Auto blogWed, 12 Dec 2012 20:00:00 EST
No, this isn't an April Fool's joke or some sort of wacky car commercial. It's the SPCA Auckland (located in New Zealand) coming up with an innovative way of proving that it's possible to teach a rescue animal new tricks. Monty, Porter and Ginny are all dogs rescued by the SPCA Auckland, and each was taught the ability to drive a Mini Countryman around a track.
After being strapped into the driver's seat, the dogs are able to use their paws to start the car, steer it and work the gas and brake, which have been modified similar to a car setup for a special-needs driver. These dogs aren't being trained to drive on the street as any sort of driving-eye dogs, rather it is just a demonstration of how smart and docile rescue dogs can be regardless of how they ended up there. Porter was found wandering the streets, Ginny was abused by her owners and seized by the SPCA and Monty was surrendered by his owners to the rescue. Ironically, Porter and Ginny initially got carsick during the exercises, but have since gotten over this.
Think it's a joke? Scroll down to watch four videos showing the dogs in action and another to see what mods were made to get the Mini ready for canine duty. In the first video, you can also see that Porter does a better parking job than most humans!
JD Power has released its annual Sales Satisfaction Index Study, and once again Mini and Lexus have taken top honors. Overall, buyers are more satisfied with the auto-buying sales experience than they were last year, with those surveyed reporting an average score of 664 points on a 1,000-point scale. That's up from 648 in 2011. Dealer satisfaction also increased by five points over last year as well.
All told, Lexus brought home an index score of 737, which was high enough to put it atop the luxury brands for the second year in a row. JD Power says Infiniti came in second in that category with a score of 728 and Cadillac rounded out the podium with it's rating of 725. Speaking of Infiniti, that brand saw the single largest jump in sales satisfaction of any brand on the survey, popping up 52 index points over 2011.
Among mass-market brands, Mini ranked highest with a score of 712, followed closely by Buick with 706 and GMC farther down the line with 683. You can check out the full press release below for more information.
The Mini Cooper is now confirmed as a great car with which to pick up chicks-up to 28 of them at a time, to be specific. That's the number of limber ladies you can fit in a Mini, as proven earlier this week in London.
The flexible females used every available space in the car, including the footwells and dashboard, to set the Guinness World Record for the most people inside a 2012 Mini. They beat their own previous record of 27, set last year.
Organizer Dani Maynard said before the attempt that the girls had undergone extra training and stretching since last year's record-breaking stunt. "While we have not quite been able to fit any of the girls into the Mini's glove box, there is a surprising amount of space to utilise," she told UK news site Metro.
About three weeks prior to this brief yet balls-to-the-wall drive on the Spanish island of Mallorca, I saw that Mini USA announced pricing for the keenly anticipated Mini John Copper Works GP. And that number would be - *a-hem* - $39,950 for starters.
I am always intent upon finding the pinnacle of what a certain car promises me, and almost at any cost. Almost. When I think "steaming hatchback," I think of something exactly like this Mini GP, and the steep price doesn't squelch my pleasure. They're only building 2,000 of them anyway, and the units coming to the US will start arriving in owners' hands on March 16 of next year. These buyers will be extremely happy and remorse-free.
Five scorched laps at the very Mini-perfect Circuito Mallorca RennArena showed me all.
The 2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP is dropping weight and lowering its lap times, but one thing it won't be losing is its flat roof. Like the original JCW GP package, Evo says that despite the fact that sportier Mini Coupes have been caught testing, the new GP will only be offered in the three-door Cooper hatchback body style. And that's perfectly fine with us.
Evo spoke with GP development chief Jorg Weidinger who said that as a part of the car's history, "It was a hatch, it is a hatch and it should stay a hatch." Weidinger also said that Mini is not planning to set any Nürburgring records with the new JCW GP even though earlier reports indicate that the car is a full 20 seconds faster around the 'Ring than its 2006 predecessor.
