Auto blogWed, 03 Sep 2014 17:00:00 EST
Mini is continuing to update its models onto its latest UKL front-wheel-drive platform that it shares with parent BMW. Here, our spies caught an early glimpse of the next-gen Countryman testing on the new chassis.
Like the rest of the updated Mini lineup, the latest Countryman doesn't exactly show a huge shift in styling from the current version. The front end appears to be slightly more blunt, and the headlights have a redesigned shape. However, behind the A-pillar the differences seem to be pretty subtle. At the rear, the new Countryman also looks to adopt the brand's rounded rectangle taillights protruding into the hatch like on the standard Cooper Hardtop range. While not shown here, our spies claim that Mini is also aiming for a roomier interior for the upcoming crossover so that it can be more competitive in its class.
At least for now, the Countryman is going to be the largest vehicle in the Mini range, according to an earlier statement from chief designer Anders Warming. The CUV is rumored to debut around 2016 with some assembly possibly done at Mini's plant in the Netherlands. Until then, have a look at these spy shots and tell us what you think.
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 08:00:00 EST
Competitors in the small-car segment didn't do nearly as well. Four vehicles earned "poor" grades.
Only one small car out of 12 tested earned a good grade in the latest round of crash-test results compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Mini Cooper Countryman received a "good" ranking on the organization's small-front overlap test.
Fri, 04 Jul 2014 15:01:00 EST
Mini models may keep getting incrementally bigger, but then so do their engines. Or more powerful, anyway - especially when it comes to the John Cooper Works performance models. The JCW version of the first (post-revival) generation R50, which was really more of an upgraded Cooper S than its own model, packed a 1.6-liter supercharged four with 200 horsepower. The following R56 JCW upped that incrementally to 208 hp, but the next Works hatchback is now rumored to pack around 230 horses.
Tipped to be revealed in both three- and five-door body-styles at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show half a year from now, the F56-gen Mini John Cooper Works hatchback is expected to use the same 2.0-liter turbo four as the new Mini Cooper S, but increasing the output from 189 hp to approximately 230. That would mean it would be more powerful than either of the two previous John Cooper Works GP editions to make the new JCW the most powerful road-going Mini to date, backed by 285 pound-feet of torque driving through a six-speed manual or available automatic transmission to deliver what promises to be a blistering pace for the latest retro hatchback.
A French marketing firm with the impenetrable name of Street Glory Mappers is literally turning cars into billboards. Of course, we've all seen vehicles painted up for promotional use, but this company is taking that concept even further by including video.
Street Glory Mappers equips the vehicles with a large video screen behind the windshield to play whatever is being advertised. According to the company's promo, it may even be possibly to sync up the vehicle's lights with the show, as well. The firm claims that it's a great form of temporary, mobile marketing because the car can arrive at the location, play the video and then go away when the prospective audience leaves.
While it doesn't necessarily seem any more effective than other forms of advertising, the firm's idea is at least unobtrusive. After all, it's easier to ignore a stationary car than a person handing out flyers. However, vehicle flashing its lights and playing video could certainly distract other drivers.
One of the big challenges as an automotive journalist is reviewing cars that you have a personal connection to. I have a strong passion for Minis. My first new car was a 2004 Cooper S, and I still own a 2006 model. It's this affinity that's left me with a general disdain of the 2007 to 2013 model relative to my first-gen.
The last-generation cars, with their turbocharged engines, softer suspensions, duller steering and homelier looks are, in my mind, inferior to their 2002 to 2006 predecessors. As a car reviewer, though, I couldn't in good conscience argue the same point. The R56, as the last-gen cars were known internally and by enthusiasts, was a better-balanced vehicle that retained the lion's share of the abilities and character of the first-generation, R53 Cooper S, but they were better thought out, better designed, more livable, and felt like more complete products.
Before the third-generation of the reborn Mini Cooper S landed in my driveway, I couldn't help but wonder whether the model would continue its slide towards mass appeal, or if it would re-embrace the enthusiast realm with a stronger driver-focused mission. As I found out during my week with the car, it was a bit of both.
While there are those who watch automotive exploits hoping (secretly or otherwise) for a spectacular crash, most of us are happy when everything goes smoothly. But at the end of the day, a daring stunt wouldn't be a daring stunt if there weren't some element of danger. And make no mistake about it, Guerlain Chicherit's recent long-jump record attempt was a daring stunt if ever there was one.
Chicherit, for those unfamiliar, is a French athlete who made the rare transition from "conventional" sports to motor sports. An accomplished professional skier, these days Guerlain drives a specially-prepared Mini Countryman in off-road events like the Dakar Rally and in death-defying stunts. Last year he managed to backflip his Mini and land in the record books, and this past winter he went after Tanner Foust's record by attempting a 360-foot jump at a ski resort in the French Alps. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.
