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Head to head: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe

Old 12-24-2011, 09:47 AM
50 Watt CAFz'r
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Head to head: 2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe

Graeme Fletcher: There it sat, a blood red thing wearing its grey baseball cap backwards. To say it stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of other cars is an understatement. It is an odd-looking duck, but, boy, does it ever have road presence. Every time I parked the Mini Cooper S Coupé, it elicited a slew of comments/questions. The comments ranged from gushing praise to the unprintable; the questions were varied, but the most frequent was whether or not it was a hardtop convertible. The answer is, sadly, no. It is a two-door hatchback, but that does not detract from its overt charm and ability to wow the driver.

Aside from the Coupé’s ability to roar through a corner without flinching, it is the power at play that makes this car so much fun. It is not super powerful — it has what it needs.

There are precious few cars where the power and platform complement each other. Often, it takes monster tires and an assertive electronic nanny to bring civility to the drive. The Coupé’s motivation is such that the nannies stay quiet, which leaves the driver free to enjoy the drive. The turbocharged 1.6-litre four delivers 181 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque at 1,600 rpm. The use of a twin-scroll turbo not only eliminates any hint of lag off the line, it also gives the driver access to 192-lb-ft of torque when it is most needed. This overboost mode puts some added spring in the throttle response — it takes seven second to sprint to 100 kilometres an hour and 5.6 seconds to accomplish the 80-to-120-km/h passing move. That’s what the clock says. The reality is the Coupé feels so much faster because of the responsive nature of the engine.

On the highway, the engine does run a little quickly (around 3,000 rpm at 120 km/h), but because of the engine’s inherent smoothness it does not come across as loud or stressed. The bonus is, even in sixth gear, the elevated rpm means the Coupé remains responsive to a quick stab at the gas.

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