Boy, I was wrong! Our star vessel, Auriga Leader has already went through the first passage, Gatun Locks, about 3 hours ago, at around 11 AM UTC. It went all sneaky on us as it did not dock at port of Cristobal and went straight through the Gatun in the middle of the night! According to marinetraffic.com, it still notes the destination as Cristobal! As it is already on the move in Lago Gatun, with cruising speed of 10 knots, it will most likely reach the second passage, Miraflores Locks, sometime today. It is noted it could take up to 9 hours to go through the entire passage. However, if you do not want to miss out on seeing the Auriga Leader passing Miraflores docks through the webcam, it will be wise to check the position of the ship throughout the day. Thanks Mark for exiting image above!
Our star vessel, Auriga Leader, carrying my MINI Countryman, assortment of other MINIs and other makes is back in the range of land based AIS station! It is currently approx 1 hour away from the port of Cristobal with cruising speed of approx 17 knot. If the schedule of Volans Leader, another vehicle carrier vessel already dropped by Port of Hueneme, is any indication, Auriga Leader is most likely to stay at the port of Cristobal for a few days before it goes through Panama canal. It took Volans Leader about 3 days of waiting at Cristobal and 8 days from Panama to Port Hueneme. As Auriga Leader is scheduled to arrive at Port of Hueneme on May 12, it could be docked here for 4-5 days before reaching the first passage of Panama canal from north, Gatun Lock. You can also see the ocean "traffic" near Cristobal, vessels waiting its turn to go through the canal.
*Update Boy, I was wrong. Auriga Leader has already passed through Panama Canal and heading straight to San Diego. It will arrive in San Diego on May 7.
Ever wonder how the large ships travel through Panama canal? We are in luck as there is a video showing us just that on youtube. The original poster, aboard a cruise ship, says going from one end to the other took 9 hours, from 8am to 5pm. Video after the jump.
The anticipation of Auriga Leader's arrival in Panama is keeping me on my toes! According to Marinetraffic.com's posted information, Auriga Leader is scheduled to arrive at the port of Cristobal, Panama today. As the ship is still not in the range of AIS stations, I can only assume it is still hauling its heavy weight somewhere in Carribean Sea.
MINI rolled out updated MINI Connected 2.0 app, ready for download at Apple App store. The updated MINI Connected include Dynamic Music, Mission Control, and enhanced Facebook & Twitter integration. While I can still play with the Connected app with my iPhone, I just can't wait to sync with my Countryman and check everything Connected has to offer! Read More for official release.
Volans Leader is currently docked at Port of Hueneme! It arrived right on time. If you live in southwestern states and are waiting for your MINI, hold on there! It will be at your MINI center very soon.
Last November, MINI created tons of buzz at various social media outlets and blogspheres around the globe with their "Getaway Stockholm 2010" campaign set up to promote the new Countryman. This location-based marketing campaign asked everyone with iPhone in Stockholm city (Sweden) to be part of a social gaming experience, a game of cat and mouse that is, for a chance to win a real MINI Countryman! In the end, over 11,000 people participated and virtual MINI traveled 1500 physical kilometers, with an average gaming time of 5 hours 6 minutes per person! I think this was a really cool, brilliant marketing event that created tons of MINI evangelists and made Stockholm city as a living reality game board. Imagine seeing bunch of people running around the streets holding the iPhone, all chasing virtual MINI and one another! Great publicity stunt and ever-so important 'Social' experiment went viral instantly!
Want to Escape from the horrible LA traffic and concrete jungle? Your Escape in the wilderness awaits you!! 15 Minute drive home LA downtown, you can lose yourself in the wilderness of Angeles National Forest. Take a nice drive through twisty road. Enjoy the scenery. Go have a breakfast at the lodge and mingle with motorbikers who are regulars. Take a photo with big pine tree! Go take a little hike through 'black forest'- area with still burnt tress and rocks. It will truly be a rewarding escape from your mundane day!
Vote for CountrymanMotoring's event entry at MINI Space! Better yet, if you are in Los Angeles area and would like to make this happen, let's do it together! Leave a comment please.
Ok. This certainly isn't for the faint hearts, especially if you are waiting for your very own factory built car to arrive at your home. I have no idea why I elected myself for the extra, unnecessary stress, but it is highly interesting to see what happens to a ship in deep sea going through hurricanes and storms with 50+ft waves! Read more for the videos!
