The Mini Cooper gets a little bigger with the Countryman

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Just like how Porsche gave us the Cayenne SUV for enthusiast who love Porsche, but has out grown 911, Mini Cooper has given us the Countryman. Mini has taken every we love about the Mini Cooper and enlarged it. The Countryman is longer, wider, and taller. Enthusiasts finally have a vehicle they can take the kids to school in! Tall backseat passengers are now able to stretch out instead of curling into a ball, and with the seats down, you are now able use a Mini Cooper to buy furniture…. I bought a small conference cable for my office in it.

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The Countryman certainly fits the bill for being Mini’s biggest and most expensive vehicle. It priced at $26,000 for a base model, but the options ad up. My test vehicle cost nearly $40,000 to buy. But it was well worth the price for features such as premium leather seats, a Harmon Kardon sound system, and a large touch screen display. The only thing I didn’t like about the interior was the pseudo “heads up display.” I could never get the thing properly adjusted for my ride height and I am only 5’8″.

Don’t let the looks and plush amenities fool you, this is still a Mini Cooper. And rightfully so, it is fun to drive. Not a much fun as the smaller scale Mini Cooper, but this car boogies around town. Under the hood of the S and JCW models is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder that moves the car from 0 to 60 in 6.2 seconds. But even more important is the handling. Multiplying the size of the Mini Cooper made it loose its “go-kart” like handling, but with the optional adjustable damper system and 4-wheel drive system, it know-how to hug corners like a proper Mini Cooper.

For more information on the Mini Cooper Countryman, visit your local Mini dealer or click here to visit Mini’s website.

The BRZ could be one of the best kept secrets for track work.

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I have driven the Subaru BRZ a bunch of times, both as a Subaru and as the Toyota FRS variant. Biggest difference between the two is that the Subaru version has a slightly fancier interior. The vehicles are basically one in the same because the BRZ was a combined effort between Subaru and Toyota. The two companies set out to build a low-budget low center of gravy two-wheel drive sports coupe that would keep you grinning from ear to ear as you apexed each turn of a country road.

In my previous reviews of the BRZ, I discussed its road handling characteristics, its performance characteristics, and its interior design. So for this story, I want to highlight BRZ’s track work, or lack of track work to be specific. I say lack of track work because I have seen the Subaru BRZ (or Scion/Toyota FRS) on the track less than a handful of time. This is shocking because I am on track at least a dozen times a year with SCCA and PCA. The BRZ could be one of the best kept secrets for track work, because the car handles exceptionally well and it is low cost. Miata’s dominate the amateur racing world for that very same reason, but the Miata is convertible, which inherently isn’t as a safe or as rigid as a coupe. There are also dozen of performance mods for the BRZ that are seemingly low cost – you can check them out first hand at almost every Cars & Coffee outing.

So for those of you looking for your next track car, I urge you to take a second look at the Subaru BRZ. It is a peppy little sports coupe with the heart of a go-kart.

A lot of care was placed into the 2016 Nissan Sentra

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For whatever reason, I wasn’t a fan of the previous generation Nissan Sentra. I was a good car, but I felt like there wasn’t enough emotion in the car. Almost as if the previous generation was an after thought.

Nissan flew me out to California recently to get a first look at the 2016 Sentra, but what I got was more than a first look, it was also a crash course in automotive design by Nissan VP of Design, Taro Ueda. I was amazed by how much energy went into the engineering the vehicle to reduce drag, improve ride quality, and reduce noise. In the photo above, Taro used painters tape to show myself and fellow journalists how each line was symmetrically placed to improve both the styling and aerodynamics of the car.

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So lets get down to brass tax… is the 2016 Nissan Sentra worth the money? I say yes. Nissan redesigned the Sentra in order to give other vehicles in this segment a run for there money. The vehicle comes very well appointed with standard equipment and soft-touch materials throughout the cabin. The two biggest improves to the Sentra is ride quality and sounds damping. Nissan re-enginered the suspension to give you a smoother ride, while still allowing you stay in control of the vehicle with little body roll. They also dramatically increased the Nissan Sentra’s sound proofing, which makes this one of the quietest vehicles in its segment.

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The 2016 Nissan Sentra starts at a little over $16,000, but with a few options, such as a Bose Sound System, dual climate controls, and leather seats, it takes on a premium feel. I recommend buying the Nissan Sentra if you are looking for a low-cost compact car that offers great gas mileage (up to 40mpg) and enough room to stretch out (111 cubic feet of interior volume) with premium features.

Great things come in small packages… The 2016 Subaru BRZ


I can’t get enough to of the Subaru BRZ. What is not to love? It is a small sporty coupe with a 6-speed manual gearbox (or a traditional automatic) and 4-cylinder Boxer engine.

The Subaru BRZ isn’t going to win a drag race, but its low center of gravity means that it will lap most cars on a tight road course. The horizontally opposed boxer engines produces 200 horsepower and 151 pounds of torque from a 2.0L package.

Not much has changed since my last review on the BRZ. Read my previous post to find out why you should buy this car.