Archive for December 2019

2019 Mini Cooper S

Traditional MINI colors: British Racing Green body + Pepper White roof & mirror caps

When the MINI Cooper came back to North America in 2002, it offered driving excitement and British design elements together. Since then, it has matured a lot, but it still keeps its basic design features in 2019. Small size, boxy body lines, contrasting roof, big LED round headlights are the main features which every people can recognize it from miles away.

Dual exhaust tips located in the center is the most distinctive design feature of the rear side.

Although BMW decided to go with different body types of MINIs, this is the original design dates back to 1960s. Yes, it should still be considered as a hot-hatch in our book. This MINI still feels like go-kart which differentiates it from the others while still having BMW features and tech. The S badge makes it the sportier edition.

Although it was born in Germany, it still has British genes.

To be honest, there are not many things changed in the interior lately. If you are a MINI fan, you know this interior already. The big infotainment screen placed right in the middle, gauge cluster is fixed to the steering column, infotainment controls located in a very inconvenient location where your armrest gets in the way, and a handbrake which is placed right beside the infotainment buttons and you always end up pressing infotainment buttons while you are trying it to pull the handbrake. The priority of MINI is more of the looks than being functional, and we totally get it.

MINI infotainment system is easy to use, and looks that it is designed for young people.
Every time you try to pull the handbrake, you “accidentally” push the infotainment knob, which sometimes can be annoying.

Although it is made in Germany, it is harder to find the typical BMW interior quality as there are semi-hard touch plastics all around the cabin. It is still better than the competition, but if you are looking for high-quality materials or craftsmanship, MINI may not be the best option for you.

Typical MINI interior. Big infotainment system located in the center of the dash, gauges fixed to the steering column, and small windshield.

MINI is trying to be “Mini”, and you will immediately feel that there is no rear legroom or cargo space in MINI Cooper. The front legroom and headroom is not bad. Considering its small dimensions and its driver-focused design, this should not be an important problem for potential buyers.

If you are big guy, rear seats can only be used for carrying items.
Unless you fold down the rear seats, we doubt that it can take anything more than a backpack, but who cares? It’s a MINI.

Engine and Drivetrain

2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine produces 189 horsepower.

2019 Cooper S has still the same drivetrain, nothing really changed. 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine produces 189 horsepower and 207 ft/lb torque which BMW also uses. You can adjust the torque curve by choosing different driving modes, and we really like the Sport mode as it allows the most torque down low RPMs which makes it super fun and agile in the city. It also comes with 6-speed Steptronic transmission which shifts pretty quickly and smoothly. However, we are hoping that BMW offers paddle shifters as this is still a sporty hatchback, it definitely deserves it for sporty driving. In 2020 models, BMW ditched the 6-speed Steptronic transmission and changed it with a 7-speed Dual Clutch transmission which is more suitable for sporty driving.

It’s Canada. Winters are messy, and hard for us to keep the car clean for a photoshoot.

Another thing that BMW should offer at least as an option with Cooper S is it also doesn’t come with limited-slip differential but stability control system mimics the limited-slip by applying the brake to the inner wheel when you are cornering. However, if you completely disable the traction and stability control, it also stops applying brakes which means you are on your own with an open diff front-wheel drive hatchback, which is not the ideal combination.

Driving Impressions

Speaking of cornering, this is one of the best parts about owning a Cooper S. It handles really well, despite having no limited-slip differential. Although it is a front-wheel drive, due to its short wheelbase, the car is always tail-happy at the limit, and understeers less than a regular front-wheel-drive car. The suspension is tuned on the stiffer side, which is good for sporty driving but not the best if you daily drive it as you have to be careful with the potholes. The steering feel is on the heavier side as well, it can get softer by switching comfort or eco mode, which I felt more natural when it was softer. Unfortunately, you cannot customize your selections, so you have to go either Sport mode for best low-mid range torque usability and best throttle response or Comfort mode for the best steering feeling but then you have to deal with delayed throttle response.

The seats are comfortable and bolstered well.

Many people would want to stay either in Comfort and Sport mode depending on their driving circumstances in a sporty hatchback and this is totally understandable. However, BMW offers an interesting quirk with MINI. In Eco mode, MINI allows you to coast when you go downhill. Normally if you go downhill and leave the car in D, it will keep the RPMs at a certain level but that means engine braking so the car will eventually slow down. However, in MINI’s Eco mode, the car decreases the RPMs almost to idling level so that the car will engine break less that means it can coast more without giving any throttle input, this is a really smart way of implementing Eco mode, despite it requires a lot of patience driving it every day especially when climbing uphill.

