MF Review: The 2007 MINI Cooper & Cooper S

MINI had a tough task following up the R50 and R53. To gain a larger audience, there’s little question the car had to become easier to live with. That meant, less rattles, less of a jarring ride, and a more refined engine. But the challenge (at least with the latter two) was to do all of this and retain the car’s charm and performance feel. Based on some early European reviews of the new car, indications were mixed. Could BMW possibly create a vehicle worthy enough to follow-up the incredibly successful R50 and R53? Apparently they could and they did. Not only is the new MINI has fun to drive on the road and track, it’s refined and effortless in many ways the previous car was not. It achieves a balance that the 2002-2006 MINIs simply never had.

Nothing exemplifies this balance more than the sport button. Driving in the Cooper and Cooper S with the sport button turned off (the default position) there’s little question the car is meant to be easier to drive for the masses. Its steering is lighter, the throttle response is more laid back, and the overall feeling is one of comfort compared to the previous car. One could easily be fooled (as some journalists have been) into thinking that BMW missed the mark with the new MINI with the sport button in the off position.

With the sport button on however, the car comes alive. In a fraction of a second it becomes a more refined version of the car that preceded it – the R50 and R53. In fact the steering felt weightier and the throttle response was noticeably sharper than the stock 2002-2006 Cooper S.

With the sport button (made possible by MINI’s new electronic steering and some clever ECU tuning) MINI is able to appeal to a larger base of customers while offering a car that retains the key attributes that have made the previous generation such a success. A classic case of a win-win.

The interior of the new car follows many of these same principles. The center stack has been thoroughly redesigned with an emphasis on reducing its width and giving both driver and passenger more legroom. A great improvement for long trips and track days alike for all of us over 6 feet tall.

However, in making this change, there were some design choices made that many current owners will surely lament. The biggest complaint seems to be the apparent cheapness of the center stack face plate. Because the climate controls, radio, and toggle bank are no longer separate components, they are all covered with a single piece of black textured plastic.

The effect in photos is not good. While in person (with more of a sense of dimension) the design work a little better, it’s not the strongest point of the interior design. It does get slightly better with auto heating and cooling controls though. And with the optional navigation system, so much of the plastic is taken up by the extra DVD slot-loading drive that you don’t have as much of an expanse of the face plate to stare at. Still, it’s something that will take time for most previous MINI owners to get used to.

Sitting in the R56 for the first time, you can’t help but be struck by the improvement in seat quality. BMW has gone with an entirely new supplier. It shows in a number of ways. Despite the sport seats looking like something out of a 60’s lounge, they have much improved side bolstering. The lower cushion is also much more comfortable and extends further towards the knees, giving better support. Finally, the mechanism to push the seat forward functions in a completely logical manner. In fact, the design is taken straight from the latest BMW 3 Series Coupe.

The Lounge Leather option (our test car came with the gorgeous Redwood Lounge Leather) had almost a “pillow-top” effect that gave the seats an extra layer of comfort, which I greatly appreciated throughout the day. The red-orange of the seats makes for what I believe is the best looking MINI interior yet.

Another big change made in conjunction with the slimmed center stack is the integrated radio/speedometer. The R56’s radio has gained quite a bit of functionality. It now has a more complex interface that contains optional bluetooth functionality, along with input selection and audio control. However, taken as a whole, the sound-system isn’t intuitive. The screen and button interface aren’t obvious at first and will surely be a step back for MINI owners who aren’t a tech savvy.

It’s also worth noting that there was some alarming panel gaps between the glossy piano dash and what MINI calls the “color-line” just below it. While we were reminded that these cars were essentially pre-production US-spec, it’s not as if they haven’t producing cars for the rest of the world for three months. We can only hope that this issue was only relevant to the US press cars and not to actual production units.

The digital read-out in the tachometer is one area that really stood out as a revelation. You our now able to have a digital display of your speed at three times the size on the previous car. A handy tool for those who like to challenge speed limits a little.

Speaking broadly, the interior of the R56 is a revelation. The design works very well in person. The fit and finish is unquestionably a step above what we all know well with the previous generation MINI. Most of the glaring issues have been resolved and the feel has taken on a fresh personality that helps give the R56 its own character.

But perhaps the biggest change BMW has given us with this new MINI is under the hood. The new 1.6L engines are more refined, produce more power, and have broader torque curves. This translates into a more comfortable road experience from stop and go city driving to highway cruising. More than once I found myself well into triple digit territory without realizing it. Something that is almost impossible with the previous MINI. With the R53, you not only heard, but felt triple digits. The R56 by contrast goes about high speed cruising much like a BMW, with a feeling of effortlessness.

So it may come as little surprise that BMW was solely responsible for the design of the new engines. In fact Erich Sonntag, who headed up development of MINI’s new engines, had previously been in a similar position working on BMW’s exceptional inline six cylinder power-plants. Mr. Sonntag (who was on hand for the US introduction) mentioned to me that he found the opportunity of incorporating BMW’s proven technology on such a fun car like the MINI hard as an exciting challenge and one that was hard to pass up. He also mentioned that there was some natural collaboration with the BMW engineers working on the 300hp 3.0L Turbo Inline Six recently introduced in several BMWs

But what about tuning the new MINI? I asked Mr. Sonntag what he thought might be an obvious area to start with. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, he said that getting much more power out of these engines would be difficult without truly knowing every detail of their inner workings. It seems they are already very well optimized. However, he did mention that the first place to start (that wouldn’t be too expensive) would be a larger intercooler on the Cooper S.

Mr. Sonntag also delivered the bad news that the US market cars have indeed lost the exhaust burble so many of us have grown to love on the 2005 and 2006 cars. Apparently BMW was inundated with complaints from US customers about the sound so they decided to simply turn it off in the ECU programing. This is perhaps one off the biggest disappoints I found with the new car. Yes, it’s really not anything more than ear candy. Still, it was a great part of the 2005 and 2006’s character.

On the track, the eagerness to rev and the greater torque down low in the power band gives the R56 a very different character than the previous car. The power delivery is particularly smooth and powering out of low-speed corners is distinctly different from the R53. However, LSD still remains a must for any track work.

The new Getrag 6 speed manual is also an improvement over what was offered in the R53. It now feels a bit more BMW like in it’s execution and performance. The transmission’s slickness allows for quicker shifts without sacrificing feel.

The automatic Cooper and Cooper S I sampled have the same 6 speed auto unit featured in the R53. The software is new but the frustration of slow reactions are not. Like the R53 the auto continues to be a poor choice for those who want ultimate control and feel. However for the Cooper, the Aisin unit represents a huge upgrade from the CVT that was previously offered. All told, it’s a great commuting car that most enthusiasts will stay away from.

Over the course of two days, I grew to really enjoy the look of the new MINI. However, there’s little question that the taller bonnet and taller belt-line make 17″ wheels almost mandatory. 15″ wheels look especially awkward on the car. While I personally like the look of the larger wheels and smaller side-wall, I can’t help but feel a bit of the purity found on the R50 was lost in the new car because of the need to comply with Europe’s new pedestrian crash standards.

Another area that might disappoint; the panel gap between the front wheel arches and clamshell hood was still not totally rectified as it still appeared to be a little too healthy. I ask MINI USA Product Manager Jeff Stracco about the issue and he said that the Oxford Plant had been working hard to eliminate the issue over the last couple of months. He believed it had been fixed 11th or 12th production mold finally doing the trick. However he believed our press cars had been produced after the final changes were made.

I won’t go into any more details (especially since we posted an entire design analysis a few months ago) but I will say, as a whole, BMW has done an exceptional job of retaining the look and character of the original R50 despite the new safety challenges.

