MF Review: One Year w/the 2005 MCS

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full year since I picked up my car from Knauz MINI on that Friday afternoon June 3rd. It still feels new, drives like new and smells new. So it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that it’s now been a year. For posterity’s sake (and since there seems to be quite a few interested in this kind of thing) I thought I’d offer up my thoughts on the car, the options, the mods, and the experience of the first year.

There’s really not a whole lot that can be said about my Cooper S that hasn’t been dissected and talked about to death at this point. Yes, the 2005 modifications MINI made are fantastic. No, I didn’t keep my car stock. Yes I love the end results. That could about sum it up if I wanted to keep it short and sweet. However since when have I kept anything short and sweet?

The Options.
Some of you may remember the enormous debate that surrounded the speccing of my car back in April of 2005. If not, maybe this or this will ring a bell. Here’s the full list of what I finally decided on:

  • Black/Black – The Darth Vader of MINIs. In many ways the opposite of my first MINI. Taking care of it has been harder than Indie Blue but with Zaino it’s easier than it should be.
  • Chrome Trim (exterior) – I just could not say no to the bling. And since it’s a MINI, it just makes sense.
  • Limited Slip Differential – Simply a must have now that it’s finally available.
  • Rear foglight – A bargain at $100. Also gets rid of that nasty black plate on US MINIs.
  • Sport Pack – love the features and it’s hard to re-sell it without.
  • Premium Pack – The sunroof is just too nice to pass-up.
  • Cold Weather Pack – This is the one non-negotiable option that my wife demands.
  • Cloth/Leather: Octogan Tartan Red. – Not only does it introduce some red into the car interior, but it’s great combination of materials. The fabric allows the seat to stay cool in the summer and warm quickly in the winter while the leather looks and feels great.
  • Chrome Trim (interior) – Living without it for three years I just felt I needed a bit more bling in the cabin. It also has worked very well with the leather dash.
  • Anthracite Dash – Looks good with the chrome trim but it didn’t last the year :).
  • Anthracite Headliner – I feel obligated since MotoringFile may have played a part in this option coming back. It also works very well with the seats and the leather dash in creating a very sporting feel.
  • JCW 18″ Wheels – S-lites w/All Season tires for the winter, JCW 18’s for the summer… the perfect OEM combo IMHO. And living in Chicago with 17’s for the past three years has taught me how to miss potholes… so I upped the ante a little bit. And after a year I’m happy to say that I have no regrets. The 18’s have felt great on both the street and the track. They’ve also held up very well to some of the worst roads in the nation (God Bless Chicago). Even the wear has been surprisingly impressive.

Here’s a few others options that didn’t make it and why:

  • H/K – Not really a big fan of it considering the cost.
  • Chrono pack. – I’m personally not a fan of the look and prefer the center speedo.
  • Navigation – For many of the same reasons as above. That said if there was a way to offer this from the factory while keeping the center speedometer, it would have been tough to pass up.
  • iPod adapters – Moved my ICE-Link Plus over from my previous MINI so no need for the BMW version.
  • Convertible – While I really enjoy the MINI Convertible, I’m just more of a coupe guy. I like the weight savings and the extra rigidity. Plus I needed at least the Sports Suspension Plus, which is not available on either the MCc or the MCSc.
  • Automatic – The MCSa is a fine car but I’m just not one to own an auto. Besides, I think my wife would have disowned me.

Now let’s take a look at what I’ve added in the past year:

There’s been little in the way of drama over the past year of ownership. Really about the only thing that I can think of that has been a mechanical issue was a passenger side engine mount that went bad around 10,000 miles. Otherwise it’s been boring in lack of issues. Certainly something I couldn’t say about my 2002 Cooper.

Performance has also lived up to expectations. The gearing and engine improvements along with the addition of a limited slip differential has noticeably improved the cars performance both on and off the track from the previous MCS. The pulley, intake and exhaust have helped further that.

Speaking of improving, it’s hard to find an area in the interior where MINI designers and engineers didn’t improve things over the 02-04 cars. Literally almost every component has been altered in some way. Gone are many of the squeaks and rattles of the earlier cars. They are replaced with simple yet reassuring thud whenever you hit bumps. Quite an improvement.

My final mileage for the year ended up just around 11,000. It would have been around 9,000 if I hadn’t taken my car to the Dragon last month followed by a quick trip to Northern Wisconsin.

The Sum of the Parts.
From selling my previous car to speccing, ordering and then breaking in my current MCS (except for the #@#$&%#! &%@#&! who hit me after only seven days of ownership) I can’t think of one regret. The options I chose have turned out to be a perfect combination for my needs and the modifications I’ve made to the car have only added to the day to day enjoyment.

  • Aqualung

    nice writeup Gabe, I too like that Black/Black combo (if I do it again, I’m going that route vs. IB/B myself). Surprised you didn’t mention your doorsill rust?

    How’d the 17″ SLs do in the winter? I went w/ R81s (15″) based on what I read on the boards, to provide ample clearance for the tire and all the snow buildup in the wheelwell…..

