Thursday, December 14, 2006

2007 MINI EPA Mileage Estimates

This week, MINIUSA released the official EPA mileage estimates for the 2007 models as reported on MotoringFile. The 2007 Cooper has an EPA mileage estimate of 32 city/40 highway and the 2007 Cooper S has an estimate of 29 city/36 highway. Both of these numbers are improvements over the previous generation, but what I would like to know is, "What happened to high mileage per gallon compacts?"

Just twenty years ago, 30 city/40 highway was not a great feat of efficiency for a 4 cylinder compact. The website MPGbuddy has records of many automobiles mileage per gallon ratings back to 1984. The Honda Civic of that year was reported with ratings of 42 city/55 highway; the Volkswagen Rabbit was rated 35 city/44 highway; the Dodge Omni was rated 34 city/49 highway. Japanese, European, and American automotive manufacturers were able to produce compact cars with gas mileage that would make today's post-Katrina consumers rushing to trade-in their SUVs.

The comparable vehicles offered today by the three manufacturers are: Honda Civic with 30 city/38 highway; Dodge Caliber with 28 city/32 highway; and the Volkswagen Rabbit with 22 city/30 highway. We may also include the Honda Fit with ratings of 33 city/38 highway. So what has happened in 20 years that would cause such a drastic loss of fuel efficiency? Today's engines are marvels of engineering with technologies including Variable Valve Timing to provide optimum fuel provisions during driving conditions to improve economy, but they still do not match the economy of compact cars just twenty years ago.

Upon further investigation, I found that in the mid-eighties, several auto-manufacturers released vehicles designed to get the best fuel-efficiency as reported in this New York Times article. These cars weren't comfortable, well-options, or fast, but were able to get you to your destination in the most miserly fashion. The rise of hybrid vehicles in the past five years is the auto-manufacturers attempt to provide the fuel-efficiency of these small cars of twenty years ago, but still maintain the comfort that consumers have grown to expect. I would like to see MINIUSA bring the MINI One D to the states to show the auto-manufacturers that hybrids aren't the only solution for optimum fuel efficiency.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My First MINI Adventure

On Tuesday, I took a trip to Century MINI in Greenville, SC. It is one of the closest MINI dealerships to my home, and I decided to visit the dealer to meet the motoring advisors and talk to them about my interest in getting a MINI in early 2008. Just a little more than one year left before I get my MINI!!

The day was dreary with overcast skies and light to heavy rain throughout the day. The drive to Greenville was nice in spite of the rain as we wandered through the small towns of South Carolina along Highway 25. I have a choice between Century MINI and one of the dealerships in Atlanta, and the nice, leisurely drive to Greenville solidified my choice. A scenic drive through back country roads better exemplifies the spirit of motoring than a straight drive down an interstate at 70 miles per hour.

Century had quite a few MINIs on the lot. They had received their final allocation of 2006 cars while the factory in Oxford began the conversion to produce the R56 MINIs. There was a substantial selection of both convertibles and coupes. Although it was raining pretty heavily while we were at the dealership, my 2 year old son and I were able to enjoy walking around under the umbrella looking at all the different MINIs pointing out the different colors.

After the visit at Century MINI, we headed west on Highway 76 towards Dillard, Georgia. My wife and son were going to take a nap while I drove the 90 minute trip. Shortly before the SC/GA border, I was greeted with a nice curvey patch of road with changing elevation, surrounded by golden autumn trees in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. I imagined what it would be like tossing a MINI through the corners. Of course, the Chrysler Town & Country minivan I was driving prevented me from fully enjoying the road, but I did my best to push the minivan and enjoy the drive.

When we reached Dillard, GA, we stopped at the Dillard House to partake some of the best Southern cooking in the world. My wife and I have eaten there several times, and it seemed like a great way to fill out our day trip to Greenville. For those who haven't been there, what's on the menu is what's brought to the table, similar to eating a meal at home. If you run out of something and you want more, all you have to do is ask. The highlight as always is Country Ham. Of course, my other favorite is fried chicken. Other items on the menu were barbeque chicken, country fried steak, green beans (my wife claims were the best ever), mashed potatoes, fried okra, a pumpkin casserole, stuffed peppers, creamed corn, and others I can't remember. You will definitely be given more food than you can eat. Desert was an ubelievably delicious apple brown betty.