I had hoped that the R56 would not disappoint. To be truthful, I was quite concerned that the needs of the market would dictate a softer MINI and the focus on performance would erode. But, by the end of the weekend, with hours of track and road driving under my belt, there was little doubt in my mind that BMW nailed this car. The new MINI is a better MINI for both the enthusiast and the non-enthusiast alike. Some of the visceral character of the previous car has been lost. However, so much more has been gained in performance and livability.

As long as you remember to click that sport button.

Just an FYI for all you with questions about the R56 – we’re going to have an official R56 Q&A coming up later today or tomorrow. So if you have any questions about the new car you may want to hold off until then as having them all in one place will make it easier to answer. We’llattempt to answer them all with a post next Monday.

  • http://www.dickdavid.com dickdavid

    All I can say is thank goodness the center stack looks so bad. If it wasn’t for that, I would be wanting one, especially after your review.

    It’s nice to actually read a review from the perspective of a MINI enthusiast. Thanks.

  • eager2own

    Thanks. As expected, you’ve provided the best and most comprehensive review of the car.

    Sad to hear about the lost “exhaust burble,” but I am even more eager to see and drive it for myself now.

  • Tom

    Gabe, Thank you so much for all of the insights to the new R56. It sounds like you were quite impressed! I can’t wait to see it this weekend at the Chicago Auto Show.

  • Ron Arnold

    A great review but one thing still bothers me – two words: mamilian protuberances. I’m warming up to the rest of the car but my oh my those outboard vents are just too prominent for me to concentrate on the rest of the interior. I think that it’s the one (two) thing(s) that actually looks worse in person. Perhaps they will have minimized them when the Clubman arrives…

  • Micah

    I’m heading home from the 2nd wave of the new new MINI intro and couldn’t agree more with your assessment Gabe. I came away hugely impressed with the MINI’s on track performance. Sport button pressed + DSC off= the most fun I’ve had this year.

    If Mr. Sonntag is right and the reliability issues I experienced with my 02 are indeed a thing of the past I may have to jump back into the MINI fray.

  • rhawth99

    Sounds good – your review reinforces what I thought would be the strengths of the new MINI (the engine and suspension). It does sound (and the pictures reinforce it) that the new stack, radio and heater controls are a design disaster. I’d love to have the new engine and suspension in my ’06 MCS! The seats sound like a vast improvement and the design touch of the rear seats being able to lock in a 4-5 inch forward direction is brilliant (it seems like I’m usually lacking about that much space in the boot when I load something in there!). Nice review and I look forward to more of your insight on the next generation in the coming days. :-)

  • WxSquid

    Gabe,

    As someone who just went “big” to a 335, I thought your analysis was dead on regarding the radio/center stack. I sat in the R56 at the DC auto show and found the radio to work almost exactly like the one in my 3 series, seats comfortable, and I agree the center stack doesn’t offend when you see it in person.

    Thanks for the best description of the sport button I’ve seen yet.

  • Ted

    Thanks for your usual candid assesment. Appears that BMW is applying their mark on the MINI, which is good in many areas. THE IMPORTANT FACTOR: IS IT STILL FUN TO DRIVE? Sounds like it, therefore many more happy enthusiasts will enjoy the MINI motoring experience. Great photos with your review. Yes, the original styling of the Mini Cooper hood is gone. The radio might be too complex a distraction for the driver. And the purr from the exhaust and super charger is history for now. BUT IT SOUNDS LIKE THIS IS A FUN CAR TO DRIVE> BRING ON THE TWISTIES AND THE DRAGON!

  • http://www.alldigitalnyc.com drew

    great review gabe! finally someone i trust gives us the lowdown… well done.

    now if only i could get over the wheel arches, center stack and loss of the exhaust burble…

    completely spoiled by my 2005 – dl

  • gokartride

    Thanks for the great info and keeping us waiting for R56 a bit more sane. Nitpicking aside, if you can say they “nailed this car” then we have much to appreciate and be grateful for. Given this accomplishment, I suspect MINI’s future will be very bright for some time fo come. Apparently BMW has proven that they “get it.”

  • http://bravo5.org/ blalor

    But perhaps the biggest change BMW has given us with this new MINI is under the hood

    Under the what?! :-)

    Nice write-up. MINI of Peabody’s hosting an open house on the 16th to allow everyone to see and touch the R56. I’m not expecting to want to get rid of my R53, but I am anxious to see the new beastie up close.

  • S Curvz

    I am going to have to drive one, but by looks…its too, um, chunky.

  • FrankInMiami

    Gabe, excellent review and much appreciated insight into the R56.

    I think the biggest improvement of the new car is in the interior (sans the Fisher Price center console) with more “BMW-Like” materials and tighter fit/finish. If I were to order a new R56 MCS today, I would specced it as follows:

    Sparkling Silver Metallic Black roof Chrome line exterior package Bonnet stripes (Black) Premium, Sport, Convenience and Audio packages Redwood Lounge leather interior with either piano black or brushed metallic accents (I think this interior is drop dead gorgeous but adds $2K to the price, ouch!) 17″ Webspokes 6-speed manual LSD

    As configured, this car would set me back to at least $31K before taxes and fees. A far cry from the “lightly optioned”2005 MCS that I drive now (And love to bits, by the way) for which I paid $22K MSRP and $24K out-the-door almost 2 years ago.

    I am eager to test drive it, but for now, my ’05 MCS has to stay with me until at least 2009-10 and the R55 is in our immediate future as we are set to take delivery 12 months from now.

    I also lament the loss of the exhaust burble. I am afraid the 2007 R^56 will be remembered as the quitest factory MCS in memory. This is not a good think when it comes to MINIs. If I ever get a R56 or more likely like Dave Bunting, a R55 MCS, it will be more towards the life cycle end of the second generation MINI. I am still hoping that AWD and DSG will become a reality in 2-3 years time.

  • SKL

    Hey, how did you feel about the manual transmission? Nowadays it is really hard to find a great shifting experience and even BMW can’t seem to get it right. Thanks, S.

  • dwj5

    Nice review.

    More than once I found myself well into triple digit territory without realizing it. Something that is almost impossible with the previous MINI. With the R53, you not only heard, but felt triple digits. The R56 by contrast goes about high speed cruising much like a BMW, with a feeling of effortlessness

    One of the great attributes of the R53 is that like older small European sports cars you don’t need to drive 100mph to feel like you’re going 100mph. All those great aural and physical sensations of driving fast are experienced at well under the legal limit. With the R53 routine driving is exciting again. In the interest of making the car more “refined” it sounds like all those great sensations are gone altogether (burble) or are only perceptible in the triple digits where they’ll rarely be felt. Despite hearing it is a fun ride, with the sport button, I’m also continually hearing how effortless and refined the R56 is at speed. It may be faster, but if it doesn’t transmit any of the experience of going fast than what’s the point? Sounds like driving a Camry. I truly want to like the R56, and hopefully I’ll prove myself wrong when I get a chance behind the wheel, but right now I’m a doubter.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    One of the great attributes of the R53 is that like older small European sports cars you don’t need to drive 100mph to feel like you’re going 100mph.

    Yes, because the engine of the R53 was so unrefined, in some ways it felt like a classic sports car at high speeds.

    All those great aural and physical sensations of driving fast are experienced at well under the legal limit.

    Yes that’s true to an extant. But it’s more so the steering and suspension that are at work here.

    With the R53 routine driving is exciting again. In the interest of making the car more “refined” it sounds like all those great sensations are gone altogether (burble) or are only perceptible in the triple digits where they’ll rarely be felt.

    All those sensations? That sounds like a dramatic jumping to a conclusion after reading this review.

    Despite hearing it is a fun ride, with the sport button, I’m also continually hearing how effortless and refined the R56 is at speed. It may be faster, but if it doesn’t transmit any of the experience of going fast than what’s the point?

    Any of the experience? Again it sounds like you really don’t want to like the R56 if you’re reading that into this review. I didn’t say that and I wouldn’t say that.

