- The Washington Times - Friday, November 8, 2002

The last iteration of the classic Mini rolled off the assembly line as a 2000 model, virtually unchanged in terms of the design concept that was last sold in the United States about 35 years ago.
It was, in essence, an "engineered" car, rather than a "styled" car or car by "design," according to Gert Hildebrand, design team head of the new Mini hence its immense popularity and perpetuity.
Enter the new Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S for 2002. Neither is a retro exercise in styling, but rather a modern, up-to-date interpretation of the lovable, cult-status classic. It represents what the Mini might well have become had regular evolutionary changes been put into effect. The Mini Cooper is offered as a fun vehicle to drive, while the more spirited Mini Cooper S is even more fun to drive.
Both the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S are powered by a 1.6-liter, 16-valve, overhead-camshaft, in-line four-cylinder engine that sits sideways under the hood, driving the front wheels, as did the original. The Cooper is normally aspirated with a single exhaust on the right and horsepower measuring 115 and torque rated at 110 foot-pounds.
The Cooper S comes with an intercooled supercharger and centered dual exhaust horses for the S jump to 163 and the torque up to 155 foot-pounds.
In the Cooper, energy finds its way to the front wheels via either a five-speed manual gearbox, or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a lever-mounted six-speed steptronic mode to simulate manual shifting.
The Mini Cooper S gear selections are made through a Getrag six-speed manual transmission.
Steering for all models is electrohydraulic and power-assisted by a separate motor and not the engine, delivering a tight, rapid response and accurate, on-center feel with only 2 turns lock-to-lock. Equal-length drive shafts significantly eliminate torque steer.
A drive-by-wire electronic throttle is featured in both models, replacing mechanical linkage and providing power that is instantaneous with optimal fuel economy and minimal emissions.
The Cooper scoots from 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds with an electronically limited top speed of 124 mph (estimated 115 mph with CVT) while the Cooper S trims 1.6 seconds off the 0-60 run and raises the top speed to 135 mph (electronically limited).
One of the shortest cars on the road in America from bumper to bumper with no overhangs, the diminutive "funster" seats four adults comfortably.
Multilink Sport suspension setups are rear-wheel-drive types despite the car's front-wheel-drive configuration.
A firmer Sport Plus suspension is optionally available on Cooper models and is standard fare for the Cooper S.
In appearance, the new Mini Cooper's form is reminiscent of the original, with short, almost nonexistent, overhangs and boxlike greenhouse with blacked-out pillars so the roof seems to float without support above the glass enclosure.
The new Mini is larger, more streamlined ad features softer contours.
The Cooper sports a smooth hood, has no fog lamps, rides on smaller standard wheels and tires, and rids itself of spent fuel through a single exhaust.
The Cooper S wears special badging, rides on larger wheels and tires, features an integrated hood scoop and fog lamps and belches its exhaust through twin outlets.
The Mini Cooper is a joy to behold and to pilot over challenging roads.
Driving the Mini Cooper S borders on euphoria. Acceleration is brisk, gear changes come smoothly and positively through the six-speed manual transmission.
The handling is nimble and precise, carving effortlessly through twisting curves. Braking is positive and secure, getting the job done in short order.
Experiencing the Mini Cooper is rewarding in its own right, but the Cooper S creates an insurmountable level of lust to own one.
The Cooper S seems well worth the added cost, not to mention the potential longer wait. The exhaust note alone may well be worth the extra bucks.
Add the potency of the blower to the maneuverability and stability provided by the Sport Plus suspension and the Cooper S is a clear winner.
It screams around an autocross course with the agility and responsiveness of a go-kart.
You can spend a good deal of money personalizing your Cooper S with available accessories.
Chances are, you'll enjoy the customizing almost as much as the car itself it's only money, and you only go around once in life.


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