What The Hell Do I Do With This

Guys, guys, guys, guys, guys! Holy shit, I bought a car with an automatic transmission! Can you believe it? WTF brand of artisanal crack was I smoking when that happened. Like, seriously, what the actual (delete expletive)?!?

Dear dbmini.us reader & whiteroofradio.com listener,

You weren’t dreaming. One of the loudest members of Team Manual Transmission (TMT) has actually gone the other way and purchased a car with an automatic transmission. A MINI no less. With an automatic.

(Sorry, I am still slightly coming to grips with this myself)

Since 1995, I have only owned 3 cars with an automatic, and the new R59 is one of them. And, if I’m honest, I am having some struggles with it. Which I will list for you now, and in no particular order.

I think I’m going to stall

When coming to a stop, I’m still amazed that the car doesn’t stall because I did not depress the clutch. Of course, this MINI doesn’t have a clutch, but my brain doesn’t know that. Yet.

Power in the corners

Or, rather, a lack of power in the corners. Halfway through a corner I get on the gas and acceleration doesn’t start until I have fully exited said corner. I have yet to test this with the sport button on and the shifter in the left hand position, but in full auto this is how it works. Not going to lie, this is taking some getting used to.

Hard acceleration is awesome.

Please allow me to remember the feeling of having more than 120HP. Even with the A/C on, this MINI can boogie. Really getting on it, in a straight line, is a hoot! Nice that I don’t have to worry about shifts and can keep both hands on the wheel.

Keeping both hands on the wheel in a corner

Speaking of, I’m still not used to taking corners without having to deal with a shift before or after said corner. I’m hoping I don’t pull a cars and coffee style spin out in front of a Dunkin Donuts or anything.

(P)ark

Right. When I stop, need to put the transmission into the spot marked P.

Brake

Right, if the car is in park, I don’t have to sit in the parking lot with my foot on the brake while I put on my sunglasses or turn on my music. See above.

Traffic

Again, if I’m honest, an automatic is better for my daily crawl. I’m less frustrated because you drive like an idiot and make me have to continually row the gears.

I’m still a better driver than you

Let’s face it, the automatic transmission has made the American driver a lazy pile of crap that likes to tail gate, drive with both feet (accelerate with the brake lights on is still my favorite) and stop 4 car lengths back so they can creep up, 4 inches at a time. These are all problems that I thought were due to the automatic transmission. But, you know what, they aren’t. I drive an automatic and don’t do any of those things. Oddly enough, I drive pretty much the same as I did with the manual, just without having to shift. It’s not the transmission, it is the driver.

The last thing to do with the automatic is get it out for a track day. I’m not sure I can get one in before the season is over, but I’m going to give it a shot. And you know I’ll get back to you as soon as I do.

The Value of MINI

Back in 2003, I bought my first MINI. Got it to 100,000 miles in the first 2 years. Just for grins, I recall running it through Kelly Blue Book to see what it was worth. If memory serves, I believe it was showing up as having a trade-in value close to $15,000. Not bad for 100K miles.

Fast forward to 2012 when she had over 200K miles. I believe KBB had given me a trade in value of about $4,000.

Fast forward to this week when I ran Bruce through KBB. 9 years old, 100K miles. KBB gives me a trade in value of about $2,200 or less!

What happened to the value of MINI?

The first generation MINIs really held their value. Like a BMW back in the early ’00s. Now, not so much. Possibly due to reliability issues of the R5X cars? Possibly due to the overall lack of build quality? Possibly due to MINI dealers offering incentives? I really don’t know the cause, I only know the affect. And I’m getting killed.


I bought Bruce for several reasons.

  • Roxy needed another $1200 repair that I wasn’t about to pay
  • Bruce is an R56 Cooper with a manual transmission and no sunroof. A rare find.
  • The price was right
  • I was beginning to rebuild my credit

The interest that I am paying on the loan would make most of you shudder, but for me I was amazed I was able to get it as low as it is. I was expecting credit card levels and am below that. But, now I am upside-down 4x over on that car and my credit is substatially better. And since I don’t really like this car anyway (a story for another time), time to do something about it.

Earlier this week I found a 2013 MINI Cooper Roadster that ticked all of the boxes I was looking for.

