Monday, September 14, 2009

Mini to showcase ‘Mission Control,' anniversary cars at Frankfurt

Mini Cooper S 50 Camden 

Mini is celebrating its 50th birthday at the Frankfurt motor show with a nod to the past and a glimpse of the future.

Two special-edition Minis, the 50 Mayfair and 50 Camden will be displayed at the show--where parent BMW always likes to make a splash. The pair went into production Sept. 1, almost 50 years to the day after Mini's first car. They will be limited to a one-year run and will go on sale in the United States this month.

The Camden is sure to be one of the most talked-about cars in Frankfurt--and it may talk back.

It will showcase a new technology Mini calls “Mission Control,” which allows the car to interact with the driver, sort of like a British version of Ford's Sync. Three voices offer information about the car and its surroundings. There are up to 1,600 different statements, and it's a standard feature on the Camden.

For example:

If the driver hammers the engine on a cold morning too quickly, a voice may say “ouch, I'm not warmed up yet,” in the words of Jim McDowell, Mini USA vice president.

The Mini Cooper 50 Mayfair

The voices can also offer congratulations for taking a curve with gusto--and plenty of g-force; or say something like “wow 4.5 seconds of full throttle,” after a lengthy launch.

It can also suggest the driver turn on the air conditioning if the program senses ambient temperatures are hot, or tell passengers to buckle up.

Mini, which is known for somewhat off-the-wall innovations--like the giant speedometer in the center of its dashboards or the gauge that tells you how long the roof has been open--also offers a common-sense option: the voices can be turned off.

Mini is calling Frankfurt the world debut of the Camden and Mayfair, though they actually were shown in May at the Mini United Festival at Silverstone. The powertrain lineup includes a 172-hp four-cylinder motor that employs a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct injection, as well as a 118-hp unit. Six-speed manual and automatic transmissions are offered.

The cars are appointed with a slew of special features, including a jubilee placard on the grille that reads “50” in Union Jack colors of red, white and blue. They both ride on 17-inch alloy wheels and take their names from British neighborhoods.

The Mayfair is available in a “hot chocolate” brown color, as well as white and black. The Camden comes in silver, white and black.


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