Mini Connected

A different kind of driver engagement

By Shahzad Sheikh

Mini Connected

Mini Middle East and AGMC (the local dealer) recently took us for lunch at the swanky new burger joint on the Palm Jumeirah, West 14th New York, where the burgers are as big as a football and the cheesecake is, well that’s as big as a Mini!

Anyway, as they say in America, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so I suppose I’d better tell you about Mini Connected – which are essentially a selection of ways Minis can now keep the driver engaged should the driving get a little dull, which to be honest it doesn’t in a Mini, but there’s other reviews for those.

Mini Connected

Mini connected is the name of the manufacturer’s latest infotainment systems. Considering that Motoring Middle East is extremely active online and through our social media channels particularly Facebook, one feature that was of special interest to me was the ability to surf on the go.

Well not exactly on the go. You have to be stationary for it to work. And you have to have an iPhone that’s connected up with a data package and which has your social media accounts installed. Then you can check your Facebook and Twitter updates. You can even ‘Like’ and ‘Comment’. It will also let you post updateS about your journey and the weather. And Foursquare, well that will just tell everyone where you’ve been in your Mini.

Mini Connected

Another useful web-based featured is RSS newsfeeds, which you can select on the Mini Connected App on your iPhone. And the news is particularly good when it comes to your favourite radio channels, because you can listen to any channel you like now through web radio.

Go into the Dynamic Music mode though and things get a little weird – the system can choose the tracks depending on your mood – God help if it you’re er… going through hormonal issues! Actually it works off your driving style by monitoring your acceleration etc to select the tempo of the music. Hmm… not quite sure about that one.

Mini Connected

Then there’s the Excitement Analyser which also monitors your driving style and even shouts stuff like ‘ready for excitement’ should you select ‘Sports’ mode. On the other end of the scale, the ‘Minimalism’ mode is all about how economically you drive. There was something to do with keeping the goldfish alive and being able to upload your scores, but I’d nodded off after that big lunch.

There’s obviously a navigation system that works by voice command, and taking of voices, you’ll be hearing plenty – and rest assured they’re not just in your head, should you switch to Mission mode. Then you get three separate voices saying stuff like ‘How much fuel have we got engine?’ ‘Well there’s two-thirds left, we can go some distance with that!’ ‘The sunroof is open, it’s a bit hot today.’ ‘You just accelerated from 60 to 90 in 1.9 seconds,’ or phrases to that effect.

Mini Connected

They’re quite loud and boisterous and frankly a bit annoying. I’ve dubbed this feature the ‘Billy-No-Mates mode’ for lonely people who have no friends.

Joking aside though, it could be argued that there’s a little too much information coming at you, that the voices are grating, that it all smacks of Mini trying too hard to be ‘fun’ and focussing on the iPhone is a little restrictive (unless the dealer is throwing in free iPhone 5s with each car!), and I’d probably agree with most of that.

Mini Connected

However, what BMW is doing through offering these new apps across all current generation Minis, is setting the scene for more interactive connectivity between our cars and our daily lives – half of which, let’s face it, are now spent online. So overall this is a strategy aimed at a bringing the car inline with our phones, our TVs and our computers.

It makes practical sense, if you really think about it, and it will surely only be a matter of time before more and more car makers offer similar systems with better, more sophisticated interfaces. It’s also in the sense that it uses important technology such as sensors and monitors.

Mini Connected

For example I can see something as frivolous as the music Dynamic Mode setting to be developed into something that’s monitoring the alertness and health of the driver, and be able to contact the nearest emergency services should there be a serious problem.

All clever stuff, but I do have one comment though: all that technology, and still no reversing cameras?!

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