Mini is credited with introducing Americans to the concept of the premium small car. With the awkwardly named Mini Inspired by Goodwood, the idea reaches its logical -- or is that illogical? -- zenith. Working in collaboration with corporate cousin Rolls-Royce (which is located in Goodwood, England), this special-edition Cooper S features Rolls-Royce-supplied paint, wood, and leather. So what's it like to drive a $52,000 Mini? We're about to find out.
The Goodwood appeals to those who prefer to wear their fur coats inside out. Not everyone will instantly recognize the deep diamond black paint as a Rolls-Royce hue (Mini's own reef blue can also be chosen), and the flying lady is thankfully absent -- borrowing the famed radiator mascot would have been a step too far. Instead, Mini stylists played it cool on the exterior, equipping the Goodwood with the scoopless hood from the bottom-rung Cooper along with special sixteen-spoke, seventeen-inch wheels.
Inside that relatively plain wrapper, however, is an interior whose origins are all too obvious. There's cornsilk-colored leather, a walnut dashboard, a cashmere headliner, and lamb's-wool floor mats. Almost everything you touch has been adopted from Mini's regal sister brand; even the dials and gauges use the same typeface found in Rolls-Royce models. The exquisite cabin doesn't come cheap, but it is nearly $200,000 less expensive than a purebred Rolls.
That said, this limited-edition car (1000 will be built; 140 of those are headed for the States) doesn't drive any better than a proletarian Cooper S. For the money, you'd think Mini could have included the 208-hp John Cooper Works mechanicals, but the racier engine would have probably been slightly out of sync with the laid-back Goodwood brief.
Not surprisingly, the dynamic strengths of the Goodwood equal those of the Cooper S. Almost everything this car does is executed without delay, in linear moves, and with a reassuringly progressive touch. The Mini is almost immune to vices like understeer and torque steer, although the spring and damper settings aren't nearly as plush as the RR connection would suggest.
In essence a Cooper S, what sets the Goodwood apart from the rest of the range is the eye-popping interior. By fusing Rolls-Royce luxury and Mini dynamics, these two most distant BMW relations create a car with an intriguing dual identity.
On sale: Now
Engine: 1.6L turbo I-4, 181 hp, 192 lb-ft
EPA mileage: 27/35 mpg