MINI, the British automotive marque owned by BMW since 2000 has been globally known for its uniquely styled cars. Back in August, MINI India kicked off its MINI Urban Drive experience in the country that will run across seven cities till the end of October 2018. The exclusive platform offers the legendary go-kart experience for enthusiasts and potential buyers. The fleet includes the new MINI Hatch, the new MINI Convertible, the all-new MINI Countryman and the flagship MINI Clubman, of which I had an opportunity to try out the last three.
There is no denying that the MINIs are indeed a visual treat and clearly stand out in the premium car segment. My experience with the MINI started with a short briefing on the right seating position and correct steering angle by two experts from Malaysia. The itinerary was pretty simple and was designed to ensure that drivers with intermediate skills could pick a skill or two without breaking sweat as they tested the fleet of cars on offer for the day. Mild rain spells resulted in small water logged patches on the track and although this meant lesser traction, most of us behind the wheel of our respective cars were more than happy to keep the traction control off all through the runs. After all, it was about the go-kart experience!
Divided in two groups, the two coaches led their respective teams towards their schedule activity. I chose to get behind the wheel of a grey MINI Countryman and was asked to follow the instructor to the designated area of the track to test the ABS (anti-lock braking) in real-time. After a quick trial run and briefing on the walkie-talkie, we knew we could follow only on three points – pedal to the metal, slam brakes, swerve and cross a water patch while still holding on to the brakes. The combination of hard braking, steering to the right and wet condition ensured that ABS was tried and tested in real world conditions. Interestingly, I had an opportunity to do about seven odd runs along with the rest of the drivers to push the Countryman to its limits and understand minute details on key aspects like braking and handling.
Then we moved onto the second activity for the day, led by the second instructor. I took the wheel of MINI’s flagship model, the Clubman. Initially, the beauty in black did seem a bit intimidating for lap time runs which meant I had to navigate hairpin bends on a long wheel base car, and all of this with the clock ticking in the background! It was during the trial run to gauge the track that the Clubman did not feel too tricky to drive. Yes, the tail does slide out a bit when pushed hard without the traction control. But then, it is quite interesting on the track as well. Once we both established a middle ground, the Clubman with me behind the wheel managed one of the fastest lap time of about 37 seconds.
On the track, I couldn’t resist trying out the MINI convertible as well. Must say, this was indeed one of the most luxurious kart-like-feel driving experience along with the fancy pops and crackle from the exhaust. The tiny trot handled brilliantly on hair-pin bends and slid out as I exited the corners without the traction control bringing an ear to ear smile on my face!
Overall, it was a weekend well spent for us journos as well the potential buyers who came down for a first-hand experience of their next purchase. The MINI’s are just perfect irrespective of you wanting to drive it in a city, on a highway or a race track. All this with the attention you grab wherever you go!