2008 MINI COOPER S CONVERTIBLE
Used Car - 2008 MINI Cooper S Convertible in Fairfax, Va
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2008 MINI Cooper ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
Sports appeal and fuel efficiency.
The Mini Cooper is fresh from a complete redesign that was launched for the 2007 model year. To meet European environmental and fuel-economy requirements, BMW designed a completely new engine in cooperation with Peugeot. It produces approximately the same horsepower as before: 118 in the Mini Cooper and 172 in the Mini Cooper S. But now a turbocharger in the Cooper S, in place of the old supercharger, delivers 177 pound-feet of torque from 1600 to 5000 rpm, significantly improving the sportier model's performance.
This second-generation version continues to generate smiles on the faces of passersby. That's an impressive feat given the first-generation models have been with us since 2000 and the current version looks very similar.
The Mini Cooper brings smiles to the faces of its drivers because it's a lot of fun to drive. It's also a practical car, with comfortable seats, useful cargo capacity, and an EPA-rated City/Highway 28/37 miles per gallon.
Inside, it's large enough to accommodate all sizes of drivers and front passengers in comfort. The rear seats are actually functional, if not capacious, allowing four adults. With the hatchback and folding rear seats, the car can haul reasonable amounts of gear.
The engine, styling, and the interior were redesigned for 2007, and there have been no further changes for 2008.
BMW offers a large range of styling options, with choices not only in upholstery style, material and color, but also in trim panels, accent panels, and ambient lighting. Check too many options and the Mini's price can rise quickly from economy-entry to near-luxury levels. But all Minis are well equipped for what you pay.
The Mini Cooper's heritage dates back to the late 1950s, when it was conceived by the British Motor Corporation in response to the Suez crisis to provide efficient, bare-bones transportation. It was roomy and comfortable. It was cheap to build, cheap to buy, and cheap to run.
But the Mini's fundamental cuteness lent it a sort of chic. Soon it was adopted by celebrities such as Peter Sellers, who drove one on screen as well as off. Like the U.S. Jeep, the Mini survived multiple corporate mergers and disasters; and by the time production finally ended in the 1990s, its pioneering transverse engine (mounted sideways, rather than longways, to save space) had been imitated by most automakers. The Mini was sporty and fun to drive.
Of some 6 million original Minis, the best-known were the high-performance variants tuned by race-car builder John Cooper. Multiple rally and touring-car championships, including overall wins at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 and '67, assured the Mini Cooper 's reputation as a small but formidable force in motorsports. BMW now owns the Mini, and revived the marque with an all-new car for the 2000 model year. It was redesigned for 2007.
The 2008 Mini Cooper is available as a two-door hatchback called the hardtop, a four-seat convertible, and the convertible, and a longer-wheelbase wagon called the Clubman. Two trim levels are available, the standard Cooper and the higher-performing Cooper S.
Yet while the hardtop is a second-generation car, the convertible is still carried over from the previous generation. So they really are more different than they might at first appear. And we've covered the new Clubman in a separate review.
The Mini Cooper hardtop ($18,050) is powered by a normally aspirated 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated 118 horsepower. It comes standard with air conditioning; AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with six speakers, RDS, and pre-wiring for satellite radio; power windows with auto-down; power locks; remote keyless entry with electronic signal transmitter in place of the ignition key: leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel; six-way adjustable driver's seat; split-folding rear seat; leatherette upholstery; a rear wiper and defogger; and other appointments you'd expect from a more expensive car. Standard wheels are 15-inch alloy with 175/65R15 all-season tires; 16- and 17-inch wheels are optional.
The Mini Cooper S hardtop ($21,200) is equipped with a 172-horsepower turbocharged version of the same engine, stiffer suspension, ASCT traction and stability control, performance exhaust system, and 16-inch alloy wheels with 195/55R16 all-season tires; 17-inch wheels are optional. Exterior design details, including a black grille insert, hood scoop, rear bumper inserts and prominent rear spoiler wing (optional on the Cooper), distinguish the Cooper S from the Cooper.
