The Truth About Cars » MINI The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 13:30:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » MINI New York 2014: 2015 MINI Countryman Debuted Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:53:47 +0000 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-8

The biggest MINI of them all, the Countryman, debuted its refreshed looks for the guests at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The compact SUV still rides on its current platform, and still uses the 1.6-liter four-pot that pushes anywhere from 121 to 208 horsepower, depending upon whether the owner selects the Cooper, Cooper S or John Cooper Works trims. A six-speed manual is standard on all, with a six-speed auto available for a few more dollars. All-wheel drive is optional for the Cooper and Cooper S, standard for the John Cooper Works model.

Starting price for the 2015 Countryman is expected to be around $23,000, and will arrive in showrooms this July.

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No Replacements For MINI Coupe, Paceman, Roadster Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:49 +0000 2012 Mini Coupe

BMW’s MINI may not replace the Coupe, Paceman or Roadster when their day comes, opting to focus on three “pillar” models that allow the brand to be “more relevant to more people,” according to MINI head of product management Oliver Friedmann.

Automotive News Europe reports Friedmann’s first priority for MINI “is to roll out a portfolio that has strong pillars,” with each pillar being clear in what it means to the overall brand. With the original hatchback and Countryman identified as the first two pillars, a potential third pillar could come in the form of a compact model based upon the Clubman concept shown in Geneva.

As for the Coupe, Paceman and Roadster, Friedmann says the trio aren’t a priority to the brand at this time, with the possibility all three may end up in the crusher of history in the near future.

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Geneva 2014: MINI Clubman Concept Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:18:12 +0000 MINI-Clubman-Concept-Live-Shot-02

At 10 inches longer and 7 inches wider than the current Clubman, this really is the Maxi Mini. And it’s got two extra doors. While officially a concept, you can bet that this is making it into production.

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2015 Mini Clubman to Get RWD Electric Boost Wed, 26 Feb 2014 16:37:44 +0000 mini

You could make a case for Mini’s Clubman being an ideal small-business/delivery vehicle. It’s large enough to carry bulky office items, small enough to park, stylish enough to be seen in, and gets decent fuel economy. One of the biggest criticisms of the Clubman, though, has nothing to do with its practicality- it’s that the bigger Mini doesn’t quite live up to the brand’s hard-earned performance heritage. That’s going to change, however, with the launch of the 2015 Mini Hybrid Clubman.

Using a system similar to the one used by Volvo in its XC60 and V60 hybrids, the electric power train in the 2015 Mini hybrid models is expected to send power directly to the rear wheels. The “modular” approach here would make tooling up easier, and allow the unit to be used in other BMW/Mini properties like the recently-released, front-wheel drive BMW X2.

Up front, the 2015 Mini hybrids will make use of the company’s existing 135 HP, 1.5-liter three cylinder turbo engine. According to LeftLane News, the new car “may, effectively, act as a rear-wheel-drive platform if driving in electric-only mode. Under hard acceleration the system would switch to all-wheel-drive mode.” If that’s true, the arrangement should make for a fun little runabout- especially with the expected 190 total HP!

What do you guys think? Is 190 HP and all-wheel drive enough to make the Clubman a Mini a worth successor to the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally winning Mini Cooper, or is all this just an excuse to ramp up economies of scale for BMW’s i Brand? Let us know!


Originally published on Gas 2.

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BMW to End Mini Production at Magna Steyr Fri, 31 Jan 2014 11:00:49 +0000 MINI Countryman cars being assembled at Magna Steyr's Austrian facility.

MINI Countryman cars being assembled at Magna Steyr’s Austrian facility.

The Kleine Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that the BMW Group will end contract production of Mini cars by Magna Steyr in 2016. Automotive News reports that the Austrian supplier currently builds the Mini Countryman and Mini Paceman. BMW will move production of the two models to BMW’s own Mini factory in Oxford, England, and to Mitsubishi’s former NedCar facility in the Netherlands, where the Dutch group VDL will start Mini production under contract later this year. Magna Steyr’s corporate parent, Magna International, said in a statement that its relationship with BMW will continue through a new vehicle manufacturing contract.

“The new production program would start following the end of production of the current Mini models Mini Countryman and Mini Paceman being assembled by Magna Steyr in Graz.” No details were given on specific models that Magna Steyr will be assembling under the new contract.


According to the Kleine Zeitung, Magna Steyr’s role will not be to build particular BMW Group cars but rather it will hold capacity for a variety of models as demand dictates. Those would likely be high-volume models like the BMW 5 series and 3 Series cars. The newspaper says that the contract will probably cover a volume of over 100,000 vehicles over 6 to 7 years.

Neither Magna Steyr or BMW has commented on the report.

Magna Steyr currently also assembles vehicles for Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot.

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Vellum Venom: MINI Cooper Hardtop (2012) Tue, 31 Dec 2013 12:00:03 +0000 title

The end of the year, the end of an era for a famous British Marque.  Let’s get crackin’ before the ink on the vellum dries for the (all new) 2014 model.

1Everyone knows this face, it’s Brand Recognition 101.  Or maybe 202, as the original MINI (the 100% British one) was redesigned even less regularly/extensively than the BMW-owned MINI.  Perhaps not even Ford’s iconic Mustang remained this true to form.  The MINI’s snout sports a traditional grille and round headlights on a small canvas, but the bumper could be any modern car.

The proportions are right.  The elements are well-formed and harmonize together quite well.  Just like it’s always been for this brand.



Both grilles work well together, the bottom opening is almost a mirror reflection of the top, as it pushes into the air dam’s real estate much like the grille’s forcible entrance to the bumper. Well thought out and clean!


And even though this is a small and (somewhat) cheap car where corner cutting is acceptable, well, this lower grille is a rather fancy casting.  The solid portions of the egg crate are deeply recessed, so it takes a while to see the mass-market cheapness.  Add the chrome strip in the middle and perhaps you’ll never even bother to notice this doesn’t belong on a high dollar 7-series BMW!  Well…


If the grille didn’t slide down into the bumper, the MINI would be surprisingly devoid of panel gaps.  That’s the beauty of a clamshell-style hood: the insurance industry may hate replacing these in a minor accident, but the way the hood and fenders blur into one panel is a work of fine art.


