Send a message to our troups
Operation Dear Abby gives you a chance to thank the brave men and women of our military. Agree or disagree with why they are in harms way, they need to know we appreciate them.

'05 MINI

I wanted a MINI from the time I first saw the production cars at the Washington Auto Show. They were far cooler than the magazine pictures. The details in the interior were overly stylized but they hit the right buttons for me. In April of 2007 I finally couldn't resist scratching that itch any longer. I saw a grey 2006 Cooper S on a local car lot on my way to get some minor surgery. By the time I healed enough for a test drive, the car was sold. Shortly afterward I found this blue one on Craig's List. The original owner is a MINI fanatic with another John Cooper Works Edition '05 in his garage. The condition and equipment on this car made it a must have.


The MINI is a BMW product. The Tritec engine is the link between Chrysler and MINI. It was originally a joint venture between Rover and Chrysler. Then Daimler bought Chrysler and Rover Group parent BMW had second thoughts about the relationship. Both BMW and Daimler were not crazy about the Tritec and eventually the whole mess was sold to Fiat.

The original Mini was a model for Austin and Morris before becoming a marque in it's own right. When BMW launched an all new car, the name was updated to MINI.



Let me make it clear up front. The MINI is not for everyone. The Cooper S is heavy and the blown Tritech engine is thirsty for premium fuel. The car has questionable ergonomics and aerodynamics. It can be uncomfortable on long drives and the switch gear never becomes familiar. The dash and sun roof rattle from the too stiff suspension. There is no place inside to store or carry much. People think of it as a secretary's car and it gets no respect.


So why buy one? There is not a better back road burner at any price. It will hang on through corners beyond what is prudent on the street. The suspension makes it easy to carve corners. Mid corner bumps do little to disturb cornering. The car is generally neutral with a slight bias toward understeer but it is easy to provoke controllable tail rotation. You have the choice of trail braking or a slow entry with a blast of speed on corner exit. The stability control is fairly optimistic that your competent enough to not end up in a ditch but it does a nice job of making the tail controllable and saves your bacon if you do incredibly stupid things. I have never driven a front wheel drive car that is so eager to rotate. The brakes and gear box conspire to making it easy to be in the correct gear for the engine to have boost.

For a car of this size, the Cooper S disappoints in economy. It is possible to get over 30 MPG over a tank of fuel but it requires a bit of restraint. Then again, if you were primarily interested in economy, you would buy the base model and forego the S. The Cooper S is not a muscle car but it does produce enough bottom end torque to make short work of on ramps. A ton of midrange power makes passing easy.


The Tritec might be a crude engine but it makes great power when you need it. It is almost effortless to be in the engine's power band. The engine can make power up high but it is an unsteady climb. There is a point where the throttle meets resistance and you are aware of the additional effort required to continue accelerating. This is annoying on the highway but it comes in handy on back roads where it prevents you from unwittingly hitting triple digit speeds. The new engine uses a turbo instead of the Eaton supercharger. I think the turbo is a better choice in this application. The blower creates heat and delivers a lot of boost at low RPM. It just seems that it contributes to the engine's reluctance to rev compared to the base engine. Still, when the boost comes up the engine feels like it will never run out of power. The roots of this engine can probably be traced to a tractor, but I don't care. It is addictive.


The car is built like a Swiss watch. This contributes to its heft. The structure is extremely rigid. This probably causes the rattles in the dash and sunroof. The interior is beautifully finished. Mine has an interesting paint effect on the plastic trim and the sport gauges. It all works well except the speedometer is not large enough and the numbers are hard to read with large gaps between them. The interior is fairly comfortable once you are inside. Getting there is tough. I'm 6'1 and 220 pounds. I would expect that anyone over about 5'10'' would find it hard to get in and out. It is hard to see traffic lights as well. The back seat is useless for passengers.

If you are interested in Challengers, Mopars, or cars in general, check out Mopedia, Virtual Garage, and Obsolete Automobile Rescue League.