MINI Cooper SE road tests

Discussion in 'MINI Cooper SE' started by insightman, Jan 16, 2020.

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  1. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    MINI has teased automotive journalists by allowing them only brief drives and "taxi rides" through New York City in the MINI Cooper SE. This month, the journalists will get a real crack at wringing out the car's real potential. MINI is focusing on the local carbon-neutral aspect of the car by making the whole event as carbon-neutral as possible.

    This BMW Blog article describes how carbon-neutral the press roll-out for the MINI Cooper SE this month in Miama, Florida, will be.
    • The test fleet will be recharged using solely renewable electric energy sources
    • MINI's buying environmental certificates to offset carbonated travel to-and-from the event
    • MINI's also compensating for other emissions produced in connection with the event
    Interestingly, the way MINI is compensating for the unavoidable carbon generated while conducting this official press introduction is to fund wind turbines in Patagonia.

    The article doesn't say exactly when in January this Miami press introduction is taking place, but we can expect to see some third-party opinions and test results soon.

    Hopefully, the journalists will comprehend the real benefits of the MINI Cooper SE's small battery: light weight and uncompromised interior volume. Light weight is essential to the MINI's basic premise: a responsive, agile, sporty car.

    With current battery technology, a 200-mile battery would require packaging similar to the 2009 MINI E, which had a battery so large that there was no rear seat and very limited trunk space. A 200-mile battery would weigh so much that the 181-hp electric motor would struggle to accelerate the car and the car's cornering ability would be severely compromised.

    It's fine with me if the journalists complain about the MINI Cooper's limited EV range. I hope some of them test that range to see if they can best the predicted 110-mile EPA number. However, I hope any complaining about the range doesn't include comparisons with the range of dull cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Bolt.

    This car wasn't meant to compete with those cars. This car wasn't meant for people who live 50 miles from their nearest neighbor. This car wasn't meant for people who like to hang out in gas stations or change their oil. Like every other MINI, this car was meant for fun. However in this case, carbon-neutral fun.

    I hope every review will end with, "Sure, it would be nice if the MINI Cooper SE could go 300 miles on a charge, but for 100 electric miles, it's a heckuva lot of fun." I promise not to disparage any journalist who plagiarizes my closing sentence.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2020
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  3. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The Miami Press Introduction of the MINI Cooper SE has taken place. However, BMW has prohibited the participants from publishing test results and driving impressions until January 29th. Come February we will learn the importance of the car's 110-mile EV range to the automotive journalists invited to the event.

    Here's the kind of single-paragraph review I would hate to read (NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN ACTUAL REVIEW!!!):
    > It's a real MINI Cooper, but it's heavier so it doesn't corner as well,
    > it's electric so doesn't make the great MINI sound, and it has a
    > small battery so you can go only 100 miles before you have to start
    > looking for a charging station. A Tesla Model 3 it's not.
  4. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    At the MINI Cooper SE Press Introduction event, the BMW Blog extracted some information from one of MINI's engineers. Some of the information was new, but some of the answers were confusing.

    The one surprise was when the engineer said of the battery pack, "A modified version of the 94Ah battery package [from the BMW i3] is used and it repackaged to fit into the T-Pack used in the Cooper SE." Previously MINI had said the MINI Cooper SE incorporated a new battery pack based on battery modules from the Chinese company, CATL, not Samsung, who makes the batteries for the BMW i3.

    I've been waiting for information about the battery and motor cooling system and how it interacts with the heat pump that warms the cabin. The BMW Blog asked, "Active liquid heating/cooling of battery? Uses A/C system to cool? Heat pump and/or waste heat from motor to heat battery?"

    Perhaps the question was a bit convoluted, but the MINI engineer's answer didn't answer all its parts. "The motor and battery utilize a water/glycol mixture for heating and cooling. Separate circuits are used, utilizing a heat pump system." I assume "separate circuits are used" means the battery and the motor each have their own water/glycol system instead of a shared system. How do the separate circuits utilize a heat pump system? The engineer didn't indicate if it is possible for the system to heat the battery on cold days, or to cool the battery (and engine) below the ambient temperature on hot days.