MINI’s always had the coolest headlights in its class, if not one of the coolest designs for any budget. Just the right amount of chrome inside the lense (not swept back into functionless blingy real estate) so there’s room for an expensive looking outer chrome ring: a modern interpretation of vintage Jags, Ferraris, etc.

More kudos for not using the chrome signal light body (or the cap for the headlight) for a branding opportunity. That notion’s been played out. And there’s a nice corporate logo on the hood if you think this might be a Ferrari.

OMG YES CLAMSHELL HOOD. But seriously, note the reflection of the lights above: there’s a subtle fender flare from the headlights on back.  It’s beautiful.  It is really such a sin to want more affordable vehicles with fewer breaks in the body for the singular reason of aesthetic delight?


A cheap(ish) car with expensive old world craftsmanship: the chrome trim around the clamshell is another subtle reminder that you coulda bought a more car for the money at damn near any other dealership…except that you actually wouldn’t!

8The Bayswater Edition replaces the standard logo with something straight outta 1981.  I think I have the same pattern when I crank up Giorgio Moroder on my Pioneer cassette player’s VU meter. But still, this mini billboard (get it?) should be binned for straight sheet metal around that light. Cleaner is better on a vehicle with a clamshell hood with such a racy cutline!


Oh yes, I did say racy.


MINIs are all about customization to an owner’s needs, and the Bayswater definitely appeals to my inner Max Headroom. But wait…do I see…


No DLO FAIL!  Even better, the black A-pillar blends nicely into the greenhouse, while that chrome trim continues around the side.  The three blue panels, the clamshell hood, the cowl paneling (for lack of a better phrase) and the door cut lines aren’t necessarily minimal, but they work well together.

If only the clamshell’s end point was the same as the front door’s beginning point like a C4 Corvette!


While that backslash on the clamshell is a MINI hallmark, using another horizontal line above this rocker moulding instead lets the clamshell go all the way back to really spice up the package.

Then again, the (rear hinged) hood probably wouldn’t open if that request came true…damn you reality check!



The gloss black wheels are a unique touch, only because the leading edge of the spokes and the rim’s lip is polished.  The wheel’s lines are logical and symmetric, so this bit of color ingenuity is certainly welcome and not outstanding like a black eye on a pretty face.13

So much for logical!  Perhaps employees of New World Pictures approve, yet both mirror skullcaps should be the same color.  This is nonsense, and not that systematic failure endemic of a failed organization nonsense that brought us the Pontiac Aztek…it’s just plain silliness with no value on an automobile.

Whatever graphical theme the Bayswater name implies, this isn’t how you do a gray and blue color scheme.


Although it might look better if both mirrors were that french gray instead of radioactive blue…what say you?


Invisible B-pillar that lines up well with the door cutline.  Unlike the CTS coupe, MINI did a fantastic job hiding pillars under glass.  Also note the chrome trim that started on the clamshell continues apace.

Sure, this is a round and cute vehicle.  But the round theme is more of an ovoid, and the negative area behind the door pull should emulate the shape seen in the headlights.  Or the ovoidness seen here in the door cutline.  This is “too round”, if such a thing is possible.



No A-pillar. No B-pillar.  No C-pillar. Be it wrapped in glass or covered in gloss black, the MINI does a fantastic job looking far more expensive than anything else at this price point.  All it needs is (illegal) limo tint and the greenhouse would look like a pillarless space ship! Very cool, very much approved.

Cute proportions, charming interplay between design elements, short overhangs and cheap yet expensive detailing.

This is why people love the MINI: staying true to it while advancing the game.  This is what us Panther Love/RWD American Sedan fans wanted.

18Retro gas caps usually look out-of-place (SN-95 Bullitt Mustang) but if there’s one mainstream machine that needs one…and it’s a clean and flowing design elegantly recessed into the body.


19_1Just like the side profile, the MINI’s rear greenhouse looks surprisingly sharp with this chrome strip.  The glossy C-pillar helps, as does the black roof.  A brighter roof color to accentuate the attention to detail in the glass work and pillar trimming is actually preferable! Whether or not the Union Jack treatment is needed is always up for debate.


Like many small hatchbacks, the C-pillar has a ridge to keep the cute little MINI tracking straight in stiff cross winds on the highway.  Supposedly these details matter, consult your local Aerospace Engineer if you don’t believe me.


Another aero touch: the spiraled antenna on the roof.  It’s surprisingly tall for such a small car. Or perhaps the MINI-ature dimensions are why it seems small!


Speaking of, the reflector/marker lights both front and back must be placed on the wheel arches because there’s simply no other place available! Short overhangs have their benefits!  22_1

Because of poor lighting at my “test” vehicle’s location, here’s a stock photo showing the Bayswater from the back.  Note how low the side view mirrors sit (at least on the Euro spec model) and the stilt-like tire width.  This model also has a different bumper (with fake grilles) and a central exhaust, which sells more exotic performance than the wrong-wheel-drive MINI can possibly produce.

22Logical cut lines for the hatch and bumpers. A complete chrome “belt” at the base of the greenhouse.  Chrome rimmed lights and something that only works on British cars like MINIs and Jags: a chrome mustache above the license plate that both adds English charm and is a handy place for a grab handle and license plate lighting.


The sleek rear wiper arm is another modern touch that proves that classic designs can always live to see another day…or millennium.


While not as punchy as the headlights, the logical use of chrome inside and the upscale chrome rim outside are hallmarks of good vintage British design.  25Last and perhaps least, the central lighting pod with backup lights, and used for a rear fog light in Europe (maybe America too?).  It, just like the front grilles, extends into the black lower valance to continue that theme.  All of which is in very good taste, at any price.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve…and beyond!


