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The 2005 MCS: One Month Review

Going from an early 2002 Cooper to a 2005 Cooper S is dramatic in every way. First off there’s the power. While the biggest difference is in the middle and higher rev range, it’s all around a very noticeable change.. Then there’s the look. While there’s certainly less beauty with the large hood bulge, it’s an overall more aggressive appearance. Finally (and probably one of the biggest changes going from an ’02 to an ’05) there’s the huge improvement in build quality. All these combine to make my 2005 MCS feel like a thoroughly improved car from the ’02 Cooper I came from.

I picked up my new all black Cooper S (full spec here) from David Olenick at Knauz MINI on Friday June 5th. David had called earlier in the day to confirm that the car had just gotten there and Knauz would aim for a Saturday delivery. In the end David out did himself and pushed the car through prep within hours for a late Friday afternoon delivery. Kudos to all involved for making that possible.

The Cooper S was immediately put to work early the next morning with a trip to northern Wisconsin. Highway miles were easy as pie in the MCS with the sixth gear and just the right lumbar support dialed in. However, let me be the first to say that you don’t order 18″ wheels on a MINI to smooth out the highway ride. While it’s not that much worse than the ride most are used to with the S-lites or other 17″ wheel/runflat combos, there is a bit less rubber between you and those midwest frost heaves. It’s even worse going north on Interstate 196 in southwest Michigan. So much so that our 3 series wagon (sport pack, manual, SS exhaust, and ghetto looking MINI shift knob!) has now been drafted into all future Michigan service per my wife.

In the city, the Cooper S is right at home. With the new gearing and LSD the car is like a full-size slingshot just ready to be launched anytime anywhere. It’s also in this environment that the new exhaust note really becomes a great feature. While it could be a bit deeper, it’s still a great way to let folks know that this isn’t just some cute car.

The JCW 18″ wheels add to the effect. I’ve really grown accustom to knife edge handling that the larger wheels deliver. While you give up a small amount of comfort, there’s more on edge feel and composure compared to my old 17″ wheel tire set-up. They also look massive and do an admirable job of filling out those huge wheel wells that Mr. Stephanson penned. With the combination of the plastic arches and the high belt-line, my Black MCS with JCW wheels has a serious and sporty look about it. There can be no confusion as to the ultimate purpose of this car; cornering.

Unfortunately the end of my first week of ownership came to a crashing halt on a Saturday night when I was hit from behind. While I won’t go over all the details again here (you can read it all here) I can say that the car was fixed quickly and perfectly by Knauz MINI’s body shop. Only 12 hours later I was on my way down to Indianapolis for the USGP weekend.

Again the MCS performed well on the highway cruising at speeds that threatened MINI’s strict break-in procedure. I was also happy to report that after 1000 miles in Chicago’s roughest roads (and after hitting two or three monster potholes) the steering wheel was deadly still at high speeds and the wheels and tires appeared to be in perfect condition. More than can be said for the majority of the F1 field that weekend. That said I still sleep better at night knowing that I have full wheel tire coverage via add-on insurance offered by the dealer. Typically I wouldn’t recommend such a measure. However when the combo of the two approaching (actually surpassing it with the R95’s and R90s) 2k, it’s probably not a bad idea. Of course getting discounts on accessories upon purchase is also not a bad idea either.

So why would I spring for an option that, despite looking good and feeling great, has an obvious (if not over-blown at times) downside? Well to put it bluntly, I love the look and ultimately the on-road feel. They also do a great job at setting the car apart from handful of MINIs seen on a daily basis in and around the area. And as far as I’m concerned that’s the end of the story. After a month I would order them again in a heart-beat. In fact, perhaps the only other wheel I would have considered on the car would have been the 18″ Tecnomagnesio Detroit F1 (ironically something not available in the US). The Dunlop runflats are another story. They’ll probably be un-ceremonially replaced when worn beyond daily summer use. And of course a set of s-lites with all-seasons await winter duty come this November.

The other additions I’ve made to the MCS are really no brainers and are highly recommended:

There have only been a couple of disappointments with the car. For starters the leather/cloth seat covers don’t fit as snugly as I’ve seen most other MINIs (especially on the seat cushion bolsters). While the leather looks a bit better after being broken in, the fit and finish still isn’t ideal. Another is interior lighting on the speedometer (and especially the odometer) that isn’t as uniform as my ’02 Cooper. And finally, like other owners of MCS, I’ve come to know well the cold start idle issue. Of course the good news is that all of these are the type of problems that can be serviced at a good dealer anytime during the first four years or 50,000 miles of the full warranty. Such as it is, I’m certainly not concerned about any of them.

