Auto blogMon, 17 Feb 2014 15:44:00 EST
We are about to get a flood of new Mini models now that the new 2014 model is officially out. In just the past few months, we've seen spy shots of the next-generation John Cooper Works and so-called Traveler crossover, and here we have the upcoming five-door hatchback in Cooper S form, a model that, like the Traveler, is expected to effectively obviate the need for the slow-selling Clubman.
Mini is not exactly hiding that this is a new five-door model, even with its camouflage - the rear door line and handle are clear as day. Also, compared to the three-door Cooper Hardtop, there appears to be an added pillar and additional length at the rear. The hatch also appears to be mounted at a steeper angle than the standard Mini. Also, you have to admit that the Mickey-Mouse-ear fog lights are cute, even if Mini would never actually sell it that way.
Expect to see even more variants soon, if BMW and Mini want to reach their goal of selling over a million front-wheel drive vehicles - an earlier report indicated there could be as many as 23 front-wheel drive cars from the brands in the coming years.
Mini likes to make a big hullabaloo about the number of ways its cars can be configured, which currently stands at 10 million. While that figure is impressive, the BMW-owned brand is always looking for new and unique design variations, a trend that has seen a number of special-edition Minis pop up over the years boasting unique color and trim items.
For the new, third-generation F56 Mini, the British brand is at it again. Only this time, the cars are designed and chosen by Mini's fans in a new contest. Called "The New Originals," Mini teamed its 10 Final Test Test Drive winners with an illustrator to design their perfect Mini, one of which will become the next special-edition model.
The ten cars are currently being voted on by the brand's fans on the Mini USA website, with the winner set to be announced at the 2014 New York Auto Show in April. A total of 56 examples of the winning entry will then be put on sale, making this one of the most limited of Mini's many limited editions. Voting closes on February 19, so hop over to the page and vote for your favorite.
The highlight of Mini's 2014 Detroit Auto Show stand was the arrival of the John Cooper Works Concept, a sportier version of the three-door hatch that presages the next JCW model on the new platform. Now, we have our first images of the production car undergoing winter testing way up north in Sweden.
Really, the Mini camouflage can't hide what this car is. Between the JCW-branded brake calipers and extra intakes in the front fascia, it's fairly easy to see that this is the sportier version of the car our own Jeremy Korzeniewski wrote about last week. We're expecting the JCW variant to pack a fair bit more firepower than the three-cylinder Cooper he tested, of course. Rumors have circulated that the hottest Mini model could jump to 230 horsepower, up from the current, non-GP car's 208.
There are a number of style features missing here, and while it's entirely possible we'll see things like the JCW Concept's diffuser and side gills arrive when this car is shown in production form (or even further along in testing), their absence in these spy photos is telling. We certainly think this car will become the production JCW Hardtop, but there may be another explanation. The lack of certain aesthetic features means this could be a test of the JCW Engine Kit, which in past Minis slotted in between the standard Mini Cooper S and the factory Works car. We'll admit, it's a long-shot, but there is precedent for it - the JCW Tuning Kit arrived a year before the factory model in the last-generation car. The same reasoning could be used to explain the presence of the JCW-branded brakes, which have been another well-known Mini accessory over the years.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone from Mini refer to 'go-kart-like handling,' I'd be retired, living on a beautiful piece of coastline somewhere in the Caribbean. Perhaps even on the shores of Puerto Rico, where Mini chose to launch its latest Cooper and Cooper S hatchbacks. As with so many frequently used phrases, though, there is indeed some truth to the cliché - while the Mini Cooper has never actually handled quite like a go kart, it has always had a certain directness in its movements, reacting to steering inputs with an immediacy and fervor unlike most any other automobile meant primarily for the street.
Combine those unique driving dynamics with a sense of fun that permeates the entire brand from pre-sales marketing to the actual sales process itself and you end up with a marketplace success. As an ex-Mini owner myself (a 2009 Cooper S Convertible), I can attest to the kinship felt between fellow Mini drivers who share in the knowledge that they are having more fun than the poor appliance-driving masses sharing the highways and byways of these United States. It's no surprise that the style-conscious US continues to be the marque's single largest market year after year.
This enviable brand perception hasn't been attained without its own fair share of flaws, however. Though the quirky design and massively customizable bits and pieces that have made up the Mini brand's interior philosophy since it was reborn in 2001 have proven somewhat endearing, the Cooper Hardtop's ergonomics have always been an unmitigated disaster. Plus, this is a very small car, with a rear seat that's practically uninhabitable by adult-size occupants. While that adjective seemingly goes hand-in-hand with the brand's name, the modern Cooper has never been as ingeniously packaged as its 1959 forbearer, which offered up as much interior space as possible through innovative engineering and minimalist design. Further, parent company BMW has positioned Mini as a premium brand, so the Cooper's diminutive size has never equated to low prices. And for being such a small car, the Cooper historically hasn't been well-known for its fuel efficiency.
