In March 2002, a modern front-wheel-drive Mini arrived in America under BMW auspices. Minis come in regular Cooper and Cooper S trim levels; the S model holds a higher-powered supercharged four-cylinder.
For 2005, the Cooper S gets an improved six-speed-manual gearbox and gains 5 horsepower; it's now rated at 168 hp. All Minis display a new grille and bumpers and fresh headlights and taillamps. Cooper S models equipped with the manual shift add a limited-slip differential. During the 2005 model year, an automatic transmission featuring paddle shifters became available for the first time on the Cooper S.
Mini continues to offer the John Cooper Works tuning kit, which includes a higher-speed supercharger compressor with coated rotors. For 2005, technical improvements boost the JCW engine's output from the original 200 hp to 207 hp. A Mini Cooper S Convertible went on sale in September 2004 as a 2005 model.
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Designers selected the 1967 Mini Cooper as their starting point in designing the current model. Despite its increased dimensions and more contemporary appearance, the modern Mini reflects the square shape that characterized the original. All four wheels are positioned at the far outside corners. Short overhangs yield a wheelbase that's only about 4 feet shorter than the entire length of the vehicle.
Measuring an inch longer overall than the regular Mini Cooper, the Cooper S comes with standard 16-inch run-flat tires or optional 17-inchers. A sunroof and xenon headlights are optional, and many Minis come with a contrasting-colored roof.
Up to four occupants can fit inside the Cooper S, which provides more interior space than its exterior dimensions suggest. Leatherette upholstery is standard, and cloth or leather is optional. A center-mounted speedometer is reminiscent of the one used in the original Mini, and unless a navigation system is installed, the tachometer sits atop the steering column.
Under the Hood
The supercharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder in the Cooper S now delivers 168 hp and works with a Getrag six-speed-manual gearbox or a new six-speed-automatic transmission. Mini claims the Cooper S can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds. Engine output with the JCW tuning kit grows to 207 hp and 180 pounds-feet of torque.
All-disc antilock brakes and six airbags, including side-impact and side curtain-type devices, are standard. The Dynamic Stability Control electronic stability system is optional.
Fast-moving fun describes the Cooper S. You get tight, quick maneuverability and sizzling performance. These little hatchbacks cling to the pavement as if they're magnetized. Ride quality is less appealing, though the Cooper S's ride seems less harsh than that in a base Cooper with run-flat tires.
Only enthusiasts need to consider the higher-powered Cooper S; its impact is most noticeable at relatively high engine speeds. The Getrag six-speed-manual gearbox in the Cooper S is even sweeter than the Cooper's five-speed manual. Performance with the JCW tuning kit isn't enormously stronger than that of a regular Cooper S, but the extra horsepower comes with little penalty in ride comfort.
Despite very short bottoms, the sport seats are comfortable and supportive. The backseat is quite comfortable and offers abundant headroom; however, legroom is minimal when the front seats are positioned rearward.
Cooper S Convertible
When the Mini Convertible went on sale in September 2004, it became the smallest soft-top model on the U.S. market.
Both supercharged Cooper S and regular Cooper Convertibles are offered. The Mini's fabric top can be rolled back 16 inches to serve as a sunroof. Equipped with a heated glass rear window, the fully insulated top opens in 14 seconds without using any levers. Aluminum roll hoops behind each rear seat feature integrated headrests. Convertibles have a reinforced frame and include side-impact airbags with head protection. Dynamic Stability Control is optional. The drop-down tailgate is fitted with external hinges.
Even more fun can be found in the Cooper S Convertible, which feels a lot like a go-kart. A small tug on the wheel yields instant directional changes. You're kept aware of suspension activities, but the ride isn't bad for run-flat tires.
Compared with a regular Cooper Convertible, the big difference in engine response comes when passing or on upgrades. Exhaust sound is much more noticeable and can hurt sensitive ears. The convertible's sunroof is innovative, but it yields annoying wind noise. Back to top