Episode 21 : Special Edition - BMW and MINI Day

In this Special Edition (said with lots of echo and reverb) both Alan and Andrew met up at BMW's new headquarters in Hampshire, as they were invited to try out some of the cars and hear about technology advancements.

The show starts with a bang. The BMW i8. Both of them were blown away by the technology and engineering of this car. Occasionally they use actual words to describe their feelings, rather than just sounds. Reading between the lines, they're quite keen on this £105,000 hybrid sports car.

Some of the technical details include, 1.5l 3 cylinder petrol engine which drives the rear wheels and a 130bhp electric engine driving the front wheels. Thus, it is essentially a four wheel drive. 0-62mph in 4.4sec, whilst achieving a mpg of 134.5, with a CO2 emission of 49g/km. Some amazing technology and engineering! But we said that already.

The i8 has the ability to charge whilst on the move, if in non-electric mode. The passenger area is made of carbon fibre, providing protection and lightness. More carbon fibre is used to reinforce the body shell and help allow for the futuristic sculpting. As you would expect it has all the BMW gizmos and gadgets, such as i ConnectedDrive, i Navigation, Concierge Services, etc.

Using the dihedral doors helped to make a special start to the whole event of driving the car. Once in, Alan and Andrew were impressed by how bright the cabin was and how good visibility is. There isn't much room for more than one passenger, with the rear seats too small for anything more than some shopping or luggage.

Andrew's belief in Head Up Display's (HUDs) being the future for driver safety was borne out, now he's actually driven with it. If anyone does not agree with him he declared he shall ignore them. Forever. As they are wrong.

Next up, Andrew drove the MINI Clubman Cooper D. Having a young family he was keen to try this out, especially as it now has 'proper' doors for the rear passenger area. The revised Countryman was launched only 6 weeks or so ago. To help allow for the new doors there is a new chassis. Andrew was very impressed by the grown up feeling to the car, although that is not to say it's boring.

Andrew gets the bhp wrong, it is 150 not 140, as he stated, this allows a 0-62mpg of 8.6s. Yet, it still manages a combined mpg of upto 68.9, whilst being in VED Band B. With the car starting at £22,245.

Both chaps were impressed with the clever touches and thought that had been put into the interior. An example was the ability to adjust a rear seat so the back of it created a 90 degree to the boot floor - handy for pesky boxes just that tad too large! The catches that hold the hidden floor compartment, the ability to lift just a portion of the floor lid to slot something in also indicated time had been spent thinking the use through. Alan suggests that this may be a perfect fit for Andrew's family, he agrees and would like longer with the car, to see how practical it is, with young kids and all the demands his family life has. 

Andrew and Alan conclude that the new Clubman is a premium C-segment car, directly in competition to BMW's 1-Series, Mercedes A-Class and Audi A3.

Moving on to a car both chaps drove, it is the BMW X5 xDrive 40e PHEV. This is classed as the first plugin hybrid, from the company. There is a 2.0l TwinPower Turbo petrol engine, capable of 242bhp. This is combined with a 111bhp electric engine which when used together means 309bhp. This allows a 0-62mph of 6.8s, whilst still only emitting 77g/km, at a combined 85.6mpg. The essential X5-ness is still there though, as it will tow up to 2.7 tonnes and has the full xDrive drivetrain. Prices for these start at £51,845

If you do lots of miles, then the traditional diesel version may be the way to go, but most drivers don't, so this is worth considering thanks to the 19 mile electric engine range.

Alan was struck by the smoothness of this. Andrew was surprised by the quietness. We believe this is called 'refinement'. The interior has vast amounts of space. Alan was unable to comfortably lean his elbow on the door whilst driving, for example.

This isn't the car for Alan, but Andrew with his many children, could use the space to waft the family around in comfort.

Stepping away from the cars the chaps drove, Alan and Andrew run over some of the interesting information presented regarding technology and future development by BMW and MINI.

