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2015 Mini Cooper JCW review

12/24/2015

It’s been over a year since Mini updated the Cooper model, introducing a number of mechanical and stylistic changes to the base two-door hatch. So we’ve had a good amount of time to get used to it, even though some Mini fans were initially taken aback by the catfish-like visage of the updated hatch. The longer nose is there for pedestrian protection as well as crash performance, with the automaker stretching out the nose and introducing larger headlights and taillights, in addition to making the cabin larger. All of these changes, especially inside, are very welcome, even if the Mini has grown to absolutely dwarf the original British Leyland models.

The JCW, of course, is the hot version and it acts like it. BMW has given the latest Mini a wonderfully smooth gearbox and the JCW is ready to rock in every gear, with Sport mode stiffening up the steering and suspension very perceptibly. Flicking the shifter ring to Sport also makes the exhaust nicer (louder), allowing drivers to broadcast their presence to the neighborhood within a 300-yard radius. In short, this gearbox is very fun to use and there is plenty of vroom available in every gear. The clutch is also very modern-BMW -- there is no springy feel to it whatsoever with the pedal travel being light and consistent throughout, even if a bit long. Those familiar with the modern 1-Series and 3-Series will feel right at home.

2015 Mini Cooper S hardtop review notes

09/11/2015

ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Thank god this Mini is so damn big. I took it up to my cottage this weekend with luggage and gear for two and food for some friends, and it barely had enough room. That’s the problem, I think: I look at the Mini, and it looks like a regular-size car, so I think I can stuff whatever I want in there without worry. The old Mini, even the recent “old” one that came back to the States, was actually a small car. I wouldn’t have tried to put two duffel bags, towels, sleeping bags and coolers in there.

It doesn’t really feel small on the road, either. The throttle tip-in is good, especially in sport mode. It’s quick to jump off the line and revs high, getting into the turbo rpms quickly. Flick the shifter over into sport transmission mode, and cog swapping is quick. too. That does make it feel light on its feet.

2016 Nissan 370Z Nismo Tech review notes

The Mini-Me GT-R

07/15/2015

ROAD TEST EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: So this is the 2016 model. I think Nissan retuned the exhaust to sound less metallic and more race car. The company must have heard all my complaining. With the windows up or down, it sound much better than the last one.

Looking back at my last review, I do like most of the same things in this car. From the outside, it’s a “Fast and Furious” car. Super low, wide, big wing and giant black-rimmed tires all fit the part. The dual exhuausts in the back, especially with the new sound, complete the package.

Inside, we get suede and leather seats with suede on the steering wheel and a stripe at top dead center, all of which I like. The seats are tight, even for my small frame, but the bottom front and back both adjust, making for a good fit and driving angle. They’re a bit uncomfortable to get into though, so keep that in mind.

It doesn’t ride as hard over Detroit roads as you might think. It bounces some, but doesn’t seem to bang, even over the bigger bumps. At speed it sticks like glue. It’s fun to take turns harder and harder, to find where the limit is actually at. Under normal street driving conditions, it’s nearly unreachable.

The 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door will go on sale in January 2015.

2015 Mini Cooper 4 Door hardtop first drive

10/01/2014

What is it?

The new Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door follows up on the debut of the third-generation Mini Cooper and Cooper S Hardtop 2 Door earlier this year; a couple more doors add extra versatility. This isn't the first four-door offered by Mini -- the Countryman was there first -- but this is an important step for an automaker known for experimenting with different body styles. And there's more to it than simply two extra doors.

The wheelbase of the new 2015 Mini Cooper Hardtop 4 Door has grown by 2.8 inches, while the car itself has grown by 6.3 inches overall. All of the extra wheelbase benefits rear seat legroom, and Mini has also managed to squeeze out an extra 2.4 inches in width. The front doors of the hardtop are shortened to buy a little extra room for rear-seat passenger ingress and egress, and the tail is stretched as well, leading to a new rear hatch profile with a more clamshell-like design. Mini has also increased the height of the roof by 0.4 inches.

Still packing Mini’s hallmark fun-to-drive charm.

2014 Mini Cooper S Hardtop review notes

08/04/2014

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: After some time in a Paceman, Mini was going to need quite the charmer to get me back on its side. I did not think a $37,000, automatic-equipped S Hardtop would do the trick, but it was much more fun than I was expecting it to be.

Yeah, there are some areas where you’re not sure if the automaker is trying too hard to be cute. Switch to the efficiency-minded green drive mode. “Let’s MINImalize,” the diagram on the center console screen says. Mid-mode? “Let’s motor.” Then, in sport mode: “Let’s motor hard.”

There’s a fine line between a car that is genuinely, organically fun (the original vintage Mini) and one where it’s painfully obvious that the enjoyment has been engineered back into it, and I guess this Mini is right on the edge.

It retains the kart-like steering that’s made the Mini name famous, and it’s just a little bit nervous at high speeds on the expressway, which I liked. Hit a pothole or hop over expansion joints and you’ll notice that the suspension is on the harsher side, which I also liked. And the motor bats above its 189 hp output -- these things seem to get a little bigger with each redesign, but 2,760 pounds isn’t exactly porky these days. For perspective, it’s a little less than the higher-output Subaru BRZ and a little more than the less-powerful Mazda MX-5 Miata.

The 2014 model has grown inside and out, and has received a pair of new engines.

