From the Vault: Cross Country Mini Cooper travel car test drives mini luxury cars auto articles
From the Vault: Cross Country Mini Cooper travel car test drives mini luxury cars auto articles
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

Orginally published June 1, 2010

Article and photos by Paul Williams

The idea for a cross-country trip occurred on a cold, bleak day in the middle of an Ottawa winter. I’d had enough of the shivering and shoveling, the freezing rain and the blowing snow; I needed an escape. A web search for interesting car shows in warmer climes turned up the annual All British Field Meet (ABFM) in Vancouver, held each May on Victoria Day weekend. One look at the spectacular pictures from previous ABFMs, and the decision was made.

The vision was of sunlit blue skies, spring flowers, and actual leaves on trees. Basking in their shade would be hundreds of fine British cars from bygone years, and modern ones, too. Simply thinking about it lifted my spirits, and the next thought seemed obvious: “Why not drive a British car to the event?”

So it was that BMW Canada graciously signed on, supplying one of its special edition 2010 Mini Cooper S “Camden” vehicles for the trip. Maybe I’d even win the “Long Distance” award in the “new” Mini (still built in Britain, mind you, even though BMW holds the purse-strings).

For people who don’t like winter, planning an event like this is a great way to take your mind off of parkas, toques, snow tires and the ubiquitous Thinsulate. But there’s no real preparation required as far as the vehicle is concerned; you just turn the key and go, such is the quality and reliability of today’s new cars. Nonetheless, it’s a good 4,600 kilometres from Ottawa to Vancouver, and that’s taking the “short” route, under Lake Superior. For the lone driver, it takes some time. I initially budgeted five days, Monday to Friday, but decided to get a head start by leaving at noon on the Sunday preceding the show, just in case.

Day 1: Ottawa to Sudbury, Ontario (484 km)

Years as an automotive journalist have taught me to travel light, and you may be thinking that a Mini would put that experience to good use. But it turns out that small as the Mini is, interior space is quite sufficient for a long journey with one or two occupants. The trunk easily contained my luggage, laptop computer, gym shoes and the like; and there are numerous places handy to the driver to put things like your phone, wallet, CDs and camera. The back seat, save for a jacket, remained empty. But it could fold to make more space if required.

From the Vault: Cross Country Mini Cooper travel car test drives mini luxury cars auto articles From the Vault: Cross Country Mini Cooper travel car test drives mini luxury cars auto articles
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

The Camden 50 edition comes with standard Bluetooth, which connects to your phone simply and efficiently. Volume is controlled by the volume knob for your audio, which in this model is the upgraded Bose system. Other “Camden” features are a choice of special colours and exterior graphics (this one was White Silver Metallic), 17-inch “silver shield” wheels, bi-xenon headlamps with black reflectors, heated seats, auto-dimming mirror, rain-sensing wipers and special interior trim. And I almost forgot (put it out of my mind, actually) the Camden edition also features Mission Control, whereby two caricatures of British people comment on your driving as you start, corner, stop and park your Mini. Yes, it’s a talking car, and not one of BMW’s best ideas, in my opinion. I pulled the plug on this annoying duo within 15 minutes of driving the car.

At the risk of being repetitive (I’ve made this point many times), a Mini is extremely fun to drive. In fact, I don’t think there’s another vehicle that handles this smartly, and is so responsive to driver inputs for the money. And even though Mini’s have been on the road since 2002, people still find it very engaging; it seems to attract attention wherever you go.

From the Vault: Cross Country Mini Cooper travel car test drives mini luxury cars auto articles
2010 Mini Cooper S 50 Camden. Click image to enlarge

Nimble as it is in the city, a Mini Cooper S is a delight on the highway. Stable, quiet, quick and fuel efficient, the little car is totally unruffled by high-speed, long-distance work. Fuel consumption was 6.5 L/100 km (44 MPG Imperial) on the comparatively short jaunt from Ottawa to Sudbury, Ontario, and it would get slightly better.

Heading up Highway 17 from Ottawa, you pass through Deep River, Sturgeon Falls and North Bay. The two-lane road is tree-lined, rural, and on a Sunday is mostly populated by families visiting flea markets and nurseries, or heading to the local restaurant for breakfast, lunch or dinner “specials.”

It’s been a while since I’ve visited Sudbury, and my apologies for the out-of-date preconception, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this nice! There’s interesting architecture, wide streets, the distinctive rocky landscape, and I thought a general sense of prosperity about the place. Maybe it was the sunshine and blue skies, but Sudbury looked a good community in which to live. I could have happily stayed longer, but like Elwood and Jake from the Blues Brothers, I was on a mission.




About Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an Ottawa-based freelance automotive writer and senior writer for Autos. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).