2015 Mini Cooper 4-door: Too many doors, or the perfect Cooper? (CNET On Cars, Episode 64)
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2015 Mini Cooper 4-door: Too many doors, or the perfect Cooper? (CNET On Cars, Episode 64)

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The Mini Cooper crows a pair of doors. Is it still a Mini? Never mind possible. Will self-driving cars ever be legal? And my top five tips for finding good car repair. Time to check the tech. We see cars differently. Nice. We love' em on the road, and under the hood, but also check the tech. And are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. [MUSIC] Welcome to CNET CNet On Cars, the show all about high tech cars and modern driving. I'm Brian Cooley. Well, thanks to a bewildering array of options, the Mini Cooper's always been basically whatever you wanted it to be, except a four door. Now it can be that as well But along the way toward biggening the Mini Cooper, did they lose any of its mini appeal? Let's find out as we drive the 15 Cooper S four-door and check the tests. [NOISE] [MUSIC] Now the key to the Mini Cooper 4 door is of course four doors. They never had a Cooper with four doors before, though there are other mini That have four doors. The whole car is six inches longer, nose to rump. About half that much is in between the wheels, extending the wheel base. Two inches more rear seat leg room, which if you're gonna put in rear doors, you better have a reason to use them. Even the front doors are different to allow these doors to be bigger and you also get two inches of additional storage room in the back seat because the whole rear quarter of the car is contoured differently. It's not like they just took the two door and hacked it in Stuck in an extender. This is a substantially different car from the cowl on back. Still after all that, it picks up only 110 pounds over the two door. Now the first thing I notice when I get in the current generation Mini that brings a tear to my eye Is that this round bezel thing is just a thing. It's no longer ever that big iconic speedometer, that Minis used to have back in the day. Now it's simply a place for a screen. We have the largest screen, the eight inch that has navigation. Now your other interface is up here. You've got your motorcycle style tack and speedometer and a little help or LCD down there as well. There's one more screen that's optional but we have it. That's the little motorized head up display that's kind of visor style You can set that to show speed, navigation prompts, calling, and audio. If you use a connected phone in the console cradle, nobody has more audio choices than these guys, including Pandora, Rhapsody, TuneIn, Audible, [UNKNOWN] Amazon Cloud, and Aupeo. And all of that is via the Mini Connected app on your phone. Slotted into a phone dock in the console which also gets you power and an external antennae. Even without an app you've got am, fm, hd radio, satellites optional, six disc is optional like you'd really want that, auxiliary jack and usb. Basic audio is a six speaker rig and you could upgrade to Harmon Surround sound which we do have. Now controlling all of your head unit gear is an iDrive controller down here. But very different than BMW. Not in its layout but in its altitude. When it's up here in a console, like on most BMW's, your hand is like so as it operates it. Now your finger's like this. You're using a down pointed finger tip. This was a pain to use. [MUSIC] Now, driving our Mini gets us to this automatic shifter, cuz we have the six speed automatic. We'll size it up on the road. Paddles on this car, because f the automatic. Around the shifter, you've got your drive mode controller like you've never seen before. Take it over to the green mode, the normal mode, or the sport mode. Now, under its cute little snout, you've got two engine choices depending whether you get a Cooper or a Cooper S. The base Cooper's got a three cylinder. This is an S. We've got a four. Both engines are turbo charged, but ours has got two liters of displacement versus one and a half. 189 horsepower, 207 pound feet of torque Zero to Sixty in 5.6 seconds. MPG varies on your transmission. 29/40 if you get a manual. Interestingly, lower MPG if you get an automatic. It doesn't usually go that way. And regardless of what engine size or transmission you've got, front wheel drive. Let's go for a ride. [MUSIC] Out on the open road, I'm pleased to report that the Mini hasn't lost it's mininess even though it's a little more maxi than it was. It still has this go-kart like steering, short wheel base, tightly sprung undercarriage, And a stiff shell all leads into that. And you can hear that nice little exhaust snarl. Before you turn your back on that automatic, know that it's a really good one. Especially when the rings in the sport mode or the shifters in the sport gate. Gears change tightly and cleanly. I find this is what works best. Sportier rewards what this car is all about. The ride quality is what I would call, comfortable go cart. It's not jarring and super taut. Some