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BMW to Turn FWD Up to Eleven With UKL1 Chassis Fri, 06 Dec 2013 15:31:19 +0000 BMW Active Tourer Concept

If thought of a front-driven ultimate driving machine seems like either the best thing ever or a nightmare, then BMW Sales and Marketing board member Ian Robertson has some good/bad news for you: 11 BMWs and MINIs will soon arrive in the showroom, all underpinned by the UKL1 FWD/AWD chassis.

Though the UKL1 already made its debut last month as the next iteration of the MINI, Robertson confirmed that the first BMW to wear the chassis — the Active Tourer, to be exact — will bow sometime early in 2014. He says that not only will the production version of the mini-crossover be the Bavarian’s first-ever front-driver, the Active Tourer will also sport their first-ever three-pot behind the famous kidney grill.

Regarding the 11 UKL1-based models overall (cut down from a proposed 20), eight MINI variants are expected to come down the ramp, including a Mazda MX-5 fighter and a saloon tailored for the Chinese market, as well five- and seven-seat versions of the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, an SUV slotted underneath the X1, and supermini aimed at Audi’s A1.

The BMW Group as a whole has enjoyed a record year in sales, with 1.6 million total units through October 2013 heading out to the motorways of Europe. Robertson adds that his employer moves 300,000 MINIs and 200,000 1 Series annually, and is confident that the UKL1 will do just as well.

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MINI Seeks Partner For Smaller MINI Wed, 04 Dec 2013 15:47:48 +0000 front_licht_ 005

Though MINI’s lineup hasn’t (literally) lived up to its name since its reboot by parent BMW, product boss Pat McKenna would like to see the Rocketman — a MINI that truly is mini — appear in showrooms all over the world.

For that scenario to play out, though, the Rocketman needs a flight partner.

The main issue is one of platform; while the newest MINI hardtop rides on the same platform that will make its way into BMW’s smallest offerings, it’s impossible to scale it down to the size of the Rocketman, and BMW doesn’t want to invest the money in an all-new front-drive architecture of that size, especially if its just for one model. Therefore, BMW is looking for a Toyota-Subaru arrangement where two companies would split the development costs.

Alas, McKenna still hasn’t found what he’s looking for in a suitable partner chassis, due to MINI’s focus on driving performance. That said, he does see potential in the Rocketman in markets near and (especially) far, and would love to sell the fun-size coupe in showrooms all over the world should the right partnership were to be forged.

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Los Angeles 2013: MINI Unveils 2014 Cooper, Cooper S Thu, 21 Nov 2013 05:12:56 +0000 2014 MINI Cooper S 01

MINI’s new Cooper and Cooper S aren’t so mini anymore — which is wonderful for the backseat occupants in your life, for starters — but the BMW brand had done its best to maintain the spirit. Under the bonnets are either a three-pot pushing 134 horses out the front gate with 162 lb-ft of torque or, for the S, an extra cylinder helping to produce 189 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque, with either engine paired to a six-speed manual or automatic.

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Meet The New MINI, Same As The Old MINI Mon, 18 Nov 2013 15:17:17 +0000 2014-MINI-cooper-hardtop


Photos of the re-designed MINI Cooper have been leaked ahead of its debut at this week’s Los Angeles Auto Show. As you can expect, it looks a lot like the old car.

The big news here is an all-new engine for the base car, a 1.5L turbocharged three-cylinder engine making 134 horsepower and 162 lb-ft of torque. The Cooper S retains a 4-cylinder, this time a 2.0L with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque.

Both 6-speed manual and automatics are on offer, while the car is 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider and 0.3 inches taller. Absent on the new MINI is the goofy giant speedometer, now placed with a giant LCD screen.

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Review: 2014 Fiat 500L (With Video) Fri, 06 Sep 2013 21:15:12 +0000 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-008

I have to admit, I’m a fan of the Fiat 500. Yes, I know it’s just a Fiat Panda with bubbly sheetmetal. Yes I know it’s a little peculiar. Yes I know it’s trying to ride on MINI success. It doesn’t matter, the wee Fiat makes me grin every time I drive one. Whether it’s the slow-as-dirt standard 500, the ludicrously loud Abarth, the almost-convertible 500c or the totally impractical 500e, the Cinquecento knows how to brighten my day. I was therefore excited when Fiat announced the 500′s success would spawn a four door stable-mate for 2014.  Is the 500L 40% more smiles for 20% more cash?

Click here to view the embedded video.


When I first saw the 500L at the Chicago Auto Show, I tried to keep an open mind about the exterior styling. The perfectly orchestrated lighting, booth babes and a free cappuccino mug certainly helped distract from the car’s lines. Once I had the super-sized 500 parked in the grocery store parking lot under the harsh California sun, my opinion was set. Something is wrong with the 500L.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

On the face of things, a larger 500 sounds like a great idea, I love the way the new 500 looks. The problem is: the 500L is not a stretched 500. Instead, the L is an entirely different car riding on a completely unrelated architecture co-designed by Fiat and Opel. The result is a 500 that got stung by a bee, not a 500 Xeroxed with the enlarge setting at 140%. I don’t think the 500L is hideous, it’s just awkward. Like a slightly overweight person in skinny jeans and a tube top.

If you want a 500L that looks slightly more rugged, the Trekking model gets a tweaked bumper cover featuring more black plastic. Apparently black plastic tells others you’re an outdoor sports person. The side profile is dominated by slab sides and an unusual A and B pillar location. If you can’t tell from the picture above, check out the one below. The A pillar and B pillar are up by the dashboard allowing the windshield to be pushed out towards the front of the car, improving interior room but creating a style that is far from common in America. If I might proffer an opinion: I think going for a 1950′s wrap-around-bubble windshield would have been more unique and more harmonious. Out back the 500′s raked hatchback style is out, replaced by a more practical vertical hatch. I realize that style is subjective so, so I’ll end this section by soliciting your opinion in the comment section. Ready? Set. Flame!

