Monday, December 11, 2017

MINI Countryman!!!

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Mini Cooper Countryman S JCW 4WD 
  • ENGINE: 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 
  • TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic  
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 228 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 1,450-4,500 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 105.1 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 169.8 x 71.7 x 61.3 in. 
  • TIRES: P225/50R18 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 17.6/47.6 cu. ft. (rear seat backs up/down)
  • ECONOMY: 21 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 9.5 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,508 lbs. #/HP: 15.4 
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape
  • STICKER: $26,600 (base) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Mini Countryman fits nicely in with the competition, offers good power, “go-kart” handling, and reasonable interior room.

            There was a time when Minis were truly mini, when a full-size adult would find it cramped. I still respect those brave souls who drove Minis in the Monte Carlo Rally.
            But Minis have grown of late, and the Countryman is touted as “the biggest, most adventurous MINI yet.” 
            I will attest to its size. While it’s no BMW 7-Series, the Countryman is a comfortable size with room up front for two adults and room in the rear for two more with minimal discomfort. There’s even a decent trunk, with an underfloor feature that’s just right if you don’t want your grocery bags spilling all over. 
            The Countryman stays faithful to the original concept of Alec Issigonis with the wheels shoved out to the corners of the car’s footprint. This creates minimal front and rear overhangs and contributes to the car’s legendary “go-kart” handling. Yes, the handling is sure-footed, but it’s also quite firm, much like a go-kart that has no suspension. The Countryman’s ride isn’t gut-wrenching, but it is firm.
            Under the hood is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four that puts out 228 horsepower in John Cooper Works trim. (Incidentally, the only JCW identification is a small badge at the bottom of the wheel. One would think they'd want to promote that more.) Acceleration is brisk, and the Countryman is capable of keeping up wth anything else on the road. Three engines are available for the Countryman, including a plug-in hybrid. Power reaches the wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission with a manual mode. You can use either the paddles behind the wheel or the shifter itself when in manual mode, and the Countryman thrives on the use of the manual. 
            I like what they have done with the interior. While I haven’t driven a MINI in a couple of years, I have constantly carped about the poorly designed dash and instrument panel. Now, there’s a large round speedometer that sits in front of the driver with a small tachometer appended to the left. Bar graph lights serve as fuel and water gauges. An information panel is inset into the speedometer.
            A small heads up display pops up from the top of the dash - similar to that you’ll see on some Mazdas -  when you fire up the car. The HUD is much clearer, than the poorly marked analog speedometer. 
            There’s still a large round centrally mounted thing that houses the infotainment screen with the normal assortment of options. The round screen allows for more buttons to be added to the central area. HVAC controls are located below this screen with three knobs to control the two zones.
            Below the HVAC controls are toggle switches to control additional functions, with a unique start/stop paddle in the center. All are “protected” by “roll bars” to avoid second-collision injuries. Aft of the shifter is a master control knob that works the audio and other infotainment functions. 
            A pair of cupholders is located too close to the center stack to obviate the use of tall cups or glasses. The doors have room in them for taller cups, though.
            Interior storage consists of a small arm rest/console with a small cubby underneath.
            Rear seats, which slide a bit, offer good legroom. The rear seats are flat, while the fronts offer good side support. The rear seat backs fold easily using a strap at the base of the back. Cargo capacity versus the overall size of the Countryman is excellent. 
            Minis, from Day One, have been fun cars. One of my favorite fun features about the Countryman is the “Mini” logo light that illuminates the ground by the driver’s door when you push the “unlock” button on the fob after dark.
            The MINI Countryman adds size to the MINI line, and that is always a good thing. Performance is typically MINI, and typically fun.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Crossovers get small!!

