BMW’s version of ‘Gulliver’s Travels‘
By Oh Young-jin
One can argue that writing reviews about cars that have been around for a while helps nobody. A counterargument is that, if they are classics, you can be excused and write about them.
What if they are not in the category of being a classic? Then, one has to find a classic element that qualifies for a review.
Here are two cars, the X-1 and Mini Cooper S Countryman, which belong to the BMW family. The challenge is finding a common thread of a classic so one may write about them.
The classic thread goes back to Jonathan Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and, more specifically, the first part about Lilliput.
My version of Gulliver’s trip to the tiny nation began with an observation by my companion rider after a look-around and peek inside. “It is not as small as it looks from outside.”
Once inside, it no longer looked small. There was no need to try and find Lilliputians. It can accommodate four adults, if push comes to shove.
Everything was minimal and Spartan. It’s all plastic with little high-end furnishings and the seating fell short of genuine leather _ a major letdown from those who are accustomed to the X-3 and above. Even the steering wheel looked and felt smaller than that in bigger versions.
With no great expectations, a road test was given to this small beast whose size gave you the impression that it is well domesticated. Well, when it reached 170 kilometers per hour, it turned out to be nimble and quick to respond ― all that you didn’t expect it to be. Of course, after that watershed speed, it didn’t respond to repeated stomping on the gas pedal with the odometer appearing to be frozen at that number.
There were not many occasions that one could drive close to 200 kilometers per hour during the test drive because of monitoring cameras dotted along the highways and speed bumps installed along out-of-the-way patches of deserted paved roads.
It was a moment when one would feel like Gulliver who was betrayed by the Lilliputians after he helped them to subdue the neighboring Blefuscudians. But it had its advantages especially for those who are not SUV-trained. The X-1 from the 3 Series feels as low-slung as a sedan and can be driven like one rather than the crossover SUV it is.
Switching from the X-1 to the Countryman would make one feel odd.
First, the Mini Cooper is no longer mini when it becomes the Countryman. To the eyes of the original Mini-accustomed Lilliputians, it might look like a 22-meter giant Brobdingnagian because it betrays the expectations one has about the car.
A moment’s deviation from the classic and one could see a child pumped up on a diet of steroids. There can be little denying a fleeting feeling about Germans having finally achieved what their V2 rockets failed to during World War II ― conquering the island. Germans have done all they can to make the Mini German and the Countryman epitomize such an effort ― turning Pee-wee Herman into Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oops, I know the skinny man is American and Arnold was born in Austria.
For a size-conscious man, being caught riding in a Mini Cooper can be an embarrassment but the Countryman may soothe such bruised pride. But still, the car is quicker to respond than it appears. Handling is not bad and it can accelerate faster than it looks. I say for the Countryman, “Looks can be deceiving.” Still one may ask what it has got to do with classic. I would say, “Houyhnhnms.”