White beaches, brightly coloured houses, azure-blue water and evergreen palm trees. Travellers taking a trip down the Overseas Highway from Miami along the Florida Keys archipelago of islands discover that the reality puts even the most gorgeous postcards in the shade. Anybody who takes time out to enjoy this route while observing the US speed limits will also learn that the range of the new all-electric MINI Cooper SE is more than enough to swap the hustle and bustle of the metropolis for Caribbean flair. The journey itself is an experience but there are lots of other attractions waiting at the destination of Key West: the most southerly point in the USA, the Ernest Hemingway Home where the writer once lived, fresh seafood in numerous atmospheric local restaurants and the nightly Sunset Celebration.
Munich/Miami. 42 bridges link up the Florida Keys with each other. The string of islands located in the south of the Sunshine State is a very special type of hotspot for tourists. The local residents see themselves as unconventional free spirits who are famous for living by their everyday principles of hospitality and self-determination, zest for life, tolerance and being close to nature. During the journey along the Overseas Highway from the mainland to Key West, the incredible flair of the islands is visible with every kilometre that passes. The journey ideally needs to be undertaken in a car that also has a unique character. The new MINI Cooper SE (combined fuel consumption: 0.0 l/100 km; combined electricity consumption: 16.8 – 14.8 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km) powered by its all-electric motor combines virtues that are typical of the brand such as cosmopolitan outlook, individual flair and driving fun with an enduring sense of sustainability.
The locally zero-emission journey starts in South Beach, Miami’s most popular beach. The trip from this starting point covers 260 kilometres until you arrive in Key West, the most southerly point where the Overseas Highway comes to an end. The journey should be possible with a fully charged high voltage battery without taking a stopover on the way. The range of the new MINI Cooper SE determined in the official test cycle is between 235 and 270 kilometres.
Different parts of the city like Wynwood Art District, South Beach and the Midtown Design District are famous for their brightly coloured murals – must-see paintings on the walls of the houses. Unknown spray painters alongside some famous artists have created a pathway to immortality with these murals, which are almost as popular for photographic subjects as the art-deco buildings in Miami Beach.
Highway No. 1 snakes along past the zoo to the south of Miami, through the city of Homestead and out across the water. On Key Largo, the northernmost and biggest island, the harmony between tourism and nature conservation so characteristic of this region is evident for the first time. Large hotel buildings obscure the view of the water. At the same time, Key Largo houses the headquarters of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), an international research and education establishment focusing on marine ecology. The MINI Electric makes straight for a quick-charging station on the car park. Anybody who hasn’t started off with a fully charged battery can use the midday break to top up on energy supplies. The battery and charging unit of the new MINI Cooper SE are suitable for charging with direct current up to 50 kW. So even a completely empty battery can be fully charged in less than one and a half hours. For the stopover on Key Largo this means that while the travellers can stock up on calories by tucking into the island’s typical dessert of delicious key lime pie, the MINI Electric also has enough time to recharge its batteries.
The range is only reduced in small increments during the kilometres to come. This is not simply due to the usual federal speed limits. There really isn’t much need to use the power of the electric motor packing 135 kW/184 hp for any racy overtaking manoeuvres with the inevitable increase in electricity consumption. Drivers are well advised to adopt a leisurely pace when travelling through places like Islamorada, Tavernier or Duck Key so that they don’t miss the large number of picture-postcard motifs along the Overseas Highway. There’s no doubt that the air-conditioning is indispensable. But in the MINI Electric it operates extremely efficiently courtesy of innovative heat-pump technology.
The next typical combinations of tourist attraction and environmental protection site come on Grassey Key and Marathon. The Dolphin Research Center is a specialist welfare and research location for marine mammals. The facilities for housing and carrying out research into the animals are financed partly by entry charges from visitors. They are able to look over the shoulders of researchers and register in advance to swim in the water with carefully selected dolphins under rigorous supervision. Just a few miles away, vets and biologists look after sick and injured marine turtles at the Turtle Hospital, which are then released back into the wild after they have fully recovered.
Just outside the city boundary of Marathon, the route taken by the MINI Electric passes over Seven Mile Bridge. The longest bridge in the Keys connects Marathon with Bahia Honda, primarily popular with tourists looking for bathing and surfing opportunities. Entrances to the particularly beautiful beaches on Bahia Honda are rather difficult to find and most of them can only be accessed after payment of an entry charge. Anticipatory driving is also highly recommended when motoring along the roads on Big Pine Key. Notices and signs warn visitors to keep a lookout for key deer. And indeed one of the wild deer living there happens to be grazing on the grass along the side of the road. You always need to be ready to slam on the brakes, preferably with maximum recuperation performance. The new MINI Cooper SE will then rapidly decelerate if the driver just slightly releases the pressure on the accelerator pedal. A toggle switch under the central instrument activates this mode, allowing particularly large amounts of brake energy to flow back into the high-voltage battery.
Under these conditions, the power reserve in the battery actually takes drivers into the historic centre of Key West, where a public charging station is quickly found. The MINI Electric crew spent the rest of the outing exploring on foot. From ‘the Southernmost Point of Continental USA’, the trip goes along Whitehead Street and Duval Street into the northerly harbour area of the city. This is where travellers can follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway. The subsequent Nobel Prize Winner lived in Key West for some ten years from 1928 onwards and wrote works including his bestseller “To Have and Have Not” there. The writer’s home and his favourite bar “Sloppy Joe’s” are now tourist attractions. There are lots of atmospheric local restaurants in the immediate neighbourhood where freshly caught fish and seafood are served on spacious terraces.
The self-assuredness of the islanders is demonstrated with humour and pride everywhere on Key West. For example, Independence Day is celebrated on 23 April. On this day, the inhabitants of the southernmost island of the Florida Keys celebrate the foundation of the Conch Republic in 1982. At that time, they declared a symbolic independence in protest against a border control post set up by the US Federal Government on the Overseas Highway. Officially, the uprising only lasted for one minute but it actually did put a stop to the checks, which were very detrimental for tourism. Today, the flag of the Conch Republic, named after the large shellfish commonly found around the Keys, is a popular souvenir.
The individual lifestyle on Key West is also associated with a ritual that takes place every evening on Mallory Square. While the MINI Electric was quietly recharging its batteries at the charging station ready for the return journey back to Miami, local residents and guests were streaming onto the promenade in the north-west of the city. Holding a cool drink, all the people there looked out to sea waiting for the sunset. And as soon as the sun went down in the Gulf of Mexico, applause broke out. Standing ovations celebrated the beauty of nature and the happiness of being able to experience this wonderful phenomenon in a very special place.
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