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Official MINI Armrest Reviewed

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Update: The armrest in this review has since been withdrawn by MINI due to several concerns. They have now released a new armrest which will be available on all Us spec MINIs with the Convenience Package and as a standalone option. You can find information on the new armrest here.

MINI has never included an armrest, and many have argued against the need for one. That may be true during spirited driving, but for many of us much of our time driving is spent sitting in traffic or on long straight drives on the highway. During these times I have always found my right arm wanting an armrest. There is a wide selection of aftermarket armrests out there, but many are poorly designed and very expensive.

I was about to purchase the Outmotoring Arc Armrest, which has a great design and is not as expensive as the others. But when MotoringFile premiered the Official 2005 MINI armrest I knew it would be my choice: exact match to interior material, continued use of cupholder, and interior storage, all for still less than most aftermarket armrests.

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When the MINI armrest was featured in a group buy for MotoringFile readers at a discounted price, I immediately jumped on board. After a long wait with no news of anyone else in the first group receiving theirs, one day I returned home to find a big box from Germany on my doorstep. I was the first in the US to receive the armrest and I wasted no time and immediately installed it.

Installation is very simple. The armrest is one piece, with metal legs that extend down and slide under the seat rails on the floor. Simply loosen the front, and remove the rear seat bolts and install it. It took me only 15 minutes. Once installed, it is very secure. You can easily put your weight on it without bending anything unlike most of the other armrests out there.

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The build quality is excellent. The body is strong plastic, the same charcoal color as is used throughout the MINI. The top panther black leatherette is the same material used in the MINI seats. The padding may feel thin when pressed with a finger, but when your arm is resting you’ll find it feels as if is is much softer–exactly the right amount for comfort and support.

The large button on the front features the MINI logo, and when pressed the lid pops open. It includes an antislip webbed foam sheet that surprisingly works very well. During several hours of spirited driving with a 9v battery inside, I only heard it bounce around once (my tires did not exibit as good traction!). The storage is a perfect spot for cell phone, ipod, head unit face, etc. Unfortunately it is not large enough to hold CDs, but given the small space between seats in the MINI, that can’t be expected.

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The armrest is positioned at the perfect height for shifting, the arm is level and feels natural. It does not interfere with the rear cupholder, and there is still space to access the inside seat levers. This brings me to the armrest’s one downside: it gets in the way of the e-brake handle. I find I usually grab the e-brake from the very top now, and if you pull up all the way, the grip will hit the armrest. It may be possibly to tighten the e-brake cable to avoid this. But then again this can be defended by the surprise I found shortly after installation: the entire armrest is hinged and can be lifted up and out of the way! None of the initial reports had mentioned this, and is not a feature in most aftermarket rests.

Overall I am very happy with the MINI armrest. Its look and position are perfect, it is highly functional, and it enhances your motoring experience instead of getting in the way. In my opinion it beats all the aftermarket armrests in all these categories and most importantly in value. The MINI armrest can be ordered from your dealer’s parts department, part number 52 12 0 154 307, $195.00 USD retail. The part should be available very soon, and starting January 2005 as a factory option or available as part of the Premium package on both convertible models. Feel free to add comments if you have any additional questions and I will try to answer them.

Rating: 4.5/5

Josh Wardell
www.jwardell.com/mini

Written By: MF Reader

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    A big thanks to Josh for contributing this. I'm much more impressed by the official armrest after reading the above review.

    Also a big thanks to Alex for organizing this group by from Germany.

  • cbowens

    Nice review Josh.

    It is hard to believe that the official Mini arm rest is as useful as is seems to be at that price point. Have a 40 socket torx ready & cannot wait for the day my big mangled box from Germany arrives.

    Chris

  • netoperator

    how about another group buy?

  • robert

    “”the entire armrest is hinged and can be lifted up and out of the way!””

    Does it stay erect during fast driving?

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian Cull

    My wifes Audi A4 armrest also is hit by the handbrake lever – must be a German feature ;)

    Nice review, Josh.

