MF Exclusive: Behind the Wheel of the R56

We’ve got a world exclusive for you today. First impressions and a first drive of a pre-production 2007 MINI. You’ll see a lot of R56 “spy shots” in the coming weeks and months from the automotive press, however you won’t get other first hand accounts like this. While we obviously can’t say where they come from, we can verify that both are 100% legitimate.

Just thought MotoringFile readers would like to know I’ve been driving around in a new R56 Cooper for several hours and my first impressions are ‘it’s great’!

The new interior is superb, the dash and controls are all there and function much the same as the current car apart from the integrated radio which has an iDrive-ish sort of operation. Seats are quite different from the current car, (not sure about the design) but time in the car will tell. Interior gadgetry is all fine and functional, but it would take a while to get used to.

The new engine is quiet and free revving. I’d say better than the current unit for smoothness and zip. All the handling of the current MINI is still there, but has this was a very low mileage car (and the roads damp and greasy), I didn’t really feel comfortable pushing it too hard.

All in all its a fine car despite the obvious bits which are not production spec yet (and certainly not based on production tooling).

We also managed to get another first hand account of the new R56. Here are a few more interesting bits of information.

With regards to final styling, we’ve been told that the r56 does indeed look close to this recent Auto Bilde rendering. Apparently the car is slightly larger in most dimensions. Also of note, the bonnet vent on the MCS will resemble that of the Tokyo concept wagon, meaning there will be no plastic insert. This is the first we’ve heard of this so at this point there’s no confirmation.

According to our source the MINI plant in Oxford has already built about 20 R56 MINI test mules and is planning on finishing up to 50 by Christmas. That’s 2-3 a day!

We should have further information on the next generation MINI in the coming weeks and months.

For those keeping score at home, yes, the photos above have appeared on MF previously.

  • Ian C.

    Congrats Gabe on this scoop :)

  • Derek

    Gabe you are a Coopersooperscooper…


  • step

    I hope the radio controls are not too similar to the current iDrive interface…i found it kind of clunky and unintuitive

    i am glad they kept the climate controls to physical dials.

    looking foward to more inside scoop about the r56 Gabe

  • Fishbulb

    gabe…nice scoop!

    any chance we can get a confirmation on the rear suspension? has it been dumbed down? Is this a turbo “S” car…. ????


  • Ted

    As we wait in anticipation for the official release of the next generation vechicle…a Holiday Expectation.

    Predictions… improved performance 3-5%; Instrumentation & gagetry = similar to a new release of software with added functionality; Basics updated to reflect some differences with the R50 with different technologies; Customization(Personalization) likely more new options with similar total choices overall, and the accessories will be increasd. Increased frequency of variations of the R56 platform (ie. Park Lane, Checkmate, etc) Styling = enhanced statement of the original MINI concept. Driving Experience = MINI (more smiles to be created & continued) Overall continuing the expansion to the MINI genome. All very welcomed & unmistakenly MINI for sure.

    It’s the expectations of the R59 R60 R61 models that have everyone’s imagination working overtime.

    Thanks Gabe

  • Zeke


    This is some of the more encouraging news about the R56.

  • nina simone

    Fab, Gabe! ;D

    Wonderful. Lovin’ the suspense. Almost prefer not to see too far into the future.

  • ukpylot

    Very interesting! What’s all the stuff that appears on the electronic display on the speedo? Looks very small and cluttered in the shot you have.

  • Z4MINI

    This is good news.

    1. I really like the spyshots of the new interior.
    2. This gives confirmation that the engine is more peppy AND smoother. That’s a combination you don’t hear about very often.

    Sounds like good stuff to me.

  • scatpack

    I’ve seen it in person.. and I cannot comment on it. But this scoop is off the mark in alot of ways.

  • Bilbo Baggins


    You say; “Apparently the car is slightly larger in most dimensions.”

    Does this mean that the wheelbase and overall length have been in increased?

    Just curious.


  • Giacomo

    HELLO THE “S” has nothing to do with the supercharger………….GEEZ already!

  • dgszweda


    Congrats on the scoop. Will you be posting the second review?