    Sounds like driving a Camry.

    Again… huge amount of jumping to conclusions here. I drove the car on the road and on the track for hours and I can’t disagree more. Unless you mean it’s also a car, like the Camry.

    I truly want to like the R56, and hopefully I’ll prove myself wrong when I get a chance behind the wheel, but right now I’m a doubter.

    You need to open your mind a bit if you’re going to like anything but your own car. It’s a natural tendency I agree. But you need to look at the R56 as essential to the success of the MINI brand. And BMW nailed it for both us and the rest of the MINI buying public.

  • http://www.northamericanmotoring.com Dave

    I concur with Gabe’s assement in the post above.

    Some people need to back off a bit and actually wait to drive the car before forming a conclusion and leaping off the cliff. The R56 is an incredible car, both at speed on the highway and in autocross/track environments. If you actually are able to drive it in those environments you won’t be disappointed.

    Around town, the car is much more liveable, and just as much fun without the harshness of the R50/R53.

    Don’t mistake harshness for sportiness. . There is a difference. And the R56 deserves the “go kart like handling” title just as much as the R50/R53.

  • lavardera

    Thank you Gabe and Dave for deconstructing what has become a cliche of R56 objections.

    Now on to more important matters. Everybody chant with me:

    BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON…

  • Alfred

    Frank Stephenson was spot on with MINI, from what I’ve read the new MINI is a front wheel drive BMW made to order to please the masses not the enthusiast of the MINI. Maybe Frank and Mike Cooper for that matter both left (sold out) because they knew of BMW’s true aim, to build yet another candy coated BMW not a MINI. The individual character of a MINI is what it should be about. What has been accomplished though is a cheaper production process a higher profit margin by means of a more expensive car.

  • Vanwall

    “Refined” wasn’t a even a word associated with the Mini, and when the new MINI came around I found myself uttering that word all the time. I expect a new version of the car to have more than the previous iteration, in fact I look forward to it – refinement doesn’t mean loss of an aspect, it means it gets better. Sure, 50 mph in an MG TC with the top down is exhilerating, but that’s a different kind of expectation all together – I love my old 1275S on a smooth, twisty road, but around town…hardly a pleasure on differing road surfaces, and speed bumps? – don’t even go there. I’m looking forward to more refinement, sure, and not to the ridiculous level of sponginess so prevelant in a lot of Detroit Iron, or the blandness of a RentalCamry; there’s a subtle median there somewhere, and MINI is getting nearer all the time – fact is, sounds like they’re getting pretty damn close. Yay!

       BCNU
    Rob in Dago
    
  • Dave S.

    So let me get this right…the default setting is with the “Sport” programming turned off. Is there a way to just leave the “Sport” programming on as the default setting?

  • Adam

    Dwj5: I wouldn’t even recommend test driving if I were you.. It seems like you already have your mind made up on not enjoying the car.. I have no idea how you interpreted the review into “Driving a Camry” Sheesh talk about over reacting.

  • Jon

    Very interesting insight to the R56 Gabe. I am happy to read your view on the changes, and look forward to making my own examination soon.

    The thing that really stands out to me is that any number of aftermarket tunners are already thinking of new things to offer to the mini community. The fact is my Mini’s all my Mini’s I’ve had are a good ways from stock anyways. I am happy to know the car may not be compleatly perfect as its a good excuse to make yet another unique ride.

  • JFS

    Thanks Gabe, great review!

    Dissapointed to har about the lost exhaust burble :(

    I agree with Iavardera above… Why not incorporate the exhaust burble into the “Sport Button”?!?!

    BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON BURBLE ON WITH SPORT BUTTON…

  • beken

    Anybody going to have an R56 at AMVIV? I’d love to see it driven by a real owner.

  • Teresa

    I cannot believe they got rid of the burble due to numerous complaints. I mean everything I have ever read indicates that burble haters are clearly in the minority. It’s a shame that a few complainers have ruined it for the majority of us. I wonder if there is a way to reprogram the ECU & turn the burble back on : )

  • http://Michiganmini.org Ryephile

    I’m actually pleased to hear the exhaust burble is gone! From an engine management perspective, there’s no reason for it unless you want to portray a poorly tuned engine. Now, I understand a lot of the people that enjoy their ’05 & ’06 MINI’s feel it’s fun and cool, and to a point I agree it’s fun for a few minutes, I’m just glad my R56 won’t have “the burble”, sport button or not.

    Perhaps some aftermarket tuners will have “the burble” as an option with their future ECU flashes for those that really enjoy having it. [hint hint!]

  • petsounds

    Words like “refined” and “more livable” basically describe, aside from my distaste of MINI’s poor exterior and interior design choices, why the R56 does not interest me. You don’t think the R53 is livable? You think that the MINI needs to be refined? I think Gabe that you would rather be driving a 1-Series than a MINI. The MINI wasn’t supposed to be a BMW-lite.

    I can see how the Sport button is a compromise for pulling in a wider market, but it dilutes the brand of the Cooper S.

    I would have been happy with just swapping out the Tritec for the new engine, and some other touch-ups. I didn’t want them to BMW-ify this car. As as positive as Gabe’s review sounded, his overall impression doesn’t change that reality.

  • Chili Pepper

    As long as you remember to click that sport button.

    I find that statement a huge detriment to the car. How was it in NON-SPORT mode? I’ve had two cars that had a “two-setting” system and I found it to be very annoying on a long-term basis. One was my 2005 MCSa, which I always found unsatisfying. The “AUTO” mode was too wimpy and the “SPORT” setting was ok but you always had to move the shifter over and if you had to reverse or move the shifter then you had to start all over.

    The other Car was my 1995 Alfa Romeo with a “Sport” and “Non-Sport setting. Again, neither setting was quite right. I had an early version of the same car that didn’t have two settings and I always regretted the switch. The first version was always just right rather than trying to straddle “comfy & easy” and “sporty”.

    The main problem I see with this sport button is that it is fine at first but what happens when hop in on a Saturday and run to the ATM, dry cleaners, grocery store, Target, Starbucks. You have to press the “SPORT” button every time. After a few months it gets annoying when you hop in, stop for a coffee and the hop in again to get on the freeway and you forgot to press the button. Now you’re on the on-ramp halfway and missed half the fun. Pressing the button every time gets old and if you don’t then why have a MCS?

    I realize that technology has made great advances and that both setting are probably very nice but you still have to press the button and on a day to day basis that gets old.

  • http://Michiganmini.org Ryephile

    petsounds [and other “I haven’t driven it yet but I think it’s rubbish” naysayers]; I dare you to find another MY2007 $20k-ish car that resembles sporty and fun that approaches the visceral quality the R56 still has. The only cars you’re going to come up with will be the Miata, which obviously lacks the practicality of a MINI; the Mazdaspeed3, which lacks the handling prowess or fun factor; and the GTI, which lacks any sort of driver involvement.

  • Bud

    Let me begin by saying I think the title photo is beautifully composed.

    As much as designers attempt to have their creations be all things to all people they inevitably fail to hit the mark. Think of a purpose-built vehicle like a Lotus Exige or a Ferrari. It is quite obvious that these cars will never satisfy the preferences of the general consumer and were never intended to.

    Historically the MINI design was specifically aimed at the enthusiast willing to compromise creature comfort amenities for thrilling sports car handling and performance. While I commend BMW for attempting to improve certain facets of “the gem”, I cannot easily reconcile the significant dilution of the car’s experential character.

    It’s one thing to digest the 56’s new “inflated” front-end treatment, enlarged fender lips, and nearly comical “Big Ben” speedo — and quite another to forsake the viseral edginess that gave the predecessors their authenticity. I would prefer to experience a flawed authentic gem that a flawless imitation!

