Our "own" car reviews

Blind_Io

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06 Nissan XTerra Off Road, 00 VFR800, 07 ST1300
I wish it was Sasquatch-friendly.... :(
 

KaJuN

Disco Inferno
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Jul 31, 2006
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Dayton, Ohio
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Mini Cooper S, Landy Series III, Vulcan 900 Custom
MINI Clubman S ALL4





This was my dealer-provided loaner while my Cooper was in for some warranty repairs. I used the opportunity to see what else MINI has to offer and to see how far they've come in the decade or so since my car was built.

Exterior
The Clubman used to be an ugly pig of a car that was trying too hard to be hip and cool. This one is still pretty ungainly but at least it's not as painful to look at. It manages to look bigger than it actually is. If you kinda squint it almost looks like a squished Range Rover. It's definitely a MINI from every angle.

Interior




This was by far the most impressive part of the car. Every surface you touch feels very high-quality. The surfaces all look and feel like they belong in a luxury vehicle. It's a vast improvement over the admittedly cheap feeling plastics that fill my Cooper's cockpit. The design is still very much MINI but more grown up. The dinner plate-sized speedometer is now just an infotainment screen. The tachometer growing out of the side of the speedometer made me think of a motorcycle. And why not? MINI is not shameful about promoting the fun of driving. Adding to that fun is the included option of accent lighting that allows you to change the color to suit your mood.

There is more than enough space for real grown adults both in front and in back. The rear cargo hold is equally as spacious making this a truly usable family vehicle.

Visibility is where the Clubman falters. Those distinctive barn doors in the back might be pretty functional, but they make the rearview mirror all but a cosmetic piece. The thick pillars of the doors obstruct nearly the whole front end of the vehicle behind you and a motorcycle or bicycle would completely disappear. Your brain has to do a double-take when the car screams "go cart!" while your eyes are looking out the back of a van. Thick A and B pillars reduce visibility out the front and sides. This all leads to the car feeling much bigger than it is and taking away a lot of that MINI fun.

On the road
The ride feels very planted at all times. Firm yet supple must have been the design cue and they nailed it. I drove over many rough surfaces and the Clubman never felt disturbed. Body roll is surprisingly minimal for this vehicle's size. This car is just as comfortable on your favorite backroad as it is on a long haul.

At this point I really wish I could explain how gutsy the engine was or how intoxicating that turbocharged torque is. The sad truth is that the whole car is completely ruined by the absolutely horrible eight-speed automatic. Trying to get this gearbox to downshift is like trying to get a sloth to run a marathon; you'll only end up bored and frustrated. Accelerating onto the highway is an exercise in patience. Your foot goes down, the computer thinks about it over lunch, decides sixth gear is most likely no longer the proper place to be even though you're only going 35 mph anyway, then finally starts clicking down to something that will give you remotely reasonable performance. All the zippyness and 'go cart feeling' that MINI proudly claims about their cars is lost in this horrible atrocity of a transmission. Putting it in manual mode does help a bit. Mid Mode holds the gears longer before shifting for you and Sport Mode holds the gears all the way to redline. But manually pushing that lever back and forth quickly becomes more of a hassle than it's worth. Save your money and don't 'upgrade' to the automatic transmission.

Verdict
I wanted to like this car. I really did. It's the S version for crying out loud. But it just kept falling short of expectations. The car can be fun to drive in the right circumstances, but that's the problem. A real MINI should always be fun to drive wherever you are. The lack of performance and sense of size hurt the whole experience. The Clubman feels like a regular car that's trying to be a MINI. I was damn glad to get my old Cooper back.
 

Perc

Very Odd Looking Vehicular Object
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This is probably the same 8 speed Aisin that everyone with a FWD/AWD transverse layout are using nowadays. Aisin is the ZF of the FWD world.

But I guess it's down to programming more than anything.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
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Isn't that just the other tunnel one kilometre down the road? :)
More like seven kilometres but yeah, coming from Soll?r the first picture is the first big tunnel under the ridge SW of Puig Major - probably the reliably coldest spot on the island you can drive to - and the second picture is the second big tunnel at the Gorg Blau main dam. Just after that you get the aqueduct intersection going up-down-weeeee towards Sa Calobra.
 
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NooDle

Ik ben niet alleen lekker met kaas!
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VW eGolf
Had a Ford Mondeo Hybrid thing. Was nice but notnas nice/seemless to drive as a Lexus or Toyota. Also had a weird adaptive cc that was sometimes too hard in slowing down, and other times way too late and hard on the brakes.

