Dissecting the R56’s Character Flaws

Last week I had the chance to spend some time with a Mellow Yellow loaner 2007 MCS due to my R53 being in the shop. While my experience generally backed-up my previous positive reviews of the car, there are certainly some things that continue to find fault with. Not that the R53 doesn’t have similar issues (and disappointments). But the worrying thing is that many of the small deficiencies in the R56 weren’t there in the R50 or R53. It seems as if MINI has rectified some, and created others.

I do want to be clear before going much further however. None of these issues would keep me from buying the new MINI. In fact I can verify they haven’t has my order went in a couple weeks ago. However spending a bit more time in the car gave me a chance to wrap my head around some of the changes that have subtly altered the character of the car.

Engine and exhaust note: This is less of an issue with the R56 as the R53 was simply brilliant in this area. The previous MCS oozed character with the supercharger whine and exhaust pop of the ’05 and ’06 MCS models. The R56, while it sounds great being pushed, has a totally different character. Sure it’s faster in every conceivable way. But it lacks the feeling of speed that the R53 had.

For instance the sound at idle – while a normal characteristic of a direct injection car – certainly isn’t what one would call interesting. And just tooling around town, the R56 sounds a little pedestrian. It’s only when you go full bore that the new drive-train really comes into it’s own in terms of visceral sound quality. Contrast that to the R53 where any spot on the tach gave you an impression of speed. It may not have been the most livable or comfortable characteristic in the long-run, but it was fun nonetheless. There are many reasons the new MCS Turbo is a better engine, but that doesn’t mean the old supercharged mill won’t be missed from time to time.

Interior Plastics: Yes there are some welcome improvements in the cabin of the R56. But in too many places it feels like MINI has either regressed or not upped the ante over the previous car. From the center console to the center stack, the plastic is either too thin or textured poorly. The turn signals, the vents and the glove box all share similar issues. Overall I’d say the R50/R53 had more glaring quality problem but you’d expect more from BMW in their second try with the MINI.

Climate Control: This has been talked to death (and I’ve certainly complained about it in the past myself) but it’s worth mentioning here as well. The climate control interface, while visually interesting, magnifies the surrounding plastic and its inherent cheapness. But what makes this worse is the fact that the climate control buttons themselves could have been executed better. This is especially the case with the manual controls and the two dials that control temp and fan.

Radio Interface: Here we see a classic case of form over function. MINI designers didn’t have a lot of space to work with when the decision was made to move the sound system interface to the speedometer on non-Nav cars. And to some degree, the problem I have with the design rests solely on that integration. However the interface itself (the buttons and where they are placed versus what they control) is also a slight disappointment. There are many reasons I could go on about as to why the gigantic knob in the center of the interface was a terrible decision. But I’ll simply say this: it’s confusing at best.

As we’ve said in the past, there’s little question the R56 is a better car in most ways. And yes we at MF believe that the vast number of improvements that have been made both in the drive-train and the design make this a compelling upgrade for any MINI owner. Should issues like those mentioned above give anyone pause who’s considering an R56? My answer would be a resounding no. But that answer is pretty much left up to you how you value these small details and how much you cherish the specific charisma of the R53 (and yes R50 as well).

It’s important to not lose site of the areas that MINI needs to make improvements. Like the previous generation, there is still tweaking to be done and details to be addressed. And while nothing listed above should truly be a deal-breaker, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement to an already great car.


  • Mark says:

    Nicely put, Gabe. I had the chance to drive an ’07 MC while my ’04 was in for service – and your right on the money. What is a surprise to me, is MINI heard all this months and months before production, on every blog and newsboard – yet didn’t pay any attention, or try to “bam” kick it up a notch. Hopefully with a mid-rev of the newest MINI, (maybe along with the engine change in ’08?) designers will bend an ear to their MINI (repeat-customer) fan-base.

  • JS says:

    The R56 is a sum of parts rather than a sum of design as was Frank Stephenson’s original vision. One guy versus a group of designers, and look at the outcome. The R56 does posses some very interesting and needed improvements, but at the cost of losing many qualities that we all loved and couldn’t resist……and had to buy! (And looked forward to buying the next version cause it would have to be even better – RIGHT?)

    The new just doesn’t give you that “I Have To Have It” resounding ringing in your head. It just makes me look at it, shake my head and say “Why”.

    Seems like the bean counters were very responsible for the end product. Costs less to build, but more to own, sounds like a Toyota Corolla, fake hood scoop, stupid radio, lost its cool cohesive design, cheap parts….

