First Drive: 2012 Mini Cooper Coupe John Cooper Works

Mini uses the brakes to mimic the effects of a differential lock with its Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) system. "I personally think the word electronic diff is misleading," says Aaltonen. "It's not the diff lock. This is stopping the inside wheel from spinning, which then forces [power to] the outside wheel, and then you have grip." EDLC comes into play only when the DTC is in performance mode or totally off. "In practice these 3 modes are not only for fun," comments Aaltonen. "Because if you have a surface with a soft top layer on it, like gravel or snow, you need wheel spin to go forward. And the amount of wheel spin you get from normal DSC mode is not enough to bring the car forward on a soft surface, so then you need the DTC."

As I downshift from third gear in the tighter corners, I encounter the same difficulty finding second gear that we've experienced in other Mini Coopers. "Don't look for a 'gate,' says Aaltonen. 'Don't shove the gear lever over to the left, just slide it." Again, he's right, and I'm able to nab second more easily. The track has a slalom course set up on it, and the Coupe dives around the cones handily, with lots of grip from the 205/45R-17 Continental tires and minimal body roll. When I allow the front tires to shudder coming out of the slalom, Aaltonen suggests less throttle. "That will get the weight transfer back onto the front wheels and help traction," he says. As I pull into the pits to let Aaltonen out of the car, he concludes, "weight transfer is something everyone needs to think more about."

Design: "No other Mini has ever had this proportion before."
Anders Warming, the young Dane who became head of design for the Mini brand earlier this year, inherited the Coupe and Roadster designs from his predecessor, Gert Hildebrand, who was in the position for the past decade. Now it's Warming's job to explain this new direction for Mini. He does so very enthusiastically, pointing out that "no other Mini has ever had this proportion before, with the side line going upward as it goes rearward." He enthuses about the Coupe's stance, with "all four wheels in all four corners. We are the kings of short overhangs."

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