    When discussing regen braking, the BMW Blog interviewer says, "Because the MINI is lighter, less regen power would give comparable braking." I believe the steel-bodied MINI Cooper SE is heavier than all-electric i3 with its carbon-fiber construction, but the engineer doesn't correct the interviewer. The engineer skips the question about how much energy regen braking produces and doesn't reveal any new information about regen braking at all.

    I was happy to learn that even though the gauges display only percentages, the MINI Cooper SE does indicate units when displaying efficiency: "SE Energy use is displayed in mi/kWh which can be toggled in the instrument cluster lower display and shown in the CID."

    The BMW Blog asks, "Will the MINI SE have something like Tesla's 'Dog Mode,' allowing the climate control system to operate while the car is parked and locked?" The engineer says not exactly, but doesn't explain what makes the MINI's climate preconditioning different from Tesla's Dog Mode.

    MINI recently estimated that the MINI Cooper SE's EPA range would be 110 miles, but didn't say that was the actual number. The engineer appears to state that 110 miles IS the final EPA-rated range: "...the EPA rating in the United States is 110 miles (176 km)."

    I wish the BMW Blog had asked how the MINI Cooper SE's weight ballooned from the earlier 3,009-lb number to 3,153 lbs. Perhaps the heavier weight is with a full gas tank? Just kidding.
  5. interestedinEV

    interestedinEV Well-Known Member

    I agree with you that any reviewer who says anything close to what you have articulated, does not have clue. Mini was never meant to be Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic or lower end BMW etc., it was in a little fun car with a niche market appealing to a segment which wanted to be different yet not spend too much money.
    So with a small footprint, do you expect it to be a Model 3? Not really.
    Will it have the bells and whistles of a Model 3? No.
    Should be it a i3 with a different body? No
    Is the range a little bit of demerit, we all would have liked it to be say 150 miles, rather than 110? Yes
    Should it handle like a Mini? Absolutely Yes.

    So yes, a reviewer could criticize the Mini SE for what the engineers could have done within the Mini Shell but chose not too. They cannot be criticized for not developing a greenfield electric car that does not look or feel like a Mini. So I would fault it, if it did not handle like a Mini but not for the fact it the range is not 220 miles. Unfortunately, you cannot control what people say.
    Texas22Step and insightman like this.
  6. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    After the Miami event, The Fast Lane Car blog posted their driving impressions on their website. However, MINI had asked journalists to observe an embargo for posting driving impressions until January 29th. MINI flew the two bloggers from Colorado to Miami, put them up in a hotel, and fed them, but the bloggers somehow missed the message about the embargo. The bloggers eventually got the message and took down their prematurely published page. However, the video of their driving impressions was NOT taken down and remains on YouTube (for now at least).
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
    EV Novice likes this.
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  8. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Car & Driver bent the embargo a little and published their positive impressions of the MINI Cooper SE before January 29th. They wonder why this premium car lacks adaptive cruise control at any trim level. I'd add the lack of an optional heated steering wheel. It's likely I'll avoid using the heater on cold days to save some battery juice.

    C&D applauds the use of Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, "an ultra-high-performance all-season tire." However, I assume these or any run-flats will make for a harsher ride than non-run-flats.

    They note the presence of a hood scoop on this electric MINI, but they don't make any comment as to how inappropriate a hood scoop is on an electric car (the scoop is my pet peeve--I plan to heal that vestigial ICE-scar on my MINI).
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2020
  9. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Autoblog has posted their First Drive account. They complain about how the power drops off earlier than it does with a gas-powered MINI Cooper S, but overall they think its a great bargain and a lot of fun to drive.
  10. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Engadget didn't send an experienced electric car driver to Miami to test the MINI Cooper SE. It must have been his first time in a BEV because he wasn't prepared for one-foot driving, claiming it was exhausting until he got used to it. At least he admits it's not an impossible impediment.

