Auto blogMon, 02 Dec 2013 18:01:00 EST
There's not really any way around it - the new Mini Hardtop isn't all that mini. Considering its supposed to be the smallest model in the brand's lineup, this is hardly desirable. It's good news, then, that rumors are cropping up of a smaller Mini, based on the well-received Rocketman Concept that debuted in 2011 at the Geneva Motor Show.
The report, which comes from our friends at AutoGuide, claims that a production Rocketman is still on the radar of Mini's product chief, Pat McKenna, despite being officially on hold. As Mckenna explained it to AG, "the only way it would happen would be if it was a partnership with another company."
See, the problem is that Mini's current UKL platform, which underpins the new Hardtop along with the future Mini range, is too large for the tiny Rocketman. And since developing new platforms isn't as easy as popping down to the shops for a gallon of milk (nor as cheap), it makes the need for an ally to split the costs a necessity. Success, so far, has been limited.
We recently reported that the new family of Minis could balloon from eight models to ten or more, but it's not only the model line that's expected to grow: so too could the largest model itself. That, of course, would be the Countryman, which is already bigger than anything else ever to wear the Mini badge. But if you think the current Countryman is already big enough, the latest reports suggest that it could get even bigger. Apparently parent company BMW feels a larger Mini crossover would better compete with more mainstream models in the marketplace.
The Countryman, however, will only be one of the new variants to spin off of the new third-generation Mini. Expect the new Hardtop hatchback introduced in LA to be followed by a new Cabriolet, Roadster, and Paceman. A five-door version of the base hatchback will also join in addition to the new Clubman, which is tipped to get a split tailgate instead of the single hinged aperture on the current model. The jury's still out on the Mini Coupe, which has largely failed to impress, while a convertible crossover could be back in the mix along with the rumored plug-in hybrid version.
Remember the Mini Rocketman concept from 2011? While we were really, really hoping for a production version - a properly mini Mini - that never happened. And it won't. But what we are getting is a whole lot of that showcar's styling cues applied to the third-generation Mini Cooper hardtop, a model making its debut here at the LA Auto Show. And while from most angles, the new Mini is as cute as ever, we just can't quite warm up to that face - or that huge front overhang. The car simply looks like a frightened goldfish (that yellow paint isn't helping, either).
The car simply looks like a frightened goldfish (that yellow paint isn't helping, either).
It should probably be pretty nice to drive, though, with the base Cooper using a new turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine good for 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Friskier Cooper S models get a healthy power increase, their 2.0-liter turbo engines putting out a full 189 hp and 207 lb-ft, with both engines are mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.
Jaguar has taken the top spot among luxury brands in the 2013 Sales Satisfaction Index, an annual survey conducted by J.D. Power that measures customer satisfaction with the experience of purchasing a new vehicle. The English brand, not even among the top three luxury automakers on the list last year, vaulted ahead of Lexus, which placed third this year after leading the list in 2011 and 2012. Porsche, meanwhile, moved into second place.
The rankings are based on a point score out of 1,000, with Jaguar earning 740 points, Porsche right behind with 739 and Lexus with 737. Volvo, meanwhile, made the biggest improvement among luxury brands with a 30-point jump to 708, bring it up from 11th place to 9th this year.
J.D. Power has a separate ranking for mass-market brands, and this year Mini again tops the list with a score of 718, far outpacing second-place Buick with a score of 694 and making it the fourth time Mini has lead this list. After Buick, the next two ranked brands are both American and both from General Motors, with Chevrolet and GMC sharing third place with a score of 686.
There are occasions in life when something happens in the outside world and I think, "Damn. I wish Dad was here so we could talk about this."
In the past 13 years, that's happened every time Mini unveils a new model. And that's been quite often in the 12 years since the car was reintroduced - it has expanded to include seven different models, which is a testament to how quickly the updated Mini caught on. My Dad, who passed away in 1996, loved the brand. His first car was a Mini, and he'd race it in illegal rallies around the Irish countryside in his 20s, before he emigrated to the US and tried to (mostly) stay on the right side of the law.
Mini released photos and specs for the third-generation "original" hardtop car today. The company had to slap in the term "original" in there to differentiate it from the Convertible, longer-wheelbase Clubman, Countryman crossover, Paceman three-door crossover, Coupe and Roadster. Coming out with that many nameplates in 13 years is unprecedented growth for a company that's essentially brand-new in the US.
