First Drive: 2011 Mini Cooper Clubman

Mini Connected
A new infotainment upgrade called Mini Connected helps make up for the sacrifices in driving fun. Working with Microsoft, Mini engineers developed a hook-up between an iPhone and the Mini's soul that handles a broad range of entertainment and communications functions as you go. There's a socket inside the console box or you can use the standard iPhone cable to link up this smart phone equipped with a special Mini ap. The 6.5-inch display screen inside the speedometer ring shows play lists, phone book entries, album covers, and-if you've also purchased navigation-maps to your destination. You can command Connected to read email, Facebook info, or Twitter posts and responding with standard messages is also possible. There's a joy stick to help work your way through menus and the system also responds to voice commands. Weather, news, and sports reports are available by RSS feeds.

In addition to the new Mini Connected option, there's a base 6-speadker sound system that plays CDs, MP3 material, HD radio, and Sirius satellite radio. The optional navigation system now uses maps stored in flash memory instead of DVD-based material.

Why Buy?
Now that a full four-door Countryman is available in the Mini lineup, the Cooper Clubman becomes the odd man out. What you gain in functionality you lose in joie de vivre. In a car that looks like a carnival ride, practical considerations such as luggage space and accessibility are not the point. But, if you're truly hooked on Mini mindset and you really need more seats for club crawling, the Clubman is your cost-effective, conversation-starting way to go.

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Edward A. Sanchez
I'd go straight for the S. The normally-aspirated model has to be an absolute dog.

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