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My quest to find a new SUV

My quest to find a new SUV

As I said in my previous blog post, I was getting jealous of Kevin’s new MINI Cooper Countryman because #1 – It was a new car in the house, and #2 – he was getting all sorts of cool accessories to personalize it. Before Kevin bought his MINI Countryman, I had no intention of buying a new car, since my Nissan Murano was running just fine, although it was getting sluggish. Even though it was over 17 years old, and had over 256,000 miles on it, I hate change of any kind and one part of me wanted to keep driving it, to see how long it would actually last.

I loved that Murano so much that I always figured I would replace it with a newer version. Then I started looking at the 2021/2022 SUV’s, and looking at my options, and decided that I needed to make a list of my “must-haves” and “can’t live without’s,” prior to shopping for a new vehicle.

First off, I knew that I wanted a brand new SUV because I needed space and I didn’t want to buy a used car (unlike Kevin who didn’t want to buy a new car.) My Murano had about 70 cubic feet of cargo space and I used every inch of that space, in some of my shopping excursions to Miami. Plus it provided a lot of room to sleep in, on long road trips as well. I also knew I wanted leather seats that were ventilated. We have no need for heated seats here in Florida, but ventilated seats? Be still my beating heart! So that basically was the needs for my search…a brand new SUV with 70 cubic feet of space and Ventilated Leather seats. (Keep in mind, I still lusted after a MINI Countryman of my own, but it didn’t meet the cubic feet requirement I needed for shopping trips, and every time we drove in Kevin’s car, I would get a headache from sitting in the seat.) The SUV would also have to have a cool color, because everyone knows how important color is when buying a new car!

So the search began…I am not kidding when I say that we test drove pretty much every SUV out there, starting with the Nissan Rogue, the Cadillac XT4 and XT5, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Acura RDX, Subaru Crosstrek and Forester, Jeep Compass and Grand Cherokee, Lexus NX, Toyota 4 Runner, and the one SUV I absolutely lusted after, which was the Porsche Macan. I test drove a VW Atlas and even thought of waiting for the VW Taos to be released later in the year. Some SUV’s were too big, some were too cheaply made, most didn’t handle well at all, for their size, and 99% of them had crappy ventilated seats. It began to feel like a case of Goldilocks, not being able to find the correct size bed.

I could go into detail of why these SUV’s weren’t cutting it for me, but since I’m sure a lot of people drive some of these, I wouldn’t want to piss anyone off! On the positive side, if you are looking for an SUV with ventilated seats, the absolute hands down winner is the Mazda CX-5. No other SUV even came close to comparing to how well Mazda’s ventilated seats worked. I really wanted those seats but I didn’t really like the front end of the Mazda CX-5, and the color choices were really limited.

I even tried “building” a new MINI Countryman online, but didn’t like the price tag of what that would have cost me. Damn! I really wanted a MINI…..but the cargo space was still too small for me.

An odd thing I found in this new car hunt was the “tech” that was in all the new cars. Every one of the SUV’s had a tech console on top of, or in the dash, with navigation, touch screens, Apple Car Play, etc., and mostly all of them looked somewhat strange, like the auto manufacturers had just glued an iPad on the front dash. Not many of these systems were integrated very well, into the dash area, and the look they gave was really throwing me off.

After several exhausting days of test driving cars, as a last resort we went to a Hyundai dealership. I didn’t really want a Hyundai, but their warranties were good, nothing else was working out, so I said: “What the Hell – let’s go test drive a Hyundai.”

It was there that I met the newly designed 2022 Hyundai Tucson. I was really surprised by how much I liked that SUV. It had the space I needed, came in an awesome blue color, had the tech integrated perfectly into the dash, it had interior lights you could change, leather and most importantly, ventilated seats. It handled much better than all the other SUV’s we had driven, and didn’t have to be put into “Sport Mode” to get any sort of solid feel to it, while driving. It also had a decent price tag, compared to the other new SUV’s.

I was shocked. I didn’t want to like a Hyundai, but all of a sudden it was the front runner for me. We even went back out and drove the Hybrid version of the Hyundai Tucson, but the color choices were more limited. I didn’t know what to do! I still lusted after a MINI Countryman (built another online during all this), had lusted after the Porsche Macan, had loved the look and luxury of the Acura RDX, but here I had found an SUV that had everything I was looking for…my only issue was could I make this Hyundai Tucson look anywhere near as cool as Kevin’s MINI looked?

