Auto blogSun, 21 Jul 2013 17:11:00 EST
If you're the type of person who loves spontaneous road trips and camping, and Volkswagen's Camper Vans aren't your style (or you can't find one for sale in the US), then Mini has what you're looking for: the Clubvan Camper, Cowley caravan or Countryman ALL4 Camp. Unfortunately, Mini says there are no plans to offer any of them for sale. And no, this doesn't seem to be a recycled April fools joke, in which Mini touted the Swindon Roof Top Tent and Cowley.
Let's start with the Clubvan camper, a curious prototype that has a sleeping area for one and an extendable kitchenette featuring a stove and chest fridge. And we say curious because, in addition to not being offered for sale anywhere at this point, the Camper is based on the Clubvan, which was just pulled from US dealerships due to low sales volume. This thing definitely isn't coming to the US.
The Cowley caravan, named after Mini's historic factory in England (known today as Plant Oxford), can be towed behind a Mini vehicle and features a sleeping area for two, a twin-burner gas stove and a water tank complete with pump and sink facility. It looks quite comfortable in there. The Cowley uses a solar panel to charge its onboard battery, and it has a 230-volt connection to power the fridge and entertainment equipment.
Well, that didn't last long. According to Green Car Reports, Mini has discontinued the Clubvan from its model range in the United States.
Nathalie Bauters, Mini's US communications manager, cited "relatively low demand and the effect of an excessive 25-percent tax on vehicles for commercial use (known as 'the Chicken Tax')" as the key reasons for axing the Clubman from our market, GCR reports. The 2013 Clubvan launched in the US earlier this year, and to date roughly 50 examples have been sold.
The Clubvan, based on the Clubman model, features a flat load floor behind the two front seats, with blacked-out (well, body-colored) side windows. This nifty little cargo wagon could carry up to 33 cubic feet of goods, which while useful, pales in comparison to more capacious offerings like the Ford Transit Connect van.
Here it is, all but undisguised. We've been clocking the 2014 Mini Cooper for months now, but engineers' well-placed camouflage has meant that our views have been very limited. Today, though, the disguises have been cast aside and the new Mini has been revealed in both standard and Cooper S form during a photo shoot, and there are some real surprises afoot.
For one, we had no idea that the Cooper would adopt the LED daytime running lamp corona headlamps from the much-loved 2011 Rocketman concept, but there they are, looking both unique and a little frightened. The front grille has been resculpted and and is now more rounded, integrating the bumper strike face in matte black. In fact, the entire nose looks a bit more rounded to our eyes, with all variants carrying a small but noticeable power bulge (shown here on the S model above the intake slot in the hood). The profile looks largely unchanged save for a slightly faster windshield, but the rear picks up a set of oversized taillamps that we'll likely have to see in person to get comfortable with. Our spy shooters tell us that the 2014 Cooper, codenamed F56, appears to be slightly larger in the metal than its predecessor, as expected, with much of that length coming in the form of a longer front overhang (perhaps to assist with pedestrian safety regulations).
Expected to ride atop the same UKL architecture shared with the upcoming BMW 1 Series GT and MPV, the entire line of Coopers may move to an all three-cylinder lineup, including BMW's 1.5-liter I3 that features a twin-scroll turbo, direct injection and variable valve timing, a combination good for anywhere between 120 to 200 horsepower. Eventually, higher-performance models could generate up to 300 horsepower out of this tiny engine. Our well-connected lensmen suggest that at least one four-cylinder engine might carry over to the launch of this new generation, but it may only be available for the first model year.
YouTuber and car-fan extraordinaire Shmee probably had very little trouble tracking down the Top Gear film crew recently, as the group was putting together an episode that could accurately be described as "excessive." With its flag-waving (literally) Best of British theme, the TG guys gathered a jaw-dropping array of British cars, and parked them all right in front of Buckingham Palace to make extra sure that the point was driven home.
Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May were outfitted with a trio of Jaguar F-Types festooned with gigantic Union Jacks, with which to survey the landscape of British motoring glory. In the video below, you'll see that this includes any number of Mini, Aston Martin, Lotus, McLaren, Land Rover, Bentley and Rolls-Royce models (just to name a few), as well as a healthy dose of weird stuff that most people would never guess at being built in the UK. The lawnmowers and military vehicles are especially cool.
When Mini first introduced the Countryman, it only came as a four-seater, with a center rail between the two seats that could house things like cup holders and could be slid back and forth. Buyers could even opt for a full-length center rail that ran from just aft of the gear shifter all the way back between the rear seats, like we did in our long-term 2011 Cooper S Countryman All4, shown above.
