The cat is out of the bag. We bought a 2017 John Cooper Works MINI, in Moonwalk grey! Before we go any further with this article, let me clarify. The MINI is not the direct replacement for the FJ. We have no intentions of leaving the Toyota community. We are still getting something within the Toyota family to use as our off-road adventure vehicle. We hope to decide on a vehicle soon. In the meantime, we plan on doing some fun adventures in the Cooper, and we hope you will continue to follow along.
As I have stated in previous articles, the FJ gave us a sense of adventure and freedom that we had not experienced before. It allowed us to become part of an amazing community of Toyota owners and off-road enthusiasts. The long road trips we took in the FJ across this beautiful and amazing country of ours led us to discover our desire to Explore America.
As much as Ashlie and I loved driving the FJ all over the country, our bank account felt differently. The FJ averaged about 12 MPG (miles per gallon). On average, we would make three long road trips a year, and sometimes they would go over 10,000 miles. Fuel easily became one of our biggest expenses on those trips, especially during the summer months when gas prices typically went up.
Our new MINI Cooper started as an idea in December of 2015. Ashlie and I were talking about getting a second vehicle that is more fuel efficient to use on summer road trips. The thought behind this was, the FJ would remain our winter road trip/off road event vehicle and the new one for longer road trips.
As she and I shared car ideas, I brought up a MINI Cooper. She gave me a confused look at first, but then I reminded her I used to own a one many years ago and I loved it!
Excuse me while I travel down memory lane for a few seconds. At the time (2006/2007), I lived in Atlanta and then moved up to St. Louis. The MINI and I traveled all over the southern part of the United Sates together and then when I moved up north, all over the Midwest.
All those miles and I probably only put five dollars worth of gas in her. She was a fuel efficient, eye-catching, street legal go-kart. Those of you that knew me then, or rode with me, can tell you I drove that car hard. I was much younger at the time and did not do a good job taking care of the MINI (or anything else for that matter), but she took care of me.
I had an 18 wheeler blow a tire right next to me that caused body damage when the tread flew off and slammed into the front end. Another time, a deer decided to hit me on the passenger side of the MINI while I was driving on the highway. Yes, you read that right the deer hit me, not the other way around. It apparently chose the MINI because of how small it was and decided it could win. It darted out from behind a sign and ran into the side of the car causing more body damage and my passenger (6'4", 230ish man) to scream like a little girl. The deer stood up, ran off and I'm sure, became a legend among his friends for his actions that day.
I would often drive it in places or across terrain where I'm sure the MINI engineers did not intend for it to go. I did not do proper maintenance on it, and at on point, I'm sure I missed an oil change or three by several thousand miles. I even lost first gear (manual). It's a long story, but just know, I never found it again.
All that wear and tear and constant abuse I put the MINI through, and she never gave me any issues, except for that time I got it stuck on a small tree. That's another story. My point is, she was a reliable vehicle, and one that I could count on to get me from point A to B. Any issues I had were caused by yours truly and were not noticeable when I turned the music louder.
Let's get back to discussing how Ashlie and I decided on the MINI Cooper as our next road trip vehicle. As I said, better fuel efficiency was important to us. The MINI gets about 25 MPG city and 32 MPG highway. In theory, this will reduce our fuel expense by two-thirds on road trips, giving us more money for Slurpees, candy, and other snacks.
The MINI is also a head turner, similar to how the FJ was. By no means is she modest looking. Her flashy colors and curvy body lines make her stand out in a crowd. Its unique, compact design allows it to be very nimble and carve up turns like a hot knife through butter.
The original MINI was meant to have a simple, ordinary life as a cheap economy car. She was born out of necessity for a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle that was within the financial grasp of just about everyone at the time and still capable of transporting a family. To meet these strict demands engineers had to get creative.
Due to their "outside the box" thinking, they achieved their goal and gave the world the MINI in 1959. Soon after its release, it captured the minds and imaginations of many people. From then till now, she has continued to entertain the masses. Her iconic history has become embedded in the motoring world. MINI has done a fantastic job at paying attention to the small details to make this car even more distinctive and fun to drive.
