I think their pricing is crazy and the interior is just too gimmicky. I understand it's targeted as a premium, fuel efficient small car, and that's fine for the base version i suppose..but the sport trim just doesn't seem competitive to me, even excluding price as a factor..and especially when you include price as a factor.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "...myriad of..."

      *dies a little inside
      Newlung
      • 4 Years Ago
      All you mini bashers are either people who have not driven one or still live with your mother. I have owned my s for 7 years I love it is my favorite car I have ever owned. I have owned a lot of expensive Italian and German in my lifetime and still do . I said to my wife the other day I was going to buy a new Porsche turbo but she said I had to get rid of mini I passed . People are saying there is no room I fit 10 bags of mulch in my car on a regular basis . Try doing that in a 911 or a new California. All the fun for 25k I dare you to find a car to have more fun in and as versatile .
      • 4 Years Ago
      Bummer. Love the exterior, hate the interior.
      • 4 Years Ago
      What maxpowerminiac said. I own a 2005 MCS, and to put down a vehicle you may have only sat in or test drove, or that may not be the type of vehicle for you, seems kinda stupid.

      It's all about owning what you need for your life. The MINI is perfect for me, has just enough space in the hatch for what I need to carry, and the seats fold down in a heartbeat if I need more, and there's a lot of space. I could carry 4 wheel/tires in the back with room to spare, name a car on par with the MINI with a trunk that can do that without having to put them in the back seat as well.

      As for the interior, I love it. It serves its purpose, it's not boring, and there's more room than you realize. I brought two friends with me when I bought mine to make sure they could fit in the back seat, or one in front/one in back. No, there's not a LOT of room, but I didn't buy the car to haul people around, it hauls ass. But if I need to, I have room for 3 other adults (my friends who sat in the front/back are 5'8/5'11, respectively, and had no major complaints).

      I've never driven any other car (and I've driven a lot) that has the "fun" factor like my MCS does. If you think they're such a horrible car, then why do you see so many on the road?
      zapperdude60
      • 4 Years Ago
      That interior is still almost unusable
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        That's where the 500 is going to get conquest sales in droves, interior on par with cars costing twice as much, more room inside for passengers, larger trunk and smaller footprint, the 500 is actually the closest thing we'll have to an original mini spiritual successor when it goes on sale next year.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        I'd just like to point out that there is a grammatical error in the final sentence of the article:

        "And even in it's current form, we have a feeling Sir Alec would approve."

        "It's" doesn't need a possessive apostrophe. It should just be "its." The only pronoun needing an apostrophe in possessive situations is "one's" and no others. Basic college grammar here.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        I've sat in several MINIs. How is it unusable? Please, in comparison with perhaps a Camaro?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        I've been in two minis over the years and agree they are very poor managers of space. For a car of this size, it's amazing how poorly laid out the car is.

        The car does handle really sharply, in my experience, and I'm sure the power to weight ratio is strong, but the same can be said for a lot of cars that are small, cost much less, and are much easier to live with.

        This car is inferior, but fashionable. If you want a functional car, this just isn't for you. If you want a pretty car that handles well and don't really care about practical function, this is not as bad a choice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        Totally agreed.

        If BMW would just *fix* the gauges and center stack to make them like a normal car, that would be a huge improvement. Put the tach & speedo in front of the driver, so that driving the car is looking ahead, not at the right curb.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        @R3DB71ND - weird, what parts? I spent some time with the euro models, and pre production us prototype and the parts that stood out where the steering wheel (nicer than the GTI even, wow), central cluster with concentric circles (i prefer to the mini style but really there's no material discussion there unless we're talking type face), objects like the wiper stalks felt the same between both cars but all off the important bits around the radio and hvac felt nicer than the stuff in the mini. The only specific cheapness I recall is the door pulls which feel of chrome plastic, everything else I touched, especially the quality of the leather inside, was beyond what i'm used to in the Mini and rivaled (and in some cases exceeded) what I've found in the GTI/R32. Simple things like the glass buttons on the dash (the triplet, ala the original) really stood out as tacitly and visually vastly exceeding what I had expected. Better steering wheel by far, better hvac/radio controls, comprable door cards and pulls to the mini, less expensive use of plasti dipped chrome look plastic than the mini...