Shortly after the Countryman's launch, Mini was able to offer the vehicle with a proper rear bench seat; the company could not offer this at launch due to NHTSA guidelines that governed the minimum vehicle width for three-person seating, but those rules were changed. And now, we've received official confirmation of something we reported last year: the Countryman is losing its center rail and four-person seating arrangement altogether. Moving forward, buyers will only be able to spec a Countryman with the bench seat, and a cup holder will be affixed to the back of the forward cabin's center console.
The larger-but-smaller Paceman will also be losing the center rail between its rear seats, but the car will remain a four-seater, instead having a console between the two rear seats that houses a cup holder, an iPod cozy and a 12-volt outlet, according to USA Today.
While watching Apple introduce iOS in the Car during its WWDC keynote on Monday, we wondered how automakers, even the 14 who've already signed up to integrate this new in-car functionality of iOS 7, will feel about having the Cupertino company's mobile operating system supplant their own in-car systems. After all, some OEMs like Ford, General Motors and many luxury automakers have sunk millions of dollars into developing their own advanced infotainment, navigation and communication platforms like MyFord Touch, CUE and older systems like iDrive.
One automaker has now spoken up. A BMW spokeperson was interviewed by someone in the news department of British auto dealer group Arnold Clark and confirmed that the company would not be getting in line to integrate iOS in the Car anytime soon. The reason, as we suspected, is that BMW believes its own products developed over the last decade are both plenty good and already so deeply integrated with other systems of the car that, as told to Arnold Clark, "it would not be that straightforward to start changing all of the architecture of a car as has been implied [by Apple]."
While BMW isn't interested in spending more money to integrate Apple's services and functionality over its own, it has spent a good bit already to integrate iPhone functionality in its cars, including the relatively rare ability to support iPod Out and display Apple's own interface on Mini models with the optional Mini Connected feature, as well as committing to integrate Siri 'Eyes Free' functionality.
Distracted driving is a very real problem. From drivers with phones dangling from their ears to those constantly adjusting the stereo or dealing with rowdy children in the back seat, anything that diverts attention away from the act of driving is a potential danger. And yes, that would indeed include applying makeup while driving.
Publicis, the advertising agency used by Mini in Mexico, came up with an inventive (or offensive, depending on your point of view) way of reminding female drivers "that there's a time and place for everything." And while we're not quite sure of the veracity of the statistics cited in the video below, or even the necessity of its production in general, perhaps we'll just take it as a reminder to pay attention while driving... no matter what else happens to be on our minds. Or faces, as it were.
Scroll down below for the explosive demonstration.
Mini is giving buyers the chance to sink their teeth into all-wheel drive on more models than ever. The automaker has announced the Coper Countryman and Paceman can now be had with the company's All4 all-wheel drive system. Previously, the option was only available on turbocharged Cooper S and John Cooper Works versions of the high-riding Minis. Buyers will be able to chose between the standard six-speed manual transmission and an optional six-speed automatic gearbox, and Mini says the naturally aspirated Cooper Countryman All4 can pull to 60 miles per hour in a languid 11.9 seconds when powered by a 122-horsepoer 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
We suppose what it lacks in speed it makes up for in determination. Likewise, the Cooper Paceman All4 does the deed in 11.8 seconds, though automatic models are somewhat quicker. Check out the full press release below for more information. Mini hasn't announced pricing for its new, less-powerful All4 models just yet.
This year's award for Life Ball Mini designer goes to Roberto Cavalli. The Life Ball is a charity event held in Vienna, Austria every year that raises money to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS. Since 2001, the year of its reintroduction, Mini has been involved with the ball, auctioning a car that has been made over by a world-famous designer. This year Cavalli gets the nod and a Paceman for a canvas.
The iridescent brown/black paint is the eye-catcher in the sketch above (click to enlarge), but don't forget to note Cavalli's logo on the roof. We're not sure what other flourishes he has in mind for the car, but those in attendance will find out on May 24 when it's unveiled at the Cavalli store opening in Vienna. The press release below has more details.
Location, Location, Location
Back in February, Mini invited me to come try out its brand-new Paceman coupe-crossover-hatchback thing in Puerto Rico, and not long after, I spit out a Quick Spin detailing my impressions of the little-big two-door. But here's what I didn't tell you: Mini also let me loose on those fine, curvaceous, tropical roads in its hottest hatch, the John Cooper Works GP. And while that behind-the-wheel gigglefest would have no doubt made for a story laden with positive notes and warm regards, the truth is, I only drove it for 15 minutes, so I couldn't in good conscience offer much of a story to you. (European Editor Matt Davis also got a short stint behind the wheel of the GP late last year.)
So for the sake of due diligence, I buckled down and spent a full eight days with the JCW GP back home in Detroit, just as springtime was starting to stick here in southeast Michigan. But after my time with the Mini, I was wishing that I could have just been left with my GP memories from Puerto Rico, where I was pushing the little hotbox hard around smooth corners and flexing every one of its muscles to eke out the full JCW GP experience in only a short timeframe.