Volans Leader, carrying my original ordered MINI and assortment of MINI, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, and other cars, is back in the range of tracking at marinetraffic.com! Since it left Panama, the ship was not trackable as AIS based system can only track 30-60NM from land based AIS stations. You can still track deep sea vessels, but it would need either a station to be based on an Offshore platform or a Satellite to track them. Volans Leader is currently off the coast of Baja California, heading toward Port of Hueneme with estimated arrival date of April 28. Now, I have a good idea on what to expect in terms of for our star vessel, Auriga Leader - it should appear in the range sometime today or tomorrow near Cristobal, Panama.
This video is already old news... as it was tagged as "First Exclusive Video!" of MINI Countryman from the mothership, and was made public February of 2010, even before the official launch of the car at Geneva Motor Show in March. Nonetheless, just like any other well done promo video, it's nicely sugar coated capturing the motto of the car 'Life is out there, Go Live it!'
If you want to have your own officially authorized, KISS-inspired, custom-painted, autographed MINI Countryman, check your bank account and start getting ready to place a bid on the 'epic' auction. While the official auction will start 4:00PM PST / 7:00PM EST on May 29, 2011, the site is already up on ebay with counter clock set in place. Click here for the link
If you already have a Countryman and budget is limited, you can purchase MINI KISS wraps. Call 1-877-236-4431 for more info.
There are so many ways you can configure your own MINI and Countryman is no exception. The Cooper S Countryman All4 above features Pure White with black top, exterior chrome line, topped off with 17" white tunnel wheels. Mind you, Pure White with Black Top/Mirror is one of the most popular color combo of Countryman as it also was a launch color for the car. However, this Countryman qualifies "I have not seen this configuration yet' of the day, mainly due to the white tunnel wheels!
Chad Marshall is a professional longboarder and streetwear mogul from Angoura Hills, CA. He shows us how to 'Wanderlust' party with all-day explosion of food, music, dancing, and day/night surfing! Video after jump!
This is the first time I see bunch of MINI Countryman through the webcam at Bremerhaven's northern port! The image above shows assortment of Countryman still sitting on the vehicle carrier train, likely to be waiting to be unloaded. I will have to visit the site again in a few hours to see them during day time.
*UPDATE Ever wonder why your Countryman is "Being transported to the port of exit" for 3-4 days? Cause it could sit on the train at the port for couple days! Pictures after the jump.
MINI Rocks the Rivals Test Drive Tour kicks off today at South Motors MINI, Miami FL. For those of us in So. California, the first event will be held on April, 28 at MINI of Escondido, then finish off on May 12, at Crevier MINI in Santa Ana before they head over to No.Cal. I am curious what competitor vehicles MINI would bring out (other than the obvious Nissan Juke!) against Countryman and plan to attend one held at Alexander MINI on April 30. Read More for the complete list of schedule for So. California for all over US*! For other areas, head over to MINI site for more info. *Thanks George for facebook tip!
*UPDATE :: Schedule for all over US added
*UPDATE : It seem the competitors will include Nissan Juke, VW Tiguan (serious competitor), and underwhelming Toyota RAV4.
Last time, I've posted a comparison test of MINI Countryman and Nissan Juke done by Belgium's DRIVR magazine >>here>>. As these two fine cars beg to be compared, the showdown between the two has been a popular subject among automotive media outlets. This time, Automobile magazine drove them in remote, unspoiled, snow covered Michigan's upper peninsula in their recent issue. So, how did they fare out this time around? Here is the hint - "It is more natural in corners, boasts a more energetic powertrain, and feels more connected through its transmission." Head over to Automobile magazine's article to find out.
*UPDATE Behind the scene video added after the jump!
As I am anxiously waiting for the arrival of my own MINI Countryman, I am finding myself crossing out each calender day leading toward the day of delivery! I also look for stuff online almost everyday to find anything that's relevant to topic to keep my 'sanity'. Few days ago, I encountered an interesting article at Motor Trend magazine's website, taking an insider look at Jay Leno's new Jaguar XJ's long journey from its factory to his home. While my MINI would not get the star treatment the XJ received, it provide a good insight of how my MINI's journey from the factory in Graz, Austria to its new home, Los Angeles, would likely be. Follow the link to Motor Trend's website for the complete story. Read more for photos from Motor Trend.
