Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2010 Mini Cooper

I came across a trivia question recently that asked how many people raising a ruckus constituted a riot. For the record, the answer was three (and I got it wrong), but I’d like to suggest an alternative definition anyway: one person, driving a Mini Cooper S.

It’s not that the car incites violence, far from it. Rather, it’s the way this car can seemingly transform a normally relaxed driver like me into a heavy-foot hooligan. Where I’m often happy to toodle along in traffic, following the pace set by the other drivers, in the Cooper S I’m on a constant quest to get to the front of the line and find an open stretch of road. And while I normally drive gently to keep fuel consumption low, the Cooper S prompts me to throw concerns of combustion costs out the window and take every opportunity to wind the car’s little turbo mill to its redline.

The “new” Mini debuted as a 2002 model, powered by a 1.6-litre engine whose power output was boosted with a supercharger in Cooper S models. In 2007, the Cooper’s styling was tweaked gently, but more important was an all-new engine, also displacing 1.6-litres but offering both more power and lower fuel consumption. The old Cooper S’ supercharger was replaced with an exhaust-driven turbo that helped generate more torque low in the rev range for improved low-speed performance.

Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

Here’s another piece of trivia: the Mini brand marks its 50th anniversary this year, so BMW is naturally playing up that half century of history with a pair of special editions that represent the only notable changes to the Mini Cooper for 2010: the Mini 50 Mayfair Cooper, and the car you see here, the Mini 50 Camden Cooper.

The Camden package adds $4,500 to the Cooper S’ base price of $29,900, for a starting MSRP of $34,400. For the extra dough, the 50 Camden gets “bonnet” graphics and a choice of three paint colours (my tester wore White Silver Metallic), plus functional extras that include auto-dimming interior mirror, bi-Xenon headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels with run-flat tires, a two-panel glass sunroof, eight-speaker stereo, heated front seats, MediaConnect Bluetooth and MP3 player connection, automatic wipers and headlights. As a package, it’s a pretty good value: selecting the included options individually would cost a couple thousand bucks more. If you like a sunroof, this one is among my favourites: it’s a two-panel affair where both panes tilt open, though only the front piece slides back.

Another unique feature included in the Camden package is Mission Control, which lends voices to the warnings normally communicated through illuminated icons. Three British-accented characters keep you up to date on the state of the engine, climate control and overall vehicle. It’s fun for about a half-hour and proved a cute party trick with friends along for the ride, but otherwise gets annoying. Mini thought of this, thankfully, and included an on/off switch that’s tucked away behind the dash panel above the glove box.

Aside from the commemorative packages, the Mini Cooper remains unchanged for 2010. This includes the driving experience, which needed no improvement anyway: for driving thrills, few cars come close to matching the Cooper’s fun factor for the price.

Test Drive: 2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden car test drives mini luxury cars
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

The turbo engine generates low-end torque uncharacteristic for a small-displacement engine – 177 lb-ft from 1,600 rpm, plus an “overboost” function that provides up to 192 lb-ft for short periods – with good power on tap from 2,000 rpm. Turbo lag – the delay some turbocharged engines exhibit between throttle application and actual acceleration – is non-existent, and the motor’s 172 horses charge hard all the way to the 6,500 rpm redline. If the engine promotes speed-demonism, the transmission is unabashedly complicit. The six-speed shifter moves easily through its gates (though it doesn’t transmit as much mechanical feel as I like in a sports car) and the clutch is just about perfect, with excellent pedal feel that makes it a cinch to shift smoothly. This is one easy car to drive and would be a great one to learn stickshift in. Interestingly, this Cooper S displayed none of the jumpy throttle tendency that was my main annoyance in a base, non-turbo Cooper I tested last year.

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