  • Bud

    The $31K ticket is also tough to digest vis-a-vis what the same approx. amount got you last year — namely a GP with far more character and authenticity.

  • Max

    Nasty lookin’ center stack, Fisher Price a/c controls, fake hood scoop and no burble. Thank goodness I still have my ’05.

    I guess I still have a few more years to debate if I should trade up. Hopefully by then a mid-cycle refresh will address some of it. Or there’s always the new BMW 1 Series Coupe.

  • http://gskchicago.blogspot.com/ GSKChicago

    An awful lot of conclusion jumpers here. I’m holding judgement until seeing the car live Saturday morning at the Auto Show. Even beyond that until I drive one.

    I think from what Gabe describes, the car sounds pretty darn good considering what they had to accomplish. That said, no decisions made until I see, touch, feel and drive.

    Then I just have to decide if I want to order a new MINI or spend way more and get the 335 Coupe… Decisions, Decisions…..

  • FrankInMiami

    Why is everybody jumping on dwj5’s throat? I think that he has some valid points regarding the ëdgy” or whatever you want to call it character of the MINI. I think Autoweek when they press previwed the car in the Netherlands last year also commented that while the car felt better in most areas they could not help but think that the R56 felt more like a VW GTI (Not a bad benchmark at all) and less than the raspy car it was replacing.

    I am not saying that “refinement” is a bad thing, because lets be honest, the R50/53 are light years ahead in refinement in comparison to the 41 year old Classic Mini it replaced, but as Gabe pointed out at the beginning of the article, MINI needs to make the car more appealing to a wider audience of buyer, not just the “hardcore”customer base which, for the most part, does not mind the jarring ride, the added interior noise, etc because all those are ättributes”that distinguish the car from other more mundane choices out there.

    I think everyone makes good points here. I personally find it a little questionnable to rely on a dash button to bring the car älive”, the R50/53 were already älive”by default. No exhaust burble?, lighter steering wheel effort by default? yes it sounds more and more like a Camry by default (Tongue in cheek).

    I will be able to better form my opinions when I get to test drive a R56 here at my local dealer in 10 days time.

    Gabe, I take issue when you say that the “R53 engine was soo unrefined”. I couldn’t disagree more. I know how an ünrefined”engine sounds like and sorry to say but the TRITEC never sounded to these ears like a tractor motor. If you want to experience truly agricultural sounds, go to your nearest Pontiac dealer and take a test drive in a standard Pontiac Solstice 5-speed and there you’ll hear one of the most thrashy sounding engines saddled to an otherwise handsome looking roadster.

    The jury is still out on how the PSA engine will fare in terms of reliability. While the Brazilian made TRITEC may be ünrefined”and unsettling to some (Not me) it has demonstrated to be a bullet proof engine capable of taking all kinds of abuse from the tuner community. Let’s see if the PSA wonder-duper-engine can fill the huge shoes left by the Chrysler engine.

  • iNomis

    I think you can argue that the R56 and sport button sharpens the MINI brand. Here is why. Every MINI is 2 things. One it’s a small fun car to get around in. Two, it’s a performance car. The new MINI and the sport button gives you better of both. That was the intent and it worked on Gabe and Dave and many others that actually have driven it. There is less compromise on the performance side, it is BETTER. There is less compromise on the comfort side, it is BETTER.

    The R53 did not compromise comfort for performance it compromised comfort for lack of engineering. The R56 proves that the same size and cost car can have more comfort and performance.

  • FrankInMiami

    Bud, I configured a fully loaded ’07 R56 MCS and the sticker came out to around $31K. While the ’06 JCW/GP didn’t even give you half of the equipment the ’07 MCS is giving you for the same money, still, the JCW GP will continue to be the fastest factory production Cooper S (That is until the R56 sees its on GP version, likely in 2010) and it will be unbeatable in the collectible/pedigree department with only 415 copies imported into the US.

  • VMMVMMM

    Didn’t Randy Webb say he would have an R56 at AMVIV, for the benefit of the person who asked above?

  • FrankInMiami

    iNomis, can you elaborate a little further in this statement: “The R53 did not compromise comfort for performance it compromised comfort for lack of engineering”

    I am just curious if you ever read the development history of the R50/53? What is it that this car is suddenly becoming a heap of thrash now that the almighty and perfect R56 has made its debut?

    I’ll pick up your answer while I prepare the popcorn…

  • kookmyers

    It sounds like Mini needs to have the Sport button be something that is programmable by the dealer. Some will chose Sport ON unless they push the button to turn it OFF. Others, such as myself, will chose Sport OFF until they push the button ON.

    I agree with Chili Pepper, that if you want it on all the time, it will be annoying.

  • iNomis

    R53 + more engineering = R56 (the BETTER car according to Gabe and Dave)

    “Lack” was only meant as a relative term.

  • FrankInMiami

    Ok I see…

  • iNomis

    The first statement was confusing… let me try again.

    “The R53 did not compromise comfort for performance it lacked comfort with performance which could have been acheived with better engineering.”

  • robble
    Historically the MINI design was specifically aimed at the enthusiast willing to compromise creature comfort amenities for thrilling sports car handling and performance.

    actually that statement is quite wrong.

    Alec Issignosis’ vision for the MINI was, quote – “create a fuel efficient car capable of carrying four adults; within the economic reach of just about anyone.”

    It just happened that he created a great handling car – and a legend – in the process.

  • Chili Pepper

    Ryephile the Mazdaspeed3, which lacks the handling prowess or fun factor;

    I have to disagree. I traded my 2005 MCS for Mazdaspeed 3 and I have to say that it outhandles our 2004 MCS in everyway. It also has the same 0-60 speed as the Porsche Cayman and has beat the new 330 on the slalom course. It is also a fantastic commute car and with 280lbs of torque it is a blast to drive!. And since a new MINI equipped the same way is over 30K vs 24.5K for the Mazada I can have a lot more fun with the extra money.

  • FrankInMiami

    I just think that BMW and Rover did the absolutely best they could during the rather troubled times the R50/53 was being developed (Mid to late 1990’s) If you read on the development history of the R53 MINI, you can’t help but wonder how such a wonder car came from such troubled and soured relationship that was the BMW-Rover marriage. All I can say is that we are very lucky today to enjoy a 21st rendition of Issigonis Mini, because the conception and birth of the R50 was fairly complicated and either Rover and/or BMW could have well pulled the plug on the whole project circa 1998-99 and completely killed the car.

    Given all the constraints and difficukties experienced by BMW at the time, I think the R50 was a car of incredible engineering and enduring qualities.

    Think of the R50 as a very difficult “natural birth”and the R56 a “C-Section”. C-section babies tend to look less stressed and better than their counterparts born “naturally”.

    So the R50 for a car designed mostly in the 1990’s it was fairly way ahead of the game.

  • Mark Smith

    O.K. well all I have to say is Cheerio to my fellow MINI Motorer Gabe who I look forward to meeting someday and Splendid job on this write up. I am glad I work for this company because every year I find an excuse to get another MINI. I bit the Bullet and ordered an R56 in Dark Silver with a Black Roof like my first 2003 equipped much like it as well. Premium, Sport, Cold Weather, Sport Suspension, Limited Slip, Chrome Line Interior, Auto Dimming Rearview Mirror, Universal Mobile Phone Prep with Center Armrest, Anthracite Headliner, Pacific Blue Color Line, Rear Fog Lamps, Hi Fi Sound System, and White Turn Signals. If for some reason I don’t like it (which I doubt) I’ll just keep my 2006 SB/S Cooper S “Quicksilver.” I’m really looking forward to my own seat of the pants adventures with these though.

  • eto

    Great review, Gabe. I value the opinions of MINI enthusiasts such as yourself, Dave Bunting, and Paul Mullett over the automotive press. You are able to point out the minute details between the R50/R53 and the R56 instead of saying “It’s the same, but different…” I’m glad to hear that the character of the MINI has remained in the new car and that the interior, although it has its fault, is an improvement.