    There still isn’t anything like it it this or many other categories, but it should have been done much differently!

    IMHO – they screwed up!

  • =:¬) says:

    Nice write up as usual but what does this mean… “In fact I can verify they haven’t has my order went in a couple weeks ago”

  • Greg says:

    The R53 in it’s stripped down version still looked great. The R56 is not as attractive inside or out stripped down. However, if some(alot of)money is spent on interior chrome,LL seats,color line, ect, the R56 has the capacity to be a much nicer car in my IMO.

    17″ or 18″ wheels are mandatory as the 16″ factory wheels are ghastly on the R56 whereas the selection of 16″ wheels for the R53 were great looking. I’ll go 18″ JCWs but only one is nice(spider spoke in aluminum, the black is great idea but awful in execution)and very pricy. The 19″ Carrera Sports on my Cayman S were only $2200 which included some extra wide tires. Might check aftermarket here.

    R56 performance is a well documented upgrade. The exhaust sound I agree is missed from the R53. I love that rumbling sound I hear when my girl comes over in her ’06 MCSC. The exhaust upgrade on the stage one JCW might restore the roar.

    And how about that stage one JCW? A faster car than the old JCW for a third the price? Very cool!

  • Greg says:

    About the hood scoop. Anybody open theirs up yet? I read here awhile ago that some were delivered open.

  • Nino says:

    First I really enjoy motorfile and want to thank you guys for all your work including the WRR group

    I’m new to the Mini world so I can not compare the old to the new. I think I might be the only person that likes the radio. I have no plans for changing the stock unit and the control seems OK with me.

    I got the auto AC and that works great for me and was really easy to use, but some co-pilots did have trouble

  • PocketRobot says:

    As soon as I saw the R56 stack I thought it looked cheap.

    Looks like the after market business is ready for some creative center stack enhancements.

  • Aurel says:

    I agree with the poster above that the stripped down version of the R56 is bad.

    It “can” look good, still not great, with expensive add ons and upgrades.

    Conscious marketing tactic? Of course! Is is business as usual in automotive land … of course!

    There is a bit of a problem though. The average MINI owner, especially one spoiled by the R53 already is not easily fooled.

  • Chuck says:

    Thanks for the write up Gabe. As far as the radio goes, was it setup that way to deter aftermarket radio upgrades? What about if you have a problem with the radio and they have to take it out for repair, if it take a couple of days for repair,do they put the speedo back in so you can drive the car or do get a loaner?

  • lavardera says:

    Nobody seems to be able to put their finger on this impression of “cheapness” about the plastic. No doubt the integration of controls and abandonment of the modular design of prev gen dash designs leads to a completely new outcome that is not familiar, or necessarily comfortable at first glance. But I have a hunch that all this is about perceptions, not tactility. I see no issue with the plastic or texture. There seems to be less of it than most cars.

    The radio interface to me is the biggest miss. I’m good with gadgets, I get it, I never think about it anymore. But I’d hate to show somebody else how to use it. Anybody can pick up an ipod and they know how to use it. It should be that easy.

    The fan and temp controls also seem to always draw fire – again another unfamiliar element. Wierd when I got the car, I’ve grown to love these. Very convenient and easy to use – they have continued to surprise me. Things like, I’m parked and putting up the windows, index finger is on the window toggle and window is rolling up – I can roll the fan control off with a my thumb. Then I wonder – was this all style and no function? It seems like somebody really thought about this.

  • Mark says:

    On Chuck’s question above: Was (the center-stack) setup that way to deter aftermarket radio upgrades? No, was set up that way to deter break-in and theft of the head-unit. In most European countries, any car with a typical one-piece drop-in stereo-shop head unit, wouldn’t last 24 on the street before a side-window had a brick through it, and the unit was stolen.

  • Motoring Advisor says:

    I do not know how many motoring advisors post in here, so I’m not sure if anyone can back this up… but..

    Not one person who has purchased an R56 from us has had a problem with the speedo, climate control, stereo, plastics, etc. Seriously… not one. Quite the contrary… they are BLOWN AWAY by the new MINI.

    However, every single R50/R53 owner who has come in to see the R56 has complained and criticized the new model. Virtually no one has had anything good to say about it.

    Curious, isn’t it?

