Read the following text and answer the three questions at the end of the text (Make sure your answers are in complete sentences.).
We have here a philosophical issue rooted in semantics. Webster’s New World tells us that “mini” refers to “something that is very small in size . .. especially as compared to others of the same kind.” The Clubman is the largest car ever to wear Mini logos, and it raises questions, such as: When does a Mini cease to be a Mini and become something else–a Midi, maybe? And what limits, if any, does a brand name impose on its products?
Mini faithful might argue that “compared to others of the same kind” is not possible because Minis are a breed apart, and in any case, the Clubman still ranks near the bottom of the dimension charts of cars for sale in the U.S.-only the Smart Fortwo is distinctly smaller. Still, there are many excellent subcompact hatchbacks that are similar in size and offer more room, some with a surprisingly high fun-to-drive index, all with much lower price tags (the Honda Fit, for one).
To this, the faithful might respond, “Yeah, but the Clubman will blow their doors off.” No argument there. At 2856 pounds, the Clubman S is 234 pounds heavier than the last Cooper S we tested [‘Power Toys,’ May 2007], but it’s still capable of scooting to 60 mph in 6.8 seconds. That’s 0.6 second slower than the standard Cooper S, but a Honda Fit requires almost nine seconds to achieve mile-a-minute velocity. We anticipate that the naturally aspirated Cooper Clubman would de. liver similar results: not quite as quick as the three-door Cooper, but quicker than the Fit or other subcompacts.
So, it’s about quickness, with added cargo or people capacity. As well as agility. But if the idea is expanded interior volume with a respectable power punch and the moves of a world-class welterweight, there are rides that will get those extra passengers and/or cargo from A to B with more room, and in more haste, for about the same money. The price $22,975, 0 to 60 in 5.4 seconds, max cargo of 43 cubic feet comes to mind.
What the Mazdaspeed 3 and others- Subaru WRX, VW GTI, for example–lack, though, is cuteness. Make that cuteness with attitude. It’s the character trait that made the original British Mini–particularly the Cooper and Cooper S–a hit back in the go-go Sixties, and it’s also at the core of BMW’s successful Mini resurrection. The question is: Just how big can something get before cuteness fades? (If you know the answer to this question, Macaulay Culkin would like to hear from you.)
This expansion–call it the elastic Mini phenomenon–is not without precedent. In the heyday of the original, there were several variants: the Austin Mini Seven Countryman, the Morris Mini Traveller, and the Jeep-like
Mini Moke. In 1961, a quarter-ton pickup joined the lineup, followed a year later by a Mini Van, a panel van with Morris badges.
And, of course, there was a Clubman, from 1969 to 1980-you didn’t really think that name sprang from the brow of someone named Wolfgang, right?-and a Clubman Estate. Its maker, BMC, sought to elevate the Estate above the other variants with the option of genuine wood trim on the exterior, though the execution left a bit to be desired as the wood was simply glued to the body panels.
What almost all those variations had in common was the brilliant front-drive architecture of the original 1959 Mini, on a wheelbase stretched by about four inches and with a body shell lengthened by about 10 inches.
In the spirit of repetitive history, these are very similar to the increases that went into the creation of the modern Mini Clubman.
So, with that precedent, you may wonder why we’re skeptical about this latter-day stretch job.
Just this: Even with an extra 10 inches of sheetmetal, a first-generation Mini Clubman was only some 130 inches long, which still seems to be within Webster’s definition of mini. But the new one is something else.
Dimensions. Creating this “unique shooting brake,” as it’s called in the company literature, entailed lengthening the wheelbase 3.2 inches, to 100.3, and a 155.8-inch wagon body, 10.2 inches longer than the standard Mini, according to the manufacturer, and at 56.4 inches, the Cooper S Clubman is also an inch taller than its three-door counterpart.
From the front bumper to the B-pillar, the Clubman’s sheetmetal is the same as the standard Mini’s. The new bodywork was added from that point aft, culminating in a squared-off stern. You don’t need a tape measure to perceive the benefits of the expansion, in part because the design team thoughtfully installed a rear-hinged demi-door, officially, the “Clubdoor”_ replete with a seatbelt, on the right side of the car (remember the old Saturn coupe?)-the better to eyeball the rear-seat space and, if so inclined, climb right in there.
