Review: 2010 Mini Cooper Camden

When it comes to talking cars, talk always turns to KITT, the feisty Pontiac Trans Am from the 1980s TV show Knight Rider. So when a talking Mini Cooper showed up in our office, we immediately gave it the Knight Industries treatment, injecting a little attitude and William Daniels for the complete KITT transformation.

The Mini Cooper Camden is one of two limited-edition packages celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Mini, and its headline feature is Mission Control, an interactive chatterbox of three British characters named Coach, Climate, and Engine. The conversation consists of more than 1300 phrases activated by about 70 different situations ranging from the weather (Coach, when wipers are switched on: "A clear view at all times. It's those little things, you know?") to the car's status (Climate: "I'm afraid you have to close the sunroof or turn the air conditioning off. Nature will thank you if you do.") to the driver's behavior (Engine: "Too high rpm! Shift up or ease up on the gas!"). Should you become annoyed, there's an off switch located in the glovebox.

But rather than turn it off, we made the Camden say exactly what we wanted to hear. Altering the Mission Control's vocabulary isn't all that difficult, as the voice clips are stored as MP3s and a simple code file on an SD card. Our hack was cobbled together with just a handful of KITT sound clips collected from YouTube and renamed to match the naming scheme used by Mini. We edited the code so that it would call our clips specifically, rather than a random MP3 from a list of relevant files. Some highlights of our Cooper KITT include an introduction on ignition ("I'm the voice of Knight Industries Two Thousand's microprocessor, K-I-T-T for easy reference, KITT if you prefer."), unsolicited advice ("Don't touch turbo boost. Something tells me you shouldn't touch turbo boost."), and logic-driven skepticism ("Your chance of survival is less than point-oh-four percent!").

Since we didn't take the time to replace all of the Mini's factory phrases, our Camden sometimes spouted KITT clips and other times called up the remnant Mission Control phrases. However, we're sure that Camden owners will soon have a comprehensive Cooper KITT to share with the Mini community.

In addition to Mission Control, the Camden package includes unique 17-inch wheels, interior trim, seat upholstery, paint, graphics, and badging. It also adds options like xenon headlights, Harman Kardon audio, sport seats, fog lights, Bluetooth, satellite radio, USB adapter, and a rear spoiler. The Camden package costs $4500 and can be equipped on hardtop Cooper or Cooper S cars.

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