The new Mini John Cooper Works GP weighs 121 pounds less than the John Cooper Works Hardtop, offers a fully adjustable coil-over suspension and it will have a starting price of $39,950, (including $700 for destination) when it goes on sale later this year.
Not Too Odd, Not Too Maxi. Is This Mini Just Right?
We recently got our first time behind the wheel of the latest iteration of the Mini Countryman, the 215-horsepower John Cooper Works model, and were left less than enthused despite the inherent fun factor that a JCW badge brings. Our time with the crossover suggests the Countryman is just too weighty and soft to properly wear the badge.
We have also spent loads of time in various Mini Clubman trims and, despite the oddity of its configuration, this model may be our overall favorite in the current Mini lineup. But it is decidedly not a volume seller, which Mini needs.
Aside from the general lack of snow in the Midwest earlier this year that hampered our ability to properly play with our Blizzak-equipped Mini Contryman long-term test vehicle, the biggest problem we had with this crossover during the year we spent with it was the transmission. On four different monthly updates (September, October, November and June), all in the hands of different Autoblog editors, the Countryman's clutch was called out for being too finicky, leading to many stall outs. Apparently, we weren't alone in our assessment of the Countryman's clutch woes.
According to MotoringFile, Mini has updated the Countryman with a different clutch material and improved software. This much-needed change is being implemented starting this month, but Mini hasn't said what it is doing about existing 2011 and 2012 Countryman models that are afflicted with this problem.
Head over to MotoringFile to see the full official statement from Mini USA on this issue.
The two-door Mini Cooper is getting two additional portals in its next generation. A coming five-door Cooper S with central exhaust has been spotted out testing, the idea presumably being that it will pose a better challenge to other small, premium hatches in the segment like the A1 Sportback from Audi. Based on the same UKL platform that will support the production version of the BMW Concept Active Tourer, the wheelbase has been lengthened to make more room for rear passengers.
It should be revealed on the auto show circuit at some point next year, getting buyers ready for its production in 2014. We'll find out then if it gets a special name and how it fits in with - or perhaps replaces - the Clubman.
It seems that retailers are bringing out the Christmas decorations earlier each year, but Mini's premature holiday spirit could be one for the record books. The day after Black Friday, the "Mini Goes to Santa Claus" adventure will depart from BMW headquarters in Munich, Germany and head up Rovaniemi, Finland (just outside the Arctic Circle) to deliver Christmas letters to Santa Claus -he must have an mail outpost here for his North Pole workshop. Guinness World Records is also getting involved with this trek, by competing for a for the longest-ever wish list to Santa.
Mini has assembled teams of vehicles from 16 countries consisting of all of its current models to drive the almost 1,900 miles. Although it won't be a part of the convoy, the Mini Paceman will be in Rovaniemi to welcome the groups along with former rally driver Rauno Aaltonen who will "demonstrate his unequalled talent" while driving the Paceman. We're not exactly sure what this means, but snowy climates and rally drivers always seem to be a recipe for great entertainment to us.
Scroll down for Mini's press release, but we'll have to wait until later in the month to see what should be some pretty cool pictures of the trip.
It's been two years since the debut of Mini's Countryman crossover. In that time, the general public has indeed warmed to the idea of a big Mini - we grew to rather like it during our long-term test - and for 2013, a few small, thoughtful updates are on tap for the brand's range-topper.
The big change for the Countryman concerns the power window toggles, though Mini would also like you to notice the new Carbon Black ring around the center speedometer and new interior colors. Mini window controls have long resided in the center console, lost among the number of other buttons. The new Countryman breaks with that trend by moving the buttons to the door armrest, where it is located on most other passenger vehicles. We first saw this on the production Paceman that debuted in Paris earlier this year. This location also allows for a multi-button panel on the driver's side door. Previously, opening and closing all windows meant hitting each button individually.
Also of note is the removal of the two standard bucket seats in the second row, instead being replaced with a bench seat. Those who appreciate the customizable center rail in four-seat models can still select rear bucket seats, however. The 2013 Countryman is scheduled to hit European dealers sometime in November with US sales to follow shortly thereafter.