  • TJKonarski

    Any word on if it'll be available in other colors? I have the dark blue leather interior — even the plastic of the doors and sidewalls are all a dark blue. It would look like a mismatched after-thought if I installed a charcoal & black armrest. With as much as MINI pays attention to detail, I can't imagine that they'd send out '05 MINI Convertibles with an armrest included in the Premium Package that doesn't match the interior of the car. Anyone have any insight on this?

  • TJKonarski@aol.com

    … Then again, they only make the floor mats in black, gray and beige…

    Oh well.

  • Will

    I second the idea for a 2nd group buy. I missed out on the first and have been waiting for another chance.

  • RB

    Does the rest lock in the up position like my wife's A4 does?

    If it does, I asked Alex that question and never got an answer, I would go for a group also.

    Nice review. Any extra storage is a “Goodthing”.

    *RB

  • http://www.jwardell.com/mini/ Josh Wardell

    robert and RB, it should stay up due to friction, I don't think hard braking would cause it to fall. I can test that this weekend at the autoX.

  • Steve

    I have an arm rest too from Alex. When I fold it up, it doesn't go up all the way. it stays down a little bit. I dont' want to force it up any more, as it feels like it will break.. I would like to be able to fold it away from time to time though.

  • Dami

    I'm probably 1st to get that armrest in Chicago, so I'll do my MINI review :)

    1st off, box did come mangled as hell. Unfortunately one of the legs was tearing the box all the time since there was nothing in the box to hold armrest securely. But that's how it comes officially from factory. So unfortunately one corner of one leg got paint scraped off, but that's no big deal, can barely see it anyway.

    Installed in no time, all OK there.

    Usually I just point out things noone else point it, so that's what I'll do: It does swing, but doesn't lock. It doesn't have any position locking, meaning no higher-lower settings. I like to sit higher so it's a bit too low for me, had to lower the seat. Plastic is smooth, I wish it could be the same as on hand brake handle (textured, if you will). Open button is on non-movable part, not on top – so when you open first you press the button, then you open the top, not like in other cars I had you do it in one motion (like toyota, for instance). Of course doesn't really bother, but still. That foam inside the armrest is not secured and a bit too long so it's weavy inside – probably have to put more stuff in armrest to even it out over time. Those metal legs do look weird from back seat – again they probably didn't have any choice as MINI was designed without armrest to begin with.

    All in all I don't think quality is up to MINI's standarts, plastic is kind of cheap and again from the back it doesn't look “factory” But hey, $154 shipped, best price around.

    I hope I can make to Sunday's drive in Chicago, so Chicago MINI motoring club members can check that out for themselves.

  • Dami

    I forgot to add that it does interfere with seat adjusters, no matter up or down it is. And if you want to use hand brake not for parking but for “spirited” driving, you have to put armrest up. But it's true for most manual trans cars anyway.

  • RB

    WOW, there are some major opinion differences between these reviews.

    *RB

  • Dami

    Then again I'm a picky guy :)

  • GW

    I got in on the second round fo the group buy and mine should arrive shortly. Great review. How much does it interfere with the lumbar adjustment? Is it fully blocked, or just harder to get to?

  • Kelly

    For many, many years I have driven with an armrest and was certain I would need one. I even thought about delaying my order until Jan 05 inorder to get it in the premium package. But after picking up my MINI last week, I am finding I don't miss an armrest. I think it has something to do with the confort factor of the seats. But, if I ever do decide to get one this would be the design for me. Very nice!

  • http://www.richdenney.com Rich Denney

    I too missed out on the group buy and would very much like to see another one sometime soon!

  • http://jamesday.net/mini James

    I'm waiting for mine from a friend in Germany. It's great to see a factory armrest. Glad to hear it is easy to install and that it flips up. Thanks for the information.

  • Nick Nichols

    I agree with Kelly. I was going to wait till Jan 05. Glad I didn't. Have had my 05 MCS since late August–have not missed the arm rest at all. I actually like the less cluttered look. Thanks for letting me share.

