For the first time since 1968 I got to drive a Mini Cooper S in anger this week. I wondered if there'd be any recognisable links between the two cars 45 years apart.
The answer is yes, but it's strictly limited to the name, the centrally mounted speedometer and the surround dash.
BMW has meticulously exploited the brand it bought, fostering an image of recreating past glories, while disposing of the tendency of traditional British engineering to break or go on strike.
Yet the original Mini had a motorsport record that the current brand bearer is unlikely ever to achieve.
In 1966, Finland's reigning rally nutcase Rauno Aaltonen was the first to successfully take Mini to Bathurst and win Australia's greatest race, allegedly flying down the mountain with his right foot pushing through the firewall and his left foot dabbing the brakes.
His win helped persuade the NSW Police to buy fleets of Cooper Ss, which had to be rotated out after about nine months because the driver's seats and right-side Hydrolastic suspension collapsed under gigantic NSW traffic coppers.
But today's market has changed even more than the Mini, and today's range of Minis has recently expanded with the cutest variant of all, the Paceman.
Stylists have preserved the visual link to the existing Mini models cleverly, while lowering the roofline at the rear and raising the body sill-line to give an impression of a junior Range Rover Evoque.
The car is aimed at urban drivers of sub-compact cars who don't just want to stand out - they REALLY want to stand out.
Front styling cues and rear lights in particular make the Paceman recognisable from any angle.
Two models are available, the Cooper and the Cooper S, and they're separated by power and torque differences even though they share a common engine.
The S scores a twin-scroll turbo that breathes fire into the Mini and has a huge effect on performance. Cooper handles 0-100km/h in a pretty noisy 10.4 seconds (11.5 for the automatic), while Cooper S goes harder in every way, taking just 7.5 seconds (7.8 for the auto).
Dynamic Traction Control is standard on the S, but not available on the Cooper - it's not needed as you'd be hard-pressed to break traction, particularly in the auto version.
Safety is a top-of-list item for Mini engineers and both cars have the same high standard of interior features designed to protect driver and passengers.
Underneath, there's ABS with brake assist and cornering brake control, Dynamic Stability Control and Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Rear parking assist is also standard so you don't need to park by ear anymore. The interior feels big-car and the comfort of the seats and other furniture, plus full connectivity is a big part of that impression. But on the road the car lives up to Mini's reputation as an overfed go-kart.
The Paceman Cooper will cost you $35,900 and the S version a hefty $8200 more.
Mini Paceman is the seventh model variant in the range.
"We will always have the smallest car in whatever segment we sell into," said Mini's brand manager in Australia, Kai Bruesewitz.That means no limo version I guess. So what's next - a Bavarian Moke?
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