    The data he provided seemed to be outdated, not what other reviewers received at the Press Introduction. For example, he states the MINI Cooper SE weighs 3,009 lbs instead of the newly revealed 3,153 lbs. Also, he missed the session where MINI explained that the EPA-rated range would likely be 110 miles. He provides the much more optimistic WLTP range of ~146 - 167 miles.

    By the end of the review, I realized the Engadget reviewer must be British and tuned into the MINI Cooper SE trim levels available on the other side of the Atlantic, not what US buyers can get. Does the British MINI Cooper SE weigh only 3,009 lbs? I wonder what makes the US version 144 lbs heavier?

    Fortunately, the Engadget reviewer did have fun driving the MINI Electric:
    > Your available range between recharges may be limited
    > but the SE's performance all but guarantees you'll have
    > a blast while behind the wheel.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  11. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The Motor1 reviewer enjoys driving gas-powered MINI Coopers, but thinks the electrified version falls short:

    > ...this hatchback rarely feels like a Mini in the turns.
    > The Cooper SE feels larger than it is and ponderous
    > because of that, rolling freely while turn-in is numb
    > and sloppy, even if the steering itself remains precise.
    > That sharp, edgy behavior that's typified the Mini
    > driving experience since the brand returned in the
    > early 2000s is absent here, as the electrified Cooper
    > struggles to change direction.

    I'm wondering if his test MINI Cooper SE had different tires than the one Car & Driver drove?
    > The 205/45 low-rolling resistance tires feature
    > sidewalls that are too small to improve ride quality
    > and too large to aid responsiveness, too.

    In contrast, Car & Driver's reviewer, who enjoyed the SE's handling wrote:
    > Also, unlike most EVs, the Cooper SE is
    > shod with fun rubber: Goodyear Eagle F1s,
    > an ultra-high-performance all-season tire.

    Goodyear's Eagle F1 tires are definitely not Low-Rolling Resistance tires.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
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  13. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The reviewer from the BMW Blog has been driving a BMW i3 for 6 years. The MINI Cooper SE's drivetrain is based on the BMW i3, so he is the perfect driver to evaluate this car. He reports:
    > ...thankfully, the go-kart characteristics
    > of a MINI are still there.
    > ...the Cooper SE delivers some impressive
    > sprints while the punchy electric drivetrain
    > makes the Cooper SE a proper riot to drive.

    Perhaps because he is so used to the BMW i3, the BMW Blog reviewer didn't feel any power drop-off at higher speeds:
    > The trip back to Miami was only 30 miles long
    > and it involved only highway driving. This
    > presented me with the opportunity to test the
    > MINI Cooper SE near its top speeds. While
    > overtaking other cars, I was immediately
    > impressed by the hard acceleration coming from
    > under the hood. The car simply pushes you back
    > in the seat making me wonder what it will be like
    > to autocross the car.

    He concludes:
    > So if you pair the attractive price with the superb
    > driving characteristics of a MINI Cooper, the new
    > British electric car is a quite compelling product.
  14. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The Fast Lane Car's review is back online now that the embargo is over. However the article doesn't say much about how the MINI Cooper SE drives. Their driving impressions are in their video.
  15. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The reviewer for CNET's Road/Show is worried that as a Michigander (which I also am), the MINI Cooper SE's limited range would be too compromised in the winter months to be usable. I agree that this car might not be good as a family's only car in northern states, but I drove for 10 months--including a winter--in my 47-mile EV range Honda Clarity PHEV before finally visiting a gas station. In the winter the Clarity's 35-mile cold-weather EV range was adequate for my driving needs. The MINI Cooper SE's range will seem extravagant to me.

