’s Jonny Lieberman took a current 2006 MINI Cooper S out for a quick spin around the block, in preparation for a comparison against the ’07 model:

>Other than sipping cheap wine next to the trio of stunt cars used in the third Austin Powers movie, I’d never had a chance to get up close and personal with a MINI.

>After caning the MINI through California hill and dale, I can proclaim here and now that the MINI Cooper S is indeed the world’s fattest go-cart. The initial turn-in is awesome: tight, accurate and eager. Right until the apex of a turn, the MINI lives up to the hype, steering and responding with the kind of rapid fire, laser-guidedconfidence that makes motorized dinner trays such a kick in the ass. From the turning point on, the go-cart analogy drives straight into the metaphorical tire wall.

[ 2006 MINI Cooper S ] Truth About Cars

MF Analysis: It’s unclear whether Jonny really means “fastest” when he calls the MINI “the world’s _fattest_ go-cart”, but it’s obvious his attention to detail is somewhat lacking. He claims the chrono pack has a boost gauge for the supercharger (it doesn’t), and his nearly-libelous comment that “[while] cute, the MINI is not a track-day option” will likely get him lynched by those who regularly track their MINI (Cooper and S alike).

Maybe it’s because he’s used to driving performance rear-wheel drive cars, but the MINI rocks on the track. Then again, he has been spending a lot of time in trucks, lately. At a recent BMWCCA school, I had no problem getting around the car-shaped obstacles like E46 M3s, Porsches, and the occasional Gallardo. Let the car settle into the corner and then bury your foot into the carpet and it’ll haul out of the turn hard enough to give you whiplash. Get it drifting a bit, and you can induce under- or over-steer with a nudge of the throttle. It’s supremely controllable, and a helluva lot of fun. Especially with the optional limited-slip diff.

Perhaps the interior is a bit brash, but that’s one of it’s defining characteristics, and something I feel is being lost a bit in the ‘07 redesign. The brashness sets it apart from all of the other cars that make you think about nappytime, instead of putting a big grin on your face when you settle behind the wheel. But this car’s really about driving, and if you know what you’re doing, the understeer’s not as bad as he intimates.

But at least he remembered to properly capitalize “MINI”.