They were informed of the best year ever sales year for BMW and MINI. 231k cars were sold, with the best seller being the 116d, but the best selling range was the 5-Series saloon, when you might expect the 3-Series to have achieved this.

The new 7-Series technology was highlighted. Unfortunately, this was one car neither managed to drive on the day. As one would expect from a luxury saloon, there are one or two toys available.

Welcome Light Carpet, which projects down the side of the car, illuminates the floor to those approaching. There is customisable ambient lighting to the interior, along with interchangeable fragrances, so the smell of fresh grass, for example, can gently waft into the cabin. There are massaging seats, a removable tablet in the rear, screens in the headrests, fold down tables etc. You get the idea!

Some of the tech was clearly to make life easier though. The Remote Control Parking, which allows the car to automatically park, up to one and a half times the length of the car. Andrew witnessed this and was very impressed by it.

There is Gesture Control, so you need touch a screen no longer. Waggle your fingers and you can change the volume, heating etc.

The presentation moved onto BMW's ConnectedDrive. The breadth and depth of the technology was explained, for example destinations can be sent directly to the car, subscribe to a music streaming service for a limited amount of time - which is much better than those which you have to pay for the whole year as you are adapting the car to suit your needs during it's different jobs it has for you.

BMW have partnered up with Samsung SmartThings. The chaps aren't quite convinced you need this in your car, as opposed to it being on your phone. This will allow you to take advantage of the SmartThings Hub's sensors for smoke and moisture.

MINI discussed future models. There will be a new convertible coming out early March, with the Union Jack woven into the roof fabric, thereby allowing people to personalise their convertible MINI similar to the hard tops.

They have addressed issues people had with the current model. There will be leg room to the rear, roll bars will be much neater and boot volume. They will come with HUDs too.

Back to the cars now. Alan got to have a go in the John Cooper Works Hatch. This was high on his list of cars to drive!

This has a 2.0l TwinPower Turbo engine with 231bhp and 320Nm. That propels it along to 62mph in 6.3s, in manual guise. Alan confirms it can "shift". They start at £23,050.

This car is so good it removes his negative prejudice of the modern MINI. He was very surprised at how much he enjoyed it. Alan sees the spirit of the original Mini in the modern ones. In Alan's view, if a car can make you feel like a hero at every change down, that is a good thing. The only downside is the price after adding a few luxuries.

Andrew and Alan both drove the BMW X1 xDrive25d xLine. This is the smallest X BMW do and came with 2.0l TwinPower Turbo diesel engine, which produces 231bhp, yet gives 56.5mpg at 137 g/km, and moves it along to 62mph in 6.6s. Prices start at £36,210 for this range topper.

Andrew wasn't convinced about the rear passenger area. He felt the seat base was quite low and not great for kids to sit in the back. Both agreed that the exterior is now much better than the original X1 design. They decide you would pick this over the 3-Series Touring if you wanted a higher driving position.

The next car on the list is the MINI Countryman Special Edition. The one the chaps drove was the Cooper SD ALL4, which has a 2.0l turbo diesel engine, producing 143bhp, 131 g/km CO2, and gets to 62mph in 9.3s. This one starts at £26.865.

The Countryman, in the company of the other cars driven, was the least satisfying. This car is beginning to feel it's age. Materials, infotainment, displays are all from the previous generation. This showed how far they've come with the new models. MINI have hinted it is due to be replaced soon. Once brought up to date, they can see this do well again.

On to the last car, Andrew drove the MINI One 5 door. This has a 3-cylinder 1.2l engine, producing 102bhp, allowing the car to get to 62mph in 10.1s, whilst producing a maximum 114 g/km of CO2. These start at £14,535.

Andrew was surprised at how much he enjoyed this fun little car. He liked the cheeky exhaust note, which helped to encourage the driver to, well drive it. As Alan said about the JCWs, it has a spirit of the original Minis. This is a great introduction to the brand.

Alan and Andrew would like to thank BMW and MINI for inviting them along to the day, and being so welcoming to The Motoring Podcast.