Cooley On Cars
New Mini Clubman charts a bigger (hopefully clearer) vision (CNET On Cars, Episode 92)The 2016 Mini Clubman restates what a Mini can be; we find out why premium fuel is becoming the new normal; and here are Cooley's Top 5 reasons why EVs are winning him over.
New Mini to have a maximum effect on the company's future. Why premium fuel's becoming less of a luxury. And the top five reasons electric cars are starting to win me over. It's time to check the tech. [SOUND] We see cars differently. We love them the road And under the hood, but also check the texts and are known for telling it like it is. Ugly is included at no extra cost. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNet on Cars. Welcome to CNet on Cars, the show all about high-tech cars and modern driving I'm Brian Cooley. Well theres' Cooper, Clubman, Country man, Pace man, and a few others. I can barely keep the mini line straight half the time and I do this for a living. BUt finally some clarity is coming in the form of this guy, the new club man. The 16. Very important organizing principle for the company. It's bigger than previous mini. In fact it's a compact car not a subcompact. A very different cabin, a much more luxury feel all around, and this becomes their new flagship. Charting the course for the brand, lets see where it's going. As we drive the '16 Cooper Clubman S with a John Cooper works package, and check the tech. [MUSIC] [SOUND] [MUSIC] You know what a Mini is. It's a small thing. It's about half a car, with kind of a tragic, leftover, Austin Powers vibe. This is the 16 Mini Clubman. It's their new flagship. And while the face is utterly familiar, the DNA from thereon back is taking them a new direction. [BLANK_AUDIO] If you're like me, you have found Mini's line Line in the past, to be a pretty broad confusing array of illegitimate cousins. They're working on that, dropping three of their eight models, to get the line down. Making this guy the new flagship, a full 12 inches longer than the last outgoing Clubman, and a 10 to 16 inches longer than the current MINI Cooper, the 2 or the 4-door. And that is, for the first time, putting Mini into the compact car class. That's bigger than they've ever put on the market before. [MUSIC] Beyond the dimensions, this new Clubman really announces Mini Getting into a higher quality more luxurious vehicle, it is less intentionally wacky. And notice this door. It's no longer a suicide door like on the last model. They're getting rid of silly filigree like that though you can still get a union jack on the roof And they're really stepping up the quality in the cab, which takes us inside. [MUSIC] Okay, inside you get a quick feeling, without knowing specifically why, that it's less Soho, and more Mayfair. Things are nicely upscale here. Now by the way, this cabin is unique to Clubman. They no longer use one interior on every model. Classic miniques abound like the motor cycle gauge pack up there. Unfortunately, marred by a stupid looking fuel level gauge. Right out of a Nissan parts bin. You've got your ray of rockers which is here. And up here on top of a console. A lot of these things remind you of what you're buying. Unfortunately, here in the big ring you no longer can ever have a traditional speedometer. That was real retro stuff. It always has a LCD here, which unfortunately, because of this ring and the two horizontal bezels, to my eye takes what is actually a good size LCD It makes it look small and claustrophobic, doesn't it? Theres no touch screen, of course, that's all done by the mini controller down here. This is straight BMW stuff. We do have a hand writing pad on the top. What drives me nuts is you can't get on that pad direct and move the map around, it's a BMW so you gotta go to this stupid interactive map menu and then Say, I wanna click and drag, then you can either use the finger pad or kick and drag the knob, but I hate the extra step. Now, [UNKNOWN] option on our car is that big old horsy thing on top of the desk, that is a head up display. Because it's a flip-up, it's necessarily displaying information low, kind of right in that mess of wipers and rear hood edge. It just never works well for me and the information is not that compelling. And that big old ugly blister on top of the dash, to me, not worth it. One last note before we go check out the rest of the cab. And if you're one of those folks who likes to go for a drive, and maybe just kind of hang your arm out the sunroof Don't do that unless you bring a turnakit. Up here lives the sharpest piece of plastic or sharpest piece of anything in all of autodom right now. You can cut a tomato on this thing or a piece of paper. How did this get past the lawyers? now because we have an S, there is a two liter four under the hood, not a one and a half liter three. We have a turbo, of course, direct injection one hundred-eighty nine horse, 