It’s hard to escape politics in Washington, especially this month with the change in administrations. But the D.C. auto show rolls into town next week, with plenty of new models to distract even hardcore political junkies. Here are three top cars to scope out.
MINI Cooper S Clubman
Mpg: 22 city/31 highway
0 to 60 mph: 7 seconds
The Clubman — known as the “maxi” Mini because of its stretched wheelbase — first arrived back in 2008. The slick, second-gen redo is a foot longer and almost five inches wider, giving the driver and passengers more breathing room. There’s also a whopping 46 percent increase in rear cargo space, which is accessed easily via twin barn-style doors that open automatically. Fit and finish is better too, with fancier trim, sportier seats and quieter interior. Even the stereo sounds better.
The quirky styling and retro toggle switches remain, as does the Frisbee-shaped infotainment system with its modish mood ring that changes color. As for safety gear, the forward collision warning and emergency braking systems are optional. But there’s no blind-spot monitoring or rear cross-traffic alert, which is disappointing. Still, the Clubman with superb handling, acceleration and handling, is a joy to drive, especially with the spunky turbo and all-wheel drive in the high-test S model. You can even switch between eco, normal and sport driving modes to mix things up on your commute home.
Mpg: 24 city/33 highway
0-to-60 mph: 6.9 seconds
Think of the Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA as long-lost twins. Both are cutting-edge compact crossovers, with rad designs and high-end features. And they actually share lots of automotive DNA: the QX30 is built on the GLA platform, with the same engine and many of the same parts. Yet the QX30 has plenty of key differences, including edgier styling, lower price tag and four trim levels (versus three for the GLA). The Infiniti is also lighter, faster and more responsive.
And those brakes are simply stunning, as if they were tuned for Gran Prix racing. The QX30’s interior design may not be as outré as the exterior, but it’s comfortable and refined. Some nice touches include a flat-bottomed steering wheel, Bose audio and panoramic moonroof. Creature comforts include automated parking assist, automatic high-beam headlights and a 360-degree, bird’s-eye camera.
Jaguar XE 35t R-Sport
Mpg: 20 city/29 highway
0-to-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
How hot is Jaguar? Its U.S. sales surged 116 percent last year, thanks to eye-catching designs and Jag’s first-ever crossover. Now comes the new entry-level XE sport sedan, which takes direct aim at the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. The XE delivers nicely, with punchy acceleration and responsive feedback. But beware the top-of-the-line R-Sport with its 340-hp, supercharged V6.
This speed demon is hard to resist, with performance-tuned suspension, rear spoiler and artsy alloy wheels. Options include power rear sunshade, power trunk lid and head-up display. There’s also adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, traffic-sign recognition and other safety items. And tech geeks will love the pop-up transmission knob, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot and large 10.2-inch touchscreen monitor on the infotainment system.