    While it is great to hear, I want more. Was this an “S” or a normally aspirated car. I am still very curious in the engine.

  • NSS

    Isn’t it weird to get secret scoop from someone who has the car? If there’s only 20 of them, can’t MINI figure out who it is who’s blabbing? Seems odd to me. And then someone else who has seen it says the person who is driving it is all wrong? Hmmmm. Maybe it’s just me, but something seems wacky.

  • anonymous

    I’m curious just how many current mini owners would buy an 07 vs the last of the 06s out there when the time comes….

  • Luke

    It’s going to be in MINI’s interest to release tidbits of information leading up to launch. I think we’re all certainly excited about the new, new MINI.

  • vin.

    Strong work, Gabe!

  • alpinamike

    Can’t wait to see more pics of the center dash! Hope they intergrate I-Drive gagets! -alpinamike

  • greg

    How about those interior pix?

  • Greatbear

    What? No one posted yet asking if there would be a retrofit available? 😉

  • Juno

    “I’ve been driving around in a new R56 Cooper for several hours “

    Very interesting … Suppose I’d better place my order soon …

    It’s a fine detail, but this means that the R56 is a Cooper, not a Cooper S?

    The “leaked roadmap” doc we saw recently [authenticity questioned – was as seen at ?] did present more questions than answers, but did imply that that the R56 might be a regular 3-door & that the R55 might be a Cooper S.

    It seems to me that the R56 tag is currently being used to refer to any of the next generation MINI’s, so I have a couple of questions: –

    1 – Am I correct in thinking the R56 tag is actually for the Cooper version?

    2 – The Cooper S (turbo) version, when it hits the streets, will actually be the R55?


  • Floyd

    Hope the radio is fantastic because you’re sure not going to be able to change it out from the looks of things. Still waiting for a decent pic of the front and its “pedestrian friendly” bumps. Thanks Gabe

  • Fishbulb

    “I’m curious just how many current mini owners would buy an 07 vs the last of the 06s out there when the time comes….”

    We own a 05 MSCa that my wife drives. I’ll be ordering my 06 MCS before the end of he year.

    Yeah, there is promise of the next great thing with the new car. But how long before they get it right? How long before the S is out? Plus, I just sold a turbo car, i really like the feel of the SC….


  • Timothy
    Apparently the car is slightly larger in most dimensions.

    Might want to triple check this bit. The original held size for 40+ years, and it’s pretty important.

  • mark pierce
    Might want to triple check this bit. The original held size for 40+ years, and it’s pretty important.

    Actually the mark 1 original Mini was slightly smaller than all further iterations!

  • Bruce
    Actually the mark 1 original Mini was slightly smaller than all further iterations!

    ?? Regular round-nose Mini saloons were always 10ft 1/4 inches in length from the first ones in 1959 to the final ones made in 2000. 120.25 inches = 305cm

    Body width likewise remained unchanged (excluding varying sizes of exterior mirrors and add-on wheelarches).

  • Timothy
    Actually the mark 1 original Mini was slightly smaller than all further iterations!

    I can’t find a reference to a size increase with the Mk 2. In fact, the references I’m finding indicate that length held the same (at 10 feet 0.25 inches, sometimes listed as 120.3 inches) through the entire run (with the exception of variants of course, e.g. estates). Width might have changed slightly when the doors got “kicked out” (to increase interior elbow room). By the 1990s this effect is certainly visible.

    The size issue matters to some purists who think the current car is already plenty big enough and who’d like to see the designers achieve better space efficiency rather than “cheat.” I think I’m in that camp, actually. A MINI, first and always, better be mini.

  • Bruce
    Width might have changed slightly when the doors got “kicked out” (to increase interior elbow room). By the 1990s this effect is certainly visible.

    The move from sliding windows to rollup windows did not increase the Mini’s width. Any effect perceived otherwise is only an illusion. The 1990s Minis used the same rollup window doors as found on the 1960s Hornet/Elf Mini variations.

    Back to the current car. I’m in agreement with those who want to see the new MINI grow no larger than today’s MINI. Slightly smaller with a better utilization of interior space would be even better.