  • Jon says:

    The fact is anytime a manufacturer changes a much loved product its a difficult time. Teh reason I believe many R53 owners have small issue with the car is we adored our R53’s. While I am still struggling a bit with the AC controls design the center stack doesn’t really worry me anymore. I already have plans in place to get the center stack covered once I take delivery of my R56. I still believe that the new R56 is a good move on Mini’s part I repeat what I have said before, there are no perfect cars. My R53 had character flaws too, but with a little time and effort I was able to cure them.

    A good honest review Gabe, as for the sound I will place a solid bet that the JCW kit is going to have a nice sound. Honestly I believe that the new R56 has better bones to base my next toy on. I would not hesitate to order a R56 today, although I have no intetion of trading in my R53.

  • Greg says:

    The plastic pieces are the same material I had in my BMW Z-4 3.0. It’s just what BMW uses. I agree with MA’s comment that negative feedback smacks of sour grapes from R53 owners and no R56 owners. You can love them both folks.

  • Fred says:

    I ordered my 2007 MCS aware of the criticisms that Gabe and others have expressed. But since taking delivery in late April, I have not regretted my choices in the slightest.

    The Cooper I test-drove last summer was a 2006 MCS. I admit, the whine and growl were infectious, but the performance and handling were the meat of it, not the noise. When I test-drove the 2007 in March, I was indeed blown-away, and placed my order the same day.

    After 2000 miles, my 2007 MCS continues to meet or exceed my expectations in every way. (Okay, maybe not every way. It would be nice if the power outlet in the boot were rooted in something solid.)

    The radio and climate control layouts have been easy to learn, and may even have advantages I haven’t realized yet. It was about as tough as going from Mac OS 10.3 to 10.4. Cheap plastic controls? Okay, the buttons and knobs don’t blow me away. But I’m more concerned with what’s beneath, and so far it seems substantial.

    We get comfortable with our niches, and are reluctant to move on from familiar surroundings, but from the point of view of a newcomer, the Mini-niche is just fine for me. The criticisms I’ve seen so far are just niche-picking (I know, I know). I’m definitely with “Motoring Advisor’s” new clients.

  • Nigel says:

    I think JS has best described the reasons why I won’t be trading in my R53 anytime soon.

    The R56 has wonderful technical enhancements but the whole package fails to attract me in the way the old car did. The first time I saw a MINI, I said to myself, I gotta have it”. The R56 does not send off the same vibes.

    My R53 is free and clear. I could either sell it or trade it in for a new ’07 whenever I “please. But I chose not, not at least until MINI addresses some of the glaring shortcomings of the new car.

    MINI has managed to aliniate their current customer base and that can’t be a good thing, long term.


  • I’m looking to get a well equipped ($31K) R56 right now. I must admit – while each detail on it’s own looks better than my 04 MCS, the overall look still bugs me a bit. The larger plastic on the arches, the higher profile of the front and the gaps around the lights, the hump back. It’s still an amazing car – it’s just that by now I thought I would be liking it more than I do.

    BTW, my local dealer was saying they rarely get nav equiped models in, and I just had to take on on his word that the nav works well. That doesn’t sound acceptable to me, does it to you guys?


  • MINInut says:

    It is not about sour grapes from the current R53 owner… its about the execution of the redesign. The R56 appears bloated and is refined to the point that it misses the mark that the R53 hit a bullseye with. This is not to say that the R56 will attract a new type of buyer, one that is looking for refinement. There are people who will not care if a hood scoop is ornamental, or there is no temp gauge, or that the burble and whine is absent… but the true R53 enthusiast does.

  • Gabe says:

    BTW, my local dealer was saying they rarely get nav equiped models in, and I just had to take on on his word that the nav works well. That doesn’t sound acceptable to me, does it to you guys?

    I was in the same boat… and no it’s not really acceptable to me either. Unfortunately my dealer (not sure if this is the case elsewhere) is selling every car they get right now so they’re having a hard time keeping the Nav equipped MINIs around.

  • Brendan says:

    FYI the non-automatic climate controls feel less cheap in my opinion. The side vertical switches on the auto A/C feel the worst in my opinion.

  • iNomis says:

    I do agree that the R56 materials sometimes feel and look cheaper than they could. But it’s certainly no worse than many cars or the previous models. I’m driving an 06 MC loaner now for two weeks. Only took a few minutes to figure out how to set the temp on the automatic climate! Since when is turning a display intuitive? Why won’t the recirculate button stay on? Still don’t know how to navigate MP3 disc titles. I had some other issues for a few minutes but just like the R56, you figure them out and use it. At least on an R56 I can bring my right shin with me. I’m glad they were able to “bloat” the car up to fit it in! I couldn’t have purchased the older model.

