Somehow, some way, they’ve done it. MINI has increased the size and refinement of the car while making it feel more immediate, more fun and more (dare we say it) MINI. Let’s be honest. Since MINI introduced the Countryman and Paceman there’s been a growing concern that they didn’t know how to create something that felt as alive as the R50 or R53. In talking with MINI engineers today, it was clear that they felt they had something to prove. From what I’ve experienced today, they did just that with a MINI that felt more alive in my hands than anything since the R53 — all while feeling every bit as fast as a R56 JCW.
It’s not just that MINI made this new car as good as the R56. From the moment you get on the gas and hit a turn, it’s noticeably better in almost every perceivable way. Yet the star of the show from the driver’s seat has the be the handling, and more specifically the immediacy of the turn-in. The F56 Cooper S feels more eager, and in-turn, closer to the R53 than the R56 ever did.
What about the Cooper? MINI has taken the two models and pulled them apart just a bit more than before. That means the Cooper is now a bit more focused on being comfortable in its base form. Luckily, Sport Suspension remains an option, as does the fantastic variable suspension I sampled today. While it doesn’t quite bring the Cooper to Cooper S levels of handling and feel, it brought a level of fluidity that I appreciated on the mountain roads of Puerto Rico.
Is the F56 perfect? No. Certainly there are some points of contention here and there. Yet after a day driving both the Cooper and Cooper S around Puerto Rico, I can confidently say that from the driver’s seat, MINI has nailed nearly every aspect of this car. Get excited.
Look for our full review tomorrow with a deeper dive into the car, including a full dissection of the driving characteristics.