Gauges are not the easiest to read, but it’s a MINI traditional design.

Our particular tester is the 60 Years Edition which is a special edition for the 60th Year Anniversary of the first MINI Cooper on the road. This unit also has the most traditional color combo, called British Racing Green and Pepper White roof & Mirror Caps as well as hood stripes. This special edition comes with special 17″ rims, Leather Steering Wheel with 60th Anniversary badge, as well as special interior surfaces, Leather Seats, 60 Years sticker on the hood and so on. You have to pay the premium to get the special edition, which costs around $6900.

60 Years Edition costs $6900 which comes with several extra features

MINI Cooper S starts at $27,390 and there are three different trims. There are also endless different options and color combinations. It shouldn’t be hard to get closer to $40,000 range if you choose all the options. Our tester is priced at $35,690 and we think it is not overpriced considering you are getting one of the most popular hot-hatches on the market which is made by BMW (in Germany) with great driving dynamics.

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay

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2020 BMW Z4 M40i

Sixth generation Z4 was unveiled at Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2018.

Sport roadsters or Cabriolet cars may not be the best option if you live in northern states or in Canada. A decade ago, roadsters were really popular, and sales numbers were much higher than today. Unfortunately, we are living in a world where SUVs or Crossovers are much more popular than driving oriented cars, which is understandable as they try to provide everything in one package. Roadsters can offer one thing, and that’s where they are extremely good. Driving Pleasure. Could the BMW Z4 offer more than just one thing? Let’s find the answer.

BMW Z4 is one of the last roadsters on the road currently on sale in North America, but if you check their sales numbers, it is not that great. BMW decided to end the production of Z4 in 2016, but thankfully it’s back and better than ever. Our first impression was: Latest generation Z4 offers a great balance of fun, sportiness, roadster driving dynamics, typical BMW quality, comfort, and luxury.

However, due to decreasing sales numbers globally, this time they decided to share the platform with the new Toyota Supra, which was a legendary Japanese sports car in the 1980s and 1990s. And Toyota decided to resurrect the Supra last year. The Z4 was unveiled at the Pebble Beach in 2018. Like the Supra, it is based on the Cluster Architecture (CLAR) platform which incorporates steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. CLAR platform is widely used by BMW with different segments and powertrain options. BMW was able to achieve 50:50 weight distribution with the Z4, which is vitally important and difficult for a roadster that has an engine and transmission in the front. BMW also shaved approximately 50 kg as compared to the previous generation Z4.

Misano Blue Metallic turns the Z4 into a head-turner

Engine and Drivetrain

This is where the fun starts. We should start with the heart of the Z4. BMW Z4 comes with two different engine options. The first one is a 4-cylinder 2.0-liter engine that produces 255 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It has an impressive 0-100 time of 5.3 seconds. However, if you are looking for a more performance-oriented roadster, BMW offers a silky smooth 3.0 liter inline 6 cylinders turbocharged engine that produces 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of peak torque. The 6-cylinder engine is able to provide a flat torque curve between 1600 and 4500 rpm, which reduces 0-100 acceleration time to 4.5 seconds. In our tests, the 3.0-liter engine consumed 12.5L /100 km with mixed driving circumstances. It can easily go under 10.0L / 100 km with highway driving. Overall fuel consumption is great considering it’s a 6 cylinder performance-oriented engine with lots of power and a smooth torque curve.

As always, BMW’s 8-speed torque converter automatic transmission (which is made by ZF) is one of the best in its class, super responsive upshifts, downshifts and it has extremely precise transmission tuning. This is one of the few cars that you feel you don’t need a manual transmission to get engaging driving experience. BMW Z4 only comes with a rear-wheel-drive option. Although it doesn’t come with an actual limited-slip differential, M40i version comes standard with electronically controlled M Sport rear differential, which generates a locking effect that equalizes torque distribution between the inside and outside wheels when cornering with an electric motor.

Our tester had 3.0-liter six-cylinder in-line with a TwinScroll turbocharger

Exterior & Interior

For us, the exterior design is polarizing. You either love it or hate it. However, it still keeps the main BMW design features. It still has the famous BMW kidneys, relatively smaller than average, sharp lines and long hood. The hood is so long, it is almost bigger than the wheelbase. Other than that, our tester had the winter tire setup which were 17″ rims. It would have looked much better with 19″ rims, but safety first. There are some fake vents all around the exterior, especially the front and rear bumpers, but fortunately, there are no fake vents on the hood and the ones on the left-right front fenders are real.

