Hey, I read this on another board and I thought I'd share it. Posted by Miniskinner on the roadfly MINI forum. Enjoy.
Message Title: S impressions after one day in the saddle
Posted by: Miniskinner on 2002-04-28 at 01:07:12
"OK, so maybe I took the car from the little woman. So somebody had to find out what it was like and tell all you who are waiting on your new S.
My first drive was taking the car home. Cathy drove her old 240Z and got home before me, but I kinda went the long way around. The route was on 30-45mph roads and I spent most of the time trying to get used to the layout of things and trying to figure out what gear to be in for a particular section.
The S stalls in 1st gear starts about as easy as the regular Cooper. This is caused by not applying gas before letting out the clutch and the problem is with the driver (me in this case). I am simply not used to the proper throttle responses. But as I drove the car this became second nature. When the car stalls you have to turn the key off to get it to restart which can lead to panic attacks while you figure out how to get the thing relit.
The gas pedal also does not respond as I am used to on a direct linkage setup when the car stalls. Fooling with the pedal is ignored by the car while the rpm falls off and only pushing in the clutch gets it back to idle. Or so it seems. Will get used to this I assume.
So, the first lesson is to drive the wee beastie. Put the gas down and go. About halfway home I got the impression my wife's proposed name of Buzz was a good choice because the car has a buzz in the back end, seemingly from behind the front seats, when the rpm drops below about 2200 in any gear. If I was coming from a typical four cylinder car to this one I probably would not have noticed this, but compared to the inline 6 of our 240Zs the buzz is there. What this does is give you another reason to stick you foot in it. Keep the revs up and no buzz. Drive around at low rpm, buzz, buzz, buzz. Also, to be fair, by the mid point of the second day, the buzz was gone in that I had habituated to it.
The six speed gear box shifts easily. You have to kinda slap the shifter to the left to get reverse but 1,2,3,and 4 are easy to find and use. Fifth and sixth gears are a light push to the right and you probably wont end up in them unless you intend to. However, with six gears, I found myself lost sometimes trying to figure out the best speed/gear/rpm ratio for the road conditions. Just got to practice.
The worst speed seems to be 35mph because the car can be in 2nd or 3rd and you tend to jump between them looking for an optimal setting for following dimwits in SUVs. Above that, the car runs on almost any of the upper gears at most road speeds. You want to go down the interstate in third? You can but why? On the second day I spent some time noting speeds and got the following. 2500 rpm in 5th yields about 50mph. 3000 rpm in 5th yields about 60 mph and 3000 rpm in 6th yields about 70 mph.
I have no feel for blinding acceleration because the break in period recommends staying below 4500 rpm and I have not pushed the car at all. Some people say the S doesn't feel like it is 50 hp stronger than the standard Cooper motor but I think, now, that the two are apples and oranges because of the trannys. The S feels no quicker than the standard car in modest driving but that appears to be because of the gearing. The two cars are very similar in feel as a result but if you pay attention to small things you can tell the S is working with more power. We drove it up a bridge over Biscayne Bay this morning and that extra power was evident on the steep hill. It will also be evident more when the full rpm range is safe.
The S never feels underpowered, just very well balanced. The car we received has the Sport package and I approve highly of the bucket seats and the suspension. The seats have more lateral support than the ones we tried in a regular car and when you throw the car around, they keep you in place. The suspension feels like you are glued to the ground. The 17 inch runflats are Pirelli's and I never got them to slip or slide (no wet driving yet), and little flicks of the steering wheel makes the car twitch around objects in the road without disturbing the path ahead. Can't wait to try it on a more curvy set of roads.
The car does pitch a bit due to the short wheelbase, but much better than the old Mini. Speedbumps can now be driven over without fear, but the S suspension makes you feel these and potholes produce some interesting bumps related to the stiff suspension and stiff body. On most roads,however, the car runs smooth and well. I did note that the tires are noisy on old rough blacktop, the kind that has a gravel texture on top. DOT could use one to tell which roads need repaving.
The brakes are awesome compared to a 30 year old Datsun. You want to stop, you stop. No fade, no pulls, no sounds. You just stop. The car's steering is very quick and takes little wheel turn to make sharp changes in direction. The car has an amazing turning circle and will make it easy to park in tight places.
I got to use the zenon lights a couple of times and while they may blind others, they sure light up the night. Lots of it goes to the sides and you can easily see people and things to the right side of the road. The lights aim themselves as you drive and you can see them doing this when you first turn them on.
The car does not feel like a mini car on the road. The driving posture is upright and you feel like you are in a substantial vehicle. I felt less intimidated passing large panzers in this car than, say, in a Ford Escort. I did not notice any wind effect on the car when on the interstate at 70mph and I did not notice the dreaded "pulls to the left". Nope.
The layout of the S differs a bit over the standard car. For example, the washer resivoir tanks are relocated, as are some of the other filler do-hickeys up front. This is because the intercooler for the supercharger hogs most of the room in front of, and on top of the engine. The scoop feeds directly down into the cooler intake gill. The battery goes in the trunk, under the floor, where the spare tire would be in the regular Cooper. The car has a special fitting up front so you can jump start it without opening the trunk (boot). This is covered over with a cap to keep it safe.
Other differences are covered by others but included twin exhaust outlets, S logos on the side portholes, and Cooper S logo on the right rear of the trunk lid. And the cool roof spoiler.
A few comments on the inside. The hood release pull is on right door post (passenger side). This is frustrating because it is not easy to reach from the drivers seat. A concession to right hand drive perhaps, but it makes it frustrating when you want to show off the engine and have to open both doors. The front cup holders must be made for French portions because you can't get a medium coke from Mickey D's in them. About all that fits is a coke can size container or one of those weenie cups from Starbucks.
The toggle switches must be the most retro part of the car because everyone eventually points to them and makes a comment. Others look at the A/c and radio/CD controls above them and think the car to be complex to learn. Maybe, but the biggest problem is the operating manual for the CD which is a bit vague about some of its functions. We managed with out too much problem to get music up and going. Many of the buttons in the car do more than one thing. Some respond to mutiple pushes and others use small stabs to get one effect and you hold them down for another. Can you program your VCR?
Car seems to be well built but we did find the plastic screen at the lower front scoop to have come loose in the center. It snaps on and two of those "have come adrift" as the Brits might say. Will check them out in the morning. Otherwise everything works as advertised and I am looking forward to the time when the brake in period is up and my wife lets me drive the car again.
Our new liquid yellow S, now known as Buzz Lightspeed, has given one whole day of driving pleasure so far. What more could you ask?"