  • Tim in MD says:

    I took the opportunity to test drive the R56 on Friday afternoon while at the dealer for service. On the whole, I think the interior is an improved design; certainly a lot of things are done better/smarter than on the R53–seats, for example. I’m not sure about the aesthetics of the volume control on the center stack, but that’s about it.

    Mechanically, it’s certainly got more power–but also more torque steer. The whole package, from the drivetrain to the controls, seems more refined. It’s lost something, though. I got back in my MCS and felt more connected to the whole thing. Maybe that’s a familiarity issue.

    One thing I really don’t like is that the sense of size has gone up. The dashboard seems much deeper and I feel as though I’m sitting way down within the car. One thing I love about the R53 is that it feels very nimble because of your perspective over the hood and out the sides, etc.

    On the whole I think it’s a great car, and with a baby on the way in October, I am very interested in the Clubman. That said, I don’t feel the need to trade in my MCS today or ever for the R56. When I drove the R53 for the first time, I said “I’ve gotta get me one of these” and the plotting began to sell my six-month-old VW Golf as soon as I wasn’t upside down…which was about nine months later. I did not get that sense from the R56, despite feeling that it was ultimately a more capable, versatile and comfortable car.

    It’ll be interesting to see if history treats this the same as BMW’s transition from the 2002 to the 320i. Purists to this day maintain that BMW did not make a real BMW after 1976 (and for some that era ended in ’73 with the round taillight 2002s), despite the fact that the 320i was theoretically better designed, more comfortable and more modern. Still, I have a ’76 2002 in my garage and not a ’78 320i. Why is that? I got the same “gotta have it” feeling when I first drove a 2002 as I did when I first drove the R53. Two cars separated by 20 years and many details, but both capture an essence and purity that later, “improved” models did not.

  • Mark says:

    Let’s face it, Frank Stephenson’s shoes were pretty big. BMW/MINI chose to try and fill them with a committee’s feet – hence the (typical) result.

  • Gabe says:

    Let’s face it, Frank Stephenson’s shoes were pretty big. BMW/MINI chose to try and fill them with a committee’s feet – hence the (typical) result.

    Just to clarify: the new MINI’s design was lead by a single designer – just like the previous car. This is how every BMW is designed.

  • chakaluka says:

    The only thing that would make me consider a Gen2 MINI is the cool new fuel conservation technology coming out later this year, combined with the Clubman layout. But even then, chances are slim I would get another.

    As others have said, the new version just does not have that visceral, lust-inpiring je ne se quois. More and more I am thinking my 04 JCW S is a long-term keeper. So much so, that a big valve head and cam are very likely additions in the near future.

  • john m says:

    mine was that bad iam getting rid of after 4 months

  • Dave Mac Mini says:

    I loved my R53, but I love my R56 even more! I had an R53 for a loaner the other day, and it felt like a truck in comparison. I would not want to go back to the old one, even though I thought it was great while I owned it.

    Gabe, you will, I think, learn to appreciate the new radio interface once you see how it works with your iPod. I was not sure about it either, but once you learn what it will do, it is great. Works the same on mp3 discs that you burn yourself too, in case you don’t have an iPod.

    BTW, it’s also true that the new car gets a lot better mileage than the old one.

  • Nathaniel Salzman says:
    The new just doesn’t give you that “I Have To Have It” resounding ringing in your head. It just makes me look at it, shake my head and say “Why”.


    I’m sure there are a handful of R50/53 owners who would have hated anything that wasn’t the car they fell in love with, but to write off all criticism to “sour grapes” is far too narrow. I can only speak for myself, but I want to love the R56. I don’t. I like it a lot – especially the new exterior proportions and overall more aggressive look the car has even when standing still. The seats are way more comfortable and there are a lot of proportions in the interior that I think are very groovy improvements over the R53. I’m thrilled that there are so many marked improvements in ride quality, weight, and power. But there are still these handful of things, which Gabe has done a great job of laying out here, that keeps the R56 from capturing my obsession the way the R53 does to this day. Maybe if I drove one for a week down the dragon like Gabe did I’d learn to tolerate those horrid little details that muck up the car for me. But for now, I’ve got my fingers crossed that MINI will sort out these bits that keep many of us from being die-hard in love with the R56.

