2009 Mini Cooper

This car took us all by surprise. My impression has always been that the Mini is a chick car: cute, nonthreatening, and small, the kind of car you want to paint bright pink and put a set of magnetic eyebrows on above the lights. A VW New Beetle for people with a little style.

Then you get inside. The tach gauge sits above the steering wheel, right where it should be. It moves up and down with the steering column, like the old Porsche 928. The center stack, dominated by the massive round speedo and the other controls, sticks to the retro-cool theme. The buttons and switches scream “Apollo moon landing.” The sport seats (a must have option at $250) hold you in place without squeezing.

The trunk will only hold a small child, or a medium size adult if you take a chainsaw to their limbs. The backseat only works if you don’t have legs, unless you move the front seats way forward. I’m six-one; no one is sitting behind me in this car.

Not that I’d care. This is a driver’s car. Power, while not in Corvette territory, is sporty enough. It’s quick, with a nimble character similar to a go-kart. I used to have a 1971 BMW 2002 that cornered like this, faster than it had any right to. The engineers cranked the fun dial up to eleven ad ripped off the knob. It’s even better than the S-models. The turbos are great, but when they say there’s no lag, they’re being generous. With the base car, lag isn’t even an option.

I’ll take mine in blue, please…


I fastened my seatbelt. The Generalissimo did the same. Our new intern, Zak, sat in back. Maybe sat is too strong a word. Wedged in place is closer.

The Generalissimo put the fob in the slot and pressed the Start button next to it. He jiggled the stick back and forth.

“Let us commence!” he cried.

The front tires spun as he got in the gas and dumped the clutch. We shot out of the lot and onto an access road, cutting off a cop. The lights and sirens came on in our wake.

Zak looked out the rear window. “Is this a bad time to mention I’m holding for someone?”

“Shit,” I breathed. I closed my eyes and went through the list of people who hadn’t posted bail for us yet.

The Generalissimo looked in the mirror. At least, I think he looked in the mirror. Hard to tell with those mirrored aviators on.

“An officer of the law! An opportunity to test my skills!”

“Oh please no,” I said. I double-checked my seatbelt. I was good.


The Mini picked up the pace. The cop kept up; no surprise there. Then we got into the twisty bits along the river. The Mini took the turns with aplomb. The cop fell back.

“Sir,” I said, “we should pull over.”

“And miss the chance to hone my edge? Never!” We got on the freeway, where two other cruisers joined the pursuit. “It’s the Italian Job! But not!”

The Mini slotted into gaps that no one in their right mind would have considered adequate. Then I remembered who was behind the wheel. Then I remembered that he Mini has the wheelbase of a hot dog cart. I looked back. Zak had his head between his knees. Pretty sure he was chanting or praying. Man was I wrong.

“They’re gonna make me pay to clean that up,” I told him.

“Indubitably!” The Generalissimo started playing with the switches. That we were in the middle of a high-speed chase didn’t seem to bother him; that we might miss something on our road test did. He held the toggle above the mirror and both glass sunroof panels tilted up. “Ah! Fresh air! A gentle breeze! A kiss from Mother Nature’s supple lips!” He hit the toggle again and sent the main panel all the way back. The sirens fought the wind noise and his screaming for auditory supremacy. He won.

“Can we pull over now?” I yelled.

“Prison can’t be worse than this,” Zak said. He was green. Not lime, but a pretty shade of forest. He pulled a plastic bag from his trousers.

I looked it over. “Zak, that’s oregano.”



“I know, dude.” He shook his head. “The finest Bolivian green you can buy.”

“The cops aren’t gonna arrest you for holding a dime bag of spaghetti seasoning.”

“Seriously, dude?”

“Pull over, sir.”

He licked his finger and stuck it out the roof. “South-southwest!”

He downshifted, tapped the brakes, and cut off four lanes of traffic to take the off ramp.

Comments are closed.