Is this Early Halloween? Nope! MINI and legendary rock band KISS are partnering up to raise money for UNICEF. Four MINI Countryman custom painted with different design, each representing one of the iconic KISS faces and autographed by all four band members, will be auctioned before Father's Day. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to UNICEF to help children in Japan and emergencies around the globe. I am not a fan of KISS personally, but it is for a great cause and adds onto various marketing campaign MINI is currently running, creating even more buzz around the brand spanking new MINI Countryman. I actually kinda like the graphics of the bottom right... even though I will pass on all of them. This also kicks off "MINI Rocks the Rivals" competitive test-drive tour in US - which I am quite excited about! I will surely be looking forward to attending the test drive event in my area. Read more for complete official release.
How exciting it is to see a vessel carrying your MINI/BMW going through Panama Canal LIVE! All possible by the Live webcams kindly set up by Panama Canal authority. While the ship, Auriga Leader, carrying my Countryman is still days away from the Panama, Volans Leader carrying my originally ordered Countryman (I had made a small change)other MINIs, bimmers, Jag/Land Rovers, and other cars is passing through the Miraflores Locks, Panama right now! Thanks to GeorgeH for this fantastic link!!
While tracking our car from factory to the dealer is quite a fun experience, it is not as relaxing as simply waiting for a phone call from your MA telling us that our car is ready. It can also be very harmful to our well-being and bring unnecessary frustration to our lives. Case in point, the Wave map. The above image illustrates the wave height around the world, and the wave in part of northern Atlantic ocean is crazy high... up to 26ft! This is certainly a cause for concern to those of us whose cars are aboard the Auriga Leader that is currently sailing through the Atlantic. While the weather in the deep sea can be very unpredictable, I am hoping our captain Eugen State will sail the ship through a safer, less treacherous path! Thanks for awesome tip GeorgeH!!
Based on the information available on the web, the image above illustrates a simple schedule and route map of vehicle carrier Auriga Leader of NYK Lines from Bremerhaven DE to Port Hueneme US. While close to real time ship tracking is available via websites such as marinetraffic.com, once the ship goes outside the AIS area - in the middle of Atlantic, we are out of luck. As of today, I can only guess the ship is somewhere in mid Atlantic until it shows up again on marinetraffic.com when it is near the destination port of Cristobol, Panama. Once it reaches the area, it might have to wait a few days for its turn to pass Panama Canal.
As the car carrier vessel carrying my Countryman is somewhere in the middle of Atlantic ocean, I can picture the CM taking a sun bathing on the top deck next to 328 solar panels!! Yes, Solar babies!! You see, Auriga Leader is the world's first cargo ship to be utilizing solar power to provide energy to reduce fuel costs and cut carbon emissions. GOOD magazine peaked into this innovative vessel. Read more for the clip.
First... the shot above is one of the best MINI Countryman photo I've encountered with so far. Taken by Ken Divjak of DRIVR magazine of Belgium, the fantastic setting and the dynamic angle/composition of the shot of Countryman in motion is simply amazing! There are other really cool shots included with the article as well. As for the comparison review itself (You will have to translate with Google as it is in Dutch), they say that while there are so many similarities between MINI Countryman and Nissan Juke, these two are also quite different as well. Who is the winner? Read more to find out.
Finally! Calling 866-Ask-MINI reveals that my MINI Countryman is "En Route" or in transit, meaning it has left the port of exit , Bremerhaven, taking a 4 week long ocean cruise, joined by fellow 'passengers' enjoying great buffet and parties, heading toward the port of entry, Port Hueneme, Calironia, USA! I am quite stoked as I can now follow and track the ship as it crosses the big pond and passes through Panama Canal. However, I haven't heard from my MA yet as for the name of the car carrier vessel. I am really hoping it's the Auriga Leader (pictured above) that left Bremerhaven on April 14. So stay tuned for the update very soon.
*UPDATE : Just received an email from my MA. My MINI Countryman is on board Auriga Leader. Confirmed! The mad ship tracking begins now!!! It is however irritating that this confirmation comes 3-4 days after the ship left Bremerhaven.