The late Sir Alexander Arnold Constantine Issigonis, Alec Issignonis to his Internet friends, designed a car that was sold as the Morris Mini-Minor, the Austin Seven and later the Austin Mini. Go to the Mini USA website and check out the models, though, and every one of them is called a Cooper of some sort, e.g., Mini Cooper Paceman or Mini Cooper S Roadster. So who is Cooper?
It's probably obvious that it's the same Cooper we get in "John Cooper Works," those JCW Minis that always make up the top of the line. But many probably don't know that that John Cooper, founder of John Cooper Cars, is the same man who accidentally got the motorsports world to switch to rear-engined race cars and the same Formula One constructor who won two titles in 1959 and 1960 and who fielded drivers like Bruce McLaren and Stirling Moss.
On its way to driving the Mini John Cooper Works GP II, XCAR goes back to the beginning to find out when Alec met John, and how the first Mini Cooper came out in 1961, two years after the first Mini. You can watch the story and the car review in the video below.
As surprised as the face of the new 2014 Mini Cooper makes the model look, customers shopping for the third-gen hatchback won't be surprised at all come spring. When the Hardtop goes on sale, it will not only offer a similar design to the outgoing model, it will also have a familiar price with a starting MSRP of $19,950 (*plus $795 for destination).
That price is for the base, third-generation model with the company's new 134-horsepower, 1.5-liter three-cylinder turbocharged engine, and that MSRP amounts to a $250 increase over the 2013 Cooper. Looking for a little more power? The 189-hp Cooper S will go on sale at the same time, starting at $23,600 - just $300 more than last year's model.
Mini's press release discussing 2014 Cooper pricing is posted below, but for more detailed information on the options and packages, head on over to the live configurator.
Motor racing is often overcome by dominant forces. In Formula One these days, it's all about Red Bull. Le Mans is absolutely dominated by Audi. Citroën devastated the World Rally Championship for years. And the Dakar Rally is no exception to that particular rule, either.
The Mitsubishi Pajero won the event seven years in a row and many times before that. Then Volkswagen took the lead, winning three years running with competition-spec Touaregs once the rally shifted from North Africa to South America in 2009. But these days it's Mini that dominates.
The Mini All4 Racing team won in 2012, again in 2013 and has just won it again for 2014. Not only did it win again, but it took a devastating 1-2-3 finish to lock out the podium. Over the course of 13 days, Minis won 11 out of 13 of the total stages that make up the grueling rally, at the end of which Nasser Al-Attiyah crossed the line in third, Stéphane Peterhansel finished second, and just five minutes ahead of him, Nani Roma crossed the finish line in Valparaíso in first place. (Of course it didn't hurt that there were no fewer than 11 Minis entered in this year's rally, but still.)
We now know that Mini will offer a stupendous number of total models over the next few years, so it's fair to assume that most of the brand's concept cars have series production written all over them. So, a 'concept' like this new John Cooper Works Mini is more or less a mortal lock to hit showrooms in very similar trim.
That's probably a good thing for future JCW owners, as this Mini looks decidedly better than the standard car that debuted in Los Angeles late last year. Something about the bigger grille, lowered front fascia and pumped up wheel arches make the car more visually compelling than the weird-nosed 2014 Mini Hardtop. (At least to this author.)
By hey, don't take our word for it - with the official press release down below, and our box-fresh gallery of live images up above, you can make up your minds for yourselves. Tell us what you think in the Comments.
We wouldn't buy a car to make a dog happy, but Mini's latest commercial, Bullheaded, would have you believe that dogs like the new 2014 Cooper as much as humans. Regardless of the commercial's target audience (Spike The Bulldog, or his owner?), it does show a couple new tidbits about the car, such as the new center dial touchscreen, ambient lighting and the nifty tinted pop-up display on top of the dashboard that reminds us of the head-up display on the new Mazda3.
Head below to watch Spike and his owner drive the Mini in Downtown Los Angeles (and the back lots of Paramount), and to get a behind-the-scenes look at how the commercial was made.
BMW effectively hit the reset button when it unveiled the new Mini at the LA Auto Show last month, opening the door to a whole raft of new variants to follow - and this is the first.
Set to be unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show next month is the new Mini John Cooper Works Concept, a show car that previews the next hot hatch from the Anglo-Saxon automaker. Mini isn't saying much about what makes it tick, focusing instead of the design that sets it apart from the standard version we've already seen.
This JCW concept features a lustrous grey paintjob with bright red accents, 18-inch alloys and an upgraded aero kit, all aimed at making the Mini look that much sportier. It's got bigger air intakes where the fog lights would be, LED headlamps, a black grille frame, side skirts, a rear bumper with diffuser insert and a roof-mounted spoiler.