  • Surprised you didn’t mention your doorsill rust?

    I don’t really consider the amount of rust on my car an issue so I didn’t mention it.

    How’d the 17″ SLs do in the winter?

    The all-seasons handle the depressingly small amount of snow we get in Chicago very well. I’ve got snows on my other car but regular old all-seasons probably are a better compromise for where I live.

  • Damon

    Hi Gabe,

    Glad your happy with yours. I too have had mine for a little over a year and it now has 14,000 miles. Just thought I’d offer a different view point. I have the opposite of yours being a MCS Pepper White/black roof with the Tartan red interior and the automatic transmission. I ordered mine fairly plain with no packages, I pieced it together. My first Cooper was BRGw/tan leather. We still have our 2004 MCS Chili Pepper Red and space cloth. Here,s a quick run down.

    I love the sunroof.

    I hate the automatic.

    I love the red cloth but it does pick up water stain rings so it needs constant cleaning but then it is fine,

    I too love the chrome ext./int. package

    I have the 16″ Y-spoke wheels. I like them but the front tires are already worn past the wear marks on the two front tires. The rear are barely worn at all???

    I prefer the manual heater controls over the automatic climate control. It’s easier to just turn the knob to exactly what I want.

    I prefer the original steering wheel’s radio controls behind the spokes. They are easier to use. I find myself not even using the ones on the new car.

    I love the heated seats but they could get a little warmer.

    The only trouble I’ve had is the windshield coming loose. The dealer reset it twice then ordered a new one to replace what they thought was a slightly irregular. It seems to have fixed the problem.

    I will probably order the exact same car with the 6-speed before the year is out to get one of the last of the current models,

  • Excellent review Gabe – and glad you still love your MINI so much 🙂 surprised by your low mileage though!

    if there was a way to offer this from the factory while keeping the center speedometer, it would have been tough to pass up

    A hint for the ’07 ? 😉

  • A hint for the ‘07 ? 😉

    …maybe 🙂

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    Great recap, Gabe. I’m really looking forward to your 15% pulley and JCW Brake reviews. It’s a similar milestone for me as I started reading Motoringfile not too long before you got your new Vader MINI a year ago, and yesterday I stopped in Kansas City on my way through town, put my money down, and ordered my MCS! It’ll arrive the second week in August and I couldn’t be more excited. I also got to hang with Todd for a little while and see him work his vinyl magic. Good times.

    Congrats on a year of great motoring and here’s to many more to come!

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    Hey Damon, If you want to get an ’07 You better call a midwestern dealership monday or it will be too late!!!!!!!!

    I was going to an ’07 but the kitty is going to have to go dry to help my nephew out with some legal problems.

    I don’t think that I could look at my dream car and know that I chose it over my Nephew.

    But anyway Gabe Love the car, so what have/are you going to do withe the sound system upgrade?

    I personally prefer the Whine of a superchager.

  • O(=^=)OCapn

    I meant supercharger

  • rhawth99

    Nice writeup – that JCS dash really looks sharp! One question – any chance that the pulley installation has anything to do with the engine mount failures? Seems like an unusual amount of this reported on NAM and the pulley installation does raise the engine. Just wondering if there might be a cause and effect.

  • Seems like an unusual amount of this reported on NAM and the pulley installation does raise the engine. Just wondering if there might be a cause and effect.

    The engine mount failure happened before I had the pulley on the car. The problem lies in the new design for the ’05 cars. MINI redesigned the mount for 2006. The physical difference is fairly dramatic.

  • Brian

    Hey Gabe.. Great write up, as always.

    I went back and read the review of your SS exhaust. You stated it was $1097. I went to their website and was looking around at the different options.

    Question: What parts did you get specifically? Just wondering how you arrived at that price. Has the sound changed after having it for a while?

  • Question: What parts did you get specifically? Just wondering how you arrived at that price. Has the sound changed after having it for a while?

    The parts are listed in the review – I can’t remember off-hand. The price seems to have gone up slightly since I installed mine however.

    The sounds hasn’t changed since the audio review.

    Hope that helps!

  • Nice one year review. My 2006 MCS is now 4 months old and I agree with most everything you have written on your 2005 MCS. Although my “bling” is a bit less I also have Chrome inside and out on my PS/BL. The only issue I have is with the hook and slide for the battery terminal on the side of the JCW Air intake. After many tries at a fix it was finally attached via ties to the slide in area. I do hope that this is addressed in later models. Otherwise I love the bump and whine it gives. As this is my second MINI, one learns what one really needs to smile along the roadways!!!!!! I did take the H/K and I must say it does sound nice!!!!