    CNET's reviewer is bummed that the MINI Cooper SE isn't as high-tech or innovative as the $44K BMW i3, but he comes around to the conclusion:
    > Ultimately, the 2020 Mini SE Electric is fun
    > to drive and priced well enough that it
    > deserves to earn its way on to shopping
    > lists -- especially among those who never
    > thought they could afford to go electric.
  16. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Interestingly, the British Autocar blog had to fly to Miami to experience the introduction of the MINI Cooper SE, which is manufactured in their country. Their opinion was very positive:

    > The Mini Electric’s lateral grip is strong, and
    > its handling responses are as keen as those
    > of any of its rangemates. On better roads than
    > we had on which to enjoy it, I daresay it would
    > be plenty of fun. It also clearly doesn’t rely on
    > low rolling resistance tyres to boost its electric
    > range, and has that unmistakably impish
    > Mini-brand dynamism to bolster its driving
    > appeal. It doesn’t feel particularly heavy to
    > drive either, as a great many electric superminis
    > can, with taut vertical body control. If anything,
    > the extra mass it carries seemed to dampen
    > and flatten the car’s low-speed ride better than
    > Mini’s prevailing comfort standard, and to quite
    > agreeable effect.
  17. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Perhaps one of the most qualified reviewers for the MINI Cooper SE is Eletrek's Jameson Dow, who was one of the 450 people privileged to lease the MINI E 10 years ago. Mr. Dow only wishes the MINI Cooper SE had come out sooner.

    His review is very long and very interesting. I liked his variation on the "not a family's only car" theme:
    > So some might say, “The Mini Cooper SE would
    > make a great second car,” but I contest that.
    > The Mini Cooper SE makes a great first car… for
    > a household that has more than one car.
  18. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Automobile Magazine was underwhelmed.

    First, the reviewer disputes that the MINI Cooper SE's level of aggressive regen braking qualifies for "one-pedal driving:"

    > As we've experienced previously in the Porsche Taycan,
    > it seems the Germans are universally resistant to
    > one-pedal driving; there are only two levels of lift-off
    > regen available on the SE. On its most aggressive
    > setting, the regen scrubs enough speed to navigate
    > slow traffic, but not enough to keep your foot off the
    > brake for any extended length of time. When in normal
    > regen mode, resistance is less intrusive, letting the SE
    > coast almost as smoothly as its gas-powered counterpart.

    Then the idea the MINI Cooper SE qualifies as a fun "hot-hatch" is disputed:

    > This is not the first EV hot hatch. "Warm" hatch is a
    > more apt descriptor, the new electric Cooper SE being
    > only moderately more fun to drive than an equivalent
    > Bolt or Leaf. It's definitely not engaging enough to
    > steal away eco-curious drivers from their Volkswagen
    > GTIs or Subaru WRXs.

    Not for driving enthusiasts:

    > It's not really meant to attract enthusiasts, but to
    > appeal to both existing Mini owners and to any potential
    > customers in the market for a smaller, premium EV.

    I always believed that people with MINIs were likely to be driving enthusiasts. However, the reviewer does offer hope:

    > If this isn't the electro-charged hyper-hatch you
    > long for, give it a few years-I reckon Mini has a
    > lot more battery packs in its future.
  19. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Autoweek's reviewer wished MINI had found a place with less traffic than Miami to introduce the MINI to the international press.

    > I didn’t get to drive it on a track or even on a
    > particularly fun road. I drove it out of traffic-clogged
    > Miami Beach, up Highway A1A to Fort Lauderdale
    > like some kind of common New York tourist. Traffic
    > would crawl along for a couple blocks, then stop at
    > a stoplight before crawling along some more.

    He compared it to other small BEVs:

    > On a couple of street corners when we got lost, it did,
    > indeed, feel pretty sporty. Maybe it’s the sportiest
    > thing in its class? It’s certainly sportier than a Nissan
    > Leaf, Chevy Bolt, Kia Soul EV, Hyundai Kona or Ioniq
    > EV, to name some competitors. It might compete
    > closest with the Fiat 500e or VW e-Golf, both of which
    > are also stopgap conversions of gas-powered cars.

    Of course. the MINI Cooper SE is much quicker than the Fiat 500e or VW e-Golf.

