To experience the exciting range of MINI cars, MINI India has organised the MINI Urban Drive for potential customers and the media as well. For 2018, the MINI Urban Drive is being held between August and October 2018 across 7 Indian cities - Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, and Delhi. We got an opportunity to get behind the wheels of the iconic MINI cars at the Mumbai leg held on 15 Sept.
The MINI Urban Drive was divided into two parts – Lap Test (Gymkhana Go-cart) and Braking test. While the MINI Countryman was the only choice for the ABS braking test, the rest of the fleet was available for the Go-cart Gymkhana test.
While every individual had a limited time to access the cars, I was able to sample the MINI Cooper S, MINI Clubman, and the MINI Countryman in the restricted environment. Before we could experience the vehicles on the track, we received a lowdown on the safety aspects and track driving instructions from two BMW instructors, who were specially flown down Malaysia. I was part of the first group, which was directed to experience the Go-cart Gymkhana track test.
Much to my despair, initially, I could only get a chance to drive the MINI Clubman during the go-cart lap test activity. I was accompanied by two potential customers for this activity. We were first given a tour of the go-kart track, which was followed by two practice and then finally a timed lap test laps for each driver. To be sure, I was the fastest on the MINI Clubman in my group with a lap time of 40 seconds ;-)
Being the most extended MINI with a practical station-wagon design, the MINI Clubman is not the fastest car in the portfolio. However, it is no slouch. The fact that the Cooper S and Cooper S convertible could record a lap time of around 36-37 seconds, the Clubman, with a lap time of 40 seconds, speaks for itself. As compared to the Cooper hatch, the MINI Clubman is massive. However, the tuned chassis and traction control helped take corners with confidence.
Later, I got chance to test the Mini Cooper S at the go-cart gymkhana track for three laps. Unfortunately, I could not do a lap time test on the Cooper S. The MINI Cooper S was faster on the corners and at the hairpin bends, the agile chassis offered immense support. By the time the gymkhana run was over, we were guided to the next activity.
The second activity was emergency braking and ABS test, and my companion was the MINI Countryman crossover. The MINI instructors explained to us the concept of ABS and its working since most of us were prospective customers. The moose test included 4 laps and needed us to go full throttle on the gas, before hitting the brakes hard to come to a standstill.
The instructors directed us to pin the throttle at the start line and race all the way till the first set of cones, after which, we had to brake hard and swerve past the obstacles without crashing. The purpose of the exercise was to understand the nuances of panic braking. Since I was the only person in the car, I got to do 8 laps on the MINI Countryman. Apart from the first lap, where I braked prematurely, every other time I could hear a “well done” on the walkie-talkie from the instructor.
While the Countryman is good tourer with a spacious cabin and high ground clearance, the Clubman is the most practical MINI for the city. The Cooper S is fun to drive with a direct steering and willing chassis. However the MINI Cooper S JCW, with its addictive exhaust note, is definitely my pick!