Crossovers have been the new big thing to replace SUV's but instead of getting bigger they are getting smaller. Bumper2Bumpertv sampled some of the new reduced size offerings at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Buick Encore

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Buick Encore Sport Touring AWD
  • ENGINE: 1.4-liter turbocharged four
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 138 hp @ 4,900 rpm/148 lb.-ft. @ 1,850 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 100.6 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 168.4 x 69.9 x 65.2 in. 
  • TIRES: P215/55R18 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 18.8/48.4 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)  
  • ECONOMY: 26 mpg city/31 mpg highway/26.5 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 14.0 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,358 lbs. #/HP: 24.3 
  • TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Honda CR-V 
  • STICKER: $31,220 (includes $925 delivery, $3,230 options) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: While small, the Buick Encore is a perfectly capable SUV.

            I must confess I approached the Buick Encore with some trepidation. First, I was a little nervous about the engine size. After all, I hadn’t driven a car with this small an engine since my first MGA at 1.5 liters. My second MGA had a huge 1.6-liter engine, so I was headed in the right direction. 
            But the turbo 1.4-liter four in the Encore proved to be up to everything we asked of it. Horsepower is still low at a conservative 138, but except for hard acceleration it did a good job. And even with hard acceleration, I learned to work with it, as I did with the MGAs. Part of our test week involved a long trip south for Thanksgiving with a considerable amount of Interstate miles. We had no serious issues.
            The best thing about the engine is, of course, economy. We averaged 26.5 mpg overall and close to 30 mpg on the highways. And, really, we earned that economy with no lack of adequate performance. 
            My second concern was with the size. Many Buick ads show the Encore with its bigger Enclave and Envision brothers and it makes the Encore look too small, definitely too small to be a Buick. Since the Encore is built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Sonic, I was iffy. Again, I was wrong. 
            On our trip south for Thanksgiving we had a load of goodies, plus the turkey, plus luggage to bring along. The Encore has a large cargo area that more than doubles when you lower the rear seat backs. Suffice it to say, the turkey made it safely, and leftovers made it safely back. 
            Encore handling is very good, thanks primarily to the short wheelbase. Not only does the Encore do well in traffic, but parking is a snap. This time of year, shopping centers are crowded, but we always found a spot, and never had problems parallel parking in tight spots.
            Finally, the Encore is fun to drive. Ride quality is good, and there were no residual aches and pains after a long ride.
            The instrument panel has a tachometer and speedometer separated by an information panel. Smaller fuel and water gauges are above the info panel, which we set to fuel economy as we watched the numbers rise.
            I would have liked radar cruise control, but the “normal” kind worked well. I guess I’m just spoiled.
            There’s a clear standard GM infotainment and audio system. in addition, we had a good HVAC system that was almost too warm at times.
            Front seats are comfortable with a small pull-down arm rest on the driver’s side. Rear seats are comfortable as well. Rear seat legroom is cozy, although my granddaughter didn’t complain. All doors, front and rear, have multiple levels for storage, and have good water carrying capability. 
            Interior storage, besides the doors, consists of a good cubby at the base of the center stack with clearly labeled USB, AUX and 12-volt outlets. Along the small center console is a covered cubby with a sliding top that is ideal for holding a phone. 
            Visibility is generally good, but twice I failed to see oncoming cars because of the blind spot caused by the A pillar. I will admit that it could have been solely my fault.
            Overall, despite the pre-test potential hang-ups, the Buick Encore proved to be capable of handling everything we threw at it. Generally, I would prefer a slightly larger SUV, but for empty nesters, the Encore is really all you would need.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate

Friday, December 1, 2017

2018 Green Car of the year

Which is the greenest car on the road these days? The honor this year goes to Honda. Bumper2Bumpertv was there when the award was presented.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tech not torque holds center stage at 2017 LA Auto Show!!

Automobility LA has become the display scene for the latest developments in application based upgrades for cars. Bumper2Bumpertv got a brief look at how the new apps and supporting systems are changing the auto industry.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Catching up with the Fiat 500C

There are compacts and mini compacts on the road these days with various levels of sophistication. Bumper2Bumpertv has a look at the latest version of the FIAT 500C which has good points and bad.