2014 Mini Cooper: Road Trip Driving Impressions
April 3, 2015
Our long-term 2014 Mini Cooper needed miles. So I took it on a one-day, 600-mile road trip to Bishop, California. A few days later I added another 600 miles driving to Laughlin, Nev., and back. The days between were spent commuting to and from the office and accounted for another 500 or so miles. The trips gave me plenty of time for driving impressions.
The driver seat fit me great. A considerable amount of traffic on the Bishop run kept me on the road for about 11 hours. Leg stretching breaks were minimal. Yet it wasn't until the 10th hour that I succumbed to road rump. At that point I was forced to shift positions regularly to maintain any level of comfort. The seat was a pleasant surprise. I did not expect so much support from the flat and visually unwelcoming companion.
I don't care for the armrests. My right elbow was happy enough on the softer center console but my left grew tired of the plastic door armrest. Further, the two surfaces appear to be positioned at different levels. They are a half-bubble off according to my level. Over shorter distances this was imperceptible. But as the miles added up and my elbows rested, unmoved, I developed a kink in my neck. I think this was the reason why.
This car is loud. I can see some considering it unbearable. Conversation requires a raised voice, even over smooth pavement. Rough roads increase the volume considerably. The steady level of noise left a slight hum in my ear by the time I made it home on the 11-hour stretch. Radio offers some relief from the drone of the road, if not just a louder distraction.
The ride is firm. Around here, freeways consist of a mixture of asphalt, grooved concrete and expansion joints. This conglomeration of road surfaces are a ride comfort challenge that the Mini does not handle well. It tends to amplify imperfections.
I encountered a particular section of degraded I-5 freeway through downtown Los Angeles that energized me more than any cup of coffee. Its combination of bumps, dips, turns and neighboring 18-wheelers required all the early morning concentration I could muster. When I eventually merged onto the smooth asphalt of highway 395 it was like flipping a switch. Aside from infrequent flaws in the road, ride quality was good for a car of this size. And to my recollection, it's better than the previous-gen Mini.
Around town and notably on local freeways, the Mini's ride could be grating. Once on the open highway, it was just fine. I would take another long distance trip in the Mini without hesitation. And I may need to. It's still a little behind our mileage goal. Now I just need to come up with a new destination.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 11,757 miles