    But in the mean time, I really do think the R50/53 will be one of those classic cars decades from now where those of us who still have them will run into people at the gas pump who’ll say “I had one of those back in ’06 and traded it in on _______, and to this day I wish I hadn’t.” That’s no comment on the R56’s shortcomings, just to all the ways MINI already got it right in the R50/53. But I have faith in the company and the brand. The new MINI is still a fantastic car and arguably getting better with age, so I’m excited to see where the car goes from here.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective, Gabe.

  • akwaba says:

    Somebody say that owner’s R53 …have some difficulties to appreciate R56 and say that’s normal,because new buyers see r56 and say “nice” immediatly. In my opinion, it’s a really bad news for mini …i try explain why : – If you asked miata mx5 buyers, majority of them like the new model more than the older, no discussion possible. On more, new buyers like the new too. – Mini has loose it’s design evolution, of course they will gain an exceeded buyers for a while, but they aren’t on an ascendant curve because loosing the “caracterial” of the mini. – I’m sure, they will restyle the body car and int. quickly…maybe before new cab !!!, as we see, already technical and offer modifications for august !!!! strange no ? – if not mini will tend to become a styling audi a3 or golf. German spirit… but lack of hot latin spirit.

  • skiploder says:

    I have stated repeatedly that the car drives fine. Even the Evos tick at idle – that I could live with. the loss of the whine, the loss of the burble – all tolerable. I still think that a future JCW top of the line JCW package may be a real beast.

    Except for the speedo, the climate controls and the radio, many of the interior features are a step up.

    Where the R56 lost me is the exterior styling. It just doesn’t work for me. I think it’s hideous. The car could have been a real winner (for me) if they had gently evolved on the R53 design and made the R56 driveline and some of the interior changes.

    What would concern me most if I was an R56 owner is not the looks of the car – frankly if you’ve bought one it works for you. What concerns me is that the DMF and LSD issues from the R53 have migrated over unchanged. It is disturbing that BMW did not attempt to get to the root of the flywheel and clutch issues that were evident in the old model.

    With the new car putting out much more torque and future JCW kits on the horizon that will improve on that number, I would not buy one of these cars until BMW can source a tranny whose DMF will not fail under all that extra torque.

    Remember, the DMF issues in the R53 were never resolved – they were admittedly replaced with the same units that may be destined to fail in the future. I urge anyone with an R56 who is experiencing DMF/tranny issues to begin reporting these to dealerships immediately. It took almost 4 years for Mini to issue a TSB on the R53 for this issue and many people were out of warranty by that time.

  • Thomas says:

    In my previous life as a corporate pilot for an OEM, I would fly a myriad of aircraft over the years with scores of idiosynchracies that threatened your sanity and safety. The saying I coined to “accept” those quirks was “Good pilots adapt.” That’s how I coped with those aircraft and it worked. I ended up in time enjoying each of them despite their peculiarities. So as I read the scores of comments about the R53 and R56 I will apply the same philosopy when it comes time to replace our 06 MCS with another Mini down the road. Only this time I will say “Good Mini owners adapt and they grin far more than most”. The R53 and the R56 are both great and above all fun cars. So sit back, buckle up, relax and ENJOY the ride. If they knew,the rest of of the crowd would hold us in envy. IMHO

  • Evan says:

    I remember on April 18, 2002 when I first got to drive the R50. It was Indi Blue/White, sports package, cruise, and that was it. I had spent the past months visiting the website daily, gathering info from every source possible and couldn’t stop thinking about it. All of my friends knew I wanted one. I joined all of the blogs, found Motoringfile, and well…it did unfortunately take another 18 months for me to be in a place where I could go for the 2nd test drive, another IB/W MC 5speed. Ordered my own IB/W MC 5speed, picked up 6.5wks later.

    The thing about the R50/R53 is just how much it still makes me smile. I’m still smitten. I corner like no other, enjoy revving the slightly course tritec and am amazed at how solid overall the structure still is. I’m 6’3″ and have never had fitting issues. Probs? The steering column is creaking, the a/c putzed out, and apparently my front strut bushings are going…

    Then came R56. I did the same reading, watching, waiting, hoping, but never hit that “Wow, I have to go drive that car!” feeling. It’s hard to follow the first, especially if it’s so full of personality. So much that even small problems are nothing for me.

    The interior materials are not that bad in the R56, they feel good, and even the silver climate controls feel good when pushed or rolled. Gaps/misalignments are still present, but are probably better since the last examples I saw.

    I think the R55 will be the answer for the awkwardness of the exterior proportions. It’s hard to move on. But sometimes, there isn’t a need or issue with not moving on. My indi blue/white 5speed MC is around for the long hall. Keep the MINIs Motoring!

