It’s a special-edition Mini. Although that in and of itself isn’t particularly noteworthy—Mini churns out a new variant, like, every 10 minutes—the Mini Camden talks to you in reaction to driver inputs. But more on that in a second.
Available solely on 2010 Mini Cooper and Cooper S three-doors and named for a tony North London neighborhood, the $5000 Camden pack consists of one of three metallic paint colors, sport seats covered in special leather and cloth upholstery, dynamic traction control (DTC), hood graphics and a rally-style grille badge, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights, an upgraded Harman/Kardon audio system, floor mats, special interior trim, 17-inch wheels, and fog lights. Oh, plus the talking thing, which Mini calls Mission Control.
For now exclusive to the Camden, Mission Control consists of multiple “characters” (including Climate, Engine, and a saucy female overlord) that react to the way you drive based on a variety of sensors. Rev a cold engine, and the voice of the engine chimes in with a British-accented “Not warmed up yet, I’ll let you know when I am” or “I’m still cold.” Hard cornering or flat-footing the accelerator elicits responses ranging from “Let’s Mini!” to “Woo-hoo!” Every response has several associated sound bites so you’re not hearing the same chatter all the time; we heard at least a dozen variations on engine temperature alone. The whole thing annoyed some of our less fun-loving testers, but it made most of us laugh. In any event, the conversation doesn’t last long; Mission Control chimes in less frequently five or so minutes after startup. And if you don’t want to hear it at all, the system can be toggled via a switch located in the Mini’s smaller upper glove box. Or you can kill it off permanently by removing the SD card that slots in next to the on/off button.
See and hear the Camden for yourself in this video.
How Does It Drive?
The Camden package, which also serves as a celebration of Mini’s 50th anniversary, doesn’t change the way the base Cooper drives at all. The light-on-its-feet feel, the quick steering, and the solid chassis are all there. Although it won’t set the drag strip on fire with a 7.7-second 0-to-60 run and 16.3-second quarter-mile at 85 mph, the Mini’s 118-hp engine is willing and doesn’t complain—once it’s warmed up, that is—about running up to its 6500-rpm redline. If you want a quicker Camden chatterbox, move up to the Cooper S.
How Does It Stack Up?
In the world of compact cars that speak in accents straight from Old Blighty, the Mini Cooper 50 Camden is the undisputed champ. But in truth, bloating the price of a base Mini Cooper by five grand for what really amounts to an appearance package doesn’t strike us as a great idea unless you were going to spec most of the included equipment anyway. Although the fun aspect of the base Cooper remains and Mission Control is worth a chuckle, just perusing Mini’s own lineup reveals that the same $5000 will get you into a base non-Camden Cooper S with a turbocharged 172-hp four; it starts at $23,000. Given the choice between this package and a more powerful car, we’ll take the latter, thanks.
What’s the Cost?
A base Mini Cooper starts at $19,500, and the 50th Anniversary Camden package adds $5000 to the tab. As we said, the quicker, more entertaining, and less talkative regular Mini Cooper S starts at $23,000. Camden-equipped Cooper and Cooper S models are available now at Mini dealers and are limited only to this model year.