  • Osmodious

    I’m glad that your experience has been so good. I have to say that I’m a little jealous…though my experience may be more due to my dealer than the car itself. Which leads me to my question for the group…in my reading all the forums both here and and at other sites, it seems that people who have MINI’s either have NO problems, or lots of problems (whether little annoying issues or big issues). I have been thinking of getting a new car, basically because my 2004 MCS has had tons of little problems, none of which have been handled well by my dealer (multiple visits to get repaired, etc.). Do I take a chance and get a new ’06 and hope it is one with no problems, or should I give up on MINI for now and, perhaps, come back to the fold at a later time? I LOVE my MCS, it is the most fun you can have in a car with your clothes on (Not really, it is the most fun you can hace in a car period). I love driving it so much that I have only put 1200 miles on my Corvette in the 2 years I’ve had the MINI. However, in 34k miles, I have had the car in for repair 14 times. This would be unacceptable in a $13k Neon, let alone a $30k BMW product. Do I take the chance that the ’06 would be better? Will the fact that it is the last year of production be good for resale or bad? (which is not much of a concern, even with all the awards for resale, there are so many MINI’s in the NJ area that resale and trade-in values absolutely suck)

    Sorry, maybe I’m just looking for a pep talk here. Y’all have had so much good luck with your cars that I am, as I mentioned, a bit jealous. Also, my dealer has been non-responsive to the extreme, so would be curious if anyone can actually recommend a dealer in the North Jersey area…not that there is a lot of choice. Maybe I should just wait for the Audi A1 that was mentioned in the recent issue of CAR…

  • Nice write up – the car looks great!

  • Frank

    I too own a ’05 MCS 6MT (February ’05 build) and the car has been fantastic. I currently have piled up just about 14.5K miles with no issues to report. The car feels tight as a drum and I have yet to experience any sort of rattles or other annoyances in the interior.

    I took delivery on March 20th, 2005 from Lauderdale MINI. I had custom ordered the car 6 weeks earlier right after I had sold my first MCS, a ’04, which was also a very solid car (Kept it for 17.7K miles).

    Here is a summary of how my MCS was ordered:

    Chili Red/White Roof Exterior Chrome Package 16″ Silver V-spoke wheels with 195/55/R16 Dunlop SP5000 all season runflats ASC+T Halogen headlights Front and rear fog lights (Complete 6 toggle switch bank!) Panther black leatherette sport seats Anthracite dash/door interior trim Harmon Kardon (I love it love it!) MINI OEM iPod adaptor (Sorry the ICE LInk Plus fails to convince me as a more reliable alternative over the BMW adaptor) Convenience Package (Auto headlights, auto self dimming rear view mirror, rain sensor and Homelink integration) OBD Computer Multifunction 3-spoke steering wheel OEM Union Jack roof flag

    Light and sweet, this car is an absolute blast to drive and own! Last month I put around 2.3K miles on a road trip that took us from Miami, FL to Nashville, TN, then through the Dragon/Cherohala Skyway and back to Miami.

    I have never owned a car that you can put 8+ hours behind the wheel and not feeling tired. This car just begs to be driven!

    Go MINI and MINIUSA!

  • Frank

    Oh and Gabe, congrats on your 1st year anniversary with your ’05 MCS. The car looks terrific and hope it provides you with many more happy motoring miles.

  • Gabe, would you comment on the Zenon headlights on your car, compared to the halogens on your Cooper? Obviously they’re gonna be better, but are they worth the spend? My 05 MCS had halogens and I was unimpressed. May be unfair to compare them to the Zenons in our 330i, but the difference was like 200%! I guess my question is – are they way better on the MCS?

  • Salty Nate: yeehaw! Congrats on your order!

  • Gabe, would you comment on the Zenon headlights on your car, compared to the halogens on your Cooper? Obviously they’re gonna be better, but are they worth the spend? My 05 MCS had halogens and I was unimpressed.

    My 2002 Cooper also had Xenons but they were the old design (non-projector beams). The newer style is definitely brighter and are very comparable to a 3 series light output. I personally wouldn’t get a car without them at this point.

  • Frank

    Just for reference, the Halogen headlights in 2005+ MINIs are 25% brighter than the old style halogens in the ’02-’04 MINIs.

  • lito

    fwiw, my 05 MCS had extremely poorly aimed zenons as delivered. (basically pointing downward about 20′ in front of my vehicle).

    a couple of adjustments per the instructions on the for euro lights made them much better.

    no complaints of blinding/dazzle from other drivers either!!

    gabe, did your vehicle have the always advancing chrono in the center speedo??

  • Melanie

    Gabe, (or anyone else)

    I am curious what tires you have (all season) on the JCWs? I am really not a track person, I may do that once a year. What I am looking for is a decent all season tire for my JCW wheels, hopefully ones that give a better ride than the runflats currently on my 17 inch wheels. No offense, but I am leery of asking someone who is in the business of selling tires, since I know that they are only going to tell me about the tires they carry. For instance, I have heard about the Falken Ziex ZE 512 tires, and I know that Tire Rack doesn’t carry them. I’d rather hear comments from those who have already lived with their tires on their JCWs…


  • The OEM tire on the JCW wheels is a max performance (summer) Dunlop. That’s what I have currently. Once they’re done I’ll be switching to a non-runflat max performance summer tire.