The Cooper Convertible ($21,950) is powered by the previous-generation conventionally aspirated 1.6-liter four, rated 115 horsepower. The top is fully automatic and features a heated glass rear window, and Park Distance Control is standard. Otherwise standard equipment is similar to the base hardtop.
The Cooper S Convertible ($25,400) runs the old-generation engine supercharged to 168 horsepower; and adds a sport suspension with 16-inch wheels, ASCT traction and stability control, body-color front grille, and other visual cues.
The hardtop and Cooper S convertible come standard with a six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic controls is optional ($1,250). The base convertible comes with a five-speed manual, and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is optional ($1,250). It also features Steptronic control.
Personalization is a big part of the Mini marketing program, and the list of available options is far too long to repeat here, from electronics and amenities to aero kits, stripes, and chrome baubles. An extensive array of alternative trim features is available to customize the interior to personal tastes, in terms of colors, textures and materials.
Option packages include the Sport Package ($1,500) with Sports suspension, 16-inch wheels, stability control, and bonnet stripes; the Convenience Package ($1,500) with rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, and multi-function sports steering wheel; a Cold Weather Package ($500) with heated front seats, power folding mirrors, and heated washer jets; and a Premium Package ($1,500) with a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, and high-fidelity radio. Significant stand-alone options include Sirius satellite radio ($1,000, including a lifetime subscription), two different Bluetooth setups ($500-$1,000), and navigation ($2,000). Many if not most of the items from the various option packages are also available as stand-alones.
Safety features on the hardtop models include six airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Cornering Brake Control. The Brake Assistant on both models detects emergency operation of the brakes, and builds up maximum brake pressure as quickly as possible. Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) is optional ($500) on both models, and Automatic Stability Control plus Traction (ASCT) with on-off control is optional on the Cooper and standard on the Cooper S. Hill Assist start-off assistance is a feature of DSC, activating the brakes when starting on an uphill ascent to prevent the car from rolling back.
Although extensively redesigned for 2007, this second-generation of the modern Mini Cooper is still unmistakably a Mini. Even while updating the car for safety, mechanical, and manufacturing considerations, BMW designers were reluctant to risk messing with a successful formula. Anyone who is not already a Mini owner will have difficulty distinguishing the latest Mini from the old one, unless the two are parked side by side. Nevertheless, though the same chassis has been used, there is not a single exterior panel that is common between the two cars.
The front of the Mini had to be restyled to conform to more rigid European restrictions on exterior panel shapes for pedestrian safety, as well as to adapt to the shape of the new engine.
Then the remainder of the car was restyled as well to better blend with the new front end.
Park two examples side-by-side and you'll see immediately that the headlights of the 2007-08 model are rounder, the hood flatter, the grille more prominent than those on the 2000-06 version. Turn signals are now integrated into the headlight clusters, and bigger foglights (when ordered) are set into a simplified bumper where the turn signals used to be. Around back, wider tail lights and a wider trim strip on the hatch echo the changes up front. The beltline rises faster, too, giving the rear end a more tapered look. In general, the latest Mini seems broader-shouldered and more aggressive than the last, and so departs even further from the narrow and square original. It is a little larger, too, measuring 2.36 inches more in length. But we doubt most modern Mini buyers will mind or even notice.
In any case, close inspection of the exterior shows that in almost all areas, design and execution is upgraded from the 2006 model. One notable example is how the headlamp clusters are now firmly attached the front fenders while fitting through openings in the hood; where in the previous model the headlamps were built into the hood itself.
The redesign of the Mini Cooper for 2007 brought more visible change inside the car than outside. The interior still has a sporty feeling, though now a bit less extreme, with the enlarged round speedometer in the center of the dash (as it was on the original), and the modern convenience of a tachometer mounted on and moving with the tilt-adjustable steering column.
Audio controls have been moved from the center stack into the bottom half of the speedometer dial, and the heating and air conditioning controls have been compressed below it. These changes reduce the width of the center stack, which increases knee and leg room in the foot wells, answering a common complaint against the previous model.
For a car that has the smallest exterior of any four-passenger vehicle on the road, the Mini is surprisingly spacious inside. Even a six-foot, five-inch driver will be comfortable in the front seat; and the three manual levers, controlling height, rake, and front-rear position, allow both driver and passenger to find a comfortable position.