A few days later I had lunch with a friend in Tarpon Springs. There was a MINI dealership in that area, so I told Kevin that I was going to stop by, to look at a new MINI Countryman, just for the hell of it. So after that lunch, I headed over to the MINI dealer, saw the few new MINIs they had in stock and then spotted a used 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman on the lot, which we then got in for a test drive. OH MY GOD! It was a totally different drive/feel than Kevin’s 2014 MINI! The 2018 MINI Countryman was roomier, more modern, had Sport seats (which added an extension under your legs), tons of other upgraded features, and it had slightly more cargo space. Immediately I felt an absolute thrill driving that 2018 MINI! It had the true sports handling I had been looking for, took corners tight, and blasted past everyone on the road.

I was now thrown for a loop. I loved the 2018 MINI Countryman, but I also loved that damn Hyundai Tucson. What’s a girl to do? The Tucson had all the features I thought I was looking for, but it wasn’t a MINI. After that MINI test drive, I knew I couldn’t buy a newer year MINI Countryman, because the instrument cluster had gone digital, and I liked the analog cluster better. If I wanted to buy a MINI it would have to be a used one, prior to 2019, when the instrument cluster changed. There also wasn’t any MINI, past, or present, that had ventilated seats. ARGH! I wanted a damn MINI so bad, but would that really be the right choice for me? I went home and started obsessing over which car to buy, and watching YouTube videos, etc. One great thing about MINI Coopers is that there are so many colors and accents to customize the car with. From an artistic point of view, MINI was the way to go if you really want to express yourself.

That weekend, I talked to my friend Sandra about this whole car buying conundrum, and she told me a story about MINI Coopers. Sandra’s husband Chris, drives an older Toyota FJ Cruiser and apparently FJ owners do “meet-ups” around the US. She said that the last time they had been in Colorado, for one of these FJ meet-ups, she remembered seeing tons and tons of MINI Coopers passing them on the road. She asked someone why there were so many MINIs on the road, and was told about “MINI takes the States” which apparently is a bi-yearly MINI Owners Road Rally that MINI puts on for their customers. She sent me a video she found, of a previous MINI Takes the States Rally, which I watched until it brought me to tears. It was so fucking cool to see hundreds of people, all with unique MINI Coopers, meeting up and driving their MINIs together across the US. It was right then and there that I decided I must become part of the MINI family!

Plus, when I really thought about it, I wasn’t shopping as much as I used to, and definitely not on a daily basis, so if I ever needed a larger SUV for a trip, I could always rent one.

So the search was on…Since we had just done this search for Kevin’s Countryman, I knew the drill. Make a list of the features that I wanted and start looking. We weren’t limited to just local dealers since there are so many possibilities to buy online at places like CarMax, Carvana, and Car Gurus. Now that I was looking in MINI territory, I knew exactly what I wanted and didn’t want. It had to be a Cooper S Countryman, since the “S” models had turbo engines. It had to be an automatic with a black headliner, power adjustable seats, and while leather seats would be nice, I would settle for the MINI Leatherette seats as long as they were the Sport seats. Low mileage would be good, upgraded wheels, and a sun/moon roof would be nice, but not necessary. MINIs come in so many different configurations, you have to keep track of the features you are looking for. As far as exterior color went, MINI had some gorgeous blues, (none made in the years I was looking for) and I couldn’t get red, because Kevin already had that color. I didn’t really want a basic color like White, Gray, or Black, but after seeing so many photos online, I figured I could always wrap the car in vinyl if needed, so the exterior color was the least of my worries.

I started this search in early 2021 and available cars (both new and used) were getting scarce due to supply chain issues, because of the lingering pandemic. One week prices would be high and the next week they would come down. Sometimes there was inventory, sometimes there wasn’t. I would find a MINI I liked, but there was always something that didn’t fit my criteria.

All in all, the search took less time than I thought. On Memorial Day, 2021, I looked on the Carmax website and found my MINI in Texas. It was a 2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman, in Lapisluxury Blue, with low mileage, automatic, Black headliner, and power Sport seats. This MINI also had upgrades like Apple Car Play, touchscreen display, keyless entry, back up camera, Heads Up display, parking assistant, panoramic moon roof, and heated front seats, to name a few. All were features I didn’t expect to find but were welcome additions since most were expensive add-ons to original builds.

I hesitated for one moment, because it was going to cost me $800 to ship the MINI to Florida (which wasn’t refundable if I chose not to buy the car), but other than that, it was the perfect match to what I was looking for, so I hit the Buy Button.

I used to joke that I always wanted to get a car with a Bow on it, and it finally arrived!

2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman in Lapisluxury Blue

2018 MINI Cooper S Countryman in Lapisluxury Blue

See why I wanted to become part of the MINI Family by watching a recap video of the 2022 MINI Takes the States Rally.

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