Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mini Cooper Countryman Wins Small Car Crash Tests

I know it's painful to see a MINI get hurt but I am rather thrilled that the Countryman got top honors in recent frontal collision, small car crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It was the only car to win the top rating woohoo!

The Nissan Leaf and Mazda 5 scored last incidentally. See the full article in the LA Times with some rather excruciating video.



Sunday, April 20, 2014

MINI Night Runs - As Close to Rallying as it Gets

yes, the classics made it out as well
I've taken to joining some local MINI club drives in the Maryland/DC area this year and most recently, enjoyed a night run following a frozen custard sampling (at The Meadows) which had us zipping through back country roads dodging deer, distracted pick-up drivers and sometimes our own shadows. It was a rare warm day as well so most of us had our sunroofs open and could hear the pop and gurgle of our MINIs in sport mode. I truly believe there are fewer greater things in life than great MINI folks and frozen custard. Central Maryland MINI Motorists were the hosts. 



blacking out the trim is becoming a popular thing these days
yes it was indeed at night

Friday, January 31, 2014

New MINI configure tool live

This is my first attempt at customizing the new MINI hardtop. Dealers are already taking orders. Good way to spend a Friday evening.
miniusa.com

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The New 2014 Mini Cooper Hardtop - Yes I sat in it

And here it is!
Fortunately for me, the Washington, DC Auto Show occurs in January which means we often get to see the latest models before the masses and before they enter the showrooms in Spring. It may be somewhat obvious that I lean towards loving MINIs therefore, it should come as no surprise that seeing the new 2014 Cooper S Hardtop in the flesh was a bit thrilling. The MINI rep standing next to the car was not quite sure what to make of me as I took gazillions of photos and made no attempt to erase the permanent grin on my face. Even my daughter uttered, "Dad, you are too obsessed with cars". It got better as few people were around and I was able to linger in the cockpit as long as I wished. 

Toggle me baby
What we MINI owners immediately notice is that the speedometer now sits in front of the driver rather than in the giant circular binnacle to the right. I have to admit, with the digital readout constantly in front of me in my 2012 Countryman, I almost never look at the regular speedo. Moving it within the line of sight of the driver just makes since. The infotainment center and nav now occupy the circular display in the middle (see photo). Another obvious change is the overall size inside and out. Granted, it is still a small car but the interior is noticeably roomier and, quite frankly, seems better made. MINIs have always fit tall people but the length of the foot well in the new hardtop is even longer. And let us not forget the new toggle switch which replaces the push button start; it is gorgeous. 

Admit it, you never looked at my over-sized binnacle
The gold color is not my favorite and I would almost certainly go for an all black version, so I cannot wait until the online configuring tool includes 2014 models to give us a better idea of the color range. Additionally, the air ducts in the front seem to protrude a bit too much but this can be fixed with a better color combination in my opinion. The non-S version does not have the air ducts and actually appears somewhat more whole when compared to its sportier sibling (only the S was at the show). But who wants less horsepower over looks? 

MINI has definitely nailed the design and added a more premium interior to boot. The car appears complete and is one of the few new models this year that does not look like a body on wheels but rather, an entire finished piece. Each angle offers a bit of whimsy but also a hint of rallying history with some cheekily aggressive lines. In short, it is a hit! The rep tells me dealers are already taking orders and the 2014 models will be in showrooms April. The base model will start in the low $20s with the S model starting at around $23k, but we all know adding the extra goodies will bring the finished car closer to $30k. 

I'm still a MINI don't worry 







Monday, January 20, 2014

How DID Tesla get it Right with the S?


How very interesting that Tesla has a showroom/store in my local mall (Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD). At this showroom, you can sit in the new car models and buy a Tesla imprinted water bottle or t-shirt at the same time. This is a fairly savvy marketing approach if you ask me but even more remarkable, was that the atmosphere encouraged the casual observer to admire the car without having to make the colossal and often irritating trek to a car dealership. Tesla really doesn't have the traditional, massive cement lot dealerships so what better place to order your new electric car than the, er, mall. I'm baffled that other car dealers did not think of this first. 


The model I sat in was the Tesla S which comes in the 60, 85 and the P85 (the P stands for performance) trims. Each number refers to the kWh of the battery so if you want the "base" model, then you would go with the 60 and expect around 208 miles as your range. The 85s get 265 miles and sportier styling. Hint: go for the P85 if you can as it is truly stunning. Now, when I stay stunning I mean STUNNING. The Tesla folks just plain nailed it with the styling. You do not see any other brand of car in the design other than Tesla which is quite a rarity among sleek sports cars these days. Did I mention I sat in one? Indeed, without any fuss or drama, the reps let me admire the interior and play with the controls. What struck me immediately was the massive HD split screen which outputs enough vital car stats to appeal to even the nerdiest of techno car geeks. 


Even better, the car seats four and the steering wheel and seating have plenty of adjustment for short and tall folks. If I had been carrying $87,070 in my pocket at the time, I may very well have made an impulse buy. Not to be outdone by the local Hyundai dealer, Tesla also finances. The perky rep explained that you would simply need a pre-installed washer/dryer plug to get started or use an adapter for a 110v outlet OR, install a twin charger with a high powered wall connector. In other words, there is a charging solution that will work for you. 


I am fortunate enough to see quite a few Tesla S models on the roads in my county (Montgomery CO, MD) and I have noted that one of the dads at my daughter's school even has one. So hats off to Tesla for getting, not only a fairly affordable and fully electric car on the road, but a mighty keen and sporty one at that. 

photos:
top: Ready to head down to Crate and Barrel in my Tesla S 
bottom: Sad when your car's HD screen is better than your smart TV at home. 



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

MINI parking

Had to laugh at this one as I arrived late but no one dared to park in that tight space...thanks MINI for saving me from having to leave keys in car.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

DC Metro MINI Club Take the DC I-495 Beltway this Weekend

If you are in the Washington DC area this weekend, be on the lookout for a line of MINIs 60 cars strong on the I-495 ring road better known as the beltway. The rally is raising funds for US war veterans and kicks off at 9:00am Sunday.
DC Metro MINIs it's a remarkably well organized club and this will be carma's second event with them (we'll be in the white MINI countryman). Give a hoot if you see us.

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