Milestone for the MINI Brand in the USA

Mini S, the fun little car.
Mini S, the fun little car.

It was 15 years ago this March (2002 to 2017) that MINI USA brought the iconic British pocket rocket to the United States as a modern car. Be it the memories of the iconic little car from the 1960’s, the images of them in great movies, or the fact that MINI is now a separate brand under BMW, this car has once again captured the hearts of Americans selling more than 725K of them since 2002.

Originally, a hardtop 2-door the MINI line has grown to include four unique models, MINI Convertible, MINI Clubman and MINI Countryman, as well as a fast racing John Cooper Works edition for the street, have become well known all across the country.  MINI’s premium performance, daring design, and fun-to-drive dynamics have been hallmarks that put the fun back into the daily commute.

Mini owners gather often for driving events
Mini owners often gather for driving events

When not living in the work-a-day world MINI owners celebrate their passion for the cars through their brand exclusive enthusiasts club. This fiercely loyal owner base celebrates regularly going out on weekend drives as well as extended driving adventures. Where ever there are good driving roads, you see Mini’s in packs enjoying the open road.

MINI was ranked #1 in Sales Satisfaction by J.D. Power & Associates 6 times. The brand was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Global Brands by Interbrand, and Strategic Vision named MINI as the Most Loved Mass-Market Brand in their 2016 survey.

Mini enthusiasts love doing things as a group.
Mini enthusiasts love doing things as a group.

MINI enthusiasts are strong supporters and as customers of the brand have created demand for these little cars. With that level of demand the MINI dealer network has grown from 66 dealers in 2002 to 127 dealers in 2017 across 39 states.

To mark this special anniversary, MINI USA created a brief video compilation celebrating 15 years and counting!

Words by William West Hopper
Images courtesy of MINI USA

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Why all the Hate on the Toyota Prius?

2017 Toyota Prius Three
2017 Toyota Prius Three

American drivers have taken heartily to the Toyota Prius since it was introduced as the first mass-market hybrid automobile, while automotive enthusiasts have continued to see it as a pariah.

 

What is it about this car that garners such strong emotions?

 

Is it the design? Now in a third design generation, this hybrid that started a revolution has developed a more futuristic look than the rather a dull looking small econobox that first showed up in 1997. Today it is a cross between an emoji and spaceship styling, almost a throwback to the 1950’s when cars had fins.

Since inception, this successful model line has morphed into a sedan, mini-SUV, even a smaller hyper-miler version and now a fanciful Prime model. First gens are still on the road today which shows that Toyota has earned its legendary reputation for longevity, reliability and road worthiness.

Toyota's Hybrid power-train has led the industry in this high mileage segment.
Toyota’s Hybrid powertrain has led the industry in this high mileage segment.

Is the emotional response to the Prius
because it is different on so many levels?

Nothing in the automotive world has moved the needle more than the hybrid combination of gasoline and electric to power a vehicle. And today some twenty years later hybrid technology is available on almost every mainstream brand. Increasing miles per gallon has staggered for years until Toyota brought this economy car to market. We were getting in the high 40’s as we drove the 2017 Toyota Prius Three for a week.

 

Toyota's Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charger is right where you would put your phone.
Toyota’s Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charger is right where you would put your phone.

As American’s we love all the
technology, so it can’t be that!

Technology is not just propelling the vehicle down the road, it is also benefiting the driver from the extensive operational data to little things like the Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charger in the center console. From the backup camera to the heads up display. Toyota’s Saftey Sense ™ Pre-Collision system w/ pedestrian detection, lane departure alert auto high beam adjustment and full-speed dynamic radar cruise control all in a car that stickers at $30,186 including delivery.

 

 

Toyota Prius 3 has lots of flowing lines in its design, and at night ambient blue lighting.
Toyota Prius 3 has lots of flowing lines in its design, and at night ambient blue lighting.

 

Being different is not a bad thing.

Interior has flowing lines, though the choice of contrasting colors and fabric on the seat may be a bit garish, the heads-up display and controls were easy to use.

 

 

Prius's gear selector is a stalk and separate button, which may cause some confusion.
Prius’s gear selector is a stalk and separate button, which may cause some confusion.

The only thing I had some issue with was the gear selector, a lever that went over and up/down to select Drive or Reverse, then a separate button off the stalk for Park. Once placed in reverse it prompted an obnoxious beep, like that of a construction vehicle, but only on the inside. Understandable as quiet as the vehicle is when powered on, the driver may not know it is in reverse. If the occupants are being alerted, why not those outside the vehicle too?

