Section: MF Vault

MF Vault: The MINI Clubman First Drive

MotoringFile Sections: MF Vault, R55 (Clubman), Reviews Jul 1st, 2013 6 Comments


Welcome to MF Vault. Where we bring you the best of vintage MotoringFile in an effort to look back and maybe even re-evaluate. Five years ago there was no Clubman. There was no Countryman, Paceman, Coupe or Roadster. There was just the MINI and the MINI Convertible. With the addition of the Clubman MINI was dipping its toe in the water and seeing how far the brand could grow – literally. This is the first drive of that car in January of 2008.

The MINI Clubman is not the MINI reinvented. It’s not Americanized, supersized, or dumbed in any way. Instead what we have in the Clubman is the largest, most spacious MINI possible that still looks and performs like a MINI.

Yes the Clubman has more rear legroom and cargo space. 3.1 inches of extra legroom and 6.3 inches of extra storage space in the boot. That, along with various space saving nooks and crannies give the Clubman decidedly more versatility than the hardtop R56 MINI. But MINI was serious about creating something special inside the Clubman as well. The rear interior of the car (from the B-pillar forward it’s identical to the R56) was designed by the same interior designer who created the current interiors for Rolls Royce. While the quality of components may not be the same (no surprises there) the attention to detail and craftsmanship is obvious. continued →

MF Vault: Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5 Review

MotoringFile Sections: MF Vault, MINI Competitors, Reviews Dec 26th, 2012 3 Comments

MotoringFile is about as marque specific as they come. We unapologetically focus on MINIs and only MINIs. However once in awhile we dip our toe in the water with other cars as something particularly interesting or relevant comes along. The all electric Tesla probably fits into the former category more than the latter. So today we present you our latest review of the Tesla Roadster. Original posted over two years ago this was our second review of the Roadster and the last as it has now officially gone out of production. What does it mean for MINI fans? BMWi is the BMW Group’s answer to all electric cars like Tesla and they will be launching a small two and four door rear wheel drive hatch in the next 18 months. But until then this is the closest thing we have to a pure electric car with sport potential.

A huge thanks to Tesla Chicago for not only giving us time with the Roadster Sport but pretty much carte blanche for the time we had it. If you’re in Chicago be sure to check them out. If you’re not you can find an entire list of Tesla Stores worldwide here.

It was the smell. More specifically, the smell of melting rubber that caught my attention. So like you will do, I began to slow and was on alert. And there it was, around a blind corner — a tanker truck that had just locked up the rear to avoid an unexpected traffic tie-up. It was an accident waiting to happen and I smelled it.

The Tesla does many incredible things. But none more than amazing what it doesn’t do. perhaps More specifically, what it doesn’t make you live with. There’s no smell of fossil fuel burning. No sound (except a subtle Jetson’s like woosh on take-off) No pings, no vibrations and nothing to ever worry about other than the road ahead and the remaining range in the batteries. People talk about range anxiety, but consider that a tradeoff for all the other typical driving concerns a Tesla lacks. continued →

MF Vault: An Ode to the Automatic

MotoringFile Sections: MF Vault, Opinion Dec 11th, 2012 4 Comments

This week from the MF Vault we’re re-visiting a couple of features we published last year giving opposing views on everyone’s favorite debate: auto vs manual. In part two of our manual vs automatic debate we’re writing about the unyielding march of technology and how that’s actually a good thing, even for manual drivers.

The manual is a dying breed. Why? Because of progress. While rowing the gears of a manual can be a great experience, it’s simply time to move on and start experiencing new technology and new kinds of involvement.

But first, let’s talk about how the auto liberated the sports car and made all cars less boring. 40 years ago a sports car or even a sporty car rarely had an auto available. That meant manual transmissions were exclusive to those who knew how to drive them or those who could stomach the left foot shuffle that US traffic made mandatory. But as car makers started realizing that the lowly automatic could indeed be sporty, they started dropping them into everything. While some bemoaned the loss of a few sacred cows, it started to break down walls for many of us. In effect, it democratized sports cars for the masses. continued →

MF Vault: JCW GP Road Trip

MotoringFile Sections: JCW, JCW GP, MF Vault, R53 (Coupe) Dec 11th, 2011 4 Comments

First we gave you another look at our full review of the JCW GP. Then we took you back to our last drive in the R53 JCW. Today, for MF’s month long celebration of JCW, we give you one of our most memorable drives in the GP – from St Louis to Indy during MTTS. We pick up the story just as our bags hit the ground at home after the trip.

I had just one day – St Louis to Indy. And I was dedicated to making it one to remember. So early this morning Todd and I (up way too early) shook off the cobwebs and headed out to the official MTTS meeting point – the St Louis Arch. At this point the GP was starting to sink in as a real live car and I must say that it was getting better looking the more I saw it.