  • Jon says:

    Funny part is I actually have owned several R53’s and can say without a doubt I like most everything better with the R56 than the R53. The Nav integrated into the speedo is super sharp. I can live with the center stack, the wing stylized ac controls bug me still as do the vents. The AC just seems a little to like a cheap attempt to remind you your in a Mini. The vents work great but they are a little odd feeling in scale with the dash. I also really miss the wrap around glass on the c pillar.

    The sound of the car is a non-issue to me, I would always choose the car that performs over a lesser one that only sounds tougher.

    The funny part is that a sizable number of R53 owners sound a lot like another group of owners I know, those who have a “real” Minis. There are no perfect cars….., buy a R56 is it turns your crank, or keep your loved R53, or even look at your original mini and just be happy with your choice.

    Motor on!!!

  • msh441 says:

    Overall after 2 months and 3000 miles… there are only 2 things that still bug me about the car:

    -Center stack below the speedo looks cheap. Hoping for SOMTHING to liven this up. Colored side bolsters? Textured replacement background? I don’t know… somthing has to come down the pike.

    -Chrome side repeators. Anyone who comes up with somthing that slots in, but has the more subtle wire/mesh/chrome look of the R53 is going to make a mint.

    Everything else I don’t think is a problem (turn stalks, really?), have corrected myself (ride height, lighting), or have a clear vision or how it will change in the near future (DDM cold airbox that utilizes the hood scoop, JCW exhaust and ECU swap to smooth out that 3000 RPM flat spot).

    Two cosmetic issues in exchange for a car that drives like it does out of the box? A more than fair trade IMO.

  • VMMVMMM says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the panel gaps that show especially around the bonnet. Have those decreased as production has gone on? The R56’s I inspected a few days before the release still had very wide panel gaps, too wide in my opinion to be acceptable. Having said that, I don’t think I’d turn an R56 down, given the chance.

  • msh441 says:

    I’ve noticed the gaps seem to vary from location to location, suggesting (to me, at least) that there’s some room for “tweeking” the bonnet at the VDC or during PDI at the dealer.

    Mine are even and about as tight as I would hope. Cant get a pinky in anywhere. Got comments this weekend during two different MINI club drives how tight it looked compared to what others have seen online or in person.

  • Aurel says:

    Reading over these bits is interesting.

    Overall, I also think that a lot of things are “better” on the new car.

    But since its launch I still have to read on ANY forum a really enthusiastic grin filled post about owning one.

    All I have read is “good”, “better” and “improved” … but no “holy s**t this is awesome” … and this is what’s lacking with the R56

  • chakaluka says:

    Holy s**t my R53JCW is awesome!!

  • Marc says:

    …that’s it in a nutshell – no holy s#$t, this is awesome! Have a friend who likes my R53, so went and looked/test-drove the R56. His comment was “Looks like they are turning the MINI into a small Bimmer, why go that route? If I wanted a small Bimmer, I’d buy a 3 series.”

  • Dave Mac Mini says:

    OK, I’ll say it! “Holy s**t, this is awesome!!”

    I love the way the R56 looks, I love the way it drives, and I would not go back to my R53 if you paid me!

    Is that enthusiastic enough? Dang, I love my ’07!!

  • Fred says:

    Make that two of us, Dave Mac Mini. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so, “What he said”:

    OK, I’ll say it! “Holy s**t, this is awesome!!”

    I love the way the R56 looks, I love the way it drives, and I would not go back to my R53 if you paid me!

    Is that enthusiastic enough? Dang, I love my ‘07!!

  • emtrey says:

    When I drove the R56 it was “Holy s**t, this is awesome!! Much better than mine. Will my wife kill me or just mame me when I tell her I think we need to get a new MINI.

    I survived. New car will be completed today or tomorrow. Should be here in 4 weeks. I am enthusiatically awaiting its arrival.

    There wil always be compromises as vehicles mature in their model cycle. Just read the Porsche message boards and see the whining about the 997s. I have a friend who owned 4 “raw/air cooled” 911s and he thinks the new cars are infinitely better in every respect except maybe engine sound which is close.

    There will also always be those who prefer what is/was. Its all what the owner deems BEST for him/her.