I didn't realize cars need clothes to stay warm. As part of Wanderlust campaign, MINI has commissioned artist Magda Sayegis to 'yarn bomb' the R60 Countryman. While I kindly decline by saying 'No Thanks' , my coworker just shouted 'That's cool!' so there must be followers of recent hipster trendiness of knitting.
I ride Burton. Soon, I will be riding MINI. The perfect match in making? With the introduction of the new bigger, all wheel drive Countryman, MINI teamed up with 'the' snowboard company that started the awesome sport, Burton. Together, they place the Countryman atop 2,228 meter mountain. Watching the video makes me want to hit the slopes in Countryman! (Shoot.. perhaps I should've gotten ALL4)
There seems to have been quite a commotion regarding the upcoming availability of rear bench seat in US among MINI Countryman community. At the moment, you can only order MINI Countryman with individual rear bucket seat for 4 passengers. According to MINI, you will soon be able to order it with rear bench seat allowing 5 passenger configuration, possibly as early as July of this year. Rear bench seat is likely to be no cost option while 4 passenger bucket seat is the standard feature (similar to full or split rail option)
The car carrier vessel, Auriga Leader has docked at the northern port of Bremerhaven today. It is set to sail tomorrow heading to Port Hueneme (after a few stops on the way presumably). Fingers crossed that CountrymanMotoring's MINI will hop on to Auriga Leader!
The unveiling of MINI Goodwood is getting us all curious: Are we going to see the most luxurious and opulent Goodwood version of MINI Countryman in near future? I will have to say 'unlikely', as the concept of MINI Goodwood is Rolls Royce refinement and luxury in a smallest, efficient package. But if the demand for small MINI Goodwood is strong, there might be a chance to see the most luxurious Countryman!
MINI has finally unveiled the MINI Goodwood Inspired by Goodwood today. This is a product of MINI/Rolls Royce collaboration that was rumored for about two years. Basically this is high roller's MINI : Rolls Royce design team reworked the whole interior of MINI Cooper S hardtop covering all the surfaces with leather, wood, and plush carpet as if this was a tiny Rolls Royce. Price? You know the old saying.. If you have to ask, this probably is not for you. The question is, however, are we going to see MINI Countryman 'Inspired by Goodwood' in the near future? More pictures and more info after the break.
CountryMotoring's MINI is currently at port of Bremerhaven, awaiting the shipping vessel. Other than that, we are in dark as there is no other information available, and left on our own, until our MA tells us which vessel our MINI is loaded onto. Well.. rejoice the power of the internet as right strokes of keywords on Google search reveal the possibilities! There are several car carrier vessel leaving Bremerhaven and heading to Port Hueneme, CA within weeks from today. Auriga Leader, Toledo, Martorel, and Aquarius Leader. (BMW/MINI utilized NYK-Line and Wallenius Wilhelmsen of the three shipping company. Not sure about United.) I am really hoping our MINI will be loaded onto Auriga Leader as it leaves the port of Bremerhaven in two days! Read more for the source of vessel schedules.
Yesterday, Monday April 11, 2011, MINI WRC Team was officially launched in Oxford, England. It marks MINI's official comeback to rally sport and this really is an exciting news! I have been more of a lukewarm WRC enthusiast lately, hardly paying any attention to the sport, but consider this as my official return as a WRC enthusiast! I will naturally be a MINI WRC Team fan for very obvious reasons. The first race where MINI Countryman rally car will be tested against its rivals is the Rally d’Italia Sardegna from 5th to 8th May 2011. Anyone in Los Angeles area with big phat LED TV with speed channel want to invite me for the viewing party? :)
Status update! According to MINI representative, my MINI has finally arrived at the northern port of Bremerhaven. I assume it will be there for a few days (hopefully not weeks!) before it is loaded onto a car carrier vessel and makes a long voyage to California. The number of days MINI sit at the port depends on the schedule of the vessel as many of them have weekly schedule, and is hard to predict. The image above is from a webcam stationed at Bremerhaven overlooking the loading dock setup by BLG Logistics, company that manages the dock. You can bet that I will be checking it everyday! Read More for the link to see live image.