We found the seats comfortable for long-distance driving. The driving position is excellent. The few changes that were made to the seats for 2007, improving the shape and position of the bolsters, have only improved these characteristics.
Upholstery and trim was upgraded for 2007, as well, and the range of customizing possibilities expanded. At the one extreme, by electing sport seats with leather and contrasting cloth trim, along with metal accents and ambient lighting, the buyer can create a very trendy, fast-and-furious interior look. At the other extreme, by opting for very-English leather seats with contrasting piping, trim panels matching the piping color, and real wood accents, a more conservative buyer can evoke an upscale, almost Rolls-Royce appearance in the interior.
Heating and air-conditioning controls in the base model are straight-forward, but owners can also select the automatic climate control system, cleverly configured in the shape of the winged Mini logo, which maintains a constant temperature dialed in by the occupants.
The audio controls, now built into the speedometer dial, are almost too clever for their own good, sacrificing ease of use for design symmetry. For example, though the tuning knob is in the audio cluster, the volume knob is placed below the speedometer in the center stack, closer to the HVAC controls than to the audio controls.
External music systems such as an MP3 player can be connected to the audio system. A specific adapter for an Apple iPod is also available, and a Sirius satellite radio receiver is available as well, and its price includes a lifetime subscription. However, the integrated design of the audio controls in the speedometer dial will make it nearly impossible to fit any aftermarket sound system.
Cosmetically, the audio and HVAC controls are one feature that nearly every reviewer has criticized. Made obviously of plastic, with a matte-gray in finish, the controls could be described as refugees from a Buzz Lightyear remote control system. With their prominent positioning, they detract from the otherwise high-quality interior appointments.
A navigation system is optional, and if selected, replaces the central speedometer with a round screen of the same size, which has a central rectangular display screen surrounded by a digitally generated needle indicating vehicle speed around the perimeter.
BMW has carried forward from the previous model chrome toggle switches that look like something out of an aircraft or racecar cockpit. Positioned at the base of the center stack, these switches control the windows, auxiliary lights, and DSC system. Based on their positive acceptance in the previous model, the designers have duplicated them in a second panel of toggle switches above the center of the windshield to control interior lights and the sunroof, if fitted.
The toggles and other switch gear in the cockpit, and especially the light and turn signal stalks, have benefited from the BMW touch in the latest Mini, and are more pleasing to look at and offer a much more satisfying feel in use than before.
Though the rear seat wouldn't ever be considered comfortable for adults, and the access to it anything but convenient, changes in the contours of the rear seats have added about an inch of rear legroom, so that even adults can endure short rides back there.
With the large rear hatch, and separate folding rear seatbacks, the Mini is quite flexible in configuration, though its overall size limits luggage space with the rear seats up to a airline roll-aboard and a brief case. With the rear seats down, 24 cubic feet of cargo can be loaded aboard, more than enough for two passengers on a two-week trip, as we proved this summer.
Driving one for the first time on the technically challenging racetrack at Zandvoort in the Netherlands, and then on the streets and highways around Barcelona, we found the latest Mini sporting and comfortable at the same time. Changes in the suspension, the increased torque of the engine, and the new electromechanically assisted steering have made the Mini easier and safer to drive fast. But the satisfying responsiveness of the previous-generation model is no longer an obvious trait.
The new engine is the major and most obvious change. To meet increasingly stringent European environmental regulations, which now focus on both mileage and CO2 emissions, the Tritec engine that had been jointly developed by Chrysler and Rover for the first-generation new Mini had to be replaced. Development of the new engine was jointly funded by Peugeot and BMW, with BMW doing the engineering design and Peugeot seeing to manufacturing considerations. Engines installed in Minis are manufactured in the BMW Hams Hall engine plant in England.
In base tune the new engine has the same capacity and produces approximately the same horsepower and torque as the previous engine. However, with BMW Valvetronic variable-valve-timing technology the new engine rates 28/37 mpg City/Highway in EPA estimates. And according to European testing, CO2 emissions are significantly reduced.