207 pound feet of torque. Six speed manual or eight speed automatic, your pick. Front wheel drive or all wheel drive 6.9 to 60 in our automatic car. All wheel drive cars are faster. That's for a chunky little beast at 3,300 pounds. It averages 27 MPG. It does want premium. Now I've had plenty of misgivings about Minis in the past. I kind of have a love hate relationship with them. This one dissolves a lot of the hate and leans most to the love. First of all, there's a nice marriage here of the engine and transmission. Not every car maker gets that right. The power band and the way that the transmission responds and shifts, whether they're manual Fully induced, or automatic, is really nicely done. Harmonious. You're never caught flat-footed. Or over steroided. If you're concerned about having an automatic, dont' be. When you put this ring in the sport mode, and slap the stick over here in the In the manual space, it's very responsive on the shift. Ride quality is also really excellent in this car, I spent two days on a lot of rough chop in the country. And I'll tell you, I never once felt the rear-end kind of get a bad pothole or something, and hop out in a curve the way a lot of cars do. Great compliance in this suspension, and yet not [UNKNOWN] Flabby a lot of that I think has to do with the fact that we're driving a longer Mini, a club man and that tens to even out some of those suspension dynamics fore to aft. My last note is when you are out on a beautiful Country drive, there's a bit of a give back,and that is, this is not a great outward visibility car. A low kind of a roofline, kind of a Sherman tank windshield. Big pillars. Plus, the backlight is split, because you've got barn doors, so even your view out the back isn't great. Obstructions everywhere. Do you do feel cocooned. It takes away from your feeling of being out, in the scene Same that you're driving through. And interestingly, for a sibling of BMW, everything in here surface-wise, seats, wheel, armrests and such, are firm without feeling like you've been sent to reform school. Now pricing our 16 Mini Clubman S starts of encouragingly below 30,000 grand at about 28,500, then we start to layer things up to get it CNET style. Mini's one of the New car makers, you can actually go blind customizing. The tech package is 1,750, you want that at least for the rear camera. Sport package gives you bigger wheels and the adaptive suspension that I liked. Premium package, I want that roof and the better audio. You saw our John Cooper Works exterior and interior, and that's pushing three grand all in. If you want heated seats, there's the Cold Weather package. Now, our car had it automatic for about $1800 bucks. I'm gonna say goodbye to that HUD, because it doesn't make any sense to me, that just saved me $750. I could apply that toward all-wheel drive, which will cost me $1800 more, and we're at about $37,500. Now again, there's so many ways to configure your MINI, you can go left, right, center, and everywhere in between, but that gives you a ballpark on doing one of these rather impressive new club CNET style. [MUSIC] Find out more about the new Clubman, a really big deal, for the whole Mini brand, over at CNET's all new automotive site, RoadShow, at theroadshow.com. When I come back. we're gonna find out why premium gas, is becoming more regular, in ore cars. When CNET On Cars returns. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [SOUND] [MUSIC] We love regular gas, the big sign at the gas station screams how much cheaper it is and then you watch the savings as the pump ticks up just a little bit slower. And you also feel like you're sticking it to the man when you buy regular, right? Although, as we learned in episode 44, you might just be sticking it to yourself. In a nutshell, some cars do need premium because it resists detonation better than regular. That allows an engine to run at a higher compression, which can get more bang out of the fuel, which This can mean more performance, better economy, or both. Use regular and you kinda blunt that. [MUSIC] Now a lot of cars today take advantage of new, small, angry, often force bed engine. Mini [UNKNOWN], Audi A4, Subaru VRZ, even a smart 4 2, all require premium. And they are not the high end luxury cars you normally associate with that. All of which helps drive another trend. Consumption of premium gas has gone from about 8% of total US light vehicle fuel sales in 2008 to just over 11% today. Now, recession-pinched budgets probably just drove some of that lower consumption in 2008, but cars are demanding it more. Then there's the Price of tha increasingly regular premium.. Even as we are heading into a summer of the lowest gas prices since 2004, premium's at a big delta. Five years ago it cost 6 or 7% more than regular. Today, That spreads more like 18%. Meaning a difference today of about $7 or $8 a fill-up. Maybe $300 