    I’m truly hopeful that we’ll have a delivery option available to set a default value for the Sport Button. I would much rather have it be a Sports Mode Off button… I’ll miss the burble, too. It should definitely be an software option that can be reversed.

  • FrankInMiami

    I guess the “big” question in everyone’s minds here is that if Gabe, after experiencing the R56, will also bite the bullet and let go of his 2005 MCS?

    I know that Dave is pretty much set on getting the R55 Clubman… Will Gabe follow?

  • Andy Richard

    Thanks for the great review! That must have been fun. I have just one question. I have an ’02 S plagued by interior rattles (the San Francisco roads don’t help). What specifically has Mini done to address this with the new car? I would buy a new one on this basis alone.

  • James

    I see it now…

    The Ian Cull Auto-Sport Circuit! 8^)

  • http://Michiganmini.org Ryephile

    —>Chili Pepper: You’re right, the MS3 is probably the closest competitor to the MCS. You do have to admit though that not everyone that is primarily looking at the MINI wants a “large” hatchback that weighs 3200 pounds and gets 18mpg to get that 280lb-ft of torque. Personally if I was looking for that, I’d get an Evo 9.

  • FrankInMiami

    Andy Richard, basically your answer would be a more taut and less jarring suspension and better interior materials/build quality.

    80% of the rattles in the previous car came about the harsh suspension setup and runflat tires. Having said this, both my ’02 MC and ’05 MCS are virtually rattle free.

  • http://www.shorer.com Ed.

    Curious, does this “magic” Sports button affect fuel consumption beyond the natural result of stepping on the pedal more? If so, to what degree?

  • Mark Smith

    Torsional rigidity is also up. Rated at 24,500Nm/degrees. According to what I’ve read it says that it takes 24,500 Newton Meters of twisting force applied to the body to flex it through 1 degree. There’s no comparison to the R50/ R53 there though. This helps the suspension focus on what it’s supposed to do rather than also having to compensate for body flex.

  • Mark Smith

    Sorry that’s Newton Meters per degree just to clarify.

  • Bud

    FranklinMiami — The number $31k I used for comparison was based on a quote from a fellow Motoringfile commentator and not one derived personally. According to your experience one would definetly get more bank for the buck with the ’07.

    Incidentally, where’d you get the ltd. edition 2010 MINI GP info.?

  • GP

    I am scheduled to take delivery on 2/17/07 of my 2007 MCS, Dark Silver Met., Cold Weather Pkg., Premium Pkg., Sport Pkg., LSD, Sport Suspension, Hi-Fi Audio, Crown Spoke Wheels, Chrome Exterior & Exterior Pkgs., Center Arm rest, Grey-Black Leatherette. Auto Rear View Mirror w/Garage Door Opener.

    I have previously driven a 2006 MCS, 6-speed manual with the standard suspension and was advised by my MA to order the sport suspension, but after reading recent driving reviews, am concerned about the harshness of the ride – especially on the highway. I am transitioning from a 2005 Porsche Boxster S with 18″‘ wheels, and a comfortable “cruising freeway ride” that easily converts to aggressive performance by simply shifting and hitting the “go fast” pedal.

    Has Gabe or Dave had the opportunity to compare the freeway ride characteristics of the optional 2007 Sports Suspension to the Standard 2007 or 2006 MCS suspensions? I understand the different driving dynamics of the Porsche and the Mini MCS – I am seeking input on the ride harshness between the Mini MCS optional suspensions.

  • GZ

    Mazda? Gak! If it cost $15k and had 300hp and handled like the Lotus you’d still have too look at it. Hardly the instant classic that each Mini is.

    As for those in R56 denial, we likely won’t be hearing from you in a few months once it hits the road in the US. If the R56 came first and then changed to the R53 we’d be hearing the same bellyache from the same people.

    I don’t see it until 2/18 in Cleveland but I’m giving it two thumbs up upon photos and Gabe’s opinion.

  • Bud

    Tell ya what, I for one would be willing and eager to accept the entire ’07 redesign(resplendent with its ostensible flaws)for one factor — the DIESEL engine! Make mine a MINI D with a large order of Mickey D fries!! Wow … what a value meal that would make, especially with a side order of AWD.

  • Bud

    Yep, Mickey D and MINI D could become Valentine sweethearts. While the motorer satiates his apetite the motor could be treated to drums of delectable oxidated french fry grease AKA bio-diesel. Just pull-up behind the Golden Arches for a fill-up and be off with great MPGs and funtastic NMs of torque.

  • Bud

    Just thought of something. How many of you plan to attend AMVIV? If we could get a list of attendees perhaps we could meet at the event, get acquainted, and undoubtedly share our diverse perspectives with one another.

  • rkw
    the JCW GP will continue to be the fastest factory production Cooper S (That is until the R56 sees its on GP version, likely in 2010)

    My prediction is that R56 JCW will outperform the GP (much earlier than 2010).

  • Jon

    Hey, if the aftermarket can design a circuit for the R53 to have DSC turn off by default, SURELY, they can design one for the R56, where the sport mode is on by default!

    All hope is not yet lost, enthusiastic MINI drivers! Have faith in our aftermarket!

    As for those of you who unfairly judge The R56 before driving it, or at least seeing it in person, take it easy. Give it a chance!

  • http://hpudrew.gomotoring.com Drew M.

    Ok, so I bought an ’06 knowing that the R56 was coming out in a few months, so chalk me up as one of the nervous bunch.

    I will say though, that I am impressed overall with the R56. After putting 20k miles on my R53 in 6 months I’d certainly like a little more refinement. I love this car, but I wouldn’t complain if it was a little less noisy and bumpy on normal driving.

    Personally, I like the idea of a sport button. I can do my daily commuting in comfort, and at the touch of a button I’m carving corners. Besides, how hard is it to hit a button whenever you want to have some fun? I usually let my car run for 30 seconds before driving off anyway, that’s plenty of time to hit a little button.

    I really like the red lounge leather interior. That’s a classy yet sporty look. Love the reviews and articles you guys have been putting out lately!

    Drew

  • ichor

    what needs to be fixed for me to give up my ’05 MCS:

    center stack redesign sport button default on exhaust burble back (another knee-jerk MINIUSA thing? it’s always something isn’t it?)

    then i have some problems with the general exterior design but that’s not likely to be fixed, is it – i’d just have to decide to live with it.

    on the whole though, glad to hear the joy is (optionally) still there. and great writeup gabe, thanks! nice to read something from an enthusiast we can trust where we know exactly what you mean.

  • Sam

    Following up with Drew, in order to jump in and drive away, you need to push the START (engine) button…every time, and time and again…. so what is the big DEAL ??? press 2 instead and go…. do not complain people…. have fun !

  • R56LVR

    I’m not quite sold here. Ok, not even close. So what does this magic Sport Button do, exactly to make the car “come alive in a fraction of a second”? My guess is that it only reduces power assist somewhat and modifies the throttle response and torque curve a bit. Does it actually quicken the steering ratio? Does it change valving on the dampers?

    I predict a “Sport On” circuit hack hitting the market soon…

  • Xan

    Gabe

    No one has mentioned the difference in power felt between a R53 with a pulley and the new R56. As you’ve driven the old Cooper, an 05 MCS with pulley, and now the new 07 MCS, I’d really like to hear about the difference in seat of the pants acceleration feel between them.

    It’s really what matters 😛 -Xan

    P.S. why isn’t the “easiest way tune” this thing not simply dialing in more boost . . . it’s what I suspect everyone is going to do

  • robble

    I’m still wondering about the physical differences between the sports and regular suspensions. Is it JUST a sway bar change or do the shocks and springs change also?