  • slag1911 says:

    MINI missed the mark set by the R53, and missed it by a long shot. The R56 is the sum of its parts: fake hood scoop, funky side repeaters, bland hood, head sized speedo, funky BMW turn signals, 4wd stance… seriously, what were the designers thinking? No temperature gauge on a turbo engined car? Geez… In the recent R&T head to head comparison, the R56 finished 4th in a 5 car field. Only besting the Sentra!

    BMW, you made us enthusiast with the R53… you set the bar high and made us expect more from MINI. It is not surprising that we are not embracing this redesign… I just expected more…

  • Nigel says:

    Thank you Slag1911 for saying it like it is.


  • Chuck says:

    Ditto Slag1911, Nigel

  • lavardera says:

    I’ve got news for you boys, Mini wasn’t aiming for the mark set by the R53 – they were aiming above it.

  • slag1911 says:

    If MINI was aiming above the mark set for the R53… then they really blew it. But they did finish above the Sentra… so all is not lost 🙂

  • dan from sydney says:

    In that comparison, the R56 lost out on points based on subjective issues: ride, styling, seats, ergonomics and luggage space… somehow I don’t think the R53 would have faired any better…

    I miss my R53 but my new R56 spanks it in everyway by a long shot! Holy s**t, I love my ’07!


  • slag1911 says:

    In the end, it is all subjective. For instance, fake hood scoops, fancy key fob doo-dads, gadgetry turn signals, and refined ride are subjectively not for me. I expect these types of design “features” on a Japanese automobile like a Camry… just not the MINI. As I said, MINI spoiled me with the R53… I simply expected more of the same.

  • dan from sydney says:

    Issues I have with the R56: 1) Climate control layout as mentioned 2) Headliner material including the grab handle/sunvisor fixing details 3) Build quality in terms of rattles

    I’m not too worried about the plastics and actually feel they are quite truthful in terms of their functionality.

  • GAS2HI says:

    I had my R53 (05) in for service and took a R56 for a quick spin.

    Good points: Much better seats. Optional Arm rest a tad longer better fit better low end torque Misses: More weight! (the redesign of the Miata they tooked extra efforts to “save weight. Less weight = better performance and better MPG! Windows are higher and harder to back up and see out of. The R53 more nimble/lean. R56 a tad “bloated” feel. I have had three R53’s (that GOT TO HAVE rush!), the R56 was “OK”, I will wait for the Clubman!(2n d yr production to sort the bugs out lol.)

  • Gabe says:

    Misses: More weight! (the redesign of the Miata they tooked extra efforts to “save weight. Less weight = better performance and better MPG!

    FYI – the R56 is actually lighter than the R53.

  • lavardera says:

    Here is an interior detail that nobody has mentioned that I think is really telling: the door arm pad.

    In the R50/53 this is an upholstered piece. The vinyl fabric is gathered at the edges and fastened underneath in the same manner as a seat cushion. Somebody in the factory or a at a vendor did this by hand in all likely hood, and even if not it is a piece that is made with a traditional technique.

    In the R56 this pad is a molded piece. The “padding” and wear surface are one co-molded piece that is fastened in place, most likely with fasteners that are embeded in during the molding process. Its likely coming from a sub-contractor or at least being made off site form the factory.

    I could look at the R50/53 and say, wow a hand made piece of upholstery – that’s cool and retro, and says quality to me. But I can also look at it and say it looks kind of crummy, the fabric is all bunchy around the tight corners, the color does not quite match the other interior materials, and the pad is too soft.

    In the R56 I could say wow, another piece of cheap molded plastic, how nice. Or I could see that it makes a better appearance with perfectly formed consistent edges, the pad is a better density for the job, the color is a dead match with the interior and just makes a more unified whole, and I’m sure it was less expensive, faster to install, and will last longer, not to mention it allowed the car to make strides elsewhere.

    Neither is right or wrong and I actually appreciate both.

  • Skiploder says:

    On all but a couple of counts, the interior of the R56 is a definite step up.

  • chakaluka says:

    Think of it this way – if the R56 had been the first new MINI introduced, would Gabe have started a site dedicated to it? I really doubt it. Just another turbo-powered compact that comes in 4th out of a 5 car comparo doesn’t have the right stuff to achieve the kind of instant cult status of the v1.0 MINI. The R56 is riding the R53’s coat tails to a large extent; basking in the glow of it’s halo, if you will. That will only take it so far.

  • msh441 says:

    Think of it this way – if the R56 had been the first new MINI introduced, would Gabe have started a site dedicated to it? I really doubt it.

    Since he is selling his nicely modded relitivly new R53 to buy the R56, I would guess he likes it more than what he currently owns. So I believe you’d be wrong there.