Does your car think like you? MINI certainly thinks it does. I received an email from MINI the other day and it told me it can pre-program some settings in before the delivery for my liking. Presetting my favorite radio stations, when and how my MINI should lock and unlock the doors, frequency of my blinker signal, DRL on/off and more! How cool is that! and how does it work? Follow the jump to find out.
UPDATE: The representative at MINI (866-Ask-MINI) was not able to provide as to why the site would not transmit the preference and display error page. While he actually seemed unaware of such email/website, he did told me that he will place an inquiry about the issue. He also recommended talking to MA at MINI center regarding the pre-programming the vehicle. They should be able to set it up regardless as the site was designed to simply relay the information/preference to the MINI center.
Ok. Now that I've decided to get a new car, the real fun part begins... deciding which car will steal my waller! Well... we already know what car that is, do we not? Yup. The new 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman! So, I will skip the part on test driving and looking at other candidates and just focus on our superstar MINI Countryman.
It seems like MINI is producing enough number of MINI Countryman models out of Magna Steyr factory in Graz to meet the growing demand for the car. Other than meeting the demand for custom factory orders from customers, it is also producing enough Countryman models for MINI dealers to beef up their inventory for those who cannot wait for 2 month and got to have the Countryman right away. Quick search for the inventory of Los Angeles area MINI dealerships reveals 140 MINI Cooper, Cooper S, and ALL4 Countryman models sitting at the dealership lot. Interestingly, of those 140, only 30 cars, about 22%, are the non-turbo Cooper models while the remaining 110 are Cooper S and ALL4 models. (ALL4 take up less than 20% of 110 available).
Status update! 1-866-Ask-MINI tells me that my MINI is "being transported to the port of exit."! Woot! It's finally on a freight train moving from Magna Steyr factory in Graz to port of exit in Bremerhaven, Germany. Hopefully, it will only sit on the port lot only for a short period of time before it leaves the port of Bremerhaven.
As a designer, inspirations are very valuable. They are like food for creativity. They can truly get your creative juices flowing in you brain. They can also come from anywhere & everywhere... including Disney's classic! I can't stop myself from imagining a MINI interior designer sitting down at his desk watching Disney's Mickey Mouse as he was sketching the center multimedia screen/speedometer/air vents cluster design!
MINI, despite being 'mini' and small, is one heck of a engineered and manufactured car, and safety is something the engineers did not miss out. Since the first generation of new MINI (R50), it has been receiving high scores in various crash tests around the world and proving its safety in the real world. The new MINI Countryman (R60) is no different as it currently holds 5 stars from European NCAP, the highest rating it can earn. The European NCAP test (European New Car Assessment Programme) is viewed as one of the most strict and comprehensive crash test in the world. No one should ever test one out by themselves, but it certainly can provide a piece of mind and highest protection in case of unforeseen event.
Follow the jump to view the crash test video and complete result
MINI asks you, "What is MINI Countryman Wanderlust?" MINI Countryman Wanderlust campaign, just launched on April 4, asks you to dream up your escape from the mundane day-to-day and celebrating freedom. The site will let you create you own event page and share with the community via Facebook and MINI Space. The events with the most votes can win you a cool weekly prize and even better, if you turn your idea into a reality and share your story on MINI Space, you will have a chance to win your very own MINI Countryman!
My daily ritual of checking status of my MINI Countryman reveals that my MINI is "Released to the carrier and waiting transportation to the port of exit! Yey! As the train infrastructure is very advanced in Europe, the MINI's will soon hop on a car carrier train and make its journey from its birthplace, Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria to its port of exit Bremerhaven, Germany.
Follow the jump to view interactive Google maps of plant in Graz and port in Bremerhaven.
Happy Birthday!! Today, April 5, 2011 is my MINI Countryman's birthday! The production is complete and it rolled off the final assembly line, birth canal, at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria! I am so excited! The next step is to track the MINI as it crosses the big pond in a huge car transport vessel! More on that later.
Follow the jump to watch the video of first MINI Countryman rolling of the Graz Plant.
This whole journey of getting a new car started when this thought came to my mind one fine afternoon day..........
"I want something new!" Obviously, it doesn't require a rocket scientist to come up with such idea!
Apparently, MINIs sold quite well last month. March 2011 sales was 6,087 cars, up 68.5% compared to same month last year, making it the best March. Year to date for 2011 is up 41.4% versus 2010 (12,341 vs 8.728)