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John Cooper Works Mini Cooper, Chevrolet Camaro Super Sport, and Lexus IS-350

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John Cooper Works Mini Cooper, Chevrolet Camaro Super Sport, and Lexus IS-350

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John Cooper Works Mini Cooper

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With the cooler weather here, it's a good time to take a ride in some high-end convertibles. First up was the Mini Cooper with the John Cooper works pack. This includes a potent 208 hp turbo engine, monster-sized Brembo disc brakes at 12.4 inch front/11 inch rear, sports exhaust, and more for $35,700. Mine was loaded up, so it hit $39,845. Most buyers will choose the 6-speed manual gearbox. This one had the 6-speed automatic, which includes a sport mode with manual paddle shifters. It actually performs better than the manual, thanks to the pull of that strong turbo motor. Gas mileage is rated at 26-34 which is what this one got.
Performance is outstanding. Plenty of acceleration, and unreal handling, with strong brakes. A real sports machine! Putting that top down on a cool night increased the fun. Complaints? Well those run-flat tires destroy ride comfort, and with no spare will provide about 50 miles on a flat; not good news when driving on the interstate where the nearest town can be hours away. Also the stiff suspension is tiring, and can cause the car to lose traction on rough pavement. Scary at high speeds! Still, this is a true sports car, with great gas mileage to boot. Nice.

CAMARO SS
Next was the Chevy Camaro with the Super Sport option. This includes the famous small block V-8 engine cranking out 426 horsepower. This one had the standard 6-speed manual transmission. A strong high-torque motor like this works better with the optional 6-speed automatic, providing quicker acceleration and increased fuel economy, but the self-shifter was fun to play with at times. Still, for daily commuting, this manual shifter is a waste. Gas mileage is listed at 16-25 mpg.
This machine is quick, reaching 60 mph in about 5 seconds. The optional sport exhaust ($895) is loud, and those optional racing stripes ($470) make it look faster. But keep adding options, and you will hit the $46-K tag like this one--a long jump from the $22-K base V-6 car!

LEXUS IS-350
This car had a solid hardtop, unless a certain button is pushed that is. Then the metal roof can disappear into the trunk in 20 seconds. After this is done, the trunk room is lost, providing about enough space for a set of golf clubs. There is little space in the second row seats for real people as well. Not a practical vehicle for hauling people and gear, but otherwise a nice GT machine. The 3.5 liter V-6 puts out plenty of power, and is rated at 19-27 mpg which is what was observed. Steering is responsive, brake feel is firm, and cornering is brisk. Ride quality with tires set to factory specs at 35/38 psi is lousy, way too still. Lowering air pressure to 30/33 transforms it from an ox cart to comfort zone with no loss in performance. So keep an air gauge handy!
Interior quality is very nice, but there were two complaints. First the sun visors fold but do not slide or expand as all other cars do. Therefore the sun’s rays can blast through the driver’s window, baking the operator on a sunny day. Totally unacceptable on a big dollar car like this! Also it's a long step out of the driver’s seat, causing pants to rub against the outside bodywork. On a muddy day, this results in dirty clothes. But for those who can overlook minor gripes, and have $46-K to $54-K to spend, this is a swell ride.

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