There is a proviso to climbing in, though. The rear seat is in fact useful as a rear seat-Mini lists a legroom increase of 2.4 inches but with 32.3 inches total, it’s not a limo; getting two adults settled back there requires cooperation from those up front.
But there’s no asterisk to the increase in cargo volume. Like all hatchbacks, the standard Mini provides far more cargo usefulness than a three-box car with a formal trunk. And the Clubman delivers more-33 cubic feet with the rear seatback folded down, versus 24 for the standard Mini.
Dynamically, the Clubman S suffers little from its stretching on the corporate rack. The
172-hp, 1.6-liter turbo needs a bit more time to hustle the extra mass to 60, true enough, but the disparity probably won’t be apparent to an owner in daily driving. (For those who want a little more pace, Mini has a new 208-hp John Cooper Works package for the Cooper S and Clubman S: from $29,200 for the former, $31,450 for the latter.)
Beyond the minor sacrifice in acceleration, the Clubman delivers the same eager, let’s-play feel as its smaller stablemate–the kind of go-get-em persona that has distinguished the Mini since its 2002 resurrection. In fact, the Clubman’s longer wheelbase and better weight distribution-58.1 percent front/ 41.9 percent rear versus 62.7/37.3-may be an advantage in quick transitions, though this is hard to quantify owing to the irritating vigilance of the stability control, which asserts itself at the first hint of oversteer. Make that the first hint of impending oversteer.
Grip, provided by a set of optional Dunlop SP Sport 01 DSST run-flat tires (205/ 45R-17), is plentiful, at 0.88 g, which also enhances braking (159 feet from 70 mph). The rack-and-pinion steering combines surgical precision with knife-fighter responses, and the strut front suspension and multilink rear–augmented in this test car by the stiffer Sport package ($1500)-all but eliminate body roll, which is why Mini reviewers keep referring to go-kart handling.
We were impressed with the prompt throttle response of the Mini’s new turbo motor in its comparison-test debut last year, and that’s still true when it’s towing this bigger package. Fuel economy can also be impressive–the feds rate the Clubman S with a six-speed manual transmission at 26 mpg city/34 highway, although, as they say, your actual mileage will vary depending on how often you dip into full boost. We averaged 26 mpg over the course of our test.
The Getrag manual gearbox was another strong point, with one demerit: Although the engagements were exceptionally positive, it was a little too easy to select reverse when the intent was first gear, a problem we also noted in our Clubman preview [December 2007].
The alternative to the manual is an Aisin six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. We prefer the manual.
And at the end of the day, we prefer the standard Mini to the Clubman. Here’s why.
One. Those side-hinged doors at the rear 20 may have retro roots and nifty hinges that allow for a wide opening, but their functionality doesn’t measure up to a hatchback, particularly if it’s raining, and when they’re closed, the junction of their framing creates an irritating blind spot in the middle of the driver’s rear view. Doors like these have dis. appeared from everything but big vans for a reason.
Two. A longer load floor with a relatively low roofline can make for an awkward reach to get at stuff stowed toward the front.
Three. As noted, the rear seat may be habitable, which can’t be said for the standard Mini, but comfort isn’t included.
Four. To our eye, the Clubman’s proportions look awkward from certain angles. Cute-ness, pursued with such determination by the Mini design teams, is diminished.
Five. The ride quality that goes with the Sport package and its Dunlop run-flat tires is just this side of unendurable on choppy pavement, though to be fair, the same criticism applies to regular Minis so equipped.
We decided to appeal to an outside 25 authority-_the owner of a 2003 Mini Cooper S with the Works. Make that the happy owner, someone who really loves her Mini. Here’s her take on the stretch version: “The Clubman is a compromise that undermines what’s unique about the Mini Cooper.”
Hey, she said it, not us.
1. Find and list the criteria the writer is using to evaluate the Mini Cooper S Clubman. Where do these criteria appear in the evaluation, and how does he define them? Do you know exactly what the writer means by each of these criteria?
2. Evaluations are supposed to be as objective as possible, but evaluations in a car magazine like Car and Driver also need to be interesting (and fun) to read. How does the writer balance his objective analysis of the Mini Cooper S Clubman with the sense of fun and excitement that would keep readers interested in the article?
3. This evaluation includes quite a few technical details and data. How does the evaluator present this technical information without overwhelming readers with numbers and specifics? Do you think the writer could have included less technical information, or do you think more was needed?
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