  • Jon

    GROUP BUY! GROUP BUY! GROUP BUY!

    Will there be another group buy of these armrests? Please let us know if one is in the works. Lots of us motorists are interested!!!! :-)

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Remember everyone… this armrest will be available at US MINI dealers within a month or two.

  • RON

    I JUST CHECKED WITH MINI PARTS DISTRIBUTION. THESE ARM RESTS ARE HERE IN THE USA BUT ARE FROZEN BY MINI COOPER FOR SOME UNKNOWN REASON THAT NO ONE AT MINI COULD GIVE ME AN ANSWER FOR. THE FOLLOWING WHAREHOUSES HAVE IN STOCK: ONTARIO 17 SENATOBIA 06 JACKSONVILLE 10

  • Frankie

    Guess Josh has a loose e-brake, mine installed and does not make contact with the e-brake. In fact, the e-brake I have possibly is tight, it is quite hard to pull all the way to touch the armrest. :)

    Overally, I give 95/100 on this armrest, color, size, height and rigidness are right at the point. Only thing is the seat back lever is a bit hard to access, though accessable and it's no problem to access the back support knob. I need to pull up the armrest to adjust.

  • Joe K.

    I received mine the other day and am very pleased with the quality and design. It seems quite comfortable – now if only my '05 MCS would arrive so I could install it!

  • Steve

    I posted some pics of mine pre- and post-install on mini2:

    http://mini2.com/forum/showthread.php?t=69953&onlybyuserid=0&page=5&pp=15

    I would second Frankie's comment that it's difficult to hit the armrest with the ebrake. That may be b/c I have an '05 with slightly different dimensions. Also, I believe the '05 has a larger rear cupholder, and the back of the armrest sits about 1/4″ over the edge of the cupholder. But this would only slightly block a really large drink.

    As for up/down adjustability, it's the same height as the armrest on the door, so from that standpoint it works well ergonomically.

    My top doesn't pop open when the front button is pressed – have to press the button and pull it up.

    I agree with the comments regarding the rear legs – they look a bit out of place straddling the center console. But what can you expect from a retrofit? It certainly is sturdy.

    Overall I'm very happy with the purchase and big thanks again to Alex for organizing the group buy.

  • Frank

    While I have not missed not having an armrest in both of my MINIs, the “official” retrofit from MINI appears to be one of the best attempts to date.

    However, I have a hard time coughing up $200 for what essentially is a plastic box with a lid. If there is ever a group buy and the price significantly drops I might be interested.

    So since MINI is now issuing thier own cupholder, armrests, etc solutions, what will happen to their relationship with MINIFINI??

    Is it over between MINIUSA and MINIFINI? Any insights?

  • http://www.jwardell.com/mini/ Josh Wardell

    Dami my box was mangled too, but then again it was a thin box and came all the way from germany…no issues though, and others who will be buying from their dealer won't have to deal with that.

    Yes the rest swivels to about 80 degrees instead of 90 but I don't see that as a problem, I wouldn't normally drive with it up (with the exception of some fun in the snow for a few minutes).

    I don't think the build quality is worse than then normal. MOST parts of the MINI are plastic. Not sure what you are expecting. And it is strong, not cheap plastic.

    GW I don't have lumbar adjustment. It does not interfere at all with the inner seat levers, if that helps. Folding it up may clear a better path to the adjustment.

    Yes the legs may look out of place from the back (the back seat hardly gets used anyway) but I would rather have that for sturdiness than others' that attach to the plastic console.

  • tom

    Hard to believe a functinal item like an armrest is a purchased option. Perhaps we can soon charge extra for a steering wheel?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Tom – many enthusiasts prefer not to have armrest as can interfere with shifting action among other things. In fact outside the US it's commonly looked at as something not appropriate for a sporty car.

    I can guarantee you that it was the US market response that prompted this accessory.