I had the 'Vignale' edition which is the fanciest one, but despite heated leather everything (and the latest Ford Sync system, which is awesome) I felt it was trying too hard to be premium when it clearly isn't. It's like the interior wrote checks the exterior and handling couldn't cash.

Small boot also, because batteries.

6/10 overall
 

Perc

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:dunno: Personally I love how the "new" Mondeo looks. Always have, likely always will. And the Vignale interiors are awesome, or at least they look awesome on photos.

Most of the time when a car gets bad reviews because of its looks, I get the feeling that the exact same product would've fared far better if it had had a "better" badge glued to it. :bmwpoo:
 

93Flareside

Döner Kebab enthusiast
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Had a Ford Mondeo Hybrid thing. Was nice but notnas nice/seemless to drive as a Lexus or Toyota. Also had a weird adaptive cc that was sometimes too hard in slowing down, and other times way too late and hard on the brakes.

I had the 'Vignale' edition which is the fanciest one, but despite heated leather everything (and the latest Ford Sync system, which is awesome) I felt it was trying too hard to be premium when it clearly isn't. It's like the interior wrote checks the exterior and handling couldn't cash.

Small boot also, because batteries.

6/10 overall
I had the Fusion hybrid while in LA this past summer. Would agree except on the Toyota part. Having driven corollas, Camry?s and rav4?s, the Fusion is put together MUCH better and has better touch materials.
 

NooDle

Ik ben niet alleen lekker met kaas!
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To clarify, I meant the merge between battery and engine power was not as seemless as a Toyota. Interior and handling was a step up though
 

93Flareside

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Never had a Japanese hybrid. I imagine it?s better. What bugs me is that any more than grandmas throttle input means the engine will kick on every time. It?s dumb the system isn?t strong enough to pull away from the lights on just electricity.
 

DaBoom

Worlds fastest Amish
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Kouvostoliitto, Finland
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Since picture links don't seem to work in quotes..




narf;n3417511 said:
Europcar again made me an offer I can't refuse :cool: under 18/day to revisit the burping fartmachine, though out of a lineup of interesting colour schemes they gave me the boring white one :mad:


Previous one:

Different tunnel, same :music:

Thoughts on the car are unchanged - fun in the mountains, useless as a daily. Hella cheap though - 0.182/km :eek: slightly less thirsty at 7.64l/100km.

The roads are still epic, you can do some grand touring down there - if you haven't been, go.
Goddomot narf. :shakefist:

:p
Found out it's one of the cheapest places to go from Finland, on few days notice at least. Roads there were good fun indeed, even if a bit slippery at times.. :driving:

 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
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DaBoom;n3542511 said:
Goddomot narf. :shakefist:

:p
Found out it's one of the cheapest places to go from Finland, on few days notice at least. Roads there were good fun indeed, even if a bit slippery at times.. :driving:
It's also one of the cheapest places to go to from Germany... and the UK... and many other places with, like, airports... FG meetup? :nod: I might be there next in late May :driving: though for cheap prices and still good weather I like early November best, November 3rd to 10th 2018 is a good candidate.

Edit: With airberlin/Niki gone and EasyJet recently announcing they'll pull their planes from HAM at the end of March it looks like much less competition on such routes next year :shakefist:

Edit2: I too had a week of pre-Christmas Spanish roads in the sun :cool: a preview:

 
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rickhamilton620

has a fetish for terrible cars
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Nov 28, 2009
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Yoe, PA
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2012 Kia Forte EX
Rented a 2018 Ford Focus SE hatch with like 40 miles on the odo when we got it (100+ now).

Pros:
* solid feeling structure - you can tell it’s got Euro roots when you toss it into a corner - it’s fun and confidence inspiring. The brake feel is excellent, even with rear drums, very progressive and linear. Steering is sharp too with good feel.

* nice interior - the rental has a black and beige interior combo that looks nice and goes well with the black exterior. My other choice was a Cruze LTZ sedan with black leather - not good in Florida. Visibility is also really good.

The center stack/console update is nice, far lesss button intensive than before.

I did notice one or two areas of cheapness (a flimsy feeling console bezel, a thin steering wheel) but overall quality was good.

the seats are very comfortable IMO.

*hatch versatility - I really miss a hatch. So much space.

