2007 MINI First Impressions

I’m just back from spending three plus hours at the track and four hours on the road with the R56 Cooper and Cooper S. We had time on the track at Thunderhill Raceway, at the auto-cross course and even at the drag strip. Earlier in the day we drove out into the mountains on some “Dragon-esque” roads with incredible twists and turns (not to mention a 100ft drop off or two).

So if there was any chance to find the dynamic limits of the new R56, today was the day. I’m happy to say that the R56 is still a MINI – in the tradition of the R50 and R53. It’s every bit as much fun as the previous car on the track and easier to live with on the road. Yes there are a few small changes that some MINI enthusiasts may be dissapointed about, but in general this is an exceptional car.

I’ll have much more in the coming days. Until then check out photos from the press event:

[ MINI USA R56 Launch ] Flickr

Written By: Gabe

  • Jon

    Fantastic Gabe, very happy to hear your initial feedback on the R56. Thanks for the effort to share your experience with all of us Mini addicts.

  • Vanwall

    Have the basic chassis dynamics changed much, as in turn-in and front-to-rear bias? How does it compare with the R50/R53 with the DSC off? I’m seeing a more “Hot Wheels” look in the pictures, regarding the larger wheel sizes versus the smaller ones – does it feel more set up for 18″-ers?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Have the basic chassis dynamics changed much, as in turn-in and front-to-rear bias?

    No. It’s got a tiny bit more weight up front but on the track – it feels like just like an R50/R53. No disappointments.

    How does it compare with the R50/R53 with the DSC off?

    See above.

    I’m seeing a more “Hot Wheels” look in the pictures, regarding the larger wheel sizes versus the smaller ones – does it feel more set up for 18″-ers?

    Listen to the audio review above for a full answer. Here’s the short one: 16″ remains more chuckable but the 17″s straight-up perform better on the full-on track and give you more on edge feel. A lot more.

  • Jon

    One more pic I would love to see is another shot of the underside of the car but from the backside looking forward. Its either my imagination or the tunnel for the exhaust seems to be almost large enough for a drive train to be routed as well without to much re-engineering.

  • Ben

    Jon, I took this shot at the Detroit Auto Show..

  • Ben
  • Shamus

    What do you think of the redwood red leather interior?

  • http://mini2.co.za Timmee

    That photoshopped image pasted over the other one is well bad…


  • Jon

    Thanks for sharring Ben.

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    Is there torque steer? I notice that the drive shafts are of unequal length.

  • http://Michiganmini.org Ryephile

    The CV joints are equal length just like the last gen MINI. What you’re seeing on that undercarriage shot is the jack shaft going from the transmission to the right side of the vehicle.

    Thanks for the excellent review Gabe! It sounds like the car is still lots of fun on the track :) I’m very glad to hear that word “oversteer” in your handling synopsis; I was fearing MINI had dumbed down the suspension tuning.

  • FrankInMiami

    Gabe, just finished listening to your audio review clip. Thanks for passing on your impressions on the car. It appears that MINI has another winner in their hands.

    My Next MCS will definetely be ordered with 17″ rubber and hopefully by then (2009) an All-Wheel Drive option will be in the cards.

    Also your review should serve as a heads up to the upcoming R55. I can’t wait to go on a test drive myself sometime next week.

    Have a safe trip back to Chicagoland (By the way, condolences about the Super Bowl loss..)

  • Venus

    Hi Gabe

    I’m waiting eagerly to hear what the Mini folks told you about the Multifunction Steering Wheel order mixup issue. My Mini is in the ports waiting to be released I believe and I’m in a dilemma. Should I place another order right away, or should I wait to see if Mini can retrofit the MFSW. If Mini could let the customers know that a retrofit isn’t possible, I’m sure all those effected would like to re-order right away and also it seems reasonable to expect some compensation to make us wait longer. What do you think?


  • rachel


    Thanks for the awesome pics & audio. I’m curious to know what you heard about the multifunction steering wheel debacle?

  • Rossii

    Gabe, I’m confused Thunderhill is in CA……the Firestone International Speedway is in AZ. Where are you?

  • Rossii

    Sorry not ment Firebird International Speedway

  • http://MINImeet.ca Robert

    Gabe – are those Horseshoe Wheels on that MINI? Sure look like it!



  • paul

    i love this car, but have you seen the new version of the fiat 500? they are both 2 wonderful and charming mini-car!! the new 500 will have a great success, and the MINI may have some problems..especially because it’s more expensive…

  • http://mini2.co.za Timmee
    are those Horseshoe Wheels on that MINI

    i think those are webspokes

  • FrankInMiami

    Paul, the new Fiat 500 was designed by Frank Stephenson, the same guy responsible for the design of the R50/53 MINI, so there you can see the similarity in the great design concept displayed in the 500.

    However, Fiat is not sold in Northamerica and there are no signs of them ever coming back to these shores. The Fiat 500 will be an obscure car in the minds of American consumers.

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