The sunny and tranquil beaches of Puerto Rico and the ultra exclusive Ritz Carlton at Dorado Beach proved to be the ideal backdrop for the launch of The New MINI Cooper Hard Top. The narrow and winding roads of this Caribbean jewel proved to be an exciting proving ground to test out what this engineering marvel had to offer.
Something has to be said about choosing the right car to compliment the personality of its driver and The New MINI is just up my alley. Whimsical, flirty, powerful and fun are some of the personality traits that come to mind when I think of the MINI brand; all of which have been carried over to the new Hardtop.
The MINI Cooper S and the MINI Cooper models have maintained their global appeal while changing with the times and needs of consumers. Subtle and dramatic changes run rampant throughout this little powerhouse on four wheels. While still mini, there has been some growth. Stretching 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 wider and 0.3 inches taller overall with a longer wheelbase, MINI has maintained its cuteness while offering more wiggle room for the driver and passenger. Another more than obvious change of MINI has been the repositioning of the Speedometer. No longer is it squarely placed in the center of the console, it now has been relegated to the left in the ‘traditional’ layout for gauges. I actually liked the ‘thinking-outside-of-the-box’ previous real estate choices.
While the aesthetics of the interior have been shifted, the essence of the forward thinking still prevails. The larger-than-life console houses as plethora of Infotainment options. The central instrument panel is fitted with an ‘Illuminated LED Ring’ that provides feedback on the operations of the infotainment system of the MINI. The Illuminated LED Ring around the outer edge varies from red, to yellow and a cool blue depending on the function. The ‘heads-up’ display is a ’first’ for MINI. Housed just above the steering wheel on the dashboard, this feature gave a wink to its higher priced counterparts.
Keeping your ‘MINI Connected,’ the New MINIs caters to all of the desires of the social-network savvy drivers. Via Droid or iOS, the MINI Connected App links your smartphone to your Twitter, Facebook and foursquare accounts in real time. Powered by the ‘MINI Controller,’ this intuitive feature acts as the central command for functions. Switching between media, phone, radio and navigation, is made somewhat easier with accessibility just north of the center armrest. With a quick flick or tap of the finger, navigating through the infotainment system has been streamlined. The In-car Infotainment system is also very music-lover friendly. Fitted with powerful Harmon Kardon sound system (standard on the S model), the MINI Cooper served as a rolling jukebox. Whether streaming via Bluetooth, USB connectivity, Web Radio or Satellite radio, the right soundtrack is just a ‘pairing’ away and SiriusXM’s ‘The Joint’ served us well.
The customization choices of the new MINI allows for a unique driving experience. The color palate, wheels and rims are bold and filled with myriad of options. Five new colors have been added to the fray with the launch of the New MINI. Choices like Volcano Orange, Iced Chocolate Metallic, Chili Red and accents like white or black bonnet stripes and Chrome Line adornments on the exterior can give a personalized feel. Wheels and rims ranging from 15 to 18 inches including the John Cooper Works, Victory and Cosmos Spokes are sure to create a snazzy profile.
Heading out on our course from the resort town of Dorado Beach to lush countryside of Vega Baja and through Manati and on to Dos Bocas Lake, the first leg in the MINI was exhilarating to say the least. By admission I am no fan of manual transmissions (especially in the hellacious Los Angeles area traffic), so I graciously allowed my driving partner to take the first leg in the MINI Cooper with the 6-Speed manual transmission. Immediately, the smooth transitions via the 3-cylinder, 1.5-liter engine soothed my trepidation.
The German engineering was on display and showed its prowess during the test drive. Relative to the size of the MINI Cooper, it has a large and powerful engine. The TwinPower Turbo technology and fully variable valve timing flexes the muscles of the MINI Cooper did not disappoint while kicking out 134 hp.
Finally behind the wheel and my ‘manual-phobia’ quelled, I was ready to take on the island adventure. With cat-like responsiveness navigating through neighborhoods and villages of this Caribbean enclave, the MINI Cooper was up for the challenge. The impromptu rain showers also allowed for hands on real-time experience for engaging the traction control feature…and a skid-free encounter. Perfect for the two-lane back roads of Puerto Rico, the MINI Cooper seemed to be designed for exploring the beauty of island community.
After a seaside lunch at gorgeous Gasolina Beach Club it was time to get behind the highly coveted S model. Delivering 189 hp with up to 221 ft. lbs. of torque, MINI Cooper S is a beast on the road. While tearing up the road, gas mileage was not sacrificed with the new technology. Offering 40 HWY/MPG on the S, the driving on a more curvaceous route that included highways, the MINI Cooper S showed up and showed out. The 50+ jump in horse power from its before mentioned cousin the S is a great choice for the adrenaline seeking MINI enthusiasts. The automatic proved to be more to my liking, but the paddle-shifters still afforded me the controlled driving experience of the manual. Providing a more intuitive and predictive driving experience, the Driver Assistance System worked via the Navigation system to foresee imminent driving conditions and act accordingly. (Note: The MINI Cooper offered 42 HWY/MPG )
Headed down the palm tree lined roads framed by the Caribbean Sea, the S model fit in perfect with the sexy environment. Just as the weather would change from wind kissed stretches to quick downpours, MINI offers a variety driving options. While Sport offered a firm encounter on the winding roads, the agile ‘go-kart’ mode proved to be the most fun for me.
The free-spirited vibe of MINI Cooper and the S are sure to please even the savviest car lover. Try as you might…The New Mini is destined to make you Happy!
Look out for The New MINI Cooper and S Hardtop to hit dealerships in Spring 2014.