 

Plenty of cargo as well as passenger room in the third generation of the Toyota Prius.
Plenty of cargo as well as passenger room in the third generation of the Toyota Prius.

So it is not a sporty performance car,
it was never designed to be one.

So this is not a muscle car or even a sports car. And it is light enough to be buffeted by a windy March day. My take is that while it may not be a luxury or a sexy sports car, it does exactly what it is designed to do, which is move occupants and their gear economically and safely from place to place without any fanfare. So there is nothing to hate on there.

 

The interior of the Toyota Prius is well appointed for an economy car.
The interior of the Toyota Prius is well appointed for an economy car.

As a guy born and bred from a time when muscle cars ruled the American road and someone who loves technology, I was excited to get the opportunity to spend some time in the Prius. It brought back the memories of the first “foreign car” my family owned, was a 1970 four-door Toyota Corona. At the time it was the latest and greatest, small classicly designed car that costs $1995.00. For its time, it had very modern amenities like bucket seats, automatic transmission, and what they marketed as very customer focused, a power outlet in the glove box for a 12 v trouble light as standard equipment. Today what car company would even want you to think you would ever need such a thing?

So maybe it is the attitude of the Prius driver, which I too had in making a right on red when a big SUV came flying up from behind honking its horn telling me to get out of the way. Yep, I was sipping fuel, and you were guzzling it

The center display screen provides plenty of data on the operation of the Prius.
The center display screen provides plenty of data on the operation of the Prius.

So here we are 47 years later with a Toyota that gets 52 mpg compared to the 20 mpg that the Corona managed. With an advanced technology package that makes that little trouble light plug seem archaic. Though even at the time Toyota was a brand thinking ahead at what you might need.

Toyota pioneered the Hybrid with the Toyota Prius. In 2017 is even more refined as an automobile.
Toyota pioneered the Hybrid with the Toyota Prius. In 2017 is even more refined as an automobile.

 

If you are looking for a modern, safe, high mileage sedan with good trunk space, then the Toyota Prius at the $30K sticker price is well worth consideration. – Though I still long for that Red 1970 Corona!

The Toyota Corona from the late 1960's and early 1970's.
The Toyota Corona from the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

Toyota was nice enough to send over a 2017 Prius Three for us to spend a week driving and experiencing. With that, we were able to provide this review of the vehicle to you our readers. We appreciate their confidence in Queer4Cars and their support of LGBQ diversity. Toyota is a #NoHate company, which makes us feel good about their products and support of

We appreciate Toyota’s confidence in Queer4Cars and their support of LGBQ diversity. Toyota is a #NoHate company.

Historic photos by Toyota News US Pressroom
Words & Photos  by William West Hopper

GMC’s 2018 Terrain, Hearing from Mark Cieslak, GMC’s Chief Engineer, Global Compact SUV’s.

GMC Terrain for 2018 comes with three engine choices and several trim levels.
GMC Terrain for 2018 comes with three engine choices and several trim levels. Photo GMC.

The new 2018 GMC Terrain defies the image of old line General Motors being a staid automaker. GMC is showing that it is all that is modern in the automotive industry, from powertrain to safety, from styling to the latest in-car technology.

Hearing from the GMC Terrain’s Chief Engineer

March Cieslak GMC's Chief Engineer for the 2018 Terrain presents the vehicle to auto journalists in NYC.
Mark Cieslak GMC’s Chief Engineer for the 2018 Terrain presents the vehicle to auto journalists in NYC.

Recently we got to spend some time with GMC’s Chief Engineer, Global Compact SUV’s, Mark Cieslak in New York City over lunch, to hear more about the new GMC Terrain as well as the brand’s dedication to the future.

Clearly, the ’18 Terrain is a premium SUV that provides the performance one expects from GM’s premier SUV and truck brand. While the exterior of the Terrain is classic GMC with all the design cues of bright grill work and distinctive lighting, Cieslak shared that the engineers, stylists, and designers are paying attention to the smallest details of this vehicle. While you can identify a GMC from a distance, it is this attention that makes the vehicles even better close up.

 

GMC Intelligent Engineering is all inclusive of the brand, and from the wheels up.
GMC Intelligent Engineering is all inclusive of the brand, and from the wheels up.

GMC’s intelligent engineering provides better aerodynamics, fuel economy, powertrain performance, ride, handling, and maneuverability with the 2018 GMC Terrain. This vehicle is 400 pounds lighter, 34% stiffer, 10% improved turning radius, up to 3500 pounds towing capacity. You can get the Terrain configured with either Front Wheel Drive (FWD) or All Wheel Drive (AWD). Both have snow and trailer/tow settings, the AWD models are engineered to be able to engage just two wheel drive for better fuel economy, with AWD for off-road or when traction is most needed.