    In July, MINI said the MINI Cooper SE would weigh 3,009 lbs, but now the US model is at 3,153 lbs. However, the
    Autoweek reviewer didn't feel the extra weight was a problem:

    > On the road you do not notice any extra weight, you
    > just notice the lack of engine sound.

    There was one error:

    > Top model is the Signature Plus trim

    The three trim levels are "Signature," "Signature Plus" and the top trim level is "Iconic."

    The interesting numbers from this review are that the aerodynamic improvements made to the regular MINI add 3 to 6 miles of EV range and the car's heat pump uses 75 percent less energy than just an electric heater. I'm waiting to learn how cold the temperature can get before the MINI Cooper SE's heat pump ceases to be effective and the electric heater has to take over.
  20. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Jalopnik tried to sympathize with the MINI engineers, who have to work within the constraints imposed by the parent company, BMW. These bloggers worked harder to take interesting photos of the MINI Cooper SE's floorpan and they popped off the large cover that hides everything under the hood, er, bonnet.

    Unfortunately, Jalopnik got some of their numbers wrong. They didn't realize that MINI has revised the car's weight upwards from 3,009 to 3,153 lbs, making the SE more like 450 lbs heavier than the MINI Cooper S than the 300 pounds Jalopnik states. Also, they say the 0-60 mph time is 7.3 seconds, but MINI says that's how long the SE takes to go 0-100 kph. MINI says the SE can get to 60 in just 6.9 seconds.

    Of course, Jalopnik gets the 110-mile range correct. However, they take a reasonable approach to that controversial number:
    > ...those 110 miles should actually be fine for a majority
    > of America’s daily commuters. At least as a second car.

    Those of us who have memorized all the MINI Cooper SE's specs know that it will take 36 minutes to charge to 80% when visiting a DC Fast Charge station that can accommodate the SE's 50 kW charging rate. Jalopnik reveals that it would take nearly an additional hour at that station to charge the SE to 100%.

    The implication of this charging profile suggests the MINI Cooper SE wouldn't benefit much from a 100 kW DCFC charging rate. A 100 kW charging capability would cut just a few minutes off the initial charge before the tapering off slowed things down as the charge approaches asymptotically to 100%. The Honda e can accept up to 100 kW from a DCFC charging station, but it still takes 30 minutes to achieve an 80% charge in its 35.5 kWh battery. After that, the charging has to taper off, just as with the MINI Cooper SE.

    Jalopnik doesn't realize that the 11 kW wallbox EVSE isn't a reality in the US because it requires 3-phase power. US houses are wired for single-phase power. I know, because while awaiting my SE I bought an 11 kW EVSE before reading that the MINI can accept only 7.4 kW from a single-phase EVSE. On the upside, the "monster" EVSE has a giant relay that makes a very satisfying CLUNK when I plug it into our Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, which maxes out charging at 7.2 kW. The charging cable is so thick that it's a bit unwieldy, however.

    Jalopnik describes how the MINI accommodates dangerous driving maneuvers:

    > The SE has incredible last-minute exit-lane energy,
    > letting you pass that Semi you hesitated to get behind,
    > or surge ahead a few car lengths more than you might
    > with the comparably sluggish torque of a four-cylinder
    > in high gear.

    Their final paragraph is hopeful, in a strange way:

    > In a way, there’s nothing else like it, and it doesn’t
    > deserve to be written off just because even the automaker
    > that built it didn’t seem to care very much.

    IMHO, if BMW had "cared" a lot more, the car would have cost a lot more. I've yet to drive 10 feet in my MINI Cooper SE, which is still months away from my garage, but from what I've read it appears to me that MINI maintained the essence of the brand while making good use of the electric car parts BMW had laying around.
  21. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    The Motoring File is a MINI-specific blog. Gabriel Bridger, the reviewer provides a nice history of the electrified MINIs. He also did something I didn't see in any other Miami tales of the electric MINI--he tested its range. Thank you, Gabriel!

    > In my time with the car, I drove equal parts city
    > and highway, and came away with at least 125
    > miles of range (on a 60 degree day).