  • Lucas

    I for one think the current MINI is already too big. Sure its one of the smallest new car you can buy in North America, but it surely isn’t the smallest non-smart car in europe.

    Huge part of the charm of a MINI is definitely its size, second is handling. Doesn’t look like the new one is TOO big however, but its still a step in the wrong direction.

  • Jack

    I will be ordering an 06 before the end of the year fully loaded. I like the 06 body as well as interior and I do not want to wait for the 07 bugs to be worked out. I was wondering when would be the best time to order with the talk of the plant shut down and some concern about quality issues. I did talk with my dealer and he of course told me not to worry about QC as most is robotic

  • O(=^=)O Capn


    Let the misinformation begin!!!

    And to if I would buy an 06 v 07, one word-


  • Paul C.

    “I’m curious just how many current mini owners would buy an 07 vs the last of the 06s out there when the time comes….”

    “I for one think the current MINI is already too big.”

    On the first point, I’ll wait and see but I wouldn’t want to trade my Indi Blue 04 S anytime soon. I think the 06 will be a better choice and I can see the wait lists get tight as slots fill before the 07 ramp up.

    On the second point, I don’t like the fact they are going bigger. I thing this is the biggest problem I see with the “new re-redisgn”. Granted I want to support Mini, we all do, but bigger…..hmmm?!

  • James

    Hmmm, let’s see…slightly larger body, sloping headlamps, turbo engine…sounds suspiciously like the new VW GTI to me!

    Outside of the engine/weight change and the one-piece grille, I don’t see much else I like. My next order will be for an ’06 before they’re gone.

  • Greg W

    Does size matter? In MINIs case, yes. Most cars have grown with each model year – i.e. Mazda where the 323 was the smallest now its the medium, BMW where the 3 series was the smallest now medium. I agree with other comments – why try and grow the 2 door. Leave extra room for the Wagon and other variants. Otherwise they’ll need a new MINI mini in a few years.

  • Bryn

    I certainly agree with MINI being mini. (Bear in mind that the BMW MINI is already two feet longer than the BMC/BLMC Mini it replaced). Just cast your mind back to the Golf Mk1 and the first Polo and you can see what could happen; the temptation to ‘improve’ into a larger body. The Golf Mk1 was smaller than the current Polo and the original Polo was smaller (I think) than the Lupo which then had to be introduced to maintain a small car in the line-up. As a single person – and there are plenty of us in the market – I want a car that is – first and foremost – PERSONAL transport, and the fact that I am currently able to buy a (small) MINI is a major reason why I recently made the buying choice that I did. If BMW upscale then they risk another manufacturer stepping in to fill this niche. For those who want a compact car,there are plenty of choices but – so far – only one that lives up to the name of MINI, and that’s the whole raison d’etre for the separate brand. If they go ahead and add a station wagon and speedster to the range, there’ll be more choices but the same appeal – a MINI for everyone who wants their transport in a bite-size package – and that’s the way to retain brand loyalty, differentiation and increase market share.

  • Eelke

    Confusion regarding size of the original Mini may stem from changes to the individual body panels. For example, the size of the rear window did increase from the Mk.1 to the Mk.2. Also, the doors got slightly higher at some point (but never wider, and only very slightly, you would certainly not notice if it weren’t pointed out to you).

    Size increases is bad news to me as well. I also think calling the current car “mini” is pushing the term, and so size increases really are not on.

  • Rob Livesey

    There’s something depressingly inevitable about future MINIs gaining size and weight. Manufacturers like to brag about increased cabin space and comfort, and sometimes that can only be achieved by making the car larger. Anyone who has seen the new Renault Clio here in the UK should be able to testify to this.

  • Gabe

    Just to clear up some of the size confusion. From what has been reported previously, the differences will be measured mostly in millimeters. And from what I’ve heard many of those changes were precipitated by new European pedestrian crash regulations.

  • modboi

    One thing’s for sure, regardless of the changes, I’ll be purchasing a ’10 MCS once my ’05 MCS is paid off. I have a feeling that most of you will be heading that same direction.

