MTTS 2022 is underway and we had a front seat as the event kicked-off in Burlington Vermont this weekend. The event is back after a four year, COVID related delay and it seems like it hasn’t missed a beat. The numbers were huge, even from the start. And more interesting the numbers point to a broadening appeal of MINI’s largest event.
By the time MTTS is over, the biennial rally will cover more than 1,700 miles as it winds its way from Vermont to South Carolina on state and county roads, stopping in eight cities along the way.
As always the rally is also focused on giving back raising money for Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the euthanizing of dogs and cats in American animal shelters by 2025. A portion of each MTTS participant’s registration fee is donated to Best Friends Animal Society, and MINI USA will be hosting an adoption event at in Greenville, South Carolina, along with Century MINI, Greenville County Animal Care, and Greenville Humane Society. MINI owners, friends and family can also donate to Best Friends on behalf of MINI TAKES THE STATES at this link or by clicking the “Fundraise Now’ button on MINITAKESTHESTATES.com.
The kickoff also marks the debut of the MINI Motoring Club of America (MMCA), a new national MINI car club for MINI owners and enthusiasts open to MINI owners from across the country. Will it survive let alone actually launch? Given that it’s been tried pretty seriously once before we’re not sure yet. But we’re rooting for them.
55%. That’s how many first timers registered for MTTS this year. And even more interestingly about 15% of attendees have recently bought their first MINI. While the numbers are down slightly from 2018, these data-points indicate MTTS is evolving in healthy ways for the brand.
The event itself follows the same structure that we saw in 2018 which is massive morning rallies followed by loosely organized drives focused on great roads and interesting parts of the US. It’s all incredibly well run but we’d love to see at least one or two days where there’s a swap, focusing on evening events and smaller morning rallies.
In 2018, 3,600 MINI owners took part in a Rally to the Rockies which ran for over 5,000 miles through 15 cities and 14 states. Two groups drove on two separate routes for a three-day festival of all things MINI.
This smaller scale MTTS will see over 2,000 MINI owners with over 600 MINIs participate in total. But what’s really amazing is that almost 1,000 of them will be going the entire way.
Our goal was get back to MINI’s core and only drive the smaller cars. With that in mind we traded off between a 2023 MINI Cooper S Resolute Edition and a 2023 JCW Hatch – both manuals. We’ve reviewed both of these cars many times over the years so we’ll get right to some observations that seem relevant in 2022. For one driving a smaller MINI coming from. Countryman is a revelation. At just 2,936 lbs, you forget just how light a stock Cooper S is. Coupled with a quick steering rack and plenty of power, it’s immediately engaging. But it’s the manual that really makes this car feel special.
No it’s not the best manual in the world but there’s something so immediately rewarding to rowing your own gears and interacting with a car in this way. While we are looking forward to more electric MINIs, this experience will be seriously missed.
The JCW was all of this turned up to 10 – not 11. And that’s key here because the 228 hp and 236lb ft feels perfectly suited for this chassis. Our car was also equipped with the new suspension. Wirth the 2021 refresh MINI eliminated the electronic adaptive dampers and replaced them with what they call Intelligent Adaptive Suspension. It’s a simplified approach to providing the best of both worlds that initially reads a bit like cost cutting on paper. We know it works with a passive frequency selective set-up that opens a valve in each damper 50 milliseconds at a time to change damping by up to 50% during the largest wheel impacts.
How does it feel? There’s a touch more compliance over bumps but without the downsides of a more soft spring suspension around corners. The added comfort over bumps doesn’t impact performance and was always predictable in a hyperactive way that MINIs can be. In some ways it reminded more of us of classic Minis which had body roll designed into the cone suspension that never detracted from outright performance. For the driving we were doing (mostly backroads) it was perfectly suited.
The MTTS Experience
Up early, lots of coffee, incredible roads, hotel nap, up late with friends, repeat. That’s MTTS in a nutshell. It’s an incredible times with friends you do and don’t know surrounded by cars you love. And through it all is MINI USA providing an incredible experience which must be a logistical nightmare.
The three days we attended gave us a broad view of the type of places MTTS visits. From remote and picturesque to weird and beautiful it’s one of the better ways to see this country. If we had one critique is was that MINI has focused on the morning meet-up as the only official programing for the event (except for the final night). While we appreciate the flexibility we can’t help but wonder if adding a couple of evening activities (even if it means reducing the morning events) might bring some nice variety.
MTTS has grown into a massive traveling MINI festival without losing what made it so endearing over 15 years ago. In our three days on the trip MTTS felt like a well oiled machine. No small feat given that the task has now grown to bringing 1,000s of MINIs across the country. And MINIUSA has designed each stop and route in a smart way to allow for plenty of deviation from the official plan. If you want to participate in the official route and app-base activities you can. If you’d prefer smaller groups you can easily break away and loosely follow the routes and make MTTS what you want.
There’s nothing quite like MTTS when you think about what other brands offer customers. MINI USA deserves tremendous kudos for putting on such a welcoming and fun event. MTTS 2022 was free from the queues we’ve seen in 2016 and 2018 and felt comfortable even on the busiest days. The careful planning allowed us to focus on the people, the cars and the drive. What could be better?