Wednesday, October 26, 2011
2011 MINI Cooper
The Mini lineup will enter the 2011 model year with an array of visual and equipment upgrades for the Cooper, Cooper convertible, and Clubman. The visual changes include a redesigned front bumper that helps the Mini meet new pedestrian-safety regulations in Europe. The lower grille and new fog-light surrounds have more pronounced, contoured borders. Base (non-S) models feature a new horizontal bar in the lower air inlet, while S models sport prominent (and functional) brake ducts that can be trimmed in chrome. There are five new wheel designs in 15-, 16-, and 17-inch sizes.
The exterior lighting has been revised with new trim rings for the side-marker lights, while black headlight surrounds, like those on the recent Camden anniversary edition, are now optional on all but John Cooper Works models. The brake lights now use LEDs, and the optional xenon headlights now swivel in turns. Reverse lights migrate to the lower bumper.
Updates to the interior will help appease those, like us, who found the Mini’s ergonomics less than friendly. The audio controls have been consolidated under the large center speedometer, and all secondary controls are now finished in matte black rather than silver, as are the steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls.
Of all the ways to describe the Mini Cooper's interior, we doubt anyone would call it boring. The massive center-mounted speedometer is a nod to the original Mini, but in terms of practicality, it comes off as a bit gimmicky. One of our main gripes of previous Minis was the oddly placed stereo control knobs. Fortunately, that has been rectified for 2011 with a slightly more conventional layout.
Despite the Mini Cooper's small size, the front seats are surprisingly spacious. There is no shortage of headroom or legroom and the cabin feels extraordinarily airy. The rear seats, by comparison, are much less accommodating, with a notable lack of legroom. Trunk space is also restrictive, at a very meager 5.7 cubic feet, but folding the rear seats flat increases cargo capacity to a very usable 24 cubes.
The convertible features a tailgate-style trunk opening with an upper package tray that can be raised to allow larger items to fit in the tiny 6-cubic-foot trunk. Unlike most convertibles, the Mini's rear seats can be folded flat to accommodate larger items, but the rollover hoops and soft-top mechanism prevent the loading of bulkier objects. Rear visibility for the convertible is poor with the top down and even worse with the top up.
New optional extras include ambient lighting that can be set to any of 756 colors, and auto-dimming side-view mirrors. A cargo cover for Clubman models is now standard. New audio and navigation systems are available, with the latter using a 6.5-inch LCD screen in the Mini’s central speedometer. With Mini Connected software, iPhone and iPod users will be able to watch videos on the display while the car is parked, or see album cover art while playing music. The screen also will be able to display contact information from a compatible cell phone connected via Bluetooth.
The high-performance John Cooper Works trim gains an extra accent color, Chili Red, for the mirrors and roof. The color is also splashed on interior trim panels and stitching for the steering wheel, shifter, and parking-brake handle. JCW cars also score anthracite-gray gauge faces.
A more functional improvement is new anti-torque steer programming that keeps the wheels pointed forward under hard acceleration. The car does pull to the side far less than in the past, unfortunately, however, MINI has done nothing new to combat that spinning inside tire.
For several years now no mechanical limited slip has been offered on the MINI lineup and the Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) system, essentially an electronic LSD, is engaged only when the DTC is shut completely off. MINI engineers insist it works as well as the real deal, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way and as it stands you’ll get plenty of wheel spin or DSC interference in low gears, when you input lots of steering and throttle. Besides, it would be nice to have the properties of a limited slip without having to turn off all the safety gear. Just because you’re in the mood for a spirited drive it doesn’t mean you’re at the track. Thankfully it’s by no means as unmanageable as the MazdaSpeed3, but it’s hardly ideal.
Even with the added power for 2011, MINI managed to eek out a little extra fuel economy – always a plus. The 6-speed manual now gets 27/36-mpg compared to 26/34-mpg, while automatics see a similar jump rising to 26/34-mpg from 24/32-mpg.
The 2011 Mini Cooper comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine good for 121 hp and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual with hill-start assist is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Mini estimates a manual-equipped hatchback will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds (9.7 seconds with the automatic). EPA-estimated fuel economy is 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined with the manual (27/35/31 convertible) and 28/36/31 with the automatic.
The Cooper S has a turbocharged version of the same engine good for 181 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque (192 lb-ft at full throttle thanks to an overboost function). Mini estimates 0-60 mph acceleration in 6.6 seconds for the manual and 6.8 seconds for the automatic. EPA estimated fuel economy is 27/36/30 with the manual and 26/34/29 with the auto.
The John Cooper Works cranks up the turbo boost to produce 208 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is the only available transmission. Mini estimates a 0-60 time of 6.2 seconds for the hatchback and 6.6 for the convertible. Fuel economy is 25/33/28.
All 2011 Mini Coopers come standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control and front-seat side airbags. Side curtain airbags are standard on the hatchback, while the convertible features pop-up rollover bars and larger front side airbags that extend to head height. Traction control is optional. In Edmunds braking, various Mini Cooper S models with 17-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph between 112 and 115 feet -- excellent results.
The Cooper has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedure. Its 2010 rating (which isn't comparable to the new methodology) was four stars out of five for frontal and side impacts for both driver and passengers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the hatchback its best rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset test, and its second-best score of "Average" in the side-impact and roof-crush tests.