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Car Tech Video: 2011 MINI Clubman John Cooper Works
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Car Tech Video: 2011 MINI Clubman John Cooper Works

8:12 /

Mini + iPhone = cool. Android not in the equation.

-MINIs sell all day long on their retro styling and fashionable compact size. But just as that act is getting a little old, along comes act 2 - a smartphone app that helps raise the curtain on Connected cars. Let's drive the 2011 MINI Clubman John Cooper Works and check the tech. The enormous, sort of iconic speedometer in the modern MINI has long been a silly waste of space, a Pixar-ish caricature of the original car. But when you load it up with an LCD screen, navigation and new Connected technology, that real estate becomes pretty desirable. Okay, it's 2011. I'm sitting in a MINI and there's one point I wanna get across right away. I am over the round, goofy thing in their cabin. It was funny for awhile, cute, maybe chic, now it's just annoying. It's this whole bulbous Salvador Dali meets It's a Small World and it's just annoying me to no end. Most importantly though, is this interface. We have not yet had a MINI that has this interface on it. This is all new because it has the latest navigation but also, MINI Connected. Let's take a tour. Vehicle and those obvious stuff, you've got some settings for the system. CD Multimedia, this is going to bring you a variety of choices including, we've got our single optical disc slot right here. Under external devices, we're going to find my iPod Touch or other iOS device. I've got that hooked up on this little pigtail right there. You can also, of course, hook up a USB device like a thumb drive on this same connector. Now the map resolution is really good. It's standard BMW stuff. You've got this menu on the left that drives me nuts, to be honest. I just don't find that intuitive at all. I mean, if you go along this left hand side here, you've gotta kick over to get to this ribbon menu. These never become natural for me. I never can quite remember what these little icons are so I gotta go over each one and pause and wait for the flag. It doesn't do it for me, but maybe your mind works differently. Most importantly, here's MINI Connected. This is the really interesting stuff. Let's spend a minute looking at this. Look at all the features MINI Connected has. When you connect your iOS device, and no Android yet, by the way, and I've got the app on my iPod Touch. It works on iPod Touch as well as iPhone. I've got a newsfeed. This is odd. It's mostly MINI news. But if I want, and here's where everyone always gripes. They're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, why are you playing news on the screen? Well, because if you want, you can have it read to you. -[unk] Life Ball 2011 was a hit parade of massive proportions. But ever stop to wonder how those in the spotlight keep their cool when things heat up and the cameras start rolling? -Wow. That sucks. I had better text-to-speech on my PC, I think, in the mid-90's. You've got a Facebook utility here again to make this really lean so it's not too distracting but to be honest, it's still distracting. It kinda strips things down and makes them kinda clean. Here's our Twitter application on the dash. And again, you can scroll down to these things in a very lean form. And you've got unique Twitter tools here, favorite or unfavorite, re-Tweet. So they've done a pretty good job of taking the most popular tools out of the interfaces for Facebook and Twitter and put them here on the car contextual menu. Doesn't answer all the questions that I get all the time about, isn't that insane to have that kind of needless crap distracting you from driving? There are lots of canned posts in the app for both Facebook and Twitter, none of which read like you actually wrote them but instead like whoever kidnapped you did, to make it look like you're okay. Two Google tools in here -- Google Search and Google Send To Car. Search, of course, lets me go search for whatever I want, navigate to it, call the place, what have you, a pizza joint, whatever you want. And Google Send To Car would be if you're at a Google Maps and you wanna send that to the vehicle, you can do that. So it goes the other direction, from outside the car to in. Now, the controller I'm using to get around everything you see on the screen, again, it's not touch. We do have voice command but I'd prefer to use the controller and it's an oddball down here. It's a version of iDrive but as you can see it's physically implemented very differently. Here's your Home button. Here's the Back button that takes you through previous screens you've been accessing. And most importantly, here's your Controller. This little chrome knob sticking up here. Again, you can turn, kick it around and press just like an iDrive controller but the shape is completely different. Some folks are gonna find this a little hard to get their hands on. It's tiny. Check this out. I've got the Pandora app on my iPod Touch. Got it cabled in like I've been doing for all the MINI Connected stuff and look at it. When I launch the app, it comes up as a source, as a function under MINI Connected. Now, not at the same time. If I have MINI Connected going, I get those choices like Facebook, Twitter and Web Radio. If I have Pandora running I get that instead. So it's not fully integrated but it's nice to have it available to you. This doesn't always work on a lot of cars. And because our Clubman is an S, we've got the Turbo motor. Hasn't changed in a long time on these MINIs. It's a 1.6 liter sidesaddle 4 with the Turbo technology. It's all standard S stuff. You're gonna get 181 horsepower 177 foot pounds of torque, 0-60 on this front wheel drive car. It's about 6.8 with that manual 6-speed. To get the automatic, it gets a little slower down to about 7.1, not dramatically. The MPG on this car is 2735. Get the automatic and shave 1 MPG off of each number. The Clubman is an odd bird. It's a stretch MINI that is not quite long enough to warrant backdoors, not quite short enough not to. The barn doors in the back are a stylish retro touch but that big mullion down the middle is pretty annoying. Now, MINI used to be the best little point and shoot car on the road. They're still ready good that way, they're fun handling cars. But compared to a lot of the other small cars that have come along today, they're no longer sort of a class of one. The ride is buttoned up, dialed in, planted, all those things you expect from a really well-made vehicle that has some weight on it. I'm glad we've got the manual gearbox to this car. I think we had an automatic recently and I was very unimpressed. It was also a non-S though. So let me tell you, I am not big on that straight 1.6 with an automatic. That's a dog car. You really wanna look into getting a Turbo on any of these vehicles or at the very least, if you're gonna get a non-Turbo, make sure you get the manual gearbox 'cause that other combination doesn't work. This car works nicely. It's perky, it gets along. Handling is good. It's not a planted car even with our JCW package and the fact that it's an S. I could add some more suspension tweaks to this car to really straighten out this thing. It's a little tippy, a little leany. And this is really the worst speedometers to get a glance at. That needle, which is a dark orange, I guess it's a graphite ring of relatively small typeface for a big speedometer because we have the LCD display. It's not a good glance and see how fast I'm going speedo. You gotta kinda stare at it for a minute. Luckily you've got a digital read out here on the tech. Just under 33 grand gets you started for this high trim MINI, again, with the John Cooper Works package. Then there's a lot of adding to do to get it CNET style. First off, if you want the automatic, that's 1250. I'd recommend against it. If you want the MINI Connected package for a grand, that'll get you the LCD screen, voice command, USB and iPod connectivity, Bluetooth, including Bluetooth streaming. Then you wanna go 750 more to roll in the navigation function within that. And finally I'd recommend the premium package, which gets you the Harman Kardon Audio, automatic temperature control, special wheels, dual panoramic roof and xenon headlights. Then, just find a nice stout putty knife and some paint remover to get those pre fatigue graphics off and you've got a nice car.

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