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


While the funky styling on the outside turned my nose up, the Euro-funk on the inside whet my appetite in a strange sort of way. (Kind of like admitting you eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and aren’t pregnant.) Cars in America are so cookie-cutter these days with every car company pulling from the same pool of suppliers are parts that the 500L stands out. In addition to switch gear you won’t find in a Ford or Toyota, the overall style is refreshingly different. Our 500L Lounge tester had the optional pleather dash in a faux-marble pattern that is on the one hand unique and the other a little strange. From the seat design to the parking brake handle and the steering wheel to the air vents, the 500L is just a little different. If you like breaking from the herd, this interior is for you.

Front seat comfort was acceptable for a car in the 500L’s price range ($19,100-$27,895) but could have been better. Part of this is because our Lounge model was a pre-production vehicle and did not have the four-way power lumbar support that is normally standard on Lounge models and optional on Easy and Trekking. I was unable to locate a 500L with the optional lumbar support so keep that in mind. Power seats are not available at any price and the manual adjustment range of motion is more limited than I had expected, but Fiat did go the extra mile and give the same height adjustment levers to the front passenger seat. The 500L’s chunky leather wrapped steering wheel and well placed controls have a premium feel to them you don’t normally find in this price range.

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L.Dykes

Logically the 500L exists to give 500 shoppers an alternative that can seat 5 and schlep more widgets. Indeed, the rear bench has three belts, is split 60/40, adjusted fore/aft and folded/flipped forward to increase cargo capacity from 21 cubes to 64 cubes. (The front passenger seat also folds flat.) Unfortunately our model was had the panoramic sunroof, a trendy $950 option. Why is that unfortunate? Two reasons. The sunroof drops the ceiling low enough that my head brushed the ceiling and I’m only 6-feet tall. The other problem is the perforated cloth sunshade. It sieves the light rather than blocking it. This didn’t seem like a problem at first, but on a 98 degree day having my head baking and my face freezing lead to a headache that wouldn’t have happened in anything other than a convertible. Except in a convertible I could have put the lid back on. Phoenix shoppers beware. It is now that I should point out I had a passenger who thought this was the best feature ever. I think her head has been in the sun too long.

Americans love cupholders because we love fast food as much as we love fast cars. This is one cultural difference that even European car companies that have been in America for decades continue to get wrong. (I’m lookin’ at you BMW.) If you’re considering a 500L as a family car, there’s a serious deficiency you should know about: the 500L has three cup holders. That’s two less than the car’s occupancy, one less than the American bare-minimum standard and three less than ideal. Yes, the cup holder that slides out of the rear armrest is sturdy. Yes it can handle a 42oz McCokePepsiDew from the drive-thru. But there is only one. Fiat kindly includes a bottle holder in each of the 500L’s doors but tells you to never put a drink without a screw cap in them. Holding your Big Gulp between your knees may be acceptable in Italy, but in suburban America it is grounds for mutiny. Trust me, I found out the hard way.

 2014 Fiat 500L


The 500L is the first Fiat to use Chrysler’s uConnect Infotainment system. (Yes, I am discounting the re-badged Fiat and Lancia models.) Because the 8-inch system found in most Chrysler vehicles wouldn’t fit the dash, a 5-inch system is used in base models while most seem to get the 6.5-inch unit. Both systems carry the uConnect name but the 5-inch system runs an embedded version of Microsoft Windows ala MyFord Touch and the 6.5-inch system runs on the same QNX operating system as other uConnect systems (and Blackberry phones.)

Despite running a different OS, the 5-inch system looks and feels very similar to the other uConnect devices and it follows Chrysler and Fiat’s new direction in infotainment: no standard CD player. Like the RAM trucks and new Jeeps, you can pay $190 for an optical drive but it will be located somewhere other than in the dash. Fiat has said the 5-inch system can also be upgraded to include GPS navigation but details remain sketchy.  If you’ve seen the 8-inch system, you’ll be right at home with the 6.5-inch version. I assumed initially that the reduced screen real estate would be an issue for my inner-nerd, but I was mistaken. The reason is that Fiat moved the permanent on-screen button bank to a row of physical buttons below the screen making the useable area almost as large as its bigger brother. If you want the infotainment deep dive, check out the video. I was unable to discern a difference between the standard 6 speaker system on the 500L Pop and the “premium” system found on the other models. I did however find the 6-speaker Beats branded system to have a strange balance with exaggerated bass and muted mid range.

2014 Fiat 500L Engine, Fiat Multi-Air, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


In many world markets, popping the hood of the 500L will reveal a 0.9L two-cylinder engine good for 79 ponies. Clearly this would have taken “Euro-funky” to a level Americans would never accept. In an interesting twist, Fiat skipped over their 1.4L 135HP turbo and gave the 500L some Abarth love the form of their 160 horsepower 1.4L MultiAir turbo. In a move that may make Abarth owners feel left out, Fiat tweaked the small four again, bumping torque from 170 ft-lbs to 184. Thanks to the MultiAir system, the turbo’s 18psi (maximum) of boost can still be enjoyed with 87 octane.

Further upsetting Abarth owners is the fact that this engine is mated to a 6-speed manual or a quick-shifting 6-speed dual clutch transmission. Unlike most of the dual-clutch units out there, Fiat’s “Euro Twin Clutch” transmission uses dry clutches rather than wet clutches as seen in VW’s original 6-speed DSG. Cost and complexity are the main reasons for the dry clutches, however shift quality is not quite up to VW’s standards as a result. Another interesting side effect of the dry clutches is driving at slow speeds, especially on sloping roads, can heat up the clutch pack enough you can smell it.

2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Based on the 500L’s proportions you might be temped to think it handles like a giant marshmallow. You’d be wrong. At 3,200lbs (with the dual-clutch) the 500L is [relatively] light and thanks to the chassis stamping, the center of gravity is low. Toss in some Italian engineering and the optional 225/45R17 tires (205/55R16s are standard on all models except Trekking) and the 500L is surprisingly agile on the road. I spent a few hours behind the wheel of the base Pop model with the 6-speed manual and the 205-width rubber and came away fairly impressed even in stripper form. The 500L with the optional rubber easily out-grips the Buick Encore and Kia Soul, but if corner carving in your almost-crossover is your style, the Countryman has higher limits and better feel.