        What parts stood out as inferior to you?

        http://www.autoblog.com/photos/2011-mini-cooper-first-drive/full/#3625527

        http://www.autoblog.com/photos/la-2010-2011-fiat-500/#3578733
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        @Zamafir

        The 500 seems more like an economy car, while the Cooper is more of a fashion statement and sports car. It is my understanding that the Cooper S sells much better than the entry level one, and the 500 will have nothing to compete with that. At least not at first.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        Did you sit in the back seats? Use the trunk? Attempt to use it as what it's billed Vs a dedicated two seater? It's a great hatch that BMW sorely needed but interior design in terms of use of volume is some of the worst in any production car (though after diving the x6 on par for a bimmer)
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        @Zamafir

        I dunno man. I sat in a 500 at the auto show here in SF. The interior was not nice at all. Quite a few notches down from the MINI interior I would say. The build quality feels cheaper, almost like an american car from 5 years ago. I will disclose that I am a 2005 Cooper S owner.

        I would agree with other posters that the MINI interior is useless for the "average american". You have to have a second car for serious hauling and traveling. I also have a Mazda 3 wagon for practicality.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @zapperdude60
        I agree. Its the interior that is holding me back from purchasing this car. Why do I have to "acclimate" to an interior.

        The exterior and driving dynamics are top notch, but after test driving the 2011 GTI and seeing that gorgeous interior, I am leaning towards the VW.
      • 4 Years Ago
      while the outside proportions are quite nice on the minis, the interiors are just dismal for a car costing what it does. this is coming from me spending many hours in my roommate's 2010 MCS (and in the backseat). the ergonomics are horrible, the boot is practically nonexistant without using the rear bench space, and the interior is boomy. the whole car rides roughly and is not suited for much more than track use or putzing around town. sure it can handle well and carve up some nice backroads while looking cute, but i'd rather do that in my 2010 GTI.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Excellent choice, compared to your friend's MCS. Now get a chip for it and leave him in the dust!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Perhaps I'm mistaken but isn't that picture in the gallery with the two minis... a Clubman and an original cooper?
        • 4 Years Ago
        actually, that last shot is the new countryman and a classic. the clubman is smaller.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "And even in it's current from we have a feeling Sir Alec would approve."

      As automotive journalists you really should bother to take out an original before making assertions like that. The new mini is a great handling car with decent pickup and wonderful fuel economy but this is 2010 and making a statement like that would be akin go persuading us that Porsche would likewise approve of the new beetle.

      Great review but do start broadening the familiarity to provide us with more depth Vs a platitude to end a piece.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your attempt to debunk a subjective statement with a very fancy-sounding but equally subjective statement really made me laugh, especially because it seems like you're making a (laughable) attempt to smack down the author.

        I really liked, "...but do start broadening the familiarity to provide us with more depth Vs a platitude to end a piece".

        After you get your head out of your own ass, you might want to check your ascot - I think it's a little too tight.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @bumblebee And yet, nasty pejoratives don't make your analysis of his analysis more cogent.

        Do as you say...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Right because hoping automotive journalists have actually driven the cars they reference is totally unreasonable. Smack down? The author is telling us the s is supercharged he's already lost credibility. There's no reason autoblog can't rival the best buff books except complacency which your apparently advocating.

        It's not hard to get a real mini, had this been frank I would have happily put the keys to a dozen in his hand.

        Feel free to offer a cogent reply and your opinion on how this car relates to the original if your buying that line of bullox.

        Why people get grumpy when jounalists miss basic rules of writing (substantiating claims) is beyond me.
        • 4 Years Ago
        and is still unable, apparently, to qualify his statements. brilliant.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The author has driven a few originals.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree with Z.

        The original car was a lot less powerful, but it's also more functional and interesting. It kinda looks similar to this newer car, but they are pretty unrelated projects. One car was designed to look a lot like a truly interesting and famous design, so as to sell a lot better. It's not a real relationship.

        This isn't a car Alec would have produced. It's a car BMW would produce.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Didn't get rid of the LSD and replace it with the brake biased pseudo LSD used in the JCW model (which I think sucks)?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Unfortunately, there is no true LSD option anymore. It's all the e-Diff now, which is what necessitated the new, larger brake cooling ducts up front.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It just might be the perfect car.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice cheeky car.
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