a year? Let's face it, if you're like most people, you don't even give a thought to what kind of fuel a car takes when you're buying a new one. And yet you haggle all day to get $300 knocked off of the MSRP. Kinda doesn't make sense. If you don't like buying premium, know if you're buying a car that does expect it, and that seems to be more and more cars everyday. [MUSIC] [SOUND] Okay, let's get to some of your email. I had an interesting basket over the last week or so and I often get emails from you about what car should I buy? I'm looking at this one, this one, One on this one. And I don't usually put those in the show cause they're real specific to you and your choices. But one of those came in from Sam C in New Orleans that I thought had a lot of good lessons for all of us who are out there buying used cars. He writes, I am a car guy first of all considering an '03 BMW 540i. Going back a little ways. Awesome engine, only 600 automatics and 600 manuals came to the US he says and they currently sell for 13 to 16 grand he said. I'm also a family guy he points out who loves technology. That's why you're watching this show. I need to carry five people and I love a good sound system and Bluetooth connectivity preferably with Apple CarPlay. That goes to a very modern direction. So he asks, should I go for the almost classic, the 03 540i? The last real BMW, he thinks. And add some aftermarket technology, or should I get a younger, slightly used 5 series, that has all the modern bells and whistles in there already? All right Sam, now there are several sort of metrics, to look at here, to decide if old, or older Make sense to you. These are both very interesting used cars you're considering. There are benefits to both. I'm gonna leave all the pricing and that stuff up to you, but four other things I want you to think about are, first of all, what can you add to an older car to get it up to speed? If you go buy that '03, and you wanna have things like Bluetooth and more advanced connectivity and media options. Functions and NAV, that's easy to add. You know, go check out a site like Crutchfield, enter your car's make, year, and model, and see what's out there. All the way on up to and including, very likely, a car play head unit. The Thirteen, you probably have everything in there. And by the way, it might be harder to change the Thirteen, because that's getting into the era when the factories did a very custom design and mold of where all that infotainment gear lives. You gotta be happy with what they put there. On the other hand, on the older car you can't add in things like direct injection, turbo charged engine. Not unless you're incredibly ambitious. And big improvements in noise vibration and harshness. Those are baked at the factory for the most part. So those are things the modern car will have that the older car can't really have grafted on to it. Now the next thing to think about of course is wear and tear. And 03 versus a 13 that is more than likely night and day difference on the number of miles and the wear on just about every system. That '13's going to be pretty close to a new car. That '03 is probably at the point where it needs lots of things done, every time you turn around. There can be exceptions, but that's a good rule of thumb. And what's the parts availability on that '03? You're starting to get out there now. You're past a decade. And now you start to get the factory begin to switch off parts supply possibly on certain things you might need. Next thing is for any car, used or very used, check the TSBs the Technical Service Bulletins. It's an easy way to spot one of the weaklings in that given make, model and year, what were its problem areas and how serious were they. A good place to check these out is ALLDATAdiy, a site where for like 20 bucks, you can sign up for a car, and get all of its records, of what that model is gonna have wrong with it, the factory had to address with technical service bulletins, and of course check recalls for any car you buy. And finally, CPO, certified per-owned can be a big deal. That 13 Will qualify in many cases for a CPO. You can find one at the dealer that still has extended factory coverage. That 03? I don't think so. No, I don't think BMW is gonna do a CPO on a 13, 14 year old car at this point. So how much you want some Factory warranty coverage or not is another big break point. Good luck with it but those are four good rules of thumb I think a lot of used car shoppers need to keep in mind. [SOUND] Okay, next one comes in from Hunter W. who says, I recently purchased and installed an illuminated grill crosshair for his Dodge Dart. He's wondering about the legality of that thing. He says, I got a white one instead of red or blue, which cold be confused for a police car. Now Hunter, you didn't tell me exactly where you live. I assume you're in the U.S. and you've got a Dodge Dart, but