Fiat uses a modern electric power steering system in the 500L so that means we can skip steering feel for other topics at hand. Tossing the 500L into corners produces less body roll than you might imagine and the chassis is tuned to the stiffer side of this segment. The 500L’s cabin is considerably quieter than the Soul or the Countryman but not as quiet as Buick’s crossover.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Headlamps, Piicture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 6-speed manual transmission has an excellent feel, moderately long throws and a linear, but slightly spongy clutch. The shifter feel is reminiscent of the smaller 500 Abarth except the 500L gains an all important 6th gear and looes the incessant drone designed into the Abarth’s exhaust. The extra cog helps the 500L achieve a very respectable 25/33/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) EPA score which is three city and one highway MPG lower than the Abarth. Adding the dual clutch tranny drops the city and combined number by one MPG to 24/33/27. In a week of mixed driving and hill climbing I averaged an impressive 28.9MPG, several shy of the Buick Encore but 4MPG ahead of the Mini Countryman S.

Opinions on Fiat’s dual-clutch transmission are likely to be as mixed as the exterior design. The 6-speed unit has all the benefits and flaws of every other dual clutch robotic manual on the market. Because this is a manual transmission at heart, there is no torque converter. If you understand what’s going on inside the transmission, the behavior makes sense. If you’re passengers aren’t “car people” they will ask: “dude, what’s wrong with your car?” The reason is: the 500L drives like a someone driving a manual. Takes offs have a hint of clutch slip and then an engagement point, this is especially obvious in slow driving where the car is almost constantly slipping the clutch. The 500L gets hill hold assist, but if the incline is shallow, you’re pointing down hill, or you wait too long to press the accelerator, the 500L will roll. On the up side, the transmission’s shifts are fast and crisp and the Fiat unit is just as eager to downshift as it is to up-shift making it a decent companion on mountain roads.

2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Pricing & Competition

Ah, the bugaboo of every review. Any car can seem like a slam dunk in a vacuum (I’m thinking LS 600hL) but pricing makes the deal. With a spread from $19,100 to $27,895 (without destination), the 500L’s pricing spread isn’t out of the ordinary, but what else competes with the super-sized Fiat? I suppose you could call the $14,700-$23,400 Kia Soul competition, but are they really the same thing? It may not handle as well, be as quiet on the inside or get the same fuel economy as the 500L, but it’s about $4,000 cheaper. That’s a significant difference.

On the other side of the spectrum we have the Buick Encore and Mini Countryman Cooper S. Both the Buick and the Mini seem like better competition thanks to their turbocharged engines, mini SUV looks and more premium brand image. The Buick and Mini both have AWD options which is something to keep in mind, but the majority of their sales are FWD so the comparison is valid.  The Buick is over $3,000 more expensive and not as powerful, but it does deliver at least $3,000 worth of interior refinements in my opinion. The Mini on the other hand fails the value proposition costing $8,000-$9,000 more than the Fiat depending on the options. I’d like to say the Mini makes up for the difference, but I’d be lying. Yes the Mini does have better road manners and I like their version of BMW’s iDrive, but the difference isn’t worth the price especially when Mini continues to use some crazy cheap plastics in their cabins.

The 500L is certainly 40% more Fiat for 20% more cash, but the size increase exacts a 50% toll on the cuteness factor and a 20% reduction in fun. Once that math is done, you’re left with the Kia being cheaper, the Encore doing almost everything better and the Mini still selling on brand but delivering little else. The 500L handles well, is reasonably priced, gets good fuel economy and has the largest cargo hold of this group. Paired with a large helping of Euro-funk, I can see why someone would want to own one, I’m just not that person. If you’re torn between the 500 and 500L, get the 500 and rent a four-door when you need one. If you need four-doors all the time, the 500L is unquestionably a better buy than the Mini Countryman, and in many ways a better vehicle as well, but the Kia Soul is a better value and the Buick Encore is just a better car. I can’t believe I said that about a Buick. Someone help me find my wheelchair, I know I left it here before that whippersnapper came in the room.

Hit it or Quit it?

Hit it

  • I know I’m the only one, but I love a dual-clutch transmission.
  • The baby uConnect system hasn’t lost what makes the 8-inch unit great.
  • Larger cargo hold than Encore and Countryman.

Quit it

  • Awkward looks.
  • Distinct cup-holder shortage in the rear.
  • The Kia Soul is a better value.

Fiat provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.47 Seconds

0-60: 8.34 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.72 Seconds @ 85.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 28.9 MPG over 460 miles

2014 Fiat 500L Engine, Fiat Multi-Air, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Engine-001 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-001 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-003 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-004 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Headlamps, Piicture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-006 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-008 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-009 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-010 2014 Fiat 500L Exterior-011 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Fiat 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-001 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-002 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-003 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-004 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-005 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L.Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-008 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-009 2014 Fiat 500L Interior-010 2014 Fiat 500L Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]> 114
Hello, Yellow, Happy Birthday: BMW Faint Praises Porsche Thu, 06 Jun 2013 16:54:07 +0000 P90124916_lowRes

Usually, automakers never mention the competition, especially when you are BMW and the competition is Porsche. Soon, the Porsche 911, according to BMW “the flag-bearer of the German sports car fraternity,” will celebrate its 50th birthday, and BMW has a special birthday greeting.


In an elaborate press drop, it compares the 911 not with equally sporty BMWs, but with the MINI. For that, a yellow Ur-MINI (historically correct in RHD version)  and an equally yellow 2.4 L 911 Targa were put side-by-side, for a photo-shoot more elaborate than for many new car catalogs. Today, masses of pictures were sent out, along with a press release  that waxes long and poetic of how similar the Mini and the 911 are, both on the road and on the track.


The press release, in the for BMW typical War&Peace-worthy  length, can be found here.  (BMW definitely does not seem to be worried about TL;NR).