Despite several practice jumps at closer distances, the final attempt ended in a massive cartwheel crash in front of the gathered crowds. Several spectators published footage of the crash soon after it happened, but now GoPro has released a more comprehensive compilation showing the lead-up to the event and the jump itself from every angle - inside, outside and away from the vehicle. It's guaranteed to make you cringe, but remember that Guerlain miraculously escaped with minimal injury and will live not only to tell the tale, but likely to take another crack at it. Whether you're the kind to gawk at such a crash or not, the video below is worth watching.
BMW is planning a fairly extensive overhaul in a bid to recoup some its annual costs, with CEO Norbert Reithofer (pictured above) aiming to save three to four billion euro ($4 to $5.4 billion) per year to help keep the company's profit margins between eight and 10 percent, while also maintaining investments in production expansion and new tech. BMW's profit margins sat at 9.4 percent in 2013.
According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer is none too pleased about costs at Mini and on the 1 Series, although neither AN nor its source story, from Germany's Manager Magazin, elaborate on what steps could be taken to improve losses on either project. That makes it hard to figure out just where the fat will be trimmed from.
What may happen, though, is that BMW attempts to trim 100 million euros ($135 million) from its German labor costs each year; a solution hinted at a few weeks ago by Germany newspaper Muenchner Merkur. While a dramatic cost reduction, 100 million euros still doesn't begin to even approach the savings envisioned by Reithofer.
The small, high-quality and relatively inexpensive GoPro camera has been revolutionary for Internet video, especially of cars. Imagine how much awesomeness and hilarity we would have missed without them. Finding ways to integrate the cams into performance cars is becoming increasingly popular among automakers, as well. For example, the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette has its Performance Data Recorder, and Volkswagen is giving GoPros to early buyers of the 2015 GTI. BMW Group is going straight to the source for its rendition, though, with a new app that allows drivers to control a GoPro from inside of some BMW and Mini vehicles.
In July, owners with 2012 or later models equipped with BMW Apps or Mini Connected can download the new app. There are a few hurdles to jump over, though. Not only do users need a model with the infotainment system, a WiFi-equipped GoPro camera is also required. The app also must be installed on an iPhone connected to the vehicle.
Once all of those stipulations are met, the app can configure and control the GoPro through iDrive and display a nearly live image on the infotainment system. Menus are simplified on-screen but still allow users to select among six camera modes, aim it and start and stop recording. While filming, it shows recording time, battery life and signal strength. While BMW's approach isn't quite as nicely integrated as the Corvette's solution, it's interesting to see automakers working to make filming easier. Scroll down to read the full announcement.
UPDATE: Information on US availability, specification and nomenclature added to the updated text below.
Few automakers have managed to spin off as many variants of essentially one vehicle as Mini has. The second generation produced even more versions than the first, and now that the third generation is upon us, the process is starting all over again. The jury may still be out on whether parent company BMW will roll out as many body-styles of this latest Mini as it did with the last, but here's our first indication.
Following the introduction of the new three-door Mini hatchback at the LA Auto Show, the Anglo-Saxon marque has introduced a new five-door model. Or four-door, depending on which Mini office you're speaking to: while this new model - an addition to the lineup and not a direct replacement for anything previously offered - is called the Mini 5 door by the factory, here in the US it's called the Mini Hardtop 4 door. Whatever you call it, though, this new Mini is essentially the same as the three-door model (or two-door model with a tailgate), only with - you guessed it - two extra doors. The new Clubman will be a separate model altogether.
Lego isn't just for kids anymore. A while back, the company cleverly realized that adults liked its connecting blocks as much as kids but wanted a more sophisticated project to take on. It offers a whole set of Expert models, including a wickedly cool Volkswagen Bus from a few years ago. Now, it's taking aim at automotive enthusiasts again with the recently announced classic Mini Cooper set due to go on sale on August 1 for $99.99.
This is a seriously cool Lego model. At nine inches long, five inches wide and four inches tall, the car is certainly compact (as a Mini should be), but it contains 1,077 pieces. It's finished in the classic Mini look with a British Racing Green body with white roof, hood stripes and mirror caps. The doors, hood and trunk all open up, and there's even a little, simulated engine. The interior includes features like a turning steering wheel and movable gearshift and handbrake. In the boot, there is a cute picnic set, and even a spare tire hidden under the floor. If you want to show off your handiwork after it's built, the roof is removable to peer inside.
Expect dads around the world to be unwrapping these when the holidays roll around. Scroll down to watch one of Lego's designers detailing its latest set and read the full release about it, below. The gallery shows the Mini off from all of its blocky angles, as well.