of these in the past especially with the Cooper S package could be a little bit brittle. Not anymore. And all around, the Ergo is really good. It's a spacious enough car for me, and I'm pretty tall. Visibility's not terribly constricted although we have some very chunky pillars back at the rear corners. [MUSIC] Okay a Cooper S four door is 26 or so base, exactly $1000 more than a two door. You're paying $500 a door if you want to look at it that way. Now 1500 more if you want the automatic transmission. It's a pretty good one I gotta say and it seems to pair well with the mission of a four door car. Once you load this guy at CNET Style, you're right up against 30 grand. They've retained the essential Mini-ness [INAUDIBLE] To the vehicle, even though they've added some inches and added some doors. Pretty good trick. They did their homework and the fact that you have a more practical and justifiable platform for the purchaser who wants to make sure it's the right car for more years to come. They should sell these things like mad. [MUSIC] Find our full review on the Cooper-S four door, where Wayne Cunningham thought it lost a little more of its sap than I did at Cars. CNET.com. [MUSIC] The U.N. convention on road traffic, observed by 85 countries, makes it clear. Every vehicle shall have a driver. That thinking is reflected a globe full of regulations, insurers, and tradition. Where do you start to change that? Smarter Driver will find out, when CNET on Cars returns. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] The assumption that every car has a human driving it, is being updated. Though gradually. In 2014, the UN amended its 46 year old rule to allow self driving cars, largely at the urging of Germany, Italy and France, the homes of some big car makers that are developing the new machines. The new language that a driver must be behind the wheel and can take control back at a moment's notice, but that they may legally pull back from managing the wheel and pedals for some extended period. Notably this UN convention though has never covered Japan, China or the US. In America, four US states and the District of Columbia have legalized autonomous cars on public roads though for testing and with a human standing by. Another 11 are considering the idea. 12 states have already done so and said no. This sets up a problem in the huge and lucrative US car market. Fragmentation. Insurance companies are the other major rule maker if you will. So far they envision a world where the driver is still fully responsible, though there has been a call by California insurers To have carmakers shoulder some or all of the liability around autonomous accidents. A 2014 study by the RAND Corporation looked at that idea and theorized it could quickly throw a lot of cold water on self-driving cars or limit the technology to high-priced flagships, where the volumes are low and the prices high enough to fund the additional liability. But that puts the self-driving car's benefits into a lot fewer people's hands. Much more to come on this, of course. One day, it pay to double-check who is liable in an accident, you or maybe your carmaker. [MUSIC] Welcome back To CNET On Cars, coming to you from our home in the Mt. Anne Motor Club, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Well, if you're like most people, you probably think of the tires on your car just an expendable, not unlike toilet paper. You want something good, but mostly, you don't wanna have to replace it very often. You should think of your tires as a more sophisticated expendable, more like running shoes. Shoes. Yes, they're going to wear out, but they're a key part of the engineered experience in the meantime and deserve a Car Tech 101. [MUSIC] Now I could do a half an hour on this subject alone that would put us all to sleep. But instead I want to touch on four high points about tires that I think you can keep on your mind as you go shopping for them. First thing to know is the big concept which is, your tire isn't this big blob of rubber. There's a lot of engineering going in here. A structure that is built to operate a certain way Not just hold air and unlike just about any part of your car, this one changes shape rather dramatically when it's working. That's an amazing thing to keep in mind as well. Now the first console The concept is the contact patch or the footprint. That's where this tread here sits and meets the asphalt. And it varies in width and length if you will, kind of this way, depending on the tire design, pressure, and your car's weight. What happens at the contact patch is amazing. That footprint allows three major things to happen. FIrst of all for power to be applied to the road as The wheel is turning one way in relation to the car and for braking to happen as the wheel is being resisted in kind of the opposite rotating direction in relation to the car and then you've got the other two axes which is kind of out and in laterally across the tire That's how cornering happens, and you get that nice grip. And all of those dynamics, typically will happen all