  • GadgetGav

    Like Brian, I’m looking forward to seeing it in person on the 16th at MINI of Peabody. I’ll take Gabe’s word that the center stack doesn’t look as bad in person as it does in pictures but I am still so dissapointed by that one part of the car’s design. It’s almost enough to be a deal breaker for me even getting one of this generation. I’m not planning to replace my 4 year old MCS any time soon, but the look of that lone volume control in a sea of matt black plastic is enough to make me wait another generation. I only hope aftermarket or JCW parts become available to change the look of that area. On another note, how long before Ian make a new version of his circuit that enables sport mode automatically every time you start up..!? 😉

  • Alex T

    I wonder if the Sport button will one day allow different engine programmings from aftermarket software. ie. One with exhaust burble, more RPMs, and greater boost, one as the MINI default.

  • dwj5

    Gabe and Dave,

    Thank you for the thoughful responses to my previous post. It clarifies some items. I look forward to a drive in the real thing to sort it all out myself!

    I am sticking to my guns about one issue though, despite having not driven an R56…burble is better!

  • http://www.kurtcollins.com kcollins

    May I make a burble suggestion….

    Default – sport mode off, burble off

    Sport button once – sport mode on, burble off

    Sport button twice – sport mode on, burble on

    Wouldn’t that satisfy everyone?

    I was talking to Eric at Helix13 today and he was disappointed that the “burble” is dead in the US market R56. Maybe an enterprising tuner will figure out how to hack the European code and bring the burble back to us in the US.

  • allenski

    thanks for the review…just makes me think what the MINI would be like in 2009? I’m going to enjoy my R53 for awhile. But looks like there’s a lot to look forward to in years to come as the MINI continues with all around improvements.

  • Edge
    May I make a burble suggestion… Wouldn’t that satisfy everyone?

    Actually, no… because then people would complain that the car is defective, because they had to hit the Sport button twice just to turn it off.

    I think that a modified version of the code (borrowing hints from the Euro version, as you suggested) will be the trick. Or maybe, with enough requests, MINIUSA will approve a “burble activated” version of the code to dealers, available upon request (and probably a labor charge to update the ECU). Who knows? But one way or another, I’m sure it will find its way back into some American R56es… those who really want it. :)

  • Drew^3

    How about just add a ‘burble button’ alongside the sport button. Best of all worlds.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Wow – lots of comments here I’m not sure where to start.

    No one has mentioned the difference in power felt between a R53 with a pulley and the new R56. As you’ve driven the old Cooper, an 05 MCS with pulley, and now the new 07 MCS, I’d really like to hear about the difference in seat of the pants acceleration feel between them.

    Great question and I’m glad you brought it up. My 2005 MCS with a pulley, Supersprint exhaust and JCW instake is indeed noticably quicker than the stock R56 MCS. And this is one of the biggest reasons I don’t have a serious desire to rush out to buy an R56. Otherwise I’d be in line with money in hand. THe R56 is that good. Take it from someone whose driven one both on the track and on the road.

  • robble

    Thanks for the update on the pulley vs r56.
    I’ve no doubt that is correct on WOT.

    How do they compare when you’re driving ‘semi-sanely’ around town in lower RPMS with say only half throttle? read: day to day normal driving for some of us?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    How do they compare when you’re driving ’semi-sanely’ around town in lower RPMS with say only half throttle? read: day to day normal driving for some of us?

    R56 hands down.

  • O(=^=)O Capn

    Torque steer? I saw that the drive shafts were of unequal length, how bad is it?

  • rkw

    Gabe, another question about in-town, daily driving performance. How is the low end torque and pickup of the R56 Cooper compared to the S?

  • http://SuperReview Mark

    Thanks Gabe, super review – just the info all us MINIacs needed. Was looking to upgrade my ’04, but this info will make me wait. Very disappointed they did not junk that crappy Aisin six-speed auto trans. With bad knees and hip – I can’t drive a standard for any lenght of time, and I have a long commute each day. Guess I’ll have to wait and see if. with the Clubman or the next gen MINI/BMW gets smart and puts in a decent auto trans. And I don’t see the Aisin six-speed as better than my CVT – I’ve driven both, and the Aisin trans is total junk, performance wise, compared to my CVT in Sports Mode. If they put in a good beefy manual/auto like they do in most cars on the Rally circut, I’d buy one today.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Torque steer? I saw that the drive shafts were of unequal length, how bad is it?

    Not sure what you saw but the R56 has the same suspension and drive shaft design as the R53. So there’s no difference

    Gabe, another question about in-town, daily driving performance. How is the low end torque and pickup of the R56 Cooper compared to the S?

    A little better.

    If anyone has specific questions be sure to post them on the Ask MotoringFile R56 Q&A article that was just posted on the main page.

  • Jon
    Historically the MINI design was specifically aimed at the enthusiast willing to compromise creature comfort amenities for thrilling sports car handling and performance. While I commend BMW for attempting to improve certain facets of “the gem”, I cannot easily reconcile the significant dilution of the car’s experential character.

    By “historically” do you mean since Rover/BMW began the redisign for the new modern MINI? I assume you do as the orginal mini was meant to be an economical “everyman” vehicle.

  • MotoringFileWatch

    Why ask why?

  • mb

    R56 sounds a lot like E36. To some that sounds great, to others it doesn’t. I’ll go to the dealer to give it a whirl.

    mb

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    R56 sounds a lot like E36. To some that sounds great, to others it doesn’t. I’ll go to the dealer to give it a whirl.

    That’s exactly what I thought before driving it. It is and it isn’t. The driving experience is as good as the R53 but it will appeal to a broader range. I feel like BMW learned a lot from making this kind of move 15+ years ago with the E36 and missing the mark.

  • mb

    Gabe – glad you said that. I hope they learned their lesson from the e36, both from a quality standpoint and from performance for the enthusiast driver. I’m also glad that you, the reviewer, have the background knowledge to know what BMW’s m.o. has been in the past, their successes, and their failures.

    mb

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I’ve owned 2 E36s over the years so I know that car’s faults well. They’re great cars but they’re also a good lesson learned.

  • Bilbo Baggins

    Gabe,

    Do you have any idea if there has been a change in the wheel specs? In going thru the MINIUSA “build your own” option they are listing the 16″ wheels as only 6″ wide as oppossed to the previous 6.5″ width.

    On the MINI2 site they are showing them as still being 6.5″ width.

    If they have reduced the width of the 16″ wheels this might explain your impressions that the 17″ wheels offered marked improvement in handling.

  • miniedout

    No matter how much better the new cars performs,it’s new styling just doesn’t cut it.I spend a good amount of time at the chicago auto show checking the car out. I wanted to fall in love with it but just couldn’t, the proportion are way off it.the new front end end make the car look to much like a toy.The wheel arch and tire gap is huge and the center stack is really cheap looking.These are just a few examples.

    I guess I just like my cars to perform as good as they look, like the first generation mini did. Hopefully Gen 3 with bring that back.

  • Shamus

    I’d love for all you pessimists to go back and read your comments when the R53 first came out. I remember alot of griping about the toggle switches, the expanses of cheap gray plastic, the huge circles in the doors. These current comments are just more complaining from people who feel threatened by any change from the R53’s they know, own, and love. Heck, look at the commentaries of the original Mini owners when the R53 came out!

    Besides, no one seems to talk about the massive aftermarket industry for stiffer suspensions, burbly exhausts, ECU flashes, and cosmetic retouches. The ultimate beauty of the MINI is that if you don’t like something, CHANGE IT! The new, new MINI is simply a blank canvas for a really fun, personalized car.

  • Zeelos

    Just drove the first 07 MCA our store received: Hate the exterior looks…was OK with the interior looks. Controls function like a BMW…was blown away by the performance of an MCA–never thought I’d use those words in the same sentence after selling MINI’s for 4 years. We should see an MCS before the day’s end.

