Here’s The Problem

A few things. While I have been a fairly bad MINI enthusiast of late, I do still have one and he is finally going to be getting some love in the very near future. Don’t worry, you will hear all about it here as it happens.

Next, watch the video linked above.

For 10 days, I spent some quality time behind the wheel of a 2016 Chevy Malibu. It is not the first time I have had this as a rental, and I hope it’s not the last. As a car, it’s better than adequate I’d say. Comfortable, well equipped, decent mileage and it has enough power to get out of it’s own way. For a car, it actually handles pretty well too. Plus it has Car Play / Android Auto and the Chevy info-tainment system, overall, is really nice. But that is for another post. Honestly, if this car had better tires and slightly better transmission, I’d consider having one for daily driving duties.

But, more to my point. This car costs almost the same as a new MINI the way it is equipped. Apple Play / Android auto comes by default. A nice-ish screen that can be viewed wearing sunglasses. An interior that makes sense. To the non-enthusiast buyer, this would be a very nice car.

I still think the MINI is nicer. And more fun to drive. Plus the community, MINI Takes the States, AMVIV / Southwest MINI Fest (insert your favorite event here). Plus all of you guys. Plus the show. Is there a Malibu podcast? Clubs? Tuners? I don’t think so, at least not at our level. Is there a Detroit Tuned or OutMotoring.com or CravenSpeed? Nope? No Chad, no Way, no Jerry, no Marzo. None of that.

Do you get a sense for any of that with the commercial above? I know I don’t. I get the sense that MINI is trying to be like their older brother BMW. At this moment in my life, I don’t really want a BMW. I want a MINI. This ad doesn’t speak to me. Apparently, it doesn’t speak to you either based on sales of MINIs in the United States.

As we have talked about on the show numerous times, this marketing direction MINI has taken in the US just isn’t working. They are targeting people that don’t watch TV by running ads on cable networks. Did anyone notice that they didn’t run a Motortober event this year? Did your local dealer do anything cool for MotorTober? No? That’s ok, mine didn’t either.

In my very humble opinion, this is where MINI is getting it wrong. They are trying too hard to tell everyone that it’s a premium car. They are trying too hard to appeal to people that like craft beer and brick walls. They are trying too hard to sell to people that don’t care that much about cars.

They need to find a way to get people back into the dealers to look at the cars. Ads like the one above aren’t it. They need to find a way to say it’s a premium product without shoving it down our throats. The old, fun, ads, aren’t the ticket either. That MINI has long gone, and we all know that. It’s time for something new.

And they better offer Car Play / Android auto stat! Again, for another post, but this Chevy system with Car Play blows the doors off of anything found in any MINI or BMW. No fooling.


Speaking of the show, with Todd in Vegas for SEMA this past week and me traveling for work for the rest of this week and most of next, we are on a bit of a break. We will be back very soon! And you know this is definitely something that we are going to talk about.

Big MPG Test

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

Or something like that. More like I have a fresh set of tires, a new set of plugs and fresh oil in the crankcase. You get the idea.

Since the weather has been cooler and I haven’t need to use my A/C, Bruce’s MPG numbers have shown marked improvement, actually breaking into the 30’s (MPG) lately. Considering my daily drive is 23 miles each way and it usually takes me about 2 hours to round-trip, I’m ok with that.

The big test is this week. I’m heading out to spend the holiday with family, so I will be driving about 500 miles round trip. My thinking is that, with the fresh tune-up, oil and tires, I should be able to finally break into the high 30’s for MPG. I’ll be doing mostly highway driving with a little desert back roads thrown in for good measure.

Because I know you will ask, went back to the old standby of Kumho ASX. The boys gave me a bunch of great suggestions, but they were all out of my budget. For my needs, this is a great that has never steered (!) me wrong.

Next up, brakes! Pretty exciting to think about doing my first R56 brake job. I’m thinking sometime in December. Stay tuned!

What a Difference Air Makes

You might remember me complaining about poor MPG and performance on the drive to AMVIV earlier this year. Then, you might remember that I upgraded my air filter from factory to K&N (because K&N). I’ve been monitoring my MPG since and that small changes has been giving me about 2 mpg per tank during Phoenix heat and average speeds of less than 35MPH. 28 – 29 in those conditions isn’t too shabby.

This weekend I had the chance to drive to San Diego. The drive is mostly flat desert, with the cruise control set to 80MPH. There are 2 sets of mountains that need to be traveresed and I’m happy to report that Bruce was able to tackle them both without any issue. Sure, there were a couple of grades where I had to drop into 4th, but I was able to accelerate in 4th gear and maintain 75 – 80MPH over those hills.

Even pulled a respectable almost 36 MPH on the trip out. I doubt my return trip MPG will be as good since it is way more up hill going to Phoenix from the ocean, but I’m confident that number will be greater than 32.

The only down side to the trip was losing the front air diverter from the JCW body kit. I don’t think I hit anything, but passenger side came off on I-8. I stopped shortly after to check on it and sure enough it was gone and the driver’s side was about to fall off. I went ahead and removed it and will start looking for replacements. More on that later.

Every Little Bit

Last tank was +2 MPG after installing the K&N filter. Considering the average temps (105+), this is huge. Went from 27 MPG to 29. At this rate, the air filter will pay for itself before the end of the year.

It is the little things. Besides improved MPG, there is now a little bit of noise coming from under the hood and the engine has a little bit more to give. /me thinks it might be time for some mountain testing.

Making Better Air

Mod Log: 68,000.

The first “performance” mod on Bruce has been completed. I put performance in quotes because it wasn’t really a mod, more like an upgrade. Not knowing the history of the car, I have finally gotten around to replacing the air filter, but instead of OEM, I went with the K&N drop in filter (duh). Since I was doing filters, I went ahead and changed out the cabin filter.

I could tell that they filters had been changed recently. Guessing by appearance on the air filter, I would say approx 10K miles ago. It still looked ok, but was definitely over due to be replaced. The cabin filter looked much rougher, possibly not changed for years. It was pretty bad.

Amazing how well the A/C works now. Can’t tell if the K&N has made a difference yet or not, but I think it will, at least, help improve MPG.

Following up on the CEL, the decision has been made to change out the Vanos solenoid. I’ll have photos and more information as soon as that gets done.


Not for nothing, but I get more compliments on the overall appearance of this MINI than I did with Roxy. I mean, people would always say she looked nice, or looked amazing considering the amount of miles I had. But with Bruce, I get people telling me all the time that he looks bad ass or really cool. Part of that is the wheels, they are really sharp, even when dirty. The other part has to be the body kit. It really looks stunning.

Overall, short of a wet sand on the hood, I am very happy with the way he looks. Just need to get the performance sorted out.