This subliminal message (the MINI  equals the mighty 911) is a gigantic put-down, dressed into polite praise. It’s a lost art, and I am glad BMW masters it.

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,

And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,

Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

Alexander Pope (1688–1744)


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MINI Walks Drives On Water Wed, 08 May 2013 13:53:43 +0000 MINI Water

Jesus Christ! Visitors of the 2013 Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta on May 10-11 will think a red Mini convertible will drive on water.

BMW’s MINI brand sponsors the festival of university and college rowing along the along the Schuylkill River. The miraculous MINI actually is a fiberglass mold of the car mounted to a boat hull. Powered by a 6 hp outboard motor, it floats down river.

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Another Car Show, Another MINI: John Cooper Works Paceman – Yes, My Name Is Longer Than Yours Wed, 27 Feb 2013 14:32:08 +0000

BMW executes on its plan to bring at least one new MINI to every show it graces. In Geneva, it is the MINI John Cooper Works Paceman, a.k.a. the MINI with the maxi name.  If we believe the press release, the car “combines mouthwatering sporting flair and inimitable style to usher in a new dimension in driving fun.”

What’s more, “the new model sees the compact Sports Activity Coupé concept wrapped up in an extra layer of muscular proportions and dynamically stretched lines.”wait, there’s …

… more: “The driver and passengers can lap up the resultant sensation of race competition and the interior’s characteristic sports car ambience from four individual seats.” Who writes that stuff?

The engine is the familiar blown 1.6-liter four-cylinder mill It still “develops output of 160 kW/218hp and peak torque of 280 Newton meters (207 lb-ft), which can be increased to 300 Newton meters (221 lb-ft) for short periods between 2,100 and 4,500 rpm courtesy of the overboost function.”

Tell you what, instead of trying to wade through the multiple pages of the short form of the press release, here is the long form, ready for download. 1 megabyte, so watch your smartphone cap.

Collegial hint to BMW: Those press releases are a violation of the Geneva AND the Hague Land War Conventions. Their mitigating factor is the class leading rich supply of pictures. In that department, you are the best, BMW.  Alright, we need to fill the space between the pictures, somehow …

MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -01- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -02- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -03- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -04- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -05- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -06- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -07- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -08- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -09- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -10- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -11- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -12- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -13- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -14- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -15- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -16- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -17- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -18- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -19- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -20- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -21- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -22- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -23- Picture courtesy BMW MINI John Cooper Works Paceman  2014 -24- Picture courtesy BMW



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Flipping MINI Wed, 20 Feb 2013 11:59:09 +0000

Former extreme ski world champion Guerlain Chicherit did what is called the first-ever unassisted backflip in a car. Strapped into a Mini Countryman, Guerlain had to maintain exactly 60kph and be full on the throttle on the ramp to land on all fours after a somersault.


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Abbie Cornish Sends Derek A Get Well Card From Grammy After Party. Mini Serves As Excuse Wed, 13 Feb 2013 17:07:09 +0000 BMW took a break from the arduous job of creating new variations of its Mini, and went to a party. Even that was strictly business, Mini was the official partner of the Grammy after party at the Chateau Marmont, a  hotel famous for its dead celebrities.

John Belushi infamously died of an overdose in a bungalow of the Chateau. In 2004, photographer Helmut Newton had a fatal heart attack upon leaving the hotel, and crashed his Cadillac.

Should you ever stay at the Chateau, also don’t miss the attractions in its vicinity, such as the body shop across the street. You can walk to your hotel if you’ve been at the shop for service, I’ve done it many times.

We use this opportunity as an excuse to show a few partygoers.  Abbie Cornish sends Derek, who is still in great pain after his tonsil removal, a get well.

Some gentlemen don’t like blondes, for those, a Dita Von Teese.

And for good measure, a Kimbra.


For the perverts who like redheads or no hair, the Iconapops.

Mini Afterparty 1. Picture courtesy BMW Mini Afterparty 2 Mini Afterparty 3. Picture courtesy BMW Mini Afterparty 4. Picture courtesy BMW ]]> 14
NAIAS 2013: MINI Paceman JCW Mon, 14 Jan 2013 14:15:52 +0000

I thought the Mini Paceman was an extraordinarily stupid idea until I saw it on the show floor. The execution is much better than the bloated Countryman. This one has the John Cooper Works engine, which means you’ll get charged an exorbitant amount for 208 horsepower, giant wheels, awful ride quality and $2 worth of badges. But it does have all-wheel drive. Think of it as a cut-rate Evoque. That still costs a lot.

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Another Car Show, Another Mini Wed, 19 Dec 2012 17:22:30 +0000

It’s a new tradition at the storied Mini brand: Each car show gets its own dedicated Mini. Swatch tried it with the Swatch car, but could not pull it off.  Now, BMW’s Mini is doing it with great success: At the inside, the same movement. At the outside, ever changing designs. Collect all colors!. Of course, Mini won’t break tradition at the Detroit Auto Show, and it will bring you: The John Cooper Works Paceman.

BMW says that “the three-door model is the latest offering from the John Cooper Works sub-brand and, with its race-bred powertrain and chassis technology, brings the promise of a high-octane race feeling to the streets of the urban jungle: extreme driving fun meets the extrovert looks of the world’s first Sports Activity Coupé in the compact segment.”  With greater economy of verbiage, the Wall Street Journal claims that it is, “essentialy a two-door version of the Countryman SUV.”

But that’s not all. To really limit the cars to one per auto show, there will be a John Cooper Works GP, a limited edition with only 2,000 copies.

While looking at the pictures of the Paceman, abundantly supplied by BMW’s press department, one has to wonder: What will they do for SEMA?

In case you want to know more about the car, and only if you are mentally steeled for press releases written by admirers of Leo Tolstoy, here is the official communique. Careful, even the “short version” covers two pages.

P.S.: The pictures however are ready for Web 3.0 They come with plenty white space, preventing TTAC’s in-picture ads from doing visual harm.