    But don't take this the wrong way all you armrest fans out there…I don't mean to pass any judgment… just stating what some believe.

  • J

    Can someone confirm that these arm rests are compatible with all minis? I'm particularly concerned about a certain 2003 Cooper.

  • http://pocket-rocket.smugmug.com/Cars Pocket Rocket

    The below is not true.. they only IMPORT these colors but they do make other colors like hmmm BLUE

    TJKonarski@aol.com / October 22, 2004 8:26 AM … Then again, they only make the floor mats in black, gray and beige…

    Oh well.

  • TJKonarski@aol.com

    What Gabe says is true. For instance my in-laws have one of those sporty Jaguar convertibles… No cup holders anywhere in it. I understand Europeans don't see much use for those either.

  • scooblymonchee

    Paddy Hopkirk didn't need no stinking armrests!

  • Volkan

    Someone over at MINI2 mentioned that the reason for the “frozen” shipment of the armrest from the US dealers is due to a “defect” in the armrest. Well… I hope NOT! If that happens, can we take these to any US MINI dealers for an exchange possibly, even though they were purchased from Germany? I am still -patiently- waiting for my big box to arrive to Los Angeles. 22 days and counting……

  • Bart

    Mine arrived intact although a bit soggy (it was raining that day and the box was on my front stoop) no issues though. I really like it, but I also wish it swiveled up a full 90 degrees so as to be completely out of the way if desired.

    Overall it's a keeper.

    THANKS ALEX!!!!! :)

  • slh

    My guess is that the offical armrest wont be released in the US until december 04 because december 03 was when MINI released the Mini-Fini armrest as an official part number. Thus my guess would be that mini-fini had a contract with MINI USA to supply armrests for one year.

  • Harold

    Received and instaled my armrest Thursday.

    I am very happy with it and I think it finishes off the interior nicely- now when I look at another Mini I think “where's the arm rest?”

    I do not see any interference with the lumbar, or any seat adjusment and I am happy with the quality- all but the loose piece of non skid that comes as its interior lining- I think that looks a bit cheap- but it works!

  • http://www.jwardell.com/mini/ Josh Wardell

    This just in from my dealer: RE: MINI FRONT ARMREST

    TO: Parts Managers

    From: MINI Parts

    The MINI front arm rest kit shown on EPC, Diagram 52_3173 (52 12 0 154 307) is not approved for the US MINI's.

    All backorders have been canceled.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Well that's pretty interesting.

  • Joe K.

    I wonder if that means it's not yet approved for U.S., or there will have to be a different factory option design for the U.S……?

  • http://www.newmini-technik.de Alex

    Hey ho guys :) !

    I might be starting two new group buys if anyone is interested!?. This time postage&packing&shipping would go faster cause I will be taking care of it :) !.

    (1)

    Armrest for 154$ including postage&packing

    (2)

    Facelift Xenon's !

    1.299,-$ (expected dealerprice in the US – correct me if i'm wrong!?)

    880,-$ (group buy price + postage&packing)

    Best wishes to ya'll and a happy halloween!

    alex

  • Harold

    WHy would they not be approved? They look great and I see no design flaw w/ regards to safety??? Well, just makes my Mini even MORE special ;)

  • Lonnie

    Alex – I would be interested in your group purchase. Can you send me an email on where to contact you for payment details. Lonnie

  • Brett

    Alex,

    I too am interested in the armrest group buy. Please let me know how to contact you for payment and shipping.

    Thanks

  • Peter Savigny

    Alex,

    I cannot figure out how to reply to your group buy request. Please contact me as I would like to join in.

    Peter

  • Nathan Sumner

    I am interested in a group buy for the armrest to Alex.
    Nathan Sumner

  • Bud Owens

    Alex, I am interested in the new armrest groupbuy! Please email me with the details.

  • Sid

    Yes!…Alex, please put me down for one ;D

  • Terry Roeder

    Please ,Please put me down for one.Thanks Alex.PM me.Terry


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