Pretty damn cool is what I say. I have been in a Tesla Roadster and I was impressed, but there was this nagging thing in the back of my head that said, ‘You are in a $100K car, don’t break anything.’ MINI USA brought some realism to the equation by not only letting the general public drive the MINI E (yes, everyone at MTTS got to drive the MINI E for free), but they took it one step further by letting us put the pedal to the metal on the coned off autocross course. Being a trained racing driver and a regular participant in Sports Car Club of America events, I was ready to see what this MINI E could do. I also was eager to see if the regenerative braking was as aggressive as reported by our own at High Gear Media.
Lucky for us, we had James Hunt, MINI E guru in the passenger seat next to us. Also a trained racing driver, Hunt was able to give us all the facts and figures on the MINI E. For example, 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds with a targeted range of 100 miles on a single charge (dependent on environment). Enough about that though, let’s get to how it drove. The biggest thing you have to get use to is that there is no simulated creep in the pre-production lease vehicles (we were in #497). The other significant difference from the gasoline powered MINIs I was also driving that day was the engagement of the regenerative braking when you start to let of the accelerator. Otherwise, the electric steering feels comparable to the gasoline powered car, the interior is similar, with the exception of the rear seats and lime green dashboard accents.
On the track the MINI accelerates with gusto and it is a unique experience to only have to modulate the accelerator to make turns through the autocross course. Fact is it probably made the electric the easiest car to drive fast, unless you were used to left foot braking techniques. The biggest different be it and the Cooper S I found was the understeer the MINI E exhibited in the sharp 90 degree right turn. This has also been recorded by other drivers and is likely do to the added weight from the battery and the difference in where the weight is placed in the car. Something tells me the tires play a roll in this too.
Bottom line—the MINI E was the vehicle to drive with people waiting in a nice shady long line. Oh and MINI USA hauled out 3 other MINI Es to help keep up with the demand that day. Would I buy one for in-town commuting—in a heartbeat. MINI Community, MINI speed and MINI style, what else could you ask for in a car?
Be sure to check out the video below of the MINI E on the Autocross track at MTTS2010: