Mini Increases in Size, Performance

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Byline: Arv Voss, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

It may not look like it at first glance, but the newest MINI Hardtop Coupe models - the Cooper and Cooper S, have grown in stature and performance capability. One would be hard pressed to actually note the major differences in the latest MINI iterations without having a previous model alongside for comparison, unless of course, you're an owner of the earlier version, since every body panel is different.

The new MINIs are all-new, complete with new technologies, but they will continue to provide the same driving fun. In reality, they offer even more fun. With an "Opec-Schmopec" attitude, and a "youification" philosophy, the 2007 MINI coupes deliver outstanding fuel economy, while preaching the "Joy of Small".

As a testament to their immense popularity, some 177,000 have been sold to date in the U.S. marketplace since 2002, through a network of 80 dealers, and without any sales incentives.

Design changes are subtly evolutionary as far as the exterior is concerned, and more on the revolutionary side of the spectrum in terms of the interior, which has been completely reworked. The MINI "youification" ideology is supported by the infinite ability to individualize and customize one's personal MINI, with more than 150 trillion possible feature and equipment combinations (yes, I did say trillion).

Both the Mini Cooper and Mini Cooper S are powered by a 1.6 liter, 16-valve OHC, inline four-cylinder engine that sits sideways under the bonnet, driving the front wheels, as did the original. The engine block is now aluminum rather than iron. The Cooper is normally aspirated with a single exhaust on the right while the Cooper S comes with a twin-scroll turbocharger and centered dual exhaust. A Drive-by-wire electronic throttle is featured, replacing mechanical linkage and providing power that is instantaneous with optimal fuel economy and minimal emissions.

The Cooper version produces 118 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 14 pounds-feet of torque at 4,250 rpm, while the Cooper S models crank out 172 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 177 pounds-feet of torque at 1,600-5,000 rpm.

The motors mate to either a Getrag 6-speed manual gearbox or an Aisen 6-speed automatic transmission with Steptronic manual paddle shifters. The auto gearbox allows for manual shifting via the traditional stalk (flicking to the rear shifts up,while forward blips shift down) or by way of steering wheel mounted paddles, with thumb buttons above the spokes facing front for downshifts and levers behind the wheel for upshifts on the left and right sides. A column-mounted tachometer adds a definitive touch to the diminutive ride's sporty mission statement.

The Cooper S trims nearly 3.0 seconds off the 0-60 run of the base Cooper's time which is 9.7 seconds ( the automatic is actually quicker, and will shift automatically even when set in the manual mode). Top speed for the Cooper S automatic is 139 mph (electronically limited). …