    It will be interesting to see how far experienced hypermilers can stretch the SE's 28.9 kWh of available battery power. The battery is nominally 32.6 kWh, but BMW uses software to prevents damage to the battery that can occur if it gets completely discharged or overcharged. After the buffers are accounted for, there is 28.9 kWh left.

    Mr. Bridger continues with a previously unknown improvement the MINI Cooper SE is bringing to the BEV world:

    > And while we’ve seen major differences in the
    > BMW i3 in cold temps, the engineers responsible
    > for the MINI Cooper SE promised me that that
    > large delta doesn’t exist on this car thanks to the
    > newer generation batteries and the way the car
    > manages them.

    The Canadian version of the Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid includes a battery heater (in place of power seats in the top trim) to make sure the owner can keep the batteries warm in the deep cold of the Canadian winter--as long as the car is plugged in. This revelation about the MINI preserving warm-weather range is amazing. Cold-weather range reduction is one of the biggest bugaboos with BEVs, why haven't other manufacturers addressed this problem with clever engineering, too?

    One more thing about the SE's batteries:

    > Those batteries also make it more efficient than
    > the i3 getting 3.8 miles per kWh compared to 2.9
    > (if that helps you sleep better).

    My favorite part of this review describes how the MINI Cooper SE will be a great urban street fighter:

    > The Electric Cooper SE is a Weapon
    > Point and shoot. It takes approximately 50 feet to
    > figure out that this is the quickest MINI ever 0-30
    > mph. While that might sound like some weird
    > consolation prize, it’s a game-changing attribute.
    > The performance isn’t Tesla like, but for a car like
    > the MINI with a quick steering rack and a short
    > wheelbase, it’s game-changing.


    > ...despite a ride height that’s an inch higher than
    > normal, this thing is immediate in its direction
    > changes and is extremely progressive at the limit.
    > In fact it is the most balanced MINI I have ever
    > driven, and with a 50/50 weight distribution it
    > makes sense.

    Mr. Bridger addresses the MINI Cooper SE's weight (which MINI said in July would be 3,009 lbs):

    > About that weight. A standard Mini Cooper S weighs
    > in between 2,700 and 2,800 depending on options.
    > The Cooper SE is over 300 lbs heavier at 3,153 lbs.
    > Yet due to the extra weight’s location performance
    > hardly feels stunted in city traffic. And even up to
    > triple digits speeds the Cooper SE constantly surprises
    > in the way it builds speed.

    The "triple digit speeds" must be referring to the MINI's 150 kilometer-per-hour electronically limited top speed. That equates to 93.2 mph.

    This is a great review (I linked it again for your convenience) and it's accompanied by a ton of great photos, too. It's what you'd expect from The Motoring File.
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2020
  22. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    Thanks to @KentuckyKen I have read another positive review on the UK's Wired website.

    I was puzzled that the reviewer believes this MINI Cooper SE will become the group's flagship. The BMW i3 is much fancier with its carbon-fiber construction and it was designed from the ground-up to be a BEV :

    > this new EV will replace the BMW i3 as the
    > group's flagship all-electric car.

    The reviewer comments about how quiet the car is--including the pedestrian alert sound the MINI makes, which probably should be louder:

    > What does strike you is the lack of noise as the
    > Mini Electric pulls up or away. Yes, it does have
    > a specially designed noise that it pumps out to
    > let the unsuspecting pedestrian know of its presence,
    > but it is so quiet you have to almost strain to hear it.

    If you haven't heard it yet, you can listen to the nondescript sound here.

    The reviewer clearly likes this MINI:

    > ...the Mini Electric has a winning personality. It's fun to
    > drive and excitingly responsive. Those looking forward
    > to trying out this full EV should not be disappointed.
  23. insightman

    insightman Well-Known Member Subscriber

    This very professionally done YouTube video from the Miami event makes good use of a drone and shows many views of the car, including a brief view of the dashboard display when the car is charging. There is no voice-over to tout the MINI Cooper SE, just beauty shots and some music.
    Lainey likes this.

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