After our Arch photo opp was over I was handed the keys to a GP courtesy of MINI USA. I might add that this particular car was broken in by none other than Fireball Tim and Hubie (the men responsible for the fastest MINI drag-car in the world). So I got some quality time to the tune of about four hours with the GP. First impressions: better than wow. This car is a complete package like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s not the fastest MINI out there, just the most complete MINI I’ve ever drive. MINI and BMW did a great job inside and out with the small details. The look of the car really makes sense in the real world as compared to the 2D world as seen on this site or countless magazines. In other words, don’t make your mind on this car’s looks until you’ve seen it in the flesh.

continued →

MF Vault: 2006 JCW Review

MotoringFile Sections: JCW, MF Vault, R53 (Coupe) Dec 7th, 2011 13 Comments

Last week we kicked off JCW month with a look back at the JCW GP five years later. This week we take a look at the other JCW of the time, the MINI Cooper S factory JCW. This was a time of transition for the JCW brand as it moved from a dealer installed kit to a factory installed package. It also represents the pinnacle of the factory R53 (not counting the special edition GP).

Over the last week or so my respect for the Cooper S JCW kit has grown immeasurably. Driving almost 1,500 miles in seven days is a great way to find a car’s potential and its faults. Yet with the JCW MCS, the latter was almost impossible.

But before I get to my final thoughts on the car let me recap a bit. MINI USA gave me the keys to a 2006 MINI Cooper S with the JCW package and basically said, have at it and let the world know what you think. As the owner of a Cooper S with a pulley and a number of other modifications, this was a chance to do a direct comparison between the two cars and see what it was like to actually live with the JCW MCS. The test car was lightly specced. Chili Red/White roof, Sport package, JCW package and 18″ Matte Black JCW wheels. From a performance standpoint one couldn’t ask for anything more save for the JCW suspension or a full-on GP.

continued →

MF Vault: Five Year Anniversary of the JCW GP

MotoringFile Sections: JCW GP, MF Feature, MF Vault Nov 29th, 2011 29 Comments

Here at MotorongFile we’re making December JCW month to celebrate five years of the GP as well as discuss the future of the brand. And there is no better way to start this celebration than re-running some of our favorite pieces on the mythical JCW GP over the years. Today we give you the first of three articles from the MF Vaults that tell the story of the most special (new) MINI made yet. We’re going to talk about the details behind the car as well as another epic drive in it. Finally we’ll focus on the future of JCW. But today we want to present our very first full review of the GP as it was posted on MF almost five years ago to the day.

The MINI JCW GP is the ultimate expression of factory performance for the first generation MINI. It’s a car that eschews most of the typical compromises to focus on performance both at the road and track. But what’s it like to actually live with a GP for a week? Is it a car that can become part of daily life or does the lack of compromises make it less useful as regular transportation? With all the recent GP reviews over the last few months we thought it was more appropriate for our review to focus on these questions rather than simply the basics covered elsewhere.

My week with the GP started with frigid temps and salt encrusted roads. Having driven in winter conditions since I had my license, I was generally prepared for the lack of grip. But it’s hard to be truly prepared for the power of the GP if you haven’t driven a seriously modded MINI or JCW MINI. And it was that power that made winter or cold weather driving so interesting and at times fun.

continued →

From the Vault: R53 MCS vs R56 MCS

MotoringFile Sections: MF Vault, R53 (Coupe), R56 (Hatch), Reviews Jun 29th, 2011 31 Comments

Today we start a new feature at MF called the MF Vault. The idea is to bring back some of our favorite reviews over the years and present them to a new (and larger) audience at MF. So we start with one of our most popular reviews over the past eight years. The R53 vs the R56 has been a debate since the first R56 test mules began showing up in 2005. But until this review we hadn’t had a chance drive two well sorted version of each car back to back. And while a lot has happened in the R56 development over the years (not to mention the aftermarket) we believe the review still holds up well.

So let us set the stage. On one side we have a lightly specced and well modded 2006 MCS. On the other we have a loaded 2007 MCS with the JCW suspension, engine kit and aerokit. Both have identical wheels and tires and of course the gorgeous Astro Black. So enough of the set-up. Let’s step back into the fall of 2007…

(Originally posted November 28th 2007) We’ve done several R53/R56 comparisons over the past year but one thing we’ve never done is tested two (almost) identically equipped MINIs back to back. Along with that, we’ve never had the right opportunity to equally assess both cars over the right roads and in the right conditions. And while MotoringFile has been the host of multiple articles comparing the two cars, I always felt they missed a little something without back to back drives. This comparison was to be different. We’d be focusing on driving the cars rather than talking about styling, price and all the other hotly contested debates that we’ve hosted on these pages previously.

So the plan was hatched; we’d drive from Chicago to Kalamazoo Michigan with a detour to the Indiana Lakefront. Here we’d find some of the best (and largely unknown) roads in the entire region. Once back on the highway we’d finish with a two hour blast up I94 to Bell’s Brewery, home of one of the most celebrated micro-brewed beers in the US. Along with the two MINIs being tested would be another R53 (’03 vintage) and a chase car in the form of a Porsche 911 Turbo (996). continued →

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'12 JCW Coupe
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'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
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'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
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JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
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'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
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'04 JCW MCS First Drive
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