2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson
2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge


By Paul Williams

Photo Gallery: 2007 Mini Cooper

In my opinion, the two words that best describe the Mini Cooper S are “sports” and “car.” Anyone who’s driven a sports car — especially a very good one — will recognize the characteristics: superb cornering, impeccable balance, powerful and sure braking, and healthy acceleration.

All this while secured in a well-crafted seat, your feet dancing over the stainless steel pedals, your right hand alternately grasping the chunky shifter and the thick, small steering wheel.

So maybe there’s a third word: fun. The sheer performance of the 2008 Cooper S, right off the showroom floor, is a surprise and a delight.

One of the many things that separates this car from its competition (Mazdaspeed3, Volkswagen GTI for two) is the immediacy of the driving experience. Because the wheels are at the extreme four corners of this very small car, your awareness of the car’s location in relation to its surroundings is made all the more acute. An analogy would be the way you can walk rapidly through a crowd – accurately shifting left, right — slowing down, speeding up — without bumping into people around you. The Mini Cooper S is much like that, only faster, while making exciting sounds from its 1.6L engine and sport exhaust.

2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson
2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

However, the sounds are not quite as exciting as those that emanate from the outgoing supercharged engine. The new model’s turbocharger just doesn’t have that exuberant whine as you spin the engine up to 7,000 rpm. But exciting sounds, nonetheless.

While the Mini Cooper S isn’t a rocket in a straight line, it is definitely quick. But going around tight corners it’s downright amazing. The car’s steering is sharp like a go-kart. Believe me, you will have fun in this car every time you deviate from a straight line.

What’s not to like? The new switches, buttons, and rotary controls are fussy and not very intuitive. They’re different than most cars, and that’s okay. But they’re not clever; they’re just fiddly and sometimes inconvenient.

The sound of the door closing. It kind of “clacks” when you shut it. The previous generation did this, too. It think it should “thunk.”

2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson
2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson
2007 Mini Cooper S; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

And you still can’t see the tachometer for the steering wheel rim. Doesn’t matter where you position the wheel, it’s fixed in relation to the tacho’, and blocks the top quarter of the gauge (right where you want to read it!).

Space for rear passengers? Not much. Although if you fold the seat down you can easily fit four 17″ tires on rims back there.

Which is what the Cooper S should ride on, in my opinion, rather than the 16″ wheels/tires on our tester. Maybe a slightly better ride with those, but the handling potential easily exceeds them.

And the overall interior quality is not, I think, up to the standard of the first generation car. A bit more plastic, a bit less detail, a bit less flash.

But all in all, a very cool car. Pretty much unique in its combination of style, performance and brand history. In 25 years time you’ll still see these cars on racetracks.

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