*good infotainment - it had the non-touchscreen Sync w/ MyFord which has consistently been good and this is no exception. The backup camera image is surprisingly usable given the relatively small size of the non touch screen. I’d rather have this placement than the screen built into the rear view mirror if I’m honest...

being able to see the exact set speed for cruise control in the center MFI is nice too.

Cons:
* PowerShift DCT - this trans is um ahem - problematic. It’s inconsistently unrefined. Sometimes it is fine. Other times it’ll rev up to 3k while you’re accelerating from a stop, while feeling simultaneously sluggish. It loves deliberate throttle application - don’t second guess (like suddenly accelerating for a half second while jockeying for a parking space in hellish holiday shopping trafffic) or you get nasty snatches and jerks - you gotta commit. It ruins the premium driving feel this car otherwise possesses which is a real shame.

When I got in it after it sat for a few hours post airport commute to drive it to the store, I was disappointed in the immediate low speed refinement. It’s as if it thought I was still in highway acceleration driving when really I was driving through a 25 mph neighborhood.

On the highway, it mellows out enough but compared to the “A6” 6-speed automatic in my Forte, the Forte is far more refined and, honestly, almost as quick responding.

Granted the PowerShift likely wasn’t intended to be DSG quick... I’m sure the DSG walks all over this clunker of a dual clutch. I’d rather pay for the DSG’s fluid changes than deal with this box that makes you think you’re breaking it with every drive.

They really just needed to swap in their 6 speed AT across the board, and it’s now clear why the configurator was, at one point, pushing the 1.6 EcoBoost/6 AT combo so hard.

Its the fly in the ointment of a overall solid car.

I’d take one with a 5 or 6 speed MT though.

I have have a video that I may upload. It’s tough getting a decently good connection here on DSL of a unknown speed.
 
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Spectre

The Deported
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00 4Runner | 02 919 | 87 XJ6 | 86 CB700SC | 89 POS
The PowerShift "DCT" in that car isn't exactly a full house conventional DCT. It's a dumbed down economy version dual *dry* clutch DCT where pretty much everyone else uses wet dual clutches (similar to a motorcycle clutch) - and the wet vs dry issue makes all the difference. Dry clutch DCT in cars = awful so far.
 

SquareLeft

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Southern Ohio, USA
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2013 Ford Focus SE, 2002 Subaru WRX
Spectre;n3542898 said:
The PowerShift "DCT" in that car isn't exactly a full house conventional DCT. It's a dumbed down economy version dual *dry* clutch DCT where pretty much everyone else uses wet dual clutches (similar to a motorcycle clutch) - and the wet vs dry issue makes all the difference. Dry clutch DCT in cars = awful so far.
I now have over 50k miles on my 2013 Focus SE hatch with the dry-clutch DCT. Rick is correct about it requiring commitment. If you dilly-dally with the accelerator, it will jump around like a flea. Put your foot on it - easy or hard - and keep it there and it will pull like it should. The biggest problem with them has been the leaking main seal on the input shafts. Mine has already been replaced under warranty at about 35k miles. Ford was kind enough to throw in a new clutch pack, even though I caught the leak early enough that the clutches weren't compromised. They also replaced the ECM when I complained that the old one wasn't playing all that nice with the new parts. In reality, it wasn't that bad, it just had this crazy RPM change over crests and on some corners when I got on the throttle a bit early.

Ford was more than accommodating with the repairs. I was out exactly $0 for the two services and they offered me a free rental car (which I didn't need and didn't accept). The degas bottle (aka: radiator resorvoir) had to be replaced because of a pin-hole leak (not under warranty...) and there was a recall on the door latches (I didn't notice any problems, but Ford replaced them free). The CEL comes on once in a while with one of two different codes, but Ford hasn't found any actual problems yet. I have a scan tool and just clear them and go on (with my Ford dealer's blessing...).

Other than these issues, I can't say anything really bad about the car except that I've never been able to defeat the warning chimes, despite several attempts. Fuel mileage has been great - 31 city, 38-40 highway and an overall average of 32.8 over 4.5 years. I got 42k+ on the original Continental tires, which included two replacements for damaged sidewalls. The new Sumitomos I purchased are MUCH better tires. The fabric seats are great for longer trips - no complaints there. Handling isn't exactly sports-car sharp, but it's more than 'acceptable' and the ride is quite good, even on less-than-perfect pavement. In general, I like the car quite well and have no plans to replace it in the foreseeable future.

