2012 MINI Cooper Coupe: First Drive Page 2

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In search of un-MINI-ness

Huh? It's OK to be confused. The MINI Coupe, at first glance, looks much like any other (new) MINI you've ever seen: a cute, friendly face, large round headlights, a short hood, small exterior dimensions, and a slab-sided nod to the brand's past. But once you look past the similarities, things diverge quickly.

There's no square back, for instance, to complete the classic two-box design of the Cooper hatchback, Clubman, or Countryman. Nor is there a true three-box design, however much MINI might say there is; instead there's a sharply sloping rear hatch that meets a very stubby decklid that almost immediately disappears into the bluff rear. Speaking of sharp slopes, looking back to the front of the car, you'll notice a much more heavily-raked windshield.

The combination of these elements around the greenhouse are what earns the MINI Coupe its name, and they're also what move it well outside usual MINI territory. Why? Because they're aggressive. Topping the aggression of the sharp slopes is a spoiler that grabs air and flushes it down the almost-flat rear window to keep it clean, and, on equipped models, usher yet more air over the active rear spoiler. MINI calls the whole roof shebang a "helmet." It also seems rather proud of the word and the design, so we wouldn't be surprised to see both the style and the terminology move to other models in the lineup, perhaps first with the soon-to-be-produced Paceman.

An active rear spoiler is itself another aggressive mark: raising once you've passed 50 mph and receding again below 37 mph, the spoiler's upward movement drops a hint to nearby motorists that there may be something more than MINI-branded sunshine hiding within the little Coupe.

In John Cooper Works trim (where we spent most of our day-and-a-half with the car), the Coupe lives up to this new-found aggression with verve. Pin the throttle and after a fairly short delay to spin up the turbo, you'll soon be accelerating toward whatever's framed in your windshield with surprising, if not break-neck, speed. The MINI Coupe claims a 6.1-second 0-60 mph time in JCW trim, making the quickest MINI to date. It can carry on to 149 mph, making it the fastest MINI yet, too. So, if you're looking for the hottest of MINI's range, look no further.

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