_NOW _ I know what car I'm buying when I have a midlife crisis.
It's not a $740,000 Ferrari F12berlinetta, a $333,000 BMW M6 Convertible or even an $87,000 Audi TT quattro.
No, it's a Mini Cooper S Coupe, which could be mine on the road for $52,510, and it's the most fun I've ever had behind a wheel.
At 3.7m long, it looks like a cut-down Batmobile - and it moves like one too, with rocket-like acceleration, instant braking and the most incredible, responsive steering.
Within seconds of hitting the accelerator in this little two-seater I was letting out roars of laughter and feeling the G-force push me back into the sports-style seats.
Its 1.6-litre, four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo engine can propel you from 0-100km/h in 6.9sec. and from 80-120km/h in 5.5. Suddenly I was acting like I was 17 again and had just passed my driving test. I was phoning up friends and asking if they wanted to go for a spin, then leaving other cars for dead on the sliproads to the freeway.
Inside it's the business, too. There's chrome and leather everywhere, complemented by ambient lighting in the door handles and ceiling that glows through the spectrum of colours.
And while there are no back seats (brilliant if you've spent the past few years driving bickering daughters to school and play dates) there's a 280-litre boot with a hatch which opens to the small space behind the seats.
It was big enough to fit in two sets of golf clubs and a trolley, and would make this the perfect car for a pleasant weekend tour for two through the countryside.
But most noticeable is the giant white speedo above the central console - a real throwback to the golden age of motoring when drivers wore leather gloves.
Below that is the harmon/ kardon hi-fi system which, although fiddly to operate at first, can deliver up to 480 watts of power and has a thumping bass.
The problem with the stereo, though, is that it drowns out the noise of the Mini's engine.
Its sweet rumble is enough to wake up the neighbours when you arrive home at night but hit the Sport button and it gets even more exciting.
It's meant to make the steering and throttle responses of the six- speed automatic more immediate and, to be honest, I didn't notice much difference there. But the throbbing from the twin exhausts is incredible - and the F1-style backfiring is music to the ears.
And there's so much more to like about this Mini.
There's the adaptive Bi-Xenon headlights which really do light up the night, especially as you throw the car round a corner.
There's the braking system, which I can only compare to those go-karts which can stop almost instantly.
There's the fuel efficiency, with a combined figure of just 6.3 L/100km.
And best of all there's a rear spoiler!
Yes, once you hit 80km/h it rises up to help with the downforce and suddenly you think you're James Bond. There's also a switch on the ceiling that you can flick to deploy it at any speed - which is great for showing off at traffic lights.
The Mini Cooper S Coupe is named in honour of John Cooper, who achieved a string of motorsport victories in the original Mini, including three wins in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Now I have to admit that I'm no John Cooper on the road. And if I'm truthful I'm sure much of the feeling of speed in this car is an illusion, coming from the lower driving position and unusual closeness to the ground.
But that makes the Mini even better. I feel like I'm driving like Michael Caine in The Italian Job and I'm still not breaking the speed limit!
Maybe midlife is coming sooner than I think.
- MINI COOPER *
- Model *S Coupe
- Price * $45,340
- Engine * 1.6-litre, four-cylinder twin-scroll turbo
- Outputs * 135kW/240Nm
- Transmission *Six-speed automatic
- Thirst *6.3L/100km
- Safety * Not yet rated