In Cooper S turbocharged trim with direct fuel injection, the new engine delivers very sporting performance. Its 172 horsepower is more than adequate in the lightweight Mini to generate speeds twice most legal limits, but the 177 pound-feet of torque, which can be over-boosted to 190 pound-feet for short intervals, and is available from 1700 rpm to 5000 rpm, is nothing short of marvelous. A sport button yields quicker response from accelerator and steering.
The turbo engine takes the Mini from 0 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds, reflecting a slight turbo hesitation at the start, but producing satisfying acceleration at all speeds once in motion. Even on the track at Zandvoort, with its frequent elevation changes and notoriously tight hairpin corners, the car turned its fastest laps with the transmission left in third gear. And even with that performance, the turbo with manual transmission is still EPA-rated at 26 mpg urban and 34 mpg highway.
The Cooper S comes standard with a sport-tuned suspension, but its behavior is still much more refined than other cars capable of similar track speeds. Using the MacPherson Strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension adapted from the BMW Z4, the car is flat and stable in corners, and absorbs most bumps without discomforting passengers.
Though this model still has the same short wheelbase as its predecessor, and the same tight turning radius, BMW has retuned the suspension to reduce its oversteer potential so that even with radical changes in throttle or brakes in the middle of corners, the car never feels at risk of spinning out.
This feeling of composure has been heightened through the programming of the electromechanically assisted steering, which uses an electric motor, instead of hydraulics, to alter and enhance driver steering input. Because the steering is still mechanically connected to the front wheels, this system can't be called 'drive-by-wire,' and the driver still has a feel for the road and the car's changing cornering force can be felt through the wheel.
However, in addition to its variable-ratio rack, the system can alter the steering effort required to make directional changes. This is most apparent in tight, slow parking lot maneuvers where very little effort or wheel motion is needed to make large changes in direction. In comparison, at highway speeds larger changes in the wheel result in smaller and less sensitive directional changes.
One advantage of electronically assisted steering is that input/output ratios can be changed during the course of a turn, not just varying with vehicle speed. In the Mini, this means that the initial turn-in is cushioned slightly, so the car doesn't feel as go-kart twitchy as the previous model, but once a constant turning radius is established, it takes almost no effort to maintain the turn, regardless of speed.
Both the Cooper and Cooper S rely on the same four-wheel-disc brake system.
Since its introduction as a 2002 model, the Mini Cooper has offered a satisfying combination of peppy performance, distinctive bulldog appearance, and a wide variety of trim and color options at a very reasonable price. Though significantly re-engineered to meet environmental standards (and BMW's own), the most recent versions haven't changed this success formula, but simply improved on it.
Gary Anderson filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from Amsterdam, with Barry Brazier in Barcelona, and John F. Katz in Pennsylvania.
Mini Cooper hardtop ($18,050); Cooper S hardtop ($21,200); Cooper convertible ($21,950); Cooper S convertible ($25,400).
Options As Tested
Premium Package ($1,500) includes panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, high-fidelity radio; Convenience Package ($1,500) includes rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, Bluetooth, multi-function sports steering wheel; bi-xenon headlights ($500); Park Distance Control ($500); leather upholstery ($1,500); chrome line interior ($250) and exterior ($250) kits; 17-inch Crown Spoke wheels ($750).
Mini Cooper S hardtop ($21,200).The MINI Cooper S provides a satisfying combination of fun-to-drive performance, a distinctive bulldog appearance, and custom ordering of a variety of trim and color options at a very reasonable price. The front-wheel drive Cooper S is available in either a two-door hatchback or a two-door soft-top convertible bodystyle. The hatchback was redesigned for the 2007 model year, which gave it an all-new turbocharged 1.6-liter 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine capable of 172-hp and mated to a six-speed manual transmission or optional six-speed automatic. The convertible soldiers on unchanged since its release in 2005 with a 168-hp supercharged 1.6-liter engine bolted to either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Standard safety features include six airbags on the hatchback, four on the convertible, ABS, run-flat tires, traction control and stability control on the convertible. Features such as Xenon headlights, Park Distance Control, stability control (hatchback), rain sensing wipers and front and rear fog lights are optional. The 2008 MINI Cooper S's are a carryover from 2007.