The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW The John Cooper Works Paceman. - Picture courtesy BMW ]]> 19
MINI To Begin Production At Nedcar Thu, 29 Nov 2012 16:31:01 +0000

The long rumored move to build MINI vehicles at Mitsubishi’s Dutch plant has finally come to pass. Starting in the second half of 2014, MINI vehicles will be built at the former home of the Mitsubishi Charisma and Volvo S40.

Automotive News reports that a Dutch consortium known as the VDL Group will take over the plant and provide manufacturing to BMW under contract. Production capacity was not announced. The company hasn’t announced which vehicles will be built at Nedcar either. Nedcar joins the Magna-Steyr outfit in Austria (which builds the Countryman and Paceman) as the second non-English production site for Mini.

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BMW Maximizes Mini Investment. With The Mini Paceman Wed, 28 Nov 2012 17:07:19 +0000

BMW will enter marketing history by bringing McDonalds to the automotive industry. Just like McD took one food platform as the basis of a panoply of products (Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Double Cheseburger, McDouble, Daily Double) BMW’s MINI perfects the art and science of mass customization. The latest iteration: The long awaited Mini Paceman, debuting for North America at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

At a base U.S. price of $23,900, the Mini Paceman offers “powerful, dynamically stretched coupe lines and the hallmark MINI go-kart feeling” on a lowered sports suspension and optional all-wheel drive.

We celebrate this momentous occasion with a maxi-sized picture library, a small selection of hundreds offered by BMW. The MINI Paceman will go on sale beginning March 16, 2013. You want fries with that?

Picture courtesy Mini Paceman -  02 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  03 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  04 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  05 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  06 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  07 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  08 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  09 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  10 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  11 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  12 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  13 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  14 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  15 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  16 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  17 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  18 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  19 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  20 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  21 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  22 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  23 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  24 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  25 - Picture courtesy BMW Mini Paceman -  26 - Picture courtesy BMW ]]> 39
2012 Los Angeles Auto Show Preview Mon, 26 Nov 2012 18:54:09 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

The 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show is upon us, and as usual, TTAC will have photographers in the field, complete with live shots of all the new debuts, while we provide anger-tinged appraisals of all the new debuts. Press days don’t start for another couple of days, but we’ve got a rundown of what to expect after the jump.

Acura: The beak brand will debut their new flagship luxury sedan, the RLX. Having already seen a rendering of the production car, I’d advise you all to brace yourself for an avalanche of conservative styling. The base front-wheel drive car will get a sophisticated four-wheel steering system, while the top-spec model will get the much touted Sport Hybrid AWD system.

Audi: The big news here is the proliferation of diesels. Four of them. The Q5, A6, A7 and A8 will get Audi’s new twin-turbo V6 diesel, joining the Q7 as part of Audi’s TDI lineup. What about the A4?

BMW: A coupe version of the i3 concept will be displayed.

Chevrolet: An EV version of the Spark will be unveiled – performance should be brisk, with a 0-60 time of under 8 seconds, but the car will only be sold in California for now, ostensibly due to compliance issues.

Chrysler/Fiat: The big story at Chrysler is actually Fiat; the 500 EV and a convertible version of the 500 Abarth will bow. The 500L, a four-door pseudo-crossover based on the 500, will add some depth to Fiat’s lineup in the USA.

Ford: The already unveiled Transit Connect Wagon will be shown in public, and a Fiesta ST is all but confirmed. The baby ST should get its motivation from the 1.6L Ecoboost used in the Fusion and Escape.

Honda: The sort-of newly restyled 2013 Civic will be presented by Honda to atone for their deadly sin, the 2012 Civic. We’ve seen the exterior revamp already, but the interior is still the big question mark.

Hyundai: An unnamed concept is set to be shown.

Jaguar: The XFR-S will borrow the 550 horsepower supercharged V8 from the XKR-S and transplant it into the dated but still charming XF.

Kia: An all-new Forte, including a coupe and hatchback will debut.

Mercedes-Benz: A concept vehicle depicting the G-Class in the year 2025 will be shown alongside the SLS Black Series.

MINI: The Clubvan commercial vehicle will be revealed, as well as the Paceman two-door crossover.

Porsche: The slow-selling Cayman will be replaced by…an all-new Cayman that looks a lot like the Boxster, and even uses the same powertrains. Who would have guessed?

Subaru: The 2014 Forester is the big news here. The next-generation 2.0L turbocharged Boxer will be available, but only mated to a CVT gearbox.

Toyota: The RAV4 and it’s famous 4-speed automatic will die a quiet death, replaced by an all-new version. We’ll get our first look on Wednesday.

Volkswagen: The ragtop version of the new Beetle will be unveiled.


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Experiment Shows: Mini Most Powerful Babe-Magnet Thu, 15 Nov 2012 15:08:09 +0000

An experiment conducted in London shows that the new MINI is the world’s strongest babe-magnet. This 2012 MINI attracted 28 very skinny and flexible ladies.

The 2012 MINI out-attracted the classic Mini by 5 ladies. The old MINI attracted only 23 ladies. Both are new Guinness World Records™ .

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Auction Day: The Euro Bailout Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:36:59 +0000

What percentage of new cars sold this year in the United States have European badges?

3%… 5% maybe? Not even close! Through September 2012 it stands at approximately 9.5%

The recent successes of VW, Audi and BMW/Mini are quite noteworthy. 10 years ago, European marketshare in the U.S. was only at 7.1%.

However this isn’t the entire story. Used European vehicles are often considered to be pricey to fix and expensive to own. At a recent sale in Atlanta this week the percentage of Euro vehicles was nowhere near 7%, or 9%.

It was over 23%.

VW 1.8 Liter engine with sludge issues? Present.

Audi in need of ride suspension elimination kit? Yeps!

Volvo with transmission issues. Audi with transmission issues. Saab with transmission issues. You.. bet… cha!

Out of 113 vehicles sold during the run, 27 of them were European… and metro-Atlanta tends not to be nearly as popular with European models as the folks up in the Northeast.  This auction may have been little more than a statistical quirk. But it was quite amusing to see.

