2014 MINI Cooper S - Dreamsicle Corkscrew Shrieks - Review

Roller coaster riders raise arms high and shriek out in anticipation of that violent oncoming rush of air, combating nausea in the process.

In the same spirit, "Drive...He Said" set out to see if the all-new 2014 MINI Cooper S, still yells out to all roadway "Italian Jobbers."

Makes New Bones About It:

The third generation (F56) of classic British front drive, transverse drivetrain 2+2 subcompact "hot hatchback" is the first to wear BMW's new UKL bones. The modular Unter-Klasse skeleton eventually will underpin 12 upcoming front and all-wheel drive Mini and BMW models.

Intense scrutiny reveals styling revisions, prominent on "S" versions of the 2014 MINI Cooper S hardtop, include a deeper front airdam, slightly broader grille, split roof spoiler and lower rear diffuser.  Halo-effect "angel eye"headlamp rings show the visual kinship to Bavaria.

Previous R56  generation MINI Cooper owners might notice a 2"-inch x 3" -inch width x length stretch to the new MINI. Folding and sliding the front buckets fore reveals growth from puny to small. (For 2015, a MINI Cooper "5 door", is sure to be a baguette's dream.)

Front-drive BMW preview:

- Gains in wheelbase, wheel travel, boosted electrified steering assist, and more languid brake pedal reaction has eradicated some of the the R56 (last) MINI Cooper's flintiness. Our Cooper S' optional Dynamic Damping was supposed to soften the choppiness. Instead, optional 18" wheels, rolling on low-profile Dunlop summer run-flats, frequently exhibited "Flintstone-mobile" give. If the MINI Cooper S feels any duller [credit 150 lbs], it doesn't have to be wrung out as hard. At play time, stability control can be set to rarely interfere with throttle modulated understeer.

- Word has it that the new base turbocharged direct injected 1.3 liter inline-3 cylinder mill is a "shocker" in terms of low end grunt. Our "S" model's blown 2.0L direct-injected inline-4 powerplant gains in mostly longer-stroke displacement. It blasts out a big chunk of a robust 207 pound-feet of spin as low as 1250 rpm.

- Light clutch take-up, and a flat-sided golf-ball shift knob with direct throws, part of the 6-speed manual transmission wish to be whipped around the way Riccardo Muti flogs his baton. Widely-spaced ratios favor the fuel consumption, but the 2.0L turbo doesn't oft get caught napping.  Well, once, the otherwise seamless stop/start fuel-conservation choked. Sport throttle mode buys a few hundred rpm in throttle sending the MINI into a frenzy.

In search of a means to bestow upon the MINI Cooper S powerplant some thrilling aural proclamation we toyed with the idea of recording a FIAT 500 Abarth soundtrack for playback on the impressive Harman Kardan hi-fi.

Retro Becoming Easier To Live With:

The F56 MINI Cooper S moves power window and door locks switches to the doors. Motorcycle-style budding analog speedometer and tach dials sit on the steering column. The implication is that for any tilt/ telescope adjustment, the gauges are never blocked by the wheel rim.

Manually adjusting sport front buckets, optionally clad in leather, fit more body types than the Ford Fiesta ST's  Boa-squeeze Recaros. Pedals set at differing heights are less heel-to-toe acclimated. Could it be we were just spoiled by the Fiesta ST's aluminum pedal covers?

Opt for HDD navigation and the center stack dinner plate circular housing is still consumed by a rectangular 8.8"-inch LCD split infotainment screen. A 9/10ths version of BMW's I-Drive rotary center dial replaces the 2/10ths glue caps for screen scrolling. Various climate or audio or drive mode selections make the outer LED ring do a mean Rock-Ola.

Purists would be pleased that this MINI is still ruled by circular shapes and the ergonomic challenge of gated toggle switches. A new addition on the center stack glows and dims Ignition in red. Some surfaces are soft, but quite a few remain hard. Simulated carbon fiber spanning the dash is convincing. Door panel and, center console storage are still meager, but now there are upper & lower glove boxes.

Build level comes off rather solid for this segment. Yet at motorway speeds, the rumble of tires and torrent of wind noise, product of an upright windshield and Dumbo-sized wing mirrors, are inescapable.

Apps Fruit Biased:

MINI Connected Drive voice-to-text SMS, email, and pictorial user manual tutorials are ripped from the BMW catalog.

But for data device based infotainment, MINI Connect favors Apple I OS. FIRST: a dedicated plug-in caddy in the front-center armrest. SECOND: compatibility ranges from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to Pandora to Go-Pro multi-camera control.

Running telematics requires tethering via a USB port.

Unforutnate Android [ about 70% of data phone] users get and extremely watered down version good for Facebook, a Calendar and BMW Motorsport News.


10 million dizzying permutations and potentially $10,000 for optioning the 2014 MINI Cooper S means you shouldn't encounter another MINI quite like yours. No FIAT 500 Abarth is as unique. The stunning Volcanic Orange finish on our tester: no cost. Useful to more, less quirky but quicker than ever, and, quite possibly, the most fully baked hot hatch available on our shores, the new MINI Cooper S is the right Dreamsicle for corkscrew shrieks.

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