I don't know Know what state you're in, that's important. Because when you add lighting to a car you're getting into vehicle modifications, which most state vehicle codes do have things to say about. I'm gonna give you California's take on the lighting you put on the front of your car, just to give folks an example. Now, here in California you would have a problem with that lighting system per the photo you sent me because it is within 12 inches Illegally required lights, in this case, your headlights and your front turn signals are markers. That light seems to be very close to those, that's a no-no under California Vehicle code, as I read it. They don't want the add-on lights to be anywhere near, or confused, with official lights that drivers rely on. To see the orientation of the vehicle so there's the first rag flag. Notice that California law covers any added lights that emits from 0.5 candela on up in brightness That's 0.05 candela is 0.05 of the amount of white of a candle not a whole lot but California says this is about any brightness we're gonna get involved with our laws. Now, you did get one thing right here, you went no red light towards the front, that's also a big one in California vehicle code, you had that in mind when you made your lighting Choice, good. I'm not sure if it's because they don't want you to be mimicking law enforcement with a red light going into the person's rearview mirror in front of you. Or, if they're trying to make sure the drivers aren't confused if they are behind or in front of a car. It's probably both, and both very good reasons. So you got that nailed. And finally, California says, the lights you put on your car may not in their shape Or design be confusing as to being official marker lights. It may be traffic direction lights, arrows, things like that. You can't put those on your car. So you apparently have an issue here if that car is in California, certainly on the first one, the 12 inch proximity. Don't be surprised if you perhaps get a fix it ticket on that one, but check state regulations, everybody, before you modify things like lights Exhaust systems and tint. Okay, our last email, a little different this time. Taking one from one of our friends in the automotive business. Alan Hall, who's Communications Manager for Technology, Research and Innovation over at Ford, and he had some comments about a car tech 101 we did last episode explaining the different levels of self-driving. And, he writes I wanted to follow up on a statement the key differences. She says for the Level 3, the driver is still responsible for all ultimate control of the vehicle. They're condition where the car under the Level 3 does not had a response. So required the driver to take over When you achieve level four capability, he wants to point out, the car is actually responsible for the technology is activated. Level four truly can remove responsibility of the driver because the technical capability is there for the car to manage all situations when activated. He points out finally for Ford, level four is where it's at. He says we're not currently developing level three. Because based on our research, which seems to align with Google, based on what they've reported, he says it's not possible, really to re-engage the driver in an appropriate period of time and gain situational awareness to take over the task of driving. These are really good points, because the more I go in the auto industry, and talk about autonomous cars and folks that are developing them, this is increasingly becoming the discussion. How do we handle the damps? How do we throw control from an autonomous mode back to the driver when the car needs to do that, in a way that has enough time for the driver to responsibly and successfully take over? This is very tricky. I think when we did that car tech 101 last episode we went through the different levels, there were either four or five. And it was presumed to be going through them in a linear fashion We'll go from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and 5 in the case of SAE, but maybe we don't. Do we leapfrog, as I think Ford is suggesting, go right past 3 and go over to 4 for a very high degree of full autonomy so drivers can be fully Fully taken out in certain scenarios. We didn't talk about that in car tech 101. We were kind of assuming one followed after the other. The hand-off headache is the key here. When and how is it possible for the car to say eek I'm in trouble, you take over. And have that go successfully as opposed to going worse. And I think we're gonna get a little more guidance on this as an industry. In summer of 2016, we're expecting the initial early guidance from the US Department of Transportation. As to how autonomous cars will be built, and how they'll have a relationship with the driver in these and other situations. There's really nothing in the federal