A note to Rick - I understand your suggestion about Ford swapping the DCT for a conventional transmission, but I'm betting that it's the fuel mileage advantage that keeps them from doing that. Subaru and others are shoving CVTs at us for the same reason and (at least for the moment) I'd MUCH rather live with the DCT's imperfections than put up with a CVT!

SL
 

Spectre

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Actually, I don't think Ford should go back to a conventional auto or over to a CVT, I just think they need to dump the dry DCT idea and just go wet clutch instead.
 

93Flareside

Döner Kebab enthusiast
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I remember a 2014 I had as a rental to be just fine. Would they have to change much or just get clutches that work in fluid?
 
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Perc

Very Odd Looking Vehicular Object
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I had a dry-clutch DSG in my Skoda and my father is on his second wet-clutch DSG so I've been able to compare the two many times. The wet-clutch creeps far better and has quicker and smoother shifts, but my car was nowhere near as bad as Rick describes the Focus.

I like having a torque converter again, though. I like knowing that creeping in traffic doesn't put wear on anything... other than brake pads.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
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I've driven all VW DSG models, small 7-speed dry, medium 6-speed wet, new medium 7-speed wet, big 7-speed wet... and while the newest obviously was best, all the wet ones were nicer to drive than the small dry one - but that's the lightest and most fuel-efficient, and still reasonable to use. Compared to the *ahem* Insignia 6AT I had two weeks ago they all win :tease:




Sixt's upgrade policy remains weird but predictable... ITAR remains unbookable at LPA, but they still upgraded me to it from CTMR :D Last year:

narf;n3359413 said:
[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/pic.armedcats.net\/n\/na\/narf\/2016\/12\/28\/6_IMG_20161218_1605110.jpg"}[/IMG2]
This year:

[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/pic.armedcats.net\/n\/na\/narf\/2017\/12\/25\/IMG_20171217_1259291.jpg"}[/IMG2]

Two off on the license plate, it's from the same batch of cars... at ~25Mm when I picked it up, quite low for a 13-month-old rental car, but I guess reasonable for the island.
Note how the barrier is gone... but slightly further up the road remains closed for good. Most of the lower section is closed for good as well with the NW part of GC-2 now open to the public.

Epic roads are still epic:

[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/pic.armedcats.net\/n\/na\/narf\/2017\/12\/25\/IMG_20171219_1314210.jpg"}[/IMG2]
[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/pic.armedcats.net\/n\/na\/narf\/2017\/12\/25\/IMG_20171219_1313294.jpg"}[/IMG2]

At the highest point of the island:

[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"http:\/\/pic.armedcats.net\/n\/na\/narf\/2017\/12\/25\/IMG_20171218_1137434.jpg"}[/IMG2]

Not that much new to report, it's still a very good car even with the smallest diesel. Having gotten used to the lightning quick roof on the Beetle the 2's mechanism is still quite a faff and very slow, and still a FWP :D
Fuel is still ridiculously cheap on the island, filled up for like 87c/l :woot: (just under $4/gal)
...I could totally imagine getting a petrol variant as my next company car...

Finally, the island is still awesome. If you've never been, go.
 

narf

Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill
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I just had the questionable pleasure to be upgraded to a C4 Grand Picasso by Europcar when all the trains failed in this week's storm... it looked virtually the same as this:

[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"https:\/\/upload.wikimedia.org\/wikipedia\/commons\/thumb\/f\/fc\/Citro%C3%ABn_Grand_C4_Picasso_%28II%2C_Facelift%29_%E2%80%93_Frontansicht%2C_3._Juni_2017%2C_D%C3%BCsseldorf.jpg\/1200px-Citro%C3%ABn_Grand_C4_Picasso_%28II%2C_Facelift%29_%E2%80%93_Frontansicht%2C_3._Juni_2017%2C_D%C3%BCsseldorf.jpg"}[/IMG2]

While I could go on about the overall Frenchness, e.g. the tiny column-mounted shifter for the robomanual, one feature rose up from the pile: The adaptive cruise control.

Why?

It apparently won't use the brakes :shakefist:


Say you're doing 130 with the ACC on, approaching a truck doing 85ish in front of you in the same lane, straight clear Autobahn, zero surprises. It'll take its virtual foot off the accelerator, and coast up to the truck... and at some point go "beep beep" asking me to take over.
Why even have an ACC if it can't do the simplest of ACC tasks?
 
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