  • Jae

    I still do not like the look of the 07 MCS. It’s just too round. The previous generation had very appealing curves but this time they just out did themselves. Sad to see the headlights stuck on the body rather than the hood.

    The only highlight in my mind is the engine. They dump the supercharger and put a turbo for more power. I do not see myself trading in my 05 MCS for a 07 MCS at all. It just doesn’t have that aggressive stance like the previous generation Mini’s have had.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    After spending time with both – I’d actually say the 2007 MCS looks more aggressive. Especially the front.

  • http://www.ferdie.com Ferdinand

    Dear madam, sir,

    I drove this car, a Cooper s 2007 with sportbutton. Unfortunatly, I was not happy. I was 1 r53 owner; that car pleased me very much. The r53 has something pure, that has gone with the r56. The r56 is a modern modest car, that looks like the r53. About the looks, the proportains of the r56 hase been changed compared to the r53 and is very noticable immediatly! These changes are bad for the looks. I am sorry, but I won’t buy this one. The ‘feeling’of the car has gone, although some people say not, but in my opinion it has.

    kind regards, Ferdinand (Holland)

  • http://www.myspace.com/jkjersey Jay K

    I must say after driving the R56 it wasn’t the car I hoped it would be. The car drove like a VW or a A3. It felt like the electronics of the car was driving me even with the DSC turned off. The car in short was lackluster. The rear of the newer 07 models looks much less appealing than the 05′ Cooper S we already own. The shifter sat much higher and just felt like it had more play in it than the previous 05/06 gens.

    I was also VERY dissapointed when the rep told me that there was no intercooler, it didn’t need it. That is when it all became clear to me than this was LESS of an enthusiast car than the previous generations. Sure you get the upfront cool “wow features” such as more options for leather trim the cool new key and push button start. But then as I was flinging the car into corners I wasn’t getting the same grin factor as the previous generation. It appears that BMW had more time to think of where to cut corners in production costs to increase their sales margin and it showed. They put “wow features” in it to maybe refocus attention on areas where it excels but as an enthusiast I look at the basics. As far as I am concerned there is no difference with this car or a plain jain GTI. BMW should have did what Subaru did with the WRX and kept the top mount intercooler or install a FMIC with the turbo. This feature severely limits powertrain modification without some serious kit work or custom fabrication.

    My philosophy is if it isn’t broke don’t fix it. I have drove many sport cars, roadsters, touring coupes. The previous generation had a huge “grin” factor. This new 07 has a more plain jane feel and it did nothing to move me to want it to yearn for it. I mean you have to get an additional option just to get the car’s struts to where it was as a 05/06. That plainly shows that the car is more subdued. The turn in with the older one seemed more go kart like than with the 07. Now on the highway I am sure the new Mini’s longer wheelbase may help with high speed bumps on crappy roads. But hey if that is the tradeoff for a smile on my face so be it.I look for more than torque numbers I look at the car’s potential. I feel this one has less potential.

    One can not help to compare this car since it is bigger now to a wrx… let alone a sti or an evo. Drive one of those hard and drive the new 07 in the same day. And see which one puts a smile on your face. I’ll put my money on the wrx, stis, and evos. Why because they still remain a pure enthusiast car. Let’s not even get into modifying those cars either.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I was also VERY dissapointed when the rep told me that there was no intercooler, it didn’t need it. That is when it all became clear to me than this was LESS of an enthusiast car than the previous generations.

    I’m not sure what car you drove but the 2007 MCS has an intercooler that runs the length of the lower grille.

    The shifter sat much higher and just felt like it had more play in it than the previous 05/06 gens.

    Odd in that the 2007 MCS has the newer generation Getrag 6-speed – a slicker more precise transmission. Are you sure you drove the 2007?

    The previous generation had a huge “grin” factor. This new 07 has a more plain jane feel and it did nothing to move me to want it to yearn for it.

    There’s no way you drove the 2007 MINI. I’m all for differing opinions but that statement is almost impossible to believe.

    The turn in with the older one seemed more go kart like than with the 07.

    Well I can see you didn’t hit the sport button then.

    Now on the highway I am sure the new Mini’s longer wheelbase may help with high speed bumps on crappy roads.

    The wheelbase didn’t change.

  • http://www.myspace.com/jkjersey Jay K

    I just read FrankInMiami’s comment he left on Feb 7, above. What a suprise he left a comment about the 07 feeling similar to a VW GTI. Again this just further shows I am not alone in this. You will have reps wanting to sell the new product and the mini dealerships tout performance and pitch for the enthusiast market. Why do I want to tune or tweak a car that took a step backwards though in the “grin” factor department. People have had very successful results in throwing a turbo kit on the previous generations also. Turbo supercharged imagine that all for a little more than a JCW kit. Check out Helix13, Alta Mini Performance or Fireball for more info.

    “Why is everybody jumping on dwj5’s throat? I think that he has some valid points regarding the ëdgy” or whatever you want to call it character of the MINI. I think Autoweek when they press previwed the car in the Netherlands last year also commented that while the car felt better in most areas they could not help but think that the R56 felt more like a VW GTI (Not a bad benchmark at all) and less than the raspy car it was replacing.”

  • http://www.myspace.com/jkjersey Jay K

    Gabe,

    I did get on my knees and saw what looked to be an intercooler beneath the radiator in the showroom but when I asked the rep she said no intercooler. If you are saying it has one then the rep has to do her homework better.

    As far as wheelbase goes I did look up the car’s track and saw it was the same I do not know about the width however. Being that the car is longer though with it’s exterior and other weight distributed along the chassis maybe that is the feel that I am getting when I drove it that the car seemed more oafy and less sharp.

    I do not possess a VW beetlesque attitude as far as what I expect of cars. Price set aside and it’s FWD layout I hold an extremely high esteem for the Mini Cooper S and higher trim models and I expect a LOT. Especially when I know how hard they try to up the ante.

    I hit the sport button. And you know what that is the minimum I expected of the car. It felt VERY similar to a tweaked out A3. It feels like the car is driving you more than you driving the car. The older generation models with less power gave me a wow factor that I compared to driving a mercedes SLK350. Whether it was around town, on a curvy road or on a autocross.

    I am involved heavily with tuners and the aftermarket industry. You mentioned a WRX fan boy. How can one not be though. The newer car looks less polished and less bulldog than the prev gen. The rear tailights look more chintzy. This takes the car down the totem pole by exterior alone and makes the playing field a much more harsher reality much to the 07s disadvantage.

    In my household one of our cars is a Subaru. I can compare the turbocharged 07 mini to my JDM Sti conversion EJ207 which can do 8250K redline all day long and can put buses on mini cooper 07 in long benders drifting out the corners or simply at the stoplight. That’s right I said buses. I was looking into buying a 07 to complement my fiance’s 05 she owned of which I drove to the dealership and back for a 30k service. I drove the 07 MCS and was let down hands down I am not impressed with whatever torque was gained because I own and have driven cars much faster. It did not put a grin on my face whatsoever. I was shocked when I actually yearned to get back in the 05′ MCS after the test drive and the car was serviced. Usually it is the other way around I get back in a car of an older model and am like wow that new one is really hot.

    They did their homework suspension wise but the end result that I came out with was on paper it may look the better but in feedback and “grin” factor it was much less.

    I wanted more. I wanted a car that would want me daydreaming of me getting the finances ready to acquire one. I am still optimistic and hope the JCW version will give me more as far as the “grin” factor.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I am involved heavily with tuners and the aftermarket industry. You mentioned a WRX fan boy. How can one not be though.

    I’m a huge fan of the WRX but alas am no fan boy.

    I’m honestly find it hard to believe someone could compare a A3 and a MINI let alone feel that the new one has lost so much on the R53. Having driven both the new and the old on the track I can tell you the new one is not only faster but corners better and has better chasis dynamics.