Overall exterior design is a “hate or love situation”, but still carries traditional BMW design elements

When we get inside the Z4, this is where it becomes a generic BMW. It is 99% same as the other BMWs. It is almost impossible to see the difference except that there are no rear seats and less space. Though, overall quality and craftsmanship is excellent as always. There are lots of soft-touch plastics, aluminum, and leather all around the interior. The level of sound isolation & deadening is also excellent, surprisingly good for a roadster when the top is up. There is no problem with the overall legroom and headroom, even for tall people. Z4’s interior is top-notch, but the most boring part of the overall driving experience.

Excellent interior quality, but the design is too generic

Driving Impressions & Features

We are impressed with the driving dynamics of the Z4. It is not the fastest car in the world, but definitely fast. However, straight acceleration is not the most fun part about driving the Z4. Due to its shorter wheelbase, it is a blast to drive on back roads. You need to disable traction and stability control to get the most out of the Z4. It wants to oversteer if you push it hard, and it is really easy to get it oversteer even on a dry surface. If you disable the traction but leave the stability control on, it allows you to drive spiritedly and will not be intrusive until a certain level.

The rear design is as good as the front

It is a rear-wheel-drive and a roadster. What’s surprising about that?

The difference is, due to short wheelbase, that snap oversteer feeling comes quick, but at the same time, super easy to control the slide. It gets to a level where you feel natural driving a rear-wheel-drive car on its limits on a daily basis, even when you go to work or grocery shopping. The difference is, you don’t have to go to the track to have fun, Z4 offers it in all circumstances. It communicates with you extremely well when it’s on the limit which makes you feel overly confident, but never gets overwhelming or feels uncontrollable. There are three different driving modes, Sport – Comfort, and Eco, and we used it in Sport mode most of the time. The suspension is tuned extremely well. We did not detect body roll, but it is not going to break your back if you run over a pothole. When you drive it in Sport mode, it also changes the suspension settings, rebound stiffness, as well as steering wheel ratio, gets shorter.

As an overall package, with this chassis, 50:50 weight distribution, inline 6 turbocharged engine, the 8-speed automatic and M differential makes it one of the most “entertaining” driving experience and this is getting rare in the last few years, as many cars try to get more efficient, more mainstream, more electronics getting involved and try to be “do-it-all” type of vehicle. It is not going to break track lap records, but it can definitely offer fun factor which is getting harder to find this feeling in modern cars as they get more computerized. At the same time, it offers typical BMW luxury in one package with lots of features.

Hard to get in and out, but who cares? Once you get in, it is a blast to drive

Speaking of features, it is definitely a luxury roadster, but you need to take it easy. It has BMW’s latest infotainment system and it works pretty fast and easy to navigate. There are some missing features. For instance, there were no Adaptive+ Cruise Control which allows you to take your hands off the steering wheel for a longer period of time. To be clear, there is “Active” Cruise which fully stops and goes, but it is an option that you need to pay $1,650 for this feature. There is also no lane keep assist with cruise control, no blind-spot monitoring, and no 360-degree camera system. There is actually a lane-keep departure system that doesn’t work that well, we had to turn it off because it was extremely intrusive and annoying. As always, there is no Android Auto but Apple CarPlay is standard. In our book, those are not a deal-breaker as it is a driver-focused car, but it would have been better if they were available as an option for a car that costs over $80.000.

Pricing & Conclusion

The base Z4 with a 4-cylinder turbocharged engine starts at $65.904. It is a great option if you don’t need the extra performance of the inline 6 3.0 liter turbocharged engine. However, if you want the most out of the Z4, the M40i starts at $76,100 and it can go all the way up to high $80.000s. Our tester has the sticker price of $84,645 which has the Premium Package that costs $4,000, Driver Assistance Package – $1,650 and Special leather for $1,500 and $895 for this beautiful Misano Blue Metallic color. It is definitely not a cheap option, but if you are looking for a roadster that can offer fun factor, comfort and luxury at the same time, there is no cheap option. In fact, there are not many options out there, let alone finding a cheaper option. That’s why we would definitely recommend the Z4 if you are interested in getting into the luxury roadster world.

If you want to see the whole list of standard and optional features, please go to

Article and Photos by Dan Gunay