at once or within a second of each other, and the tire's gotta be able to deal with all of them well. The next thing that we all noticed very much Is you should be aware of is the profile of the tire. It's height with relation to it's width. Now we love our profile tires. They look great on almost any kind of car. It's been a big trend the last few decades to get this side wall lower in relation to the width of this tread. But what does that is the frame inside the tire. They're called the belts. They're made out of polyester, ore steel, and they don't just bring that profile down. When you do that you change the nature of how the tire operates in two kinds of loads. One is radial load, the load that comes if you will, kind of vertically down on the treads. The stiffer this is, that might change the ride comfort. You get more drumming in the car, you get less of a soft Compliant ride. And this low profile tire also has a very different behavior for lateral loads, which is sort of the side to side load. Think of it as a cornering load for the most part. This low profile sidewall is stiffer, the tire's gonna kinda skoosh less left to right as you go in and out of a corner, that's great for performance. But that can also harshen up your ride, because there's less give in this overall design. It's a tradeoff Between that sharp performance and that comfortable, compliant ride form. And then, of course, there's the tread itself, that actual intricate pattern that we all know and see on the face of a tire This isn't just here as a random pattern or to look cool. But the ideal tire, to be honest, has no tread, if you're driving in perfect conditions on a dry piece of pavement on a summer day, like this slick right here. It puts the maximum amount of rubber on dry, clean, smooth piece of pavement. But that's not the real world. So our tires, on passengers cars, do have tread. We drive on roads that have gravel, that have snow, that have rain, so your tread is designed to deal with all those. To work it's way around gravel and find the traction between the actual rock To get down in snow and find some grip in that material. Or, on a rainy day, to take the water in the middle of a tread as you race down the street and evacuate it out the side. Otherwise, you end up flying on the surface of the rain. That's called hydroplaning, and that's no fun. [NOISE] And two other factors about tread design. The way that it grips and then releases the road is a key part about how well this thing does in corners. Is it going to create oversteer or understeer? All tires have some slip as they turn, but the nature of that allows the car maker to dial in the cornering behavior they want in their overall vehicle. And finally tread has a lot to do with quietness of a tire. The way these lugs grip and release at the road creates more or less and varying kinds of sound. That's where the road noise you hear from tires comes from, and that's a big deal on luxury cars in a different way than on sports cars. The last thing I want to bring to your attention is rolling resistance. What it takes for this tire to roll down the road varies dramatically by its design. The really grippy, wide Sticky tire's gonna be great at cornering, accelerating, and braking, but perhaps require more energy just to keep the car moving at a set speed, let alone to accelerate it. And that's not a good guy in an era when auto makers are looking everywhere to save even a few drops of gas per mile. Now, it used to be that low rolling resistance tires, which you'll find on many very high efficiency cars, were awful. They were like having a three day old bagel mounted on each wheel. Now, they tend to be pretty decent performance tires. Not extreme, but acceptable. They're much better at having a quiet ride Pretty good performance, and actually looking good as well. [MUSIC] Oh, by the way, if you want to know what all this stuff on the side of the tire means, it calls out much of the technology within it, and we did a separate piece on this a little while ago about how to read your side walls, it's important for the tires you've got but especially for the ones you're considering buying. I'll put a link into our episode 64 show notes. Take you right to that piece. And that's at CNETonCars.com. [MUSIC] In a moment, car insurance of the future. And five things to do before you drop your car off for service. CNET on Cars continues. [MUSIC] [MUSIC] In 2011, Alfa reveals the 4C. When you're not going too quickly, it's a really wonderful, wonderful thing. And by not going too quickly I mean comfortably not very fast because it has an interesting little trait in that once you start accelerating, the wheels starts grabbing and shimmying left and right. And in the end you end up hanging on for dear life, more than actually feeling as though you're in total control. [MUSIC] By more from the XCAR team of CNET UK at cnet.com/xcar. [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET on cars. I'm Brian Cooley. It's time for the part of the show where we take one of your emails and this week it comes