This is the most exclusive car I’ve driven yet. Which is quite a statement considering that we’re talking about a Mini.
But this isn’t just any Mini. It’s called the Mini inspired by Goodwood, which means that the executives at Rolls-Royce woke up one morning and decided it was time to add some aristocracy to its raunchier sister brand.
Only 1000 of them will be made, of which just 10 have been allocated to South Africa.
And our test car was - you guessed it - the first one off the production line, with a numbered plaque pinned to the centre console to prove it. The chance of getting my hands on something as rare as this is the same as winning the Lotto. You’d think the first model would have been kept in a museum, or for a collector for that matter.
Numbered plaque aside, writing a cheque for just over half a million bucks gets you a three-door Cooper S with some seriously larney finishes.
From the moment your feet touch the thick lambswool carpet - which is exactly the same quality as you’d find in a Ghost or a Phantom - you know this car is different.
The brief to the design team in Goodwood was to create a high-class interior ambience, and to achieve this they threw in Corn Silk finishes on the dashboard, air-vent surrounds, centre console, roof liner, pillars and seats. The seats are truly quite special, with absolutely perfect creases and a hand-stitched look.
In contrast to this, there’s a large dose of burr walnut veneer and soft full-grain black leather on the dash and the doors, glossy piano black finishes on the switchgear, which includes the steering-wheel buttons and control panel, and cashmere on the roof liner, sun visors and luggage compartment cover.
Recognising its uniqueness from the outside is a little harder though. You need to look for the bespoke Diamond Black or Reef Blue metallic body colours or the elegant 17” multi-spoke alloys.
And that’s as far as the Goodwood influence goes. Underneath all that is still a proper Cooper S, which in any other context may not be a bad thing.
It’s just that when you think Rolls you think poise, and in this case it’s anything but. The ride is hard, handling and steering feedback is sharp, there’s a bit of engine noise in the cabin, and that 135kW force-fed engine is happy to chirp those front tyres when driven in anger.
It also comes only in auto – with the intention aimed at a more relaxed driving experience – but the reality is a feisty auto ’box which keeps the engine howling and is happy to drop a cog or two to keep things on the boil.
All of which is not the Rolls-Royce way.
Performance, sure, but the designers should have got the engineers at Goodwood to soften and quieten things down a little. What we have here is Lady Gaga dressed by Chanel. This Mini needs the under-the-skin finishing school to pull that Goodwood badge experience off properly.
As you’d expect, the Goodwood is highly specced and scores just about all the toys from the Mini options menu. You get adaptive headlights, park distance control, climate control, Harman Kardon audio (which is the business), satnav, heated seats - the full Monty.
But there are one or two oversights.
If this is the most expensive Mini yet I’d like a sunroof; and the mood lighting, which changes colour like the dance floor of a nightclub, should be something soothing to fit into the rest of the cabin. If you have kids, forget it, keeping the white carpet and cream seats clean is a nightmare. And where’s the trademark umbrella in the door, Rolls?
Some may say it’s the best of both worlds, beauty and the beast if you will. I reckon it’s a job half done. It could have been a mini Rolls-Royce, but instead it’s a Mini teased by Rolls-Royce. Either way, it’s rare and exclusive, and for most buyers that’s probably what counts. - Star Motoring
Follow Minesh Bhagaloo on Twitter.