Much like the Toyota community, MINI owners are very passionate about their hobby. To some, the MINI is not a vehicle, it's a way of life, and that lifestyle is about adventure. Several MINI sponsored/organized events across the country bring owners together.
Some of these events draw owners, passengers, and spectators in by the thousands. You'll see base model stock MINI's to modified, track style MINI's and everything in between. I even accidently stumbled across one of these events in August of 2015 while up in Michigan. It was called "MINI On The Mac" where more than 1,300 MINIs were in attendance to attempt a new world record of Largest-ever MINI Cooper Parade, which is currently held by the English. Unfortunately, they missed their goal that day, but I'm sure the comradery and friendships made there far surpass any record.
If you're interested in reading more about this, please click the link: MINI On The Mac
Although different, the Toyota and MINI communities are very similar. They both care deeply about their vehicles and share the desire for adventure, togetherness and telling their story. The most notable difference is, one group loves the off-road while the other loves the road. Both roads lead to freedom, adventure and the outdoors. In the end, they find themselves at the same destination.
As fate would have it, I totaled the FJ in January 2017 after putting her belly up in Oregon. We did not want to rush the selection process of the replacement rig, but we needed a second vehicle. We decided to move on the MINI idea now. By doing this, it allowed more time to find the off-road rig that is right for us. We also figured, if we get the MINI now, we can start taking road trips and attending events in it.
Initially, our plan was to keep Ashlie's 2014 Cadillac CTS-V (her dream car) and get the MINI as a second vehicle for me. Once we decided on the replacement rig and were ready to buy it, we would sell her CTS-V, and the MINI would become her daily driver. The more we thought it about it, the more it made sense to sell her CTS-V now and only have one vehicle. There are advantages and disadvantages to only having one car, but for us, the pros outweigh the cons.
Sure, we could have waited on the MINI and taken the CTS-V on the road for now, but we would be in a similar fuel predicament what we were in with the FJ. The CTS-V is a high-horsepower beast who's Super Charged engine guzzles fuel at a rate of "oh damn!" On paper, the CTS-V gets 14 MPG city and 19 MPG highway. In reality, the fuel economy is more like Scotty from Star Trek, "I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain!" which equates to an average of 15 MPG.
In February 2017 we ordered our MINI, and on March 15, 2017, it arrived at the dealership. March 24, 2017, Ashlie took her final drive in the CTS-V as she made her way to the Brian Harris MINI dealership in Baton Rouge, LA. It was a day of mixed emotions. We said good-bye to the V and hello to the MINI.
Although our new MINI does not have the blood pumping power plant the CTS-V did, she still has a healthy heart beat. With 228 horsepower flowing from her turbocharged engine and the Dynamic Damper Controlled suspension, she zips around the city and winding mountain roads without effort.
Combined with the John Cooper Works Pro Bluetooth Exhaust, she goes from quiet, innocent Sunday morning to loud, rowdy Friday night. With a push of a button, the exhaust re-routes, bypassing the restrictive catalytic converter and unleashes a growl that commands attention and respect.
Her name says it all, MINI. She is used to being the underdog and picked on by the larger motors, but if given a chance, she will surprise even the strongest competitor. What she lacks in raw power she makes up for in stamina and agility.
The Cooper might be MINI, but she packs a punch! Like boxing, the motorsports world is full of eager fighters in all shapes and sizes. The MINI might not be in the main event, but she is still a competitor none the less. "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." is a quote by boxing legend Muhammad Ali which I feel best describes the MINI attitude.
Fuel efficiency is what lead us to look for a second vehicle, but the community and MINI heritage is what made us decide on which vehicle that would be. We are proud to be part of this new family and look forward to experiencing everything it has to offer.
Here's to the MINI!
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The world is a large place, and life is short. Together, we can accomplish much more than we ever could alone.
Baker and Ashlie are the owners of Bourn Adventure. They enjoy traveling and meeting new people. Each of them has a different and unique background, which helps to shape their articles.