The 2005 MCS features three key improvements that equal one huge difference from all the Cooper S before it. We’ve all heard about it and we all know how well it’s been received. But until you live with the 2005 MCS on a daily basis you don’t realize what a change it is to the character of the car. Suddenly the MCS is a low-end torque machine. You can now easily maintain a healthy loss of traction all the way through first gear with DSC off. Upon moving into second, you announce your arrival with a huge burst of spinning rubber on pavement, the likes of which only a JCW equipped or modified pulley MCS could achieve before the 2005. Better yet, you can just about do all this with DSC on thanks to BMW’s long standing tradition of allowing the driver some fun before the electronic aids come to the rescue. It all makes for an added dimension to the MCS. One that is frankly hard to pass-up as an owner of a previous MINI.

One month, 1500 miles, and a big thumbs up.

Written By: Gabe

  • razorbackmini

    Amen brother!! Wondeerful review.

    I have an 05 Hyper Blue MCS and my experience mirrors what you report. I never owned a previous model MINI, so I have no way to compare. I only know that I absolutely love the performance of my MINI.

  • GSKChicago

    Fantastic write-up Gabe. Always enjoy reading different and/or new perspectives.

    The rims, as I said before look outstanding. I think the look far out weighs any ride degredation (or added bumps). I don’t see spending the money to get new rims for my ’05 at this point, but who knows.

    Keep enjoying the MINI.

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    great write-up gabe!

    as you know, your addition of the jcw 18″ wheels was like a giant lightbulb buzzing over my head and i too added the them (along with the jcw sport brake kit) to my 2005 mcsa. i agree that the dunlops are BRUTAL – especially trying to get out of manhattan and out to the twisties in the hamptons. the williamsburg bridge threatened to knock the fillings out of my mouth! so if i can make one suggestion i would tell you to say bye-bye to the run flats and get yourself some michelin pilot sports. i got them through tire rack (along with the continetal care kit which mixes air and a non-gooey fix a flat substance) and could not be happier! they are grippy beyond belief and my car now rides somoother than even my old 17’s! they are also the only tire which is manufactured to the EXACT size of the dunlops which come with the jcw wheel kit. other similar sizes will work, but i wanted to go with the same spec for obvious safety reasons.

    ok – don’t mean to sound like an ad here – just a little shop talk from one city bound 18″ wheel guy to another ; )

    cheers – drew

  • Rodney

    Have you had enough miles put on the car to acurately gauge gas mileage estimates.

    Normal driving of course! ;) Spinning through second not the best for gas milage. High up on the fun meter though… Good way to dump the runflats too! I’m trying to wear out my runflats so I can get some S03’s.

  • David

    Nice review, Gabe, although I have to say, the Web-Spokes are really sweet. I couldn’t replace them with the JCW 18s myself. I’m curious, what’s the weight on your JCW wheel? It looks light enough.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    The R95s 18″ JCW wheels are just touch over 23lbs if I remember right (almost two pounds lighter than the 17″ S-lites!). Somewhat surprisingly the Web spokes are only a pound lighter. The lightest of the OEM 17″ whees is the R99 at 21.9lbs. Of course all of this difference is really inconsequential for on road driving. If you participate in track days and want some real weight savings I would check out the aftermarket (or the 12 pound 15″ R81).

  • Knut

    great review Gabe, my MCS looks pretty much the same, though it’s a ’03.

    One thing I always wanted to tell: the Google translation service is hilarious. It translates ‘Cooper’ to ‘Fassbinder’, which translated back to english means ‘barrel-maker’.

    “going from a 2002 barrel-maker to a 2005 barrel-maker S…” :D

    Makes it nearly impossible to read :) but I’ll do it anyway from time to time, just for fun.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I was wondering why are translation stats were so high :)

  • beekman

    great review, but you bling wheel addicts need to find a good 12 step program to wean yourselves off those things . . .

    driving over nyc potholes, I find my 16″ x-lites are perfectly capable of rearranging my lunch, rattling my fillings, destroying my ability to reason effectively, etc without paying a premium.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    “I find my 16″ x-lites are perfectly capable of rearranging my lunch, rattling my fillings, destroying my ability to reason effectively, etc without paying a premium.”

    I’ve had MINIs with 16s, 17s, and now 18s and I’ve found that 18″ wheels aren’t really that much worse.

    And bling doesn’t start until you get to 20s :)

  • Paco

    The thrill of driving a MINI on straight, big city roads is to slalom around the potholes, the manhole covers, the delivery guys on bicycles and as many pedestrians as possible. That way the size of the wheels doesn’t matter so much!

  • 05DSMCS

    My Mini side knee pad is a must add-on. Simple, yet does so much to increase the comfort of your ride, especially as you throw yourself into tight left corners.

