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Mini Cooper S Review 2005

Welcome to the world of superchargers.

Welcome to the world of superchargers.

Any thoughts that the iconic, born-again Mini is starting to show its age are blown into the roadside weeds a split second after you floor the accelerator.

The updated version of the John Cooper Works Mini S doesn't immediately leap away from a standing start but once the revs are lit, it flies, hitting 100km/h in a claimed 6.6 seconds. And it's usable performance, with fourth gear propelling the Mini from 80km/h to 120km/h in a claimed 5.4 seconds, or 6.7 seconds in fifth gear.

This power delivery and its aural accompaniment are totally addictive. It's also affordable, with the factory-approved John Cooper Works Tuning Kit costing less than $10,000, including fitting. If you are thinking of buying any of the Mini Cooper S models, I urge you to consider it. Your life won't be the same again.

Supercharging a motor to get cheap performance is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It even predates the combustion engine, with the Roots brothers developing a forced induction system to get air into British mine shafts in the early 1880s.

Gottlieb Daimler held a German patent for supercharging in 1885 but forced-air induction had its motoring heyday in the blown Mercedes racers of the 1920s and 1930s. Its biggest application was in high-altitude piston-engined fighter planes in the 1930s and 1940s.

The principles of supercharging and turbocharging are the same. By forcing more air into the combustion chamber, you get a bigger bang and greater thrust.

A supercharger runs via a drive belt fitted to the engine, much like an alternator. A turbocharger runs through a turbine using the engine's exhaust gases. This gives the turbocharger a slight "lag" in power delivery that the supercharger doesn't have.

Supercharging technology takes several forms. Some compress the air charge inside the blower itself before it is delivered to the motor but the Mini runs a Roots-type.

This means the air charge is compressed in the intake manifold and cylinders. The Works kit therefore includes a cylinder head with modified intake and exhaust ports, bigger fuel injection jets, revised engine management system and retuned stainless-steel exhaust. Claimed power output is 154kW at 6950rpm (more than twice the power of the standard, normally aspirated motor) with 245Nm of torque at 4500rpm. Good news for buyers of the earlier kits is that the new go-fast parts are retro-fittable.

The extra performance is unleashed by a new air filter. An electronically controlled valve opens an additional intake duct at higher revs, punching more air into the system. If the whistling whine at full thrust is intoxicating, on deceleration the free-flowing exhaust system emits a wicked series of muted pops and bangs.

To back up the bang the low-slung Mini Cooper S has a limited-slip differential, traction control and ABS brakes. It also has perhaps the most direct steering you'll find on a road car. Comparisons with go-karts spring to mind. On test was the $44,900 Mini Cooper S Cabrio with six-speed manual transmission.

The John Cooper Works Tuning Kit adds another $9850 to that price.

Sports suspension, satellite navigation and leather upholstery were other options fitted.

Approaching five years of production, there must be a replacement Mini in the making. The Cabrio hints at how the distinctive Mini shape can be revised without losing the original's charm.

The soft-top slides back in two actions. The front section can be opened up 40cm while on the move, giving an effect much like a sunroof.

While stopped, the whole roof retracts in 15 seconds for the topless motoring experience.

A drawback is a lack of three-quarter rear vision with the top up. This is redressed in some way with a parking sensor, which could save a lot of money in the car park.

BMW build quality is generally good but I didn't like the clumsy brushed-aluminium finish on the dash. Some drivers will also find the clutch action heavy. This area near the firewall is cramped as are the rear seats.

But this is a driver's car and, with the supercharger whistling and the Mini pinned to a corner, all can be forgiven.

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

(base) 1.6L, ULP, CVT AUTO $4,000 – 6,490 2005 Mini Cooper 2005 (base) Pricing and Specs
Chilli 1.6L, ULP, CVT AUTO $3,400 – 5,500 2005 Mini Cooper 2005 Chilli Pricing and Specs
S 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $5,000 – 7,810 2005 Mini Cooper 2005 S Pricing and Specs
S Chilli 1.6L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $5,500 – 8,580 2005 Mini Cooper 2005 S Chilli Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.