code yet for how you design, build, and create self driving cars. And a lot of that relationship between us and the car will be based baked in there. [MUSIC] In a moment, the top five reasons electric cars are Winning me over, when CNET On Cars continues. [MUSIC] [BLANK_AUDIO] [MUSIC] Welcome back to CNET On Cars. Coming to you from our home at the Mount Tam Motor Club just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. [SOUND] [MUSIC] Now this top five list I'm about to share with you is a personal list. It's been rattling around in the back of my mind for a couple years. Five reasons why I think EVs are either very elegant or just destined to be the kinds of cars we drive tomorrow. And let me point out I am not an EV owner or nor do I intend to buy one but there are certain truths I just can't deny and here are a few of them. [SOUND] Number five is not about EVs. TV is it all, but is about the generational change of folks who buy cars in general, and as we look at younger demographics, with lesser interest in owning a car, lesser interest in running out and having a driver's license, concerns of the classic cars hobbies restoring to wither who said again i was texting you start to see the overall picture, tomorrow's car buyer is less concerned about some brawny gas burning rowing sex machine An entirely happy with the smart efficient appliance that definitely helps up the table for electrics. [SOUND] Number four is ridiculously simple but it's the rotations stupid. That's what a car wants to do is to turn it's wheel, that's how it moves and yet. The combustion engine car does kinda the opposite to start. It has pistons going up and down, and then through a complicated mess of gears and crankshafts, turns that into rotating energy. It's just so inelegant. You have Have all these pistons banging up and down in a box of high pressure that's always trying to leak and pull itself apart. Electric motors don't work that way. Plus, combustion engines partly because of that whole up and down nonsense are RPM challenged. Electric motors love to rev over a much wider range. Therefore, they need little, if any, help from a multi-speed transmission. It just makes sense. If you want to turn something, start with a power source that's already turning. [SOUND] Number 3 is very controversal, but it's incentives. Whether or not you like the fact that you're subsidizing someone else's Tesla, the fact is that state, federal, and international governments have thrown billions of That's the idea of getting us to buy electric cars. It's made a huge difference and will continue to for some time. Number two is really important, a very big concept, the core efficiency of electric motors versus combustion. That gasoline car you drive today is maybe 35% efficient at turning that gallon of gas into forward motion Electric cars depending on how you measure them are 50 to 90 percent efficient at using the electricity in their battery. Now yes, this is apples and oranges because EVs have to lug around a vast incredibly heavy battery which does offset some of the over all efficiency however new numbers from the Argonne National Lab suggest that at least the density of cars powered by battery versus dinosaur juice will be about the same by 2045. No longer a deficit for the EV. Now before I get to the number one, I will tell you what it not going to be. It is not going to be the whole clean and green argument, that one borders on Religious fervor, and it has a lot to do with where the power to charge your EV comes from, way upstream. What kind of pollution is generated there, as well as what happens to all those lithium ion battery packs down the road? A picture that is Still emerging and not entirely clear. To solve this one I should probably arrange a cage match between Sierra Club members and Formula One fans. Maybe we'll do that later. But for now, we're gonna leave this part aside. [SOUND] Number one, it's in your pocket book, and nothing moves more cars than that. Some recent numbers crunched by Bloomberg's Suggested by 2025, decreases in the cost of electric car batteries per kilowatt hour of stored energy. A key metric could have fallen so low That it is then the sensible choice for the average consumer who wants to buy and drive a car at the least average cost. You can't say that right now without incentives, in the future you will be able to, and Bloomberg believes this sets the table for a big rise in electric car sales to be near 35% of all global new car sales by. 20 40, is that big? Well it was 1% last year so I'd say so. Thanks for watching. I hope you enjoyed this episode and you know how we do it around here. Your email's a big part of how we died and billed this show so keep them coming, OnCars@cnet.com. I read every one, reply to as many as I can. And a lot of them make it into the show. I'll see you next time we check the deck. [MUSIC] [SOUND]