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    i think the jcw strut brace will also be a must have – when it finally comes out. adds some of the love of the suspension kit without harshing up the ride…

    • drew
  • RB

    Gabe, those rims are special. As far as the black goes….better you than me. I had my stint with a black vehicle and never again. Get yourself a California Car Duster.

    A note on your styling comment…..

    “Then there’s the look. While there’s certainly less beauty with the large hood bulge”……

    I, personally find the MCS to my liking and probably would not have bought a MC. I find the MC a bit wimpy in looks, but to each his own.

    As far as ride comfort I think any low profile tire is going to be a bit harsh. My wife’s ’05 A4 Quattro with the Sport pack has low profile tires that are not RF’s and they are nearly as harsh as my Dunlop SP Sport 9000’s.

    Having recently crossed the US, once on the I-90 in a MC with non RF’s & then the I-40 in a MCS with RF’s, I found that most of the time I had no complaints as to ride quality. Now that being said I must admit that the I-90 south of Chicago and the I-40 going through Albuquerque was some severe riding in both. I guess if ya want squishy ride get a Cad.

    Other than that I’m glad they have improved the car I notice the change from my ’02 MCS to my ’04 MCS. My daughter’s MC in somewhat in between. I had to deal with the squeaking rear boot for 3200 miles, in the MC, and no matter how I adjusted those rubber things it would not go away. Been fixed by the dealer with a new latch assemble.

    Nice whip nice write up….RB

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    i think the jcw strut brace will also be a must have

    Off topic – Actually a strut brace on a car like the MINI (small, extremely rigid, very little mass infront of the bulkhead) will most likely have little torsional impact. It will look trick though ;)

  • RB

    PS……………..

    I find the bigger problem is the RF rims. Most tire places can’t change them. So if I’m gonna have the RF rims might as have the RF tires. At least you won’t damage your rims while finding a place that 1. has the proper equipment and 2. has the tire.

    I will say my daughter’s MC was much quieter that my MCS without the RF’s.

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    I find the bigger problem is the RF rims.

    Off topic #2: The wheels on the MINI have no problem accomodating standard tires. The issue some tire places have is the mounting and unmounting RF tires on wheels – not the wheels themselves.

  • RB

    Thanks for that clarification as my tire guy told me it was the rims, no lip, and the tires, heavy sidewall, combined that caused them grief.

    I thought you and others brought up ride quality in your posts, so I don’t see where I was off topic. But then I like eggs!

    RB

  • http://finewine@ptd.net Hugh

    Glad you’re so satisfied! Since my ’05 MCS is my first MINI, I can only imagine the growth curve.

    I’m just curious about “In the city, the Cooper S is right at home. With the new gearing and LSD the car is like a full-size slingshot just ready to be launched anytime anywhere.”

    Although I opted out, I can see where LSD is an advantage for maintaining momentum in high speed cornering, but thought it was of no added value for off the line, green light starts. Where in city driving do you find it to be an advantage?

    hugh

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Where in city driving do you find it to be an advantage?

    Mainly on tight, curvy and uneven roads – pretty much what my entire daily commute consists of.

  • xplode

    thanks for the writeup gabe! getting excited… picking up my ’05 MCS in a couple weeks. also getting LSD, obviously, and already purchased aftermarket wheels w/ non-runflats. it will replace my ’02 MC, so we’re pretty much in the same boat.

  • Kennedy

    Hey Gabe (and others), one thing that stuck out to me was the amount of highway driving that you seemed to have done during the break-in period. BMW/Mini still seem to have a pretty strict recommended regimen for this… while break-in for other manufacturers seems to be diminishing almost to the point of “drive it like you stole it” off the showroom floor.

    I’d be curious to your thoughts. Even as a mechanical engineer and appreciating the vast improvments in machining and manufacturing over cars of yore, I’ve still been pretty docile with my 05 MCS to date (1100 miles).

    Have been planning on waiting for the in-between oil change at 5k, but even still I’ve had to restrain myself from just going out and swapping fluids at 1K just to be safe…

  • Ken

    “I find the bigger problem is the RF rims. Most tire places can’t change them. So if I’m gonna have the RF rims might as have the RF tires. At least you won’t damage your rims while finding a place that 1. has the proper equipment and 2. has the tire.”

    Hey, RB Would you believe I mounted a RF with standard tire tools? Yes by hand! It wasn’t fun but it was possible. It seems if the nail or punture is too close the the sidewall tire places want to sell you a tire that they don’t even stock.

  • greg

    torsional?….

  • Rollin

    In the paragraph about disappointments you mention “leather/cloth seat covers don’t fit as snugly” then later say “all of these are the type of problems that can be serviced at a good dealer anytime” – can the seat fit be fixed too?

  • Mark

    Does the Ice-Link Plus display text on the 05?

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    Does the Ice-Link Plus display text on the 05?