2014 Mini Cooper and Cooper S first drive

02/20/2014 What Is It?It's the all new 2014 Mini Cooper, and it really is all new inside and out -- that's not a facelift, even though drivers unfamiliar with the marque may find it a little tough to spot the differences on the outside. The Mini Cooper has actually grown in almost every dimension, not only for the benefit of the rear seat passengers and the driver, but also for pedestrian safety -- that's why the Cooper has a longer nose, which is also a good way to tell it apart from the model it replaces. Specifically, the 2014 Mini Cooper is 4.5 inches longer, 1.7 inches wider, and just under an inch taller than the outgoing model. The wheelbase has grown only by about an inch, so most of the increase in length is due to more generous front and rear overhangs. Exterior design remains unmistakably Mini, to the point where the uninitiated will mistake it for the previous model, though the larger headlights and tail lights featuring quite a bit more chrome are other indicators. The hexag
The 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman is a rather quick car.

2013 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman review notes

11/27/2013 EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I thought this 2013 Mini John Cooper Works Clubman was just OK. That kind of surprises me. I thought I'd like it better than I do.I like the powertrain that features good power above 3,500 rpm on the tach, but you do battle some torque steer. The transmission throws feel on the money, and if you're feeling lazy no problem: the engine is flexible enough to pretty much stick it in third gear and just cruise to work.The car is longer than your garden variety Mini and that has cut down on the chassis' twitchiness a fair amount, but still feels nice and alert, and is still fun to fling around a bit. The steering has some decent weight to it, too. What are things that let me down? The major thing is the JCW Clubman's ride quality. Yes, yes, I know, another old dude complaining about run-flat tires and their lousy ride. Sorry, but it's a problem for me. The car is choppy over road imperfections even if they're not that bad. Taking the same route to work
The chassis of the 2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster is a bit too stiff for pothole riddled roads.

2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster review notes

10/15/2013 ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: I had the 2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster for the weekend mainly for going to the airport and back. I'll admit that the car is fun for about two minutes, before you hit a tiny pothole that shakes the entire chassis.Granted, on smooth, sweeping roads, this car is fun and fast. In sport mode it'll rip off the line, and pull all the way to redline, leaving other red-light racers in the dust. But on anything resembling a public road, with any sort of imperfection, it jumps all over the place.Around fast curves it hugs the road, but over expansion joints it jumps a few inches to the outside. That also frees up the steering wheel for a split second, which upsets the balance even more. It'll have your kidneys sore in no time.I think this and the Mini Cooper Coupe both have the wrong proportions. Even with the top down it looks a little stubby and weird.Inside, there are exposed braces for the folding top, which seem a little c
The 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman at Sonoma Raceway.

Race Organizer Review

2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman

10/14/2013 Last week, we took a look at how well the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer GT does as a road-race organizer's ride at MSR Houston. This week, we will see the 2013 Mini Cooper S Paceman in action at the back-to-back Sears Pointless and Sears Even More Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race, held at Sonoma Raceway aka Sears Point in Northern California. As one of the organizers of 24 Hours of LeMons races, my race-weekend vehicular needs run the gamut from cargo capacity (for all the gear we drag to the track) to driver comfort (so that I can control the thing in the state of exhaustion that running these r
We loved the GP, but some may find it a little too harsh as their daily driver

2013 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP review notes

The mightiest Mini

06/20/2013 ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: This 2013 Mini Cooper John Cooper Works GP is the best Mini I've ever driven; it's also probably the most expensive. Of all the Minis, big or little, two- or four-door, hardtop or convertible, this is the one for enthusiasts. It's a hot hatch at its hottest and most refined.Starting with the exterior, the GP Mini has a dark metallic gray hue; I like the red stripes, GP graphics and the racing number above the door. The hood scoop has a red strip around it, which also draws attention. The rear wing matches up with the roof perfectly, I'd love to know how much real downforce it provides, or how fast you have to go. The only things I don't like are the cloverleaf wheels. The gunmetal color is cool, but the pattern just doesn't do it for me.Inside, the Mini GP gets Alcantara seats, a big meaty steering wheel and the giant tach behind it. I swear I didn't even think about the speedometer until this morning. There is a digital readout in

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The image the company sent to future owners who have made deposits is a lightly photoshopped sketch that Britain's Autocar magazine published in March of this year.

TVR makes progress on new Cosworth V8, teases owners with Autocar's sketch

12/29/2015

TVR, the boutique British automaker run aground in 2006 after purchase by a Russian oligarch, is back with plenty of deposits on an undisclosed coupe and a teaser image photoshopped from an Autocar magazine sketch. The fledgeling car company is at work on a new coupe powered by a Cosworth V8 with an expected output of 450 to 500 hp, though it won't be until 2018 that customers will be able to take delivery of the cars. The factory has to be built first, even though the first year's allocation is already sold out.

TVR Chairman Les Edgar gave the future owners of the new coupe a progress report, stating that the company is running at least one engineering mule that has been operating on roads, and that they've recently fired up one of the Cosworth V8s.

Watch F1 cars rip up a mountain in Japan

12/29/2015

Two ex-Formula One cars plus one mountain road equals an epic video shot in Japan by Motor Head Magazine.

It's not too often you see open-wheel cars on public roads -- the Stallone vehicle "Driven" notwithstanding -- but something about it makes the cars look even better than when they're on the racetrack. After the F1 cars have a go, they're followed by some drifters who are nearly as impressive.

The camerawork is also great, so check out more of Motor Head's stuff here.

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