There's no competing with the astounding snow statues, but the Juke and Countryman draw a fair amount of attention as well. Outside the Uphill 41 karaoke bar, a voice from a loud pack of students asks if that's the new Mini. Indeed it is, and wouldn't you say the designers have hit their mark? Brand fanatics may argue that a larger, four-door crossover bastardizes the brand, but we'd say that argument has worn thin in the nine years that the steroidal Cooper has been so successful. The modern Mini brand is about quirky styling and relative size. If it's identifiable as a Mini, it is a Mini. And in that respect, the Countryman fully delivers. The newest Mini reiterates the signatures established by the BMW-designed Cooper with headlights that poke through the clamshell hood and mirrors and a roof that contrast with our Countryman's white paint. Black plastic lower cladding keeps the visual mass to a minimum and a similar glass-to-sheetmetal proportion helps hide the fact that the Countryman is 7.1 inches taller than the Cooper.
In suburban Detroit, the Juke riled up a handful of high schoolers working at the local movie theater who needed help figuring out what it was. But there's no doubt just looking at it that the Juke is sporty, with its angry-eyebrow position lights, aggressively flared fenders, and taillamps that mimic the 370Z's. It also successfully pulls off a coupe-like profile with the well-hidden rear door handles and the sharply sloping roofline. The only details we're uneasy with are the deep-set round headlights and the exceptionally wide grille. Unquestionably, though, the Juke is sportier, more interesting to look at, and better portrays how dynamic these two vehicles are.
Back at Michigan Tech, this year's Winter Carnival theme revolves around books, so there's Harry Potter, "The Little Engine That Could," and a ten-foot-tall toilet celebrating the childhood classic "Everybody Poops." The sculpture that catches our eye, however, has nothing to do with reading. In fact, it's less of a snow statue and more of a snow speaker cabinet, measuring roughly 20 feet wide and 10 feet tall and holding 68 speakers wired to a 20-kilowatt generator. Photographer AJ Mueller envisions shots with partiers, the speaker wall, and one of our cars, so he interrupts a couple students screwing speakers into their plywood cutouts and proposes we bring the Juke back in a couple hours. "Are you sure you want to do that?" one student asks. "Last year they flipped a car."