    I don’t have the latest firmware on my Ice-Link Plus so it does not. Presumably it would if I upgraded it.

    (leather/cloth seat covers don’t fit snug) can the seat fit be fixed too?

    If the fit leads to wear yes it can be replaced. If it just look terrible – it can probably be replaced. If it’s simply not perfect… the answer will be up to the dealer or MINI regional rep.

  • Paul

    Great writeup Gabe. I’m jealous as I’m still 10 weeks out according to best guestimate from picking up my 05 MCS. I opted for the JCW over the 18″ rims and tires but I did get the Sports package, Premium package, lsd, and the Octagon Red leather and cloth seats. I think it will look very nice against the Chili Red colored dash and anthracite headliner. I’ll send in pictures after it delivers.

  • MiniMe

    Gabe,

    Are you saying you wouldn’t select the cloth/leather upholstery if you were ordering another MCS? I am about to place my order and have been very indecisive about colors and upholstery. I figure I only have one shot at it and don’t want to have regrets…

  • http://motoringfile.com Gabe

    No – I think mine is the worst I’ve seen. Typically the fit seems to be quite a bit better.

  • Frank

    I have to agree with Gabe on that the ’05 shorter gearing (along with the other under-the-bonnet changes) totally and completely transformed the car. I come from a ’04 MCS with the taller gearing ratios and I can tell you the ’05 MCS drives like a completely different car! The waya MCS should drive.

    My ’04 MCS was very fatiguing to drive with the super tall 1st gear in city traffic. This is no longer an issue as the 1st gear in the ’05 MCS is 11% shorter than before.

    I am coming to 2,800 absolutely troublefree miles in my ’05 MCS.

    Gabe, you forgot to review the air conditioner. Needless to say, my manual A/C in the ’05 MCS can handle the 90F+ 100% humidity Miami heat!

  • Gary Pundsack

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the quality of the power, comfort and build quality of the ’05 MCS. I took delievery of mine in Houston 6/29 [at mini of the Woodlands–Aka DeMesa]and then spent 2 days in the best local tuner shop [Bavarian Hyper Sports–Joel Swanson]making extesnive modifications to the engine and suspension before returning to Scottsdale. I spent 4 days taking all the 2-lane back roads through TX, NM and AZ. What a blast! The Mini is the best handling and most fun car I’ve ever owned.

  • nrkist
    And bling doesn’t start until you get to 20s :)

    Gabe – you are clearly in major bling denial. Bling addiction is a treatable disease. There are people who can help. We’re gonna get you through this man.

  • Nate

    Man… that is one nice ride.

  • Neal J

    Thank you Gabe. I need to know where your from and if we drafted each other on the way home from, or to, the USGP. I live by Grand Rapids, MI.

    Ok, Dark Silver 05 MCS. I just put it up on jack stands for the 4 1/2 month long Michigan winter. I picked my MINI up in April this year and its garaged with 7500 miles. So, heres my 7500 mile review for those interested:

    1. Love, LOve, LOVE the car! Its my first MINI and I dont regret the purchase.
    2. The damn center speedometer enclosure squeeks. Im sure thats no surprise to anyone who owns one as I read that comment very often.
    3. Gas Mileage: My avg has been 27-28mpg. My commute is approx. 30 miles ea. way to work w/ on secondary, but nice roads.
    4. I noticed recently that the exhaust has a very distinctive pitch/rattle in the rear of the car, especially after getting over 4600 rpm’s. I have to have the dealer check that.
    5. My headlamp washer jets that stick out when using them does not retract back. I think I figured out what is causing it but havent fixed it yet.
    6. IPOD adapter: The volume is too low for some songs and I cant adjust it any louder. I have the HK system in it and for the price, im not very impressed with my restricted volume. The sound is beautiful though.
    7. What else…..yep, thats about it. Now I have to wait 4 1/2 months to take my baby back out and hit the roads.
  • Jojo

    Everyone here has a nice thing to say and great write up, Gabe. I’ll be picking up my 05 MCS this weekend after a long wait. Picking it up from Port Hueneme, CA then driving up 101 and Hwy 1 along the coast to get home to Sacramento. Hope Hwy 1 won’t be foggy. It’ll be fun driving the MCS through here. I’ve waited almost a year for the MCS because I bought it in Italy. Thanks!

  • http://www.nemini.org DaveTinNY

    It’s been 11 months today with my HBB MCS… 20,900+ trouble free miles. The best car most fun vehicle I’ve ever driven. I’m a little saddened by the sensitive nature of the paint (micro scratches here and there) but it still is beautiful when clean, waxed and under bright sunshine. Best looking car at IBM according to one of my coworkers. :-) I’m proud.

    Great write up, gabe.

    Dave

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