There were also a few other surprises.

This 2002 Ford Focus SE wagon with 28,000 miles

And this 2004 Jaguar XJ8 with 181,000 miles.


Sold for nearly the same price. the Focus sold for $4600 (plus auction fee) while the Jag with the Tony the Tiger imprint on the steering wheel sold for all of $4800 (plus fee). No announcements for either of the two.

My beloved Tauruses continue to do well. A 2002 SES model with cloth and 79,000 miles sold for $3500, which happened to be the exact same price I sold a 2001 model with leather and 95,000 miles not too long ago.

Then there was the big kahuna. In this case it was a 2006 Land Rover Range Rover HSE (try to say that ten times really fast.) Two dealers got in a dogfight at around 18 grand and the final tally was $24,200. It had 109,754 miles and I hope the groom of this beastly bride will enjoy being married to it for quite a while. Either that or the Landy had a built in distillery in the back.

I managed to come in second a lot… which is fine. For the last couple of months I have been busy buying up whatever seems to be in decent in full knowledge that when tax season comes around, prices will go up, and quality will go way, way down.

One other thing. Convertibles. Why do some folks feel the need to trade-in their convertible during the mid to late fall? Dealers have to sit on that opportunity in most areas of the country which means the price you get will border on bupkis.


2002 Jaguar XKR, no defect announcements, 106k, – $9800

2001 Saab 9-3 SE, Frame Damage, Non-visible, 128k – $2700

2001 Volvo C70 HT, (Tranny Needs Service, Prior Fleet, Frame Damage, Title Branded, Miles Exempt… but looked nice!), 109k- $1900

The last one sold to a guy know who liquidates vehicles at a public auction north of Atlanta. A couple of weeks ago he told me he sold 15 out of 20 at a nearby public sale, and I don’t doubt it. Every dealer has a niche. Although I never would have the stomach for something like that.

This auto auction was ground zero for the falling of the Euro… car. And guess who eventually pays for the bailout? On the cheap of course.


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New or Used: Seatown, not Snowtown! Tue, 16 Oct 2012 14:00:13 +0000

TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Winter is coming. Like any true Seattle suburbanite, I dread the debut of the white stuff. We’re so scared of snow up here that the local insurance company even aired commercials teasing us about it.

I have to admit, the truth hurts, and I am a big snow-baby, choosing to stay off the roads as much as possible. But sometimes, you have to drive. And here’s the question: I need a hand from the Best & Brightest on selecting a snowy steed, because I just don’t have enough experience to know which of our vehicles is best suited to the job.

Option One: 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman, with manual transmission and Michelin Ice-X snow tires. This car is front wheel drive, obviously, including an automagical “dynamic stability control.” Sometimes the DSC light on the dash comes on under hard cornering, so you can be sure that something is happening… but how helpful is the system behind the dashboard light? I have no idea.

Option Two: 2000 Impreza RS, with manual transmission and all-season tires. This is a normally aspirated sedan, with AWD 50/50 power split and a limited slip rear differential. It has no form of electronic stability control. Surprisingly, the Scooby only weighs about 100 lbs more than the Mini. Lastly, if it makes the difference in the Snow Day Showdown, I’ll put on snow tires.

Option Three: 2003 E350 cargo van, with automatic transmission and all-season tires. Weighing more than the other 2 cars put together, and featuring the refinement of a coal train, I cannot see this being a good choice. Also, it is glacier white. The inevitable wreck would therefore be well-hidden from first responders.

What say the B&B? Does a FWD car with stability control and snow tires beat an AWD car without either? If the AWD car gets snow tires, does that change the outcome? There is likely at least one long, snowy drive ahead of me this winter, so I very much appreciate any input.


Steve answers:

It’s a good thing you’re thinking about it. As a former resident of upstate New York, let me clue you in on a few things.

First off, both the Mini and the Impreza will be perfectly fine in the snow. Although I would favor the Mini due to the snow tires and the electronic stability control. All wheel drive will not save your bacon if you don’t have any traction for the wheels. Snow tires make that difference in real world driving.

Front wheel drive is fine for most regions (which is where by the way?).. Snow tires are even better. Electronic stability control is one more strong plus.

The Impreza would offer a bit more ground clearance if you have to commute in an area where the snowfall is near Buffalo levels and the public services are near Detroit levels. All things being equal, I would stick with the Mini. If you really want to improve your snow driving prowess I would encourage you to strike up a few local conversations and watch some Youtube videos.

Sajeev answers:

Aside from LSX-FTW, tires have the most impact to a car’s performance: various sizes, inflation pressures, tread designs and rubber compounds are in play.  The Econoline might be okay with a ton of ballast in the rear, but it’s the worst choice. The best is the rig with the snow tires.  Plus, it’s front wheel drive!

The MINI is the only choice, total no brainer. Unless you sell it and get a Panther with the aforementioned ton of ballast in the trunk.  I only say this because my first car (1965 Ford Galaxie, automatic, open differential) lived in Palouse most of its life, with snow tires and a couple of sandbags in the trunk for ballast. And if my relatives could tough it out (as if) in a Galaxie for decades, why not treat yourself to a Panther?

I’m just sayin’…who else could make this question all about Panthers???

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MINI Countryman Buyers No Longer Have To Sweat The Buckets Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:51:55 +0000

Utility vehicles with seating for four don’t do much to endear themselves with buyers who may actually carry people as well as cargo.

As useful as the Honda Element was, anecdotal evidence suggests that families were put off  by the lack of a middle seat. MINI was smart enough to offer the option of either a bench seat or two individual bucket seats for the Countryman, with the 2+2 configuration offered as standard.

For 2013, the bench will now be the default configuration, with the buckets offered as an option. Apparently, NHTSA mandated a minimum width for vehicles to offer three-across seating in the rear, and until the requirements were altered, MINI was forced to offer the car as a 2+2 only. Once the bench seat became available, hardly anyone opted for the buckets.

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