  • http://www.jakeruttdesign.com Jake Rutter

    Ugh! I really dont like the center console, I think they ruined it. And the speedo is different too. I prefer the ’05 interior that I drive. Would be interested in test driving one to see how the car handles differently with turbo, but probably wont purchase another MINI. The price tag is just too high for such a small car.

  • Dorothy

    Is it recommended to get the Dynamic Stability Control and the Limited Slip Differntial for $500USD a piece? Is one more essential than the other? Or are both “needed” options? The car will be driven in northeastern US where we always get to drive in snow in the winter! Thanks!

  • Mike

    We went to the rollout and loved the 07’s! We were concerned about the design balance and proportions after reading so many negative comments. What we saw was the same goofball character with a series of significant improvements. Although I have to admit the size of the speedo is a bit startling, sort of like having a cyclops living in your dash.

    The seats are SOOOO much better than the earlier version. My 6′ 6″ frame is going to appreciate the improved support, and….ahh, cupholders that WORK! Living in Seattle, bad cupholders can cause ‘no’ votes on a vehicle.

    We wanted a throwback design, so we ordered both the wood dash and steering wheel combo. Alas, the Safety Police made Mini delete the wooden wheel; a crash-splintered wheel is apparently too prone to finding gaps in your rib cage.

    We were unable to drive an ’07 yet, so no comments there; although from Gabe’s detailed review, it sounds wonderful, other criticisms notwithstanding.

    Our Chili Red baby just rolled off the Titus in Port Hueneme today. Figure about 10 days before we get to take her home.

    Oh yeah, Gabe, thanks for the hard work and great write ups, but think twice before resorting to namecalling. The only person it diminishes is you.

    Dorothy, from my experience, you’ll need at least the Limited Slip to make snow navigation easier. Others may disagree, but adding the DSC option depends more on how hard you’ll push the car once underway.

  • lee

    i had the pleasure of driving an 07 cooper today as my 02mc has been written off. The new cooper was really good to drive it picks up from anywhere within the rev range whereas i found that with the old model the engine seemed to have to be above 3,000revs to have any go in it. i cannot comment on whether this car will be good to be with everyday but i’m sure that the new “comfy” interior will certainly help. needless to say i have put my order in for an 07 pepper white cooper. only thing is, does anyone know if the burble has dissapeared on the european version.

  • GLK

    I’ve already made up mt mind, bit it’s nice to stumble upon this string. Thank you all.

    I have wanted a MINI since I first saw the little square magazine inserts back in ’02, but never drove one until I hopped into a 2007 S last week. I loved it, and immediately plopped down a deposit and got into the queue. After reading all of your posts and recognizing the passion implicit in them, I must say that I am very glad to have neither driven nor owned one before. I have nothing previous to compare the 2007 S with. Ain’t I lucky? For 27 years I have been behind the wheel of a ’71 Chevelle SS, a 350 hp straight line ground-pounder. Compared this ancient (if beautiful) lug, the 2007 MCS is Olga Korbut, and my old timey Chev is Dick Butkus.

    I can’t wait.

  • Tony Belcher

    In September 2006 I ordered the new R56 CooperS to have it delivered in November 2006 so that I could have one of the first on the road, as I was so pleased with my current MCS.

    Luckly the car did not arrive on time owing to build quality problems.

    I was then able to test drive the new R56 CooperS and decided to cancel the order and keep my November 2007 MCS with it’s 28,000 miles on the clock.

    I was so disappointed with the R56 which has lost all it’s mininess and grin factor.

    I have decided to have the full JCW kit fitted to my current Mini including brakes, suspension and strut brace, to make it feel like a new car, a proper Mini.

    Why change from such a fun car to the R56 which is just a small one series BMW.

    Originally I changed to a Mini from a BMW545 sports as I felt that the latest 5 series had become too refined and boring.

    Unfortunately, the Mini has followed in the 5’s footsteps.

    I will keep my current MCS forever it is so much fun to drive.

    In my book it cannot be beaten.

  • Tony Belcher

    I’m from England and yes the 07 has lost the burble. When I asked my 18 year old son should I swop my R53 for the R56 he said” NO” the new mini “SCEAMS OLD MAN” So I’ve kept the old one

  • Tony Belcher

    I’m from England and yes the 07 has lost the burble. When I asked my 18 year old son should I swop my R53 for the R56 he said” NO” the new mini “SCREAMS OLD MAN” So I’ve kept the old one

  • M. Hall

    The accessories on the MINI configurator list optional chrome exhaust tips that “provide a distinct visual and auditory enhancement”. Has anyone seen/heard these and know if they bring the “burble” back? I’m wondering if the lost burble is just an exhaust configuration issue.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    The burble was/is created buy ECU software. An exhaust tip cannot create this effect.

  • Dave Mac Mini

    I have now put about 600 miles on my new R56 and I am loving every minute. I took the car back to the dealer today to get my iPod interface installed, and they gave me a 2006 MCS for a loaner. I was interested to see how it would feel after driveing the new one for a few weeks, as I previously had an ’05. Boy, what a difference. The old car feels crude in a direct comparison. I loved my ’05, and I was not sure if I wanted to trade it, but I did, and I am very happy. The new car feels faster, handles just as well, but is much more pleasant to live with. I do not think a car needs to ride rough, be noisy and full of rattles, and have a burbling exhaust to be fun! Being a baby BMW is not a bad thing, in my book. There are many little improvements, in addition to the major ones, and I do not miss my ’05 one bit.

  • http://www.realcaliforniapics.com Alden

    “…there’s little question the car is meant to be easier to drive for the masses.”

    What a bunch of crap! Who ever said I bought a 2006 Mini Cooper S because I wanted a car that was meant for the masses?!??! In fact, that’s the exact reason I DIDN’T buy a 3-series, or a Mazda, or Subaru or whatever other kind of car the un-educated, un-impassioned, “masses” who have no idea of the beauty or the history of Sir Alec’s Dream, and the subsequent worldwide success (notice I didn’t say “acceptance) of the Classic cars by Austin. Would any car these days go 30 years with virtually the same body style? To quote Wayne’s World: “Led Zeppelin didn’t write songs that people liked, they left that to the Beatles.” I am an extremely satisfied MINI owner, and if that means I drive a “performance all-the-time” car, that is ALWAYS in “Sport” mode, then so be it. THAT’S WHY I BOUGHT IT!!!!! Got it?

  • Turbo Lover

    My first MINI, the R56 w/spt pkg. at a young age of 18, (I might be the only under 20 MINI motorer) unless the young MINI drivers prove me wrong in a distasteful reply. But with 2000 miles on it… now I actually like driving it. P.S. there is actually a great sound to the exhaust. And you can hear the spooling turbo, w/ windows down.

  • Turbo Lover

    I bought the R56 over the VW GTI, i sort of regret that decision but now with 2000 miles on it, i see the MINI as a lighter (even better) GTI.

  • David Sinclair

    My new Mini Cooper S is now 2weeks old (this is my 3rd Mini) and the difference in the latest version is simply amazing. Of all its qualities it is the cars midrange punch which has the biggest advantage for me. The engine’s torque is incredibly effective in the 30-60mph in anything from 3rd to 6th gear (which in my opinion as a Motor Engineer underlines the fact that Torque is king). This new car is adept that I would consider it as good or even better than my outgoing Audi A3 3.2 Quattro it has replaced.

  • Michael Berliner

    I do not like the new car at all. I plan to buy a convertible S in 2008 – The old car has so much more style and class.

  • Michael Berliner

    I just read some of the negative comments above – I support all of them. The new car looks different immediately, the big speedo looks horrible. I drove one and it’s tight, like a proper car, but it is no longer a MINI – I’m buying an S convertible.

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