The 2018 GMC Terrain is all new from the Ground Up.

2018 GMC Terrain offers three turbo engine choices, including a whisper quiet diesel.
2018 GMC Terrain offers three turbo engine choices, including a whisper quiet diesel.

What is new for the ‘18 Terrain? Three engine choices, two gasoline, and one diesel powered. Yes, I said, C12H23, Diesel Power! Though GM’s luck with diesel passenger vehicles has been less than stellar in years past, it has had a strong reputation in the truck segment, with this power plant. Diesel power has dedicated fans, of which I am one! With the new Terrain’s whisper quiet 1.6 turbocharged 4-cyl diesel connected to a 6-speed automatic, there is no doubt this powerplant will develop a cult following with its 136 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The two gasoline engines: a 1.5 turbocharged 4-cyl with 170 hp 203 lb-ft of torque and a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbocharged with a 9-speed transmission with 252 hp 260lb-ft of torque, both provide users with both fuel economy as well as enough power to tow, the 2-ltr is rated to tow up to 3500 lbs.

Safety is as important as performance and fuel economy.

GMC Terrain offers many standard safety features including many new to the model for the 2018 model year.
GMC Terrain offers many standard safety features including many new to the model for the 2018 model year.

New safety technology has been built into a ‘18 GMC Terrain; Low-Speed front automatic braking; Lane keep assist; Forward Collision Alert with Following distance indicator; Lane change alert with side blind zone alert; Automatic Park Assist; Rear seat reminder; Teen Driver Control; and Tire Pressure Monitoring system. This in addition to the long list of standard safety features: Six standard airbags, Rollover sensing protection, Front passenger seat occupancy sensing, Three-point safety systems, Saftey Belt Retractor Pre-Tensioner, LATCH – Child Seat latching and Rear vision camera all standard. While available on all Terrain models the following come standard on Denali models: Surround Vision Camera; Safety Alert Seat Available; Rear Cross Traffic Alert Available; Rear park assist®.

 

Inside the 2018 GMC Terrain 

Premium feel and attention to detail were key in the engineering of the 2018 GMC Terrain.
Premium feel, and attention to detail is part of the engineering of the 2018 GMC Terrain. Photo GMC.

Signature interior design with subtle interior design touches shows the Terrain’s premium vehicle status with timeless design, fine touch materials, and an advanced use of space in this mid-sized SUV segment. A new electronic precision shift technology features the transmission selector on the dash. This frees up the open flying buttress design center console uncluttered, with two side-by-side cupholders above and a storage area underneath.

 

Spacious Passenger Vehicle or Cavernous Cargo Hauler? 

GMC has designed the interior of the 2018 Terrain to be very versatile with seats that fold down flat.
GMC has designed the interior of the 2018 Terrain to be very versatile with seats that fold down flat.

The Terrain can be configured as a spacious passenger vehicle or reconfigured to haul cargo. Fold-flat front passenger seat provides the driver a mobile office and easy access to power outlets in USB, 120v, and the conventional cigarette lighter aux outlet. Add to that GMC’s optional in-car hotspot internet, and you have a mobile office. Rear seat passenger comfort is not ignored, with best-in-class 2nd-row seating featuring a two-position seat with spacious leg room.

Rear ventilation has been improved in the '18 GMC Terrain, along with plenty of power outlets for rear passengers.
Rear ventilation has been improved in the ’18 GMC Terrain, along with plenty of power outlets for rear passengers.

More than just the seating, the HVAC and improved airflow for rear passengers. Second-row passengers have access to their own USB power outlet, as well as an optional 120-volt outlet and heated rear seats are available on higher trim models.

Shrink wrapping the rear cargo area has provided more interior space. The two-tier cargo storage with underfloor cargo storage for added security. Atop of that, the rear cargo floor provides a flat, uninterrupted rear cargo floor when the rear seats are stowed.

 

Apple Carplay and Android Auto are integrated into the 2018 GMC Terrain's advanced entertainment system.
Apple Carplay and Android Auto are integrated into the 2018 GMC Terrain’s advanced entertainment system.

Technology abounds within the 2018 GMC Terrain, with safety and convenience items, such as surround camera, side object detection. Infotainment features both Apple Car Play® and Android Auto® capability, Bluetooth® audio streaming, available navigation, and available OnStar® wi-fi hotspot accommodates seven mobile devices.

 

 

We are looking forward to driving and experiencing the new GMC’s in person, later this summer.

William West Hopper


Photos are from GMC’s online pressroom and the author.