The all electric MINI Cooper SE is perhaps the most important car MINI has released since the R50. While it won’t be a massive volume seller, it is an important test as it points towards an electric future for the MINI brand. But first, what’s it like to drive and simply live with? MINI took the Cooper SE to Vegas (before the COVID outbreak) to find out.
Before we get to the press release, lets talk about how the Cooper SE is doing in the marketplace and our initial experiences with it.
Despite COVID MINI USA has seen overwhelming interest in the new MINI Electric over the past few months, including down payment reservations on more than half of the units allocated for the U.S. market and more than 18,000 hand raisers. Despite the closing of most businesses in the US, the 2020 MINI Cooper SE arrived at U.S. showrooms over the weekend with a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $29,900 plus an additional $850 Destination & Handling fee. And yes, dealerships are still open (typically via appointment only) and deliveries are taking place.
“There is a lot of excitement and buzz around the new MINI Electric from our customers, dealers and our team. We look forward to showing customers around the U.S. how fun it is to drive an affordable, premium EV like the MINI Electric.”Michael Peyton, Vice President, MINI of the Americas
What we loved (among many things) about our time with the Cooper SE, is that it feels so authentically “MINI”. The MINI Cooper SE harkens back to the mission of the very first Mini developed by Sir Alec Issigonis in 1959 – to develop a creative solution for a highly efficient car with a small footprint that was fun to drive, and accessible to the masses. And it feels like a MINI perhaps even more so than the petrol powered Cooper and Cooper S.
So what about Vegas?
Official Release: The Electric MINI Cooper SE Hits Vegas
This is a city with a magic glow where replicas of the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Egyptian pyramids and Venetian canals form backdrops for spectacular hotel and casino buildings. Elvis doubles welcome you on every street corner, and Las Vegas itself can easily take on an otherworldly aspect owing to its location in the middle of the Nevada Desert. The fact is that the imitations of famous sights on Las Vegas Boulevard – familiar to everybody simply as the “Strip” – attract more tourists every year than each of the originals. And there have always been illusionists in the show arenas like David Copperfield, Siegfried & Roy or Hans Klok, who hold a magic attraction for public audiences. In the casino and entertainment metropolis, everything is larger than life and more spectacular than anywhere else. This also applies in the street. Where super-long stretch limousines, exclusive sports cars and pick-ups with muscular engines meld into everyday experiences, only a truly awesome automobile is capable of generating the wow factor. For example, an all-electric small car from the United Kingdom. And it’s a fact: In Las Vegas, the new MINI Cooper SE is a truly exotic machine with high emotional appeal.
Anybody buzzing down the “Strip” in the MINI Electric while generating zero local emissions turns heads in astonishment and gets lots of thumbs-ups. The city’s most famous boulevard is almost seven kilometres long and charts its course from north to south. Lines of hotels with sonorous names like “Venetian”, “Mirage”, “Flamingo”, “Caesars Palace”, “Bellagio”, “MGM Grand”, “New York, New York” or “Luxor” lead the way to the equally famous welcome sign with the immortal words “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” to offer yet another photo opportunity. When cruising down the “Strip”, the fabulous MINI Cooper SE amazes passers-by with snappy but almost soundless bursts of acceleration. The journey from one traffic light to the next represents an ideal opportunity to make use of the two-stage brake energy recovery. Depending on the volume of traffic, each of the two toggle settings has its own distinctive appeal. If you toggle to strong recuperation, the MINI Electric is aggressively decelerated as soon as the driver releases the accelerator pedal. This mode channels a particularly large amount of energy back into the high-voltage battery. In the other mode, the car rolls to a stop at a leisurely pace and with reduced braking action.
When night falls in Las Vegas, the facades, advertising hoardings, direction signs and floodlights form a multicoloured, flashing and dazzling ocean of neon tubes and LED modules. However, the city council of Las Vegas is doing all it can to reduce the consumption of resources. All public buildings now generate their electricity from renewable sources. And charging stations for electric vehicles are easy to find. The MINI Electric recharges its batteries so as to be ready for the outing on the coming day.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, is a famous saying among visitors that promises discretion. But in the era of social-media livestream, it’s pretty much impossible to stop the occasional embarrassing fact being leaked to the outside world. More and more tourists are also keen to explore the attractions in the environs of the city. Just 30 kilometres away from the “Strip”, Red Rock Canyon at sunrise presents a wonderful play of colours on the shimmering rock formations clothed in a red glow.
Soon afterwards it gets really hot. If there happened to be some shadow somewhere on the desert roads, the thermometer would be indicating around 50 degrees Celsius there. Under the burning sun, the temperature is even higher. Any mobile phone battery will soon run out of juice when subjected to these conditions. By contrast, the high-voltage battery of the new MINI Cooper SE remains “cool”. The range is between 235 and 270 kilometres with a fully-charged battery, and it only comes down very gradually. This is made possible by an extremely effective all-in cooling system for the interior and the high-voltage battery. Thanks to highly efficient heat-pump technology, the cooling system runs like a dream into the bargain. It also permits pre-conditioning of the interior. After going hiking at Red Rock Canyon, the driver of the MINI Electric is in for a truly enviable treat because a refreshingly pre-cooled car awaits the driver’s return. The remote app for MINI Connected even allows the pre-conditioning to be activated remotely – provided the all-important smartphone has not lost its charge in the heat.
Another popular excursion takes visitors to the Hoover Dam located around 50 kilometres to the south-east of Las Vegas. The Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge takes Highway 93 across the Colorado River and the canyon it has carved out of the rocks, providing a fascinating view of the monumental dam across the valley. It blocks the river to Lake Mead and supplies Las Vegas with drinking water. 17 turbines also harness the power of the water to generate electricity. Powerful electromagnetic waves occur near the dam as a side effect of the zero-emission energy generation. These waves encourage the development engineers of the BMW Group to divert to the Hoover Dam on their test drives through Death Valley with prototypes of new models, in order to put the ruggedness of the electronic vehicle systems through its paces. Tests like this have significantly improved the electromagnetic shielding over recent decades. As a consequence, the onboard electronics of the MINI Cooper SE remain distinctly unimpressed during the trip over the dam, while the occupants are once again unable to take their eyes off this man-made spectacle.