2011 Cooper S New Car Test Drive
The Mini Cooper line delivers agile handling, crisp performance and an interminably cute bulldog appearance in tidy, efficient packages, with plenty of space and comfort for front seat passengers. The Mini lineup has been thoroughly updated for 2011, including the introduction of the four-door Countryman (reviewed elsewhere). The 2011 Mini Cooper now comes in four body styles, all powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
The 2011 Mini Cooper models benefit from revised engines and revised styling. The engines are more efficient and slightly more powerful for 2011. Standard equipment is more plentiful, with HD and satellite radio in all models. The 2011 Mini Coopers have new bumper designs and tail lights and new wheel designs. The front ends have been reshaped to meet new requirements for pedestrian safety.
The standard 121-horspower 1.6-liter engine works best with the standard manual transmission, in our opinion, but all Minis are available with an optional 6-speed automatic.
The turbocharged version in the Cooper S models generates 181 horsepower and a substantial 192 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the auto world's most powerful engines for its size.
All the Minis are fun to drive, but in Cooper S trim they bring exhilarating performance and nimble handling that's most easily appreciated through the experience. And they still return up to 27 mpg city, 36 highway, according to the EPA.
The standard Mini Cooper hardtop is very practical as a two-seat car, and large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers in very comfortable seats. With its hatchback and folding rear seats, the hardtop can haul reasonable amounts of gear. Its two-place rear seat is hard to climb into, and best left for small children or emergency roadside assistance.
The Mini Cooper convertible has less rear seat room and less rear cargo capacity than the hatchback, but its automatic soft top is easy to operate and well insulated for year-round use. We see the convertible as a two-seat car with the option of hauling another two passengers in a pinch.
Those who want more room might choose the Mini Cooper Clubman, which is something like a small station wagon. The Clubman is 9.4 inches longer overall than the hardtop, and 3.2 inches longer in wheelbase. The extra wheelbase converts to more rear legroom, and access to the rear seat is eased by a third, rear-hinged door on the passenger side. The Clubman also features side-hinged swing-out doors at the back, for easy access to the cargo area. A huge range of styling options allows owners to personalize their cars, and it's a major component of Mini's appeal. The choices cover upholstery style, material and color, exterior graphics, trim pieces and ambient lighting. More functional options range up to high-end features like adaptive Xenon headlights, rear obstacle warning and a navigation system. The basic Minis are reasonably priced, starting just under $20,000. Check too many options, however, and the ticket approaches near-luxury territory, or beyond $40,000.
The most expensive Minis are the high-performance John Cooper Works models. These play on the brand's heritage as a multiple rally and touring-car racing champion in the 1960s, with even more horsepower (208 hp) and ultra-firm suspension tuning.
The current Mini Coopers offer a truly unique combination of high style, driving fun, low operating costs and practicality. All Minis come standard with as much safety equipment as any small car available.
The 2011 Mini Cooper is offered in three variations: a two-door hatchback, called the hardtop, a four-seat convertible, and a slightly longer wagon called the Clubman. All are powered by four-cylinder engines, with a standard 6-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic with Steptronic manual shift control ($1,250) is optional on most.
The Mini Cooper hardtop ($19,400) is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 121 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. It comes with leatherette upholstery, air conditioning, power windows with auto-down, cruise control, remote keyless entry, outside temperature display, a cooled glovebox, rear wiper, 15-inch alloy wheels and AM/FM stereo with a single CD player and six speakers. For 2011, both HD and satellite radio are standard, with a one-year Sirius subscription.
The Cooper S hardtop ($23,000) is powered by a turbocharged version of the 1.6-liter engine, increasing horsepower to 181 and peak torque to 192 lb-ft. The Cooper S also has a firmer suspension, 16-inch wheels and unique exterior details.
The John Cooper Works hardtop ($29,100) is the raciest model of all, with a 208-hp version of the turbocharged engine, an even firmer suspension, larger brakes and 205/45R17 run-flat tires. The JCW models aren't offered with the automatic transmission.
The Mini Cooper convertible ($24,850) is equipped comparably to the base hardtop, except for its power-operated convertible soft top and standard 16-inch wheels. The Cooper S convertible ($27,850) and John Cooper Works convertible ($34,300) approximate corresponding hardtop models in standard equipment and performance.
The Mini Cooper Clubman ($21,100) has a slightly longer wheelbase than the hardtop, with an equal increase in rear seat legroom. It also has a short, third side door on the passenger side for easier access to the rear seat, and swing-out double doors instead of a lift-up hatch in the back. The Clubman is also offered in S ($24,800) and JCW ($31,300) models.
Personalization is a key component of the Mini brand, with an extensive list of factory and dealer installed appearance options that includes include exterior graphics, paint combinations, various chrome baubles and special interior colors, upholstery and trim
Most factory options are grouped in four major packages. The Sport Package ($1,250) includes suspension, wheel/tire and other performance upgrades, as well as competition stripes, depending on the model. The Convenience Package ($1,250) adds rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, a universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror and proximity key. The Premium Package ($1,750) includes a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control and a high-power Harman-Kardon audio upgrade. The Cold Weather Package ($500) adds heated front seats, power folding mirrors and heated washer jets. Many of the items from the various packages are also available as stand-alones options. Other significant stand-alones include a limited-slip differential ($250), xenon headlights ($500), adaptive headlights ($600), Rear Park Distance Control ($500), and navigation ($1,750).
Safety features include dual-stage front impact airbags, front passenger side-impact airbags and full-cabin head protection curtains. The convertible has a pop-up rear rollover bar. Dynamic safety features include Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and full-feature antilock brakes (ABS), with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, and Cornering Brake Control. All models with the manual transmission feature Hill Assist, which activates the brakes when starting on an uphill ascent to prevent the car from rolling back. For 2011, Adaptive Headlights are available for the first time on Minis. This technology allows the headlights to follow the line of upcoming corners for better illumination of the road surface. Rear Park Distance Control obstacle warning is optional.
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