  • cinque

    Sounds like the “test driver” was underwhelmed. Smoother, quieter, bigger, blah, blah, blah. The inevitable slouch towards the mainstream begins…


    I dont know about you guys…but some of my favorite things about the current MINI engine is its lack of smoothness and that its not quiet. i dont want some luxury car smooth quiet engine. i want our scrappy, noisy, grunty current engines, it adds so much to the driving experience.

    im not liking this. the car looks ok but im really worried about the engine change.

  • Bill

    The tag R56 refers to all ’07 -> models. The CooperS will be labeled the 55 and the Cabrio the 57. Either way, the “new” Cooper and CooperS (56/55) will be built along side the current production models for at least a whole year. Purely to FINALLY build all of the outstanding orders. Once the new Mini is in full production and all outstanding orders are completed, chaos will hit plant Oxford YET AGAIN as we gear up for production start of the R57 Cabrio. There is a relatively small group of trusted individuals at Plant Oxford called “Launch Champions” these are the guys that are involved heavily with the 56 and everything that comes along with it, the rest of us just do as they ask!

  • Bruce
    Sounds like the “test driver” was underwhelmed. Smoother, quieter, bigger, blah, blah, blah. The inevitable slouch towards the mainstream begins…

    I hadn’t thought of it that way. But you may be right. Is the Golf-ification of the MINI underway? Bigger? Bloated? Flabby? Boring?

    (I’ll avoid mentioning the Cooper S getting softer suspension settings and an automatic transmission in just its first run!)


  • George

    I agree Bruce. Why make such a well proportioned car follow the size direction of other cars in its class? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep it small and tight, and thereby really stand out from the crowd? Or, BMW (MINI?), do you somehow think that we are buying the MINI (or NOT buying the MINI) for space and comfort??? How have you lost the plot so bad so soon with this beautiful baby? I fear the team responsible now for the new design and packaging are clueless as to how to follow up this first new icon of the 21st century.

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  • Chris Reddy

    I am close to placing an order for a MC (06 model) and felt a bit put off that it would be superceded in a year. The comments here have been useful. I am going ahead and ordering the 06 E 50. I owned two older versions of the mini and loved every minute of the driving. I think its time for me to get the grwon up version of the mini and not the middle aged “wider and bigger” version with smoother, softer options. Sounds bloated and boring like the new Golf.

    Thanks for the useful comments

    Chris South Africa

  • sandm4130

    I am happy that the 07 mini is not as distinct as the 06. bigger smoother faster yes. better? we will see. it normally takes a few years to properly set up a mass produced product as demonstrated by the current model. while i am sure that it is far from perfect (as their is no such thing) i feel that the 06 and possible earlier versions achieve a more identifiable persona than any other “BIG small car” out on the market. i have an 06 jcwmcs on order and i am really EXCITED about.

    anywho my past favorites was my 1976 2002 and now my current e34 525i both good cars. i hope that the mini will split the difference btwn these two gems.


  • Adam Pruitt

    My fear is that BMW has fallen into that mindset of having to change the body style every few years or the product won’t sell. Well, BMW, if you’re reading, how long did the orignal MINI concept last? And did it continue to sell? Point made. Don’t ruin this perfect car! I for one have no interest in a larger MINI. My ’05 is exactly the way the MINI should be. We don’t need or want a MAXI. Part of the charm and reason this car has sold so well is that it’s different from the norm. Bigger isn’t better. Don’t abandon all of us who put the car on the map. You’ll do us and yourselves no favors.

  • Gabe

    Adam – I wouldn’t worry. The difference between the new 3-door MINI and the current one will be millimeters.

  • Bob

    Its just been reported that 2005 was the biggest sales year in its history, and January 06 was its biggest sales month. Gee….what ever happened to the old adage “if it ain’t broke….”

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  • marcia pike


  • Jorge

    I think it’s hilarious how some people are so quick to cry about how “BMW IS RUINING OUR BELOVED MINI!”

    Especially when BMW created the MINI you all know and love to drive today!

    There will always be cars that are fun-to-drive, whether it’s a MINI or not.

    Get a grip, guys. Seriously.

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