  • It’s an S
  • It has HK
  • It has cloth seats
  • It has an automatic (another story for another time)

It’s Black and is in amazingly good shape. The previous owners probably never used sport mode on the transmission from what I could tell. Runs great, everything works, no leaks, top is in good shape. The only issue was some pretty good shaking starting around 80MPH that is probably due to a balance or alignment issue.

Listed for right about $16K, I do my research on the VIN and KBB, where it shows a trade-in value less than $12K. Which means if I pay the full purchase price, drive it down the street to In-N-Out for lunch and come back to use it as a trade-in for another car, I would be out almost $5K!

So I offered $12K. It was declined, as you would have expected. The sales manager thought I wasn’t very smart, telling me the dealer was into this MINI for $15K already and blah blah blah. I told him I knew that car had been on the lot for 30 days and the weather in Arizona will be turning from convertible weather to not in very short order. I thanked them for their time and left. I expect they will give me a call today or tomorrow with some kind of counter offer. If they do not, then I’ll be looking into refinancing options on Bruce.


I haven’t had the chance to run any F5X cars through KBB but would be very curious if you have. Comments are open! Let’s hear the horror stories!

It Could Have Been Better

I’ve always said that every car looks better in maroon. This Kia Forte is definitely included in the list. Recently had this as a rental, and as cheap 4 door car, it wasn’t horrible. The interior had a good layout that wasn’t too cheap. The tech was better than you would expect from a sub-$18,000 car. It had backup camera and bluetooth. The stereo wasn’t great, but you wouldn’t expect it to be. Also, for an inexpensive car, it was not horrible looking. And it was comfortable.

And, it wasn’t completely horrible to drive.

No, that’s not quite true.

Sure, it drove ok. For an automatic transmission on a baby 4 banger, it went pretty decent. I would say the handling also wasn’t too bad. But, and this is a huge but…

waiting for the giggle to stop…

The sound this thing made. Dear god, it was awful. At least it was when you gave the car too much right foot. I can’t even describe to you the sound this car made when getting over 3K RPM, but trust me when I say it was really bad. Really.

To be fair, my MINI is a cheap car. Come on, it’s an R56. Premium skipped this version, but that’s for another post. But, when I drop into third and get on it (even before I upgraded to a K&N air filter), the sound is actually pretty amazing. With the K&N, it’s even more amazing.

If the cheap car makers were to take a minute or 3 to add some decent sound to their engines, the experience would be so much better. And this car could have been better.

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.

A different side of #mtts2014

drewandmimi

I am writing you today barely 24 hours after the end of #mtts2014. This isn’t my recap since I’ve barely been able to assimilate myself back into society. Best I’ve managed is to have clean underwear. This is about something else that I experienced during the event that struck me more than anything else.

I started working in the restaurant industry right after high school. Started as a prep cook, worked my way up to assistant kitchen manager and became a corporate trainer before getting into a management position. During this time I has the opportunity to work with people who literally shaped the way I do business today.

The company I worked invented kick ass customer service for the restaurant industry. The service standards we perfected were copied by every chain, large and small. It was, in short, that every employee, from the host and bus staff, all the way back to the kitchen, had the ability to guarantee, no matter what, the guest experience. No manager intervention necessary. It just happened, because that’s the way it should be. No matter what.

MINI Takes the States 2014 was a tremendous undertaking. 1,000’s of people, 400+ MINI Coopers (daily) plus anything and everything else you can think of. The numbers were huge. And, with those kinds of numbers, you would expect a few things to go wrong. And they did.

But here’s the thing. When they went wrong, they were fixed. If person A couldn’t handle it, person B took up the slack before handing it back to person A. There was follow-up. There were hands on repairs by regional managers. Stuff was getting done, done well and in short order to get folks back on the road.

No matter what.

I watched as some of my friends became part of the numbers. And every time it was corrected. Not because they were my friends, but because that was how things were being done. Even if MINIUSA couldn’t do anything to fix an issue, they still managed to find a way to try to lessen the blow. Flowers, a very nice massage at the next stop, personal attention, phone calls, follow-up.

Not many people said anything about their personal experiences on the internet, but I heard the stories and knew it happened, which is why I’m sharing it with you. MINIUSA is really knocking it out of the park and I wanted to make sure you guys knew about it.


We are still closing out #mtts2014. Besides the almost 400 photos we shared, coast-to-coast, we have posted 3 audio pieces and have more to come, including some great audio of an amazing exhaust system that should be coming by the end of the year. Trust me, you can’t wait to hear it!