    Just another turbo-powered compact that comes in 4th out of a 5 car comparo doesn’t have the right stuff to achieve the kind of instant cult status of the v1.0 MINI.

    You seem to put enough weight in car comparos and the opinions of motor journalists. I’m suprised your not driving MT’s car of the year: The Camry. They like it a lot oviously… and by you’re accounts, they can’t be wrong. Sounds like it would suit you well since they placed it above all others. Hey when you trade the MINI for one, make sure and get the back issue with the COTY finals so you can read through it from time to time and reinforce your decision to buy one (cause otherwise the driving experience will be painfully boring without that constant reassurance).

    I personnaly would rather just think for myself and decide what I like and why.

  • Siddhartha says:

    The R53 feels like a truck!? All those flywheel, DMF/tranny and LSD problems?? If I cared what other people said, I’d be crushed.

    All I can say is my R53 is one fast little truck. And I’ve been flogging it mercilessly on the track since I picked it up in the spring of ’05 without the least bit of problem from the engine or transmission. Of course I didn’t try to mod it out either. It’s still stock.

    When I was in the UK last week I heard stories about some R56 engines dropping the bottom end out while spooling up the turbo in the midrange. Too much torque, or so I hear. If it’s true, I wouldn’t be surprised. One would expect some teething problems with a clean sheet engine. Funny that owners seem more concerned with knobs and trim and shiny bits than engine reliability.

  • cafeine says:

    well, to be fair I like the R56 WITH AEROKIT a lot… especially this one: ::click here:: would be good enough to make me buy it.

    …but!…no supercharger whine ….and NO EXHAUST POPS?….these two were the thing that will make you wake up at night and make 20 kms around the blocks just to here the pops once more..!…come on MINI…give POPS to the people!!!…

  • slag1911 says:

    Supercharger whine and exhaust burble? Not refined enough for the R56… we have entered the era of the “Toyota Camry” MINI with the R56. Even the R56 engine is sourced from Japan, so this is not really a surprise. The R56 is produced for the masses, not the driving enthusiast…

  • lavardera says:

    Camry? Engine from japan?

    You are living in your own private idaho.

  • Skiploder says:


    Next time your in Concord, talk to one of the techs about the dual mass flywheel issues they’ve seen. I was actually shown a bad one there a couple of years ago.

    Mine held up. Yours may have, but it’s a known issue with the 6 speed and the same issues are cropping up on the R56.

    It’s not a knock on the R53 and it’s not a knock on the R56 either. It’s just disappointing that BMW has not addressed the issue despite a TSB and several replacements on he last model.

  • Nigel says:

    Don’t mess with Idaho…


  • JS says:

    Here another question missing from this debate. Why does the new R56 now TORQUE STEER?????? Is this a new refinement, a new 07 feature like the 05 exhaust burble? Isn’t this an example of the wrong direction for the New and Improved car?????

    On the release day of the R56, I walked up to a familiar Motoring Advisor and the first words out of his mouth were……..”IT TORQUE STEERS NOW!!!!!”

  • Nigel says:

    Thank you JS. Yet another weak area of the R56 that most R56 apologists conveniently sweep under the carpet.

  • chakaluka says:
    Since he is selling his nicely modded relitivly new R53 to buy the R56, I would guess he likes it more than what he currently owns. So I believe you’d be wrong there.

    You may believe what you wish. I’m sure Gabe has purchased many cars over the years, each one arguably better than the last in some way, but has only started a web site about one. I am saying that if the R56 had been the first new MINI, it would not have inspired things like MotoringFile.

    You seem to put enough weight in car comparos and the opinions of motor journalists.

    You miss my point. The R53 blew away the automotive press pretty much without exception. Do some reading and you’ll see. If it happened to come in 2nd in a comparison due to “functional” or “comfort” criteria, reviewers would go out of their way to say it was still the one they would want in their garage. It was that good and that special. The R56 just doesn’t have the stuff, relative to current competitors, to rock the reviewers in that same way.

  • gz says:

    Anyone who thinks R56 owners aren’t thrilled with their new cars aren’t reading NAM. I agree some changes had to (and did) grow on me as far as styling go, however, my first test drive DID blow me away when it planted my butt in the seat. Bring on that JCW for $2k.

  • chakaluka says:

    I’m sure many owners are thrilled. I was pointing out that automotive journalists aren’t. Both groups were thrilled with the R53. Dead horse beaten.

  • slag