For the most luxurious and exclusive MINI, look no further than the Goodwood
When I first learned that MINI would sell a hatchback trimmed with inspiration from Rolls-Royce, I really didn't know what to think. Sure, it would probably be expensive, but would it be anything I'd want to drive? I didn't think so, and almost forgot about the car.
Then, by chance, the MINI Inspired By Goodwood showed up in our test fleet. After the first couple of kilometres I was smitten with this little hatchback. After testing it for a few days, the care that went into this MINI's interior design was obvious. Once you understand the Goodwood, it becomes clear that this car is much greater than the sum of its parts.
From their headquarters in Goodwood, England – hence the name – Rolls-Royce interior designer Allan Sheppard oversaw the material and colour choices that make this special edition MINI a truly unique automobile. MINI is making just 1,000 units available worldwide — and they cost a whopping $56,200.
The exclusive exterior paint is Rolls-Royce's Diamond Black metallic and truly looks like it belongs on a Phantom, although the Goodwood can also be had in Reef Blue from MINI's colour chart.
With the Goodwood, it's not about what's under the hood, but MINI starts with the standard Cooper S-spec engine. It's a turbocharged, four-cylinder that makes 181 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. Fuel consumption is similar to the Cooper S models, though I suspect fuel costs aren't top of mind if you're driving a near-$60,000 MINI.
The only transmission is MINI's six-speed automatic, which is perfectly aligned with the character of the Goodwood — because you certainly shouldn't be shifting for yourself among Rolls-Royce interior trimmings, should you? The gear ratios are well chosen, giving the MINI more flexibility in a range of driving conditions, and the transmission always eager to downshift should you need more power. If you desire, you can have control of the gears through the shifter's manual function.
At just 1,130 kilograms, the 181 horsepower is more that enough to allow the Goodwood to zip along in traffic. MINI quotes a modest zero-to-100 km/h time of seven seconds flat, although it feels a little quicker than that.
Thankfully, suspension settings are suited to this more elegant and opulent MINI – there's no harsh, race track-ready John Cooper Works suspension kit here – though I'd like to think that a softer ride would be welcome in the Goodwood.
The great steering, handling and braking of the MINI Cooper is maintained, and combined with it's diminutive size, the Goodwood is successful at making sport of daily urban traffic.
Even after testing multiple MINIs, I still don't care for the unconventional ergonomics. The infotainment interface seems like a re-imagined version of BMW's iDrive controller, but in the form of a joystick. Although the joystick sits on the console behind the shifter and in front of the e-brake lever – ensuring your hand must travel far from the steering wheel – the interface is straightforward and its learning curve short.
I suppose after one lives with a MINI for a few weeks, finding the odd locations of the various interior switches becomes second nature, but I still don't care for them.
However, what makes this Goodwood special – what lets me overlook the quirky switchgear – is the interior finishing. From the colour palette to the materials to the lighting, the Goodwood's cabin is a very special place to be.
When you're seated inside, it's only then that you can appreciate the Goodwood. The upholstery is Rolls-Royce Cornsilk Beige leather, the dash and door pulls are Rolls-Royce walnut veneer, the headliner is finished in cashmere, and the floor mats are lambswool, but please don't call them floor mats. Call them "over rugs." They're so deep and soft, don't be surprised if your passengers remove their shoes. Mine did.
The seats are as comfortable and supportive as in any other Cooper, but over the long-term, the light-coloured leather and over rugs will require attention to keep them looking like new.
You're probably thinking that you can live without all of these luxury trimmings, and that may be true, but when you experience the Goodwood at night, you're treated to lighting that highlights the Cornsilk Beige leather and over rugs. It's then that you realize that the Goodwood is truly sublime. Pictures simply don't do justice to the interior, it must be experienced.
You may not immediately notice that the upper portion of the dash is finished in black leather – the colour chosen to reduce glare – and that there's high-gloss black (Piano Black is the fashionable name) trim on the steering wheel and console.
A Harman Kardon sound system finishes the Goodwood's driving experience, but it also highlights one area where MINI may have overlooked. The Goodwood seems to transmit the same amount of road and wind noise into the cabin as any other MINI, and it deserves to be quieter than a pedestrian Buick Verano, doesn't it?
The Goodwood retains the Cooper's traditional hatchback layout, but I found another surprise when I loaded my suitcase in the boot — a leather cargo mat. Now, we shouldn't call it a cargo mat, I suppose. Let's call it a leather over rug, shall we? It's finished in the same light-coloured leather as the interior.
The Goodwood includes adaptive Xenon headlamps, a feature typically reserved for premium automobiles, and the standard parking sensors are welcome when you drive in a big city as much as I do, despite the tiny overall dimensions of the MINI.
With a casual glance, you'll be hard pressed to tell that this MINI is the special Inspired by Goodwood edition. The tells on the bodywork are minor and there are no special markings, save for a subtle aluminum badge on each front fender. Subtle is the Goodwood.
Yet for all of this subtlety, luxury and exclusivity, remember you'll pay handsomely. Start with a MINI Cooper S at $28,950, add the $25,950 MINI Goodwood package and the $1,300 automatic transmission — and now your have the $56,200 MINI Inspired By Goodwood. Don't forget $1,595 for freight and PDI. At least with just 1,000 available around the globe, you're not likely to spot another one any time soon.
It's only fair to suggest that there are alternatives to the Goodwood, but there are no other small cars that are designed and finished with this level of luxury. Of course, you can find various Audis, BMWs, Mercedes-Benzes and even the small Range Rover Evoque for a similar price, nevermind that the brilliant Porsche Boxster starts at thousand less.
Yet, oddly, none of these vehicles approach the exclusivity of the Goodwood.