With the next-gen Mini Cooper hardtop set for its big debut next week at the LA Auto Show, we're getting a good look at what will be coming next for the BMW brand. Mini will follow up the introduction of the Mini Cooper with the new convertible model, but our spy shooters have proof that a plus-sized model (rumored to be called Traveller or Spacebox) is coming along quite well.
There still isn't much information about the Traveller (shown above), which will be longer and wider than the Countryman, but we can tell that it takes dimensional cues from both the Countryman and Clubman to maximize passenger and cargo space. The face of this new model will definitely be closer to the 2015 Cooper, and it will have a split rear door setup like the Clubman. Like the more recent Countryman and Paceman designs, though, the Traveller will have horizontally positioned taillights instead of the Cooper's vertical lights. We have no indication as to when we'll be seeing the Traveller in production form, but this prototype seems to be in the final stages of development.
As for the Cooper, we've already spied the hardtop completely uncovered, and just recently we spotted the sportier Cooper S Convertible being transported on a flatbed. The dual center-outlet exhaust is the key tell that model was the S, which likely means that the droptop spotted here the base model.
Road & Track recently staged its first annual Performance Car of the Year test, pitting 13 new and updated performance cars against each other on track, then graduating the top six to a road test before picking a winner. Additionally, the magazine staff picked the best automobiles of the year in eight categories.
But first, let's cover the PCotY segment. Here's the list of cars brought to the comparison test: Audi R8 V10 Plus; BMW 435i; BMW M6 Competition Package; Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51; Ferrari F12 Berlinetta; Ford Fiesta ST; Jaguar F-Type V8 S; Jaguar XFR-S; Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model Wagon; Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series; Mini John Cooper Works GP; Nissan GT-R Track Edition; and Porsche Cayman S.
To find out the results of the comparison, head over to Road & Track's website or check the press release below, where you'll also find the magazine's top-rated vehicles in eight categories. Want more? Head over to the 2013 PCotY hub. But before you do that, take a stab at guessing the winner of PCotY (we'll give you one hint: it isn't a Porsche).
Mini will be kicking off production in the Netherlands, a country that hasn't built a Mini-badged machine since 1966. In honor of this event, BMW Group Classic, the team responsible for all the cars in the BMW Museum, as well as being a spare parts and restoration company in its own right, revived a classic 1959 Austin Seven. That particular car, number 983, was one of the first Minis to be built in the Netherlands.
The Netherlands' JJ Molenaar's Car Companies built 4,000 Austin Sevens and Morris Mini-Minors between 1959 and 1966, although we imagine Dutch Mini production will be much bigger when it starts up again in summer 2014. A five-person team from VDL Nedcar, the group handling production of new Minis, took to the job of restoring the diminutive British car from nose to tail.
The 34-horsepower engine and the transmission were both completely rebuilt, while the door panels were redone by hand. Help from the Mini community aided the VDL Nedcar team in finding authentic replicas or original parts where possible. All told, the new classic Mini is a striking example of what a good restoration can do to a car. The Seven was repainted in its original Farina Gray, adding to the car's sense of authenticity.
All it takes is a small spark to set off a fire. Just look at what has happened since BMW brought back the Mini in the early 2000s. What started with a hatchback has since spawned more bodystyles than we care to count and almost as many imitators. The second generation followed in 2007, and now Mini is preparing to launch the third.
The new Mini is scheduled to debut a week from now on November 18 at the Oxford plant in England, just days before the LA Auto Show and Tokyo Motor Show kick off and on the birthday of the original's designer Sir Alec Issigonis.
The third generation of the popular retro hatchback is expected to closely follow the lead set by the Mini Vision concept revealed a few months ago, but then we already knew that, having seen numerous undisguised photos of the new car in action. Still, the half-minute teaser video embedded below does a decent job of drumming up some enthusiasm, so if you're enamored of the Anglo-Saxon retromobile, head on down to check it out.
Every year Evo stages its Car of the Year test, bringing the best performance cars in the world to one location for an epic shootout. This year the magazine pitted eight CotY finalists against each other on Route Napoleon in Southern France - Evo claims it's the "best road in the world" - and then proceeded to nitpick the smallest of faults on each car until the winner could be named. You see, this year's lineup of machines was just so good that only one car obviously wasn't CotY material from the get-go. Can you guess which one judging from the list below?
- Aston Martin V12 Vantage S
- Audi R8 V10 Plus