After gourging at the Dillard House, we headed back out into the rain to travel home. Usually when I travel to Dillard, I come from home, so I easily remember the route back, but since I had come from Greenville, I lost my bearings a little and took a longer path than usual. It also was dark at 5:00, so it was even more difficult to note any familiar landmarks. I managed to get us home safe, but added about 30 or 45 minutes to the travel time back.

Although I don't have a MINI, I consider this my first MINI adventure. Ultimately, we traveled 400 miles to eat lunch. The journey was the point of the day, not the destination. We got lost, but it didn't matter, because we still made it home. Oh yeah, and there were MINIs involved.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I Love My Wife

Recently, my wife revealed that if it were possible, she would get me a MINI. We both understand that currently, a new car is not in our budget, but she knows how much I want one, and would be willing to get me a MINI if she had the means.

But not just any MINI. She would not try to find one in the area and purchase it to surprise me. Although, I would greatly appreciate it, she would much rather know exactly what I want in a MINI and get it. Every option right down to the cloth seats (which have now become extinct). She loves me well, indeed!

So what options would I want? My current desire is to get a Hyper Blue Cooper S. Let me just jump over to the Configurator at MINI USA and put together my dream MINI. Well... the white roof is a must have; although the new silver roof might look quite nice, but white it is. LSD on a Cooper S is an absolute as well. I would also throw in the front and rear foglights, dual-pane sunroof, and onboard computer. For pure asthetics, I would want the Lapis Blue leather interior and Hyper blue interior surface panels so that the inside of the car would match the outside. Last, but not least, would be the 16" R90 wheels. I'd love to get the 17", but the price differential is insane.

That gives a grand total of $25,971... ouch. Now I am reminded why I want to get a used MINI.
By the time I'm in the market for a MINI, this car should be sub 18k... hopefully.

I love my wife. :)

Happy Motoring.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

MINI of Tampa Bay

I was in Tampa, FL on a business trip last week. Prior to leaving I checked for MINI dealerships in Florida and found Ferman MINI very near my hotel. Friday afternoon, I took a trip with my family to visit my first MINI dealership.

When I pulled up to Ferman MINI, I immediately noticed the extremely large volume of MINIs on the lot. All of my previous readings on forums, Motoringfile, etc. indicated that I should only see about a handful of cars at the dealer, but I was surprised to see easily 50 MINIs waiting for a loving family to take them home.

As we pulled up to the front, I noticed a row of empty spaces which I immediately assumed were for customers, as I drove our Chrysler Town & Country up to park, something became very clear - there was no way our minivan was fitting in those spaces. There was a lone MINI sitting in the furthest spot, and I noticed that the parking spaces were MINI sized!!! There was no way the T&C was fitting in four spaces, much less one, so we parked at the next dealer, which was currently unaffiliated.

Since there was such a large quantity of MINIs on the lot, I was able to see pretty much the full color palette, including the newest colors: Solar Red, Royal Grey, and Space Blue. (colors simulated... not necessarily actual representations) There was a fairly even spread of Coopers v. Cooper S, and there were also a good number of Checkmate packaged MINIs available. I was able to get a close up look at both Hyper Blue and British Racing Green, both of which are my current color choices for whenever I finally get my MINI. My wife really liked the variety of colors, but the purple ones caught her eye. I'll admit that Purple Haze looks really nice with a silver contrasting roof, but it is purple!!

We were greeted quickly by a Motoring Advisor, and I let him know that we were from out of town just checking out the dealership. He inquired about our closest Dealer, and I let him know that they are both about 100 miles from our home, but like a dummy, I let him go and didn't take the opportunity to take a test drive. I missed my chance!!! ARGH!!! I could have nestled into the comforting seat of an S and take one for a spin around the block and finally see what my dream car feels like to drive.

Once again, I scared my wife, as I pointed out differences between the cars. I was quick to say what color each was and show her the differences between an S an the standard Cooper. I was even able to tell if a car was going to be more than $25,000 just by looking at it and noting the options before looking at the sticker. She says I have an obsession, but I think she is wrong... Wait a minute, I think I already confessed to an obsession here...

Happy Motoring!