in from Andre D who talks about the future of driving in a big way. Hey Brian, he says. All this talk about self driving cars And driver assist technology got me thinking about insurance rates of the future. do you think car insurance companies have a future? Interesting question Andre. Believe me, insurance companies are at the heart of self-driving and the heart of that future vision. Without them the whole thing's Stalled because liability's not going away anytime soon. The good new is insurance companies are generally behind and eager to get into an autonomous future to some degree because it reduces accidents and everyone Projections and that of course, reduces claims. Good for us not getting injured, good for them not having to pay for the injuries. The tricky part is that for decades to come, self driving cars will have accidents as the technology gets debugged and matured and they'll be occupying roads with human driven cars. So the accidents are still gonna happen and therefore, the whole idea of. Driver's insurance is still gonna apply, even if you aren't driving. Now that may seem patently unfair if it happens when you're in a car that is driving itself and it runs into something. It's like, wait a minute. It told me it was driving, and I was doing something else. You are still the person responsible for the vehicle's operation and of course, any damage it causes. You cannot envision yourself as a passenger when you're in the driver's seat. Then if you get way out into the future to the VTI or vehicle to infrastructure, Then we start to see so much data, connectivity, and control between cars, cars to road, roads and cars to central monitoring authorities, you can start to then see where the nature of insurance could change dramatically. But at that point, you're also starting to look at our cars being more like Privately funded public transportation than the kind of independent, unpredictable modules they are today. Okay, unless you turn all the wrenches on your car and I mean from tail light to transmission and most people don't, you're gonna need a good shop and You know how to spot and find one. But can you think of much else that inspires so much trepidation and basically feelings of inadequacy? Here are my top five ways to spot a good auto repair place. Now all of this assumes that you've done your basic googling already to figure out what kind of and number of shops are available in your area. Then to winnow them down Start like this. Number five. Look for certification things like ASE, AAA, Better Business Bureau, and your states bureau of auto repairs complaint record. They do count for something, especially if they're current and not from 1969 under the previous good owner. Now plenty of mediocre shops have these things in dusty frames on the wall but. It's a start. Number four, tidy if greasy. A dirty shop can be a good shop but all things being equal, tidy tells you something. This is auto repair. Not Grateful Dead trip dancing. A certain rigidity of process, technology and workspace make good things happen. There are great mechanics who are slobs. I just haven't met one yet. Number three, lots of questions from them to you. Nothing gives me the willies faster than a service rider or shop owner who takes in my car with barely a curt question or two You see details up front lead to the best, least repair in my experience. This is also key to getting it done right the first time. Not the second or third infuriating time. Number two. No flushes. When they urge to do a preventive transmission, cooling system or fuel injector flush that car maker makes no mention of in the owner's materials. You need to flush the shop. These are signs they're likely in the upsell business more than the auto repair business. Before I get you to number one, here's what it won't be. Don't sweat getting your part Parts back. I know that's a classic old-school sort of a thing, but it's predicated on a toxic relationship from the get, and you're not gonna be able to recognize if that greasy bag of parts even came off your car or not. Shady shops know that. My number one tip is basic, but there's nuance to it. Get a reference, but not from your friends. Those same ones who were fooled by that bag of greasy parts off some other car. Instead, hit the forums that deal with your kind of car. There's probably one out there. And if you find one with enough members, you're probably gonna find local ones, who have been to every shop in town. If you do have a friend who is car repair savvy, of course, ask them. But just because you know someone who's had their car repaired, doesn't mean they know car repair. [MUSIC] Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Don't forget, keep those emails coming. I read every one of them and a lot of them make it into the show. And look for us wherever you like to stream video, whether it's on your Roku box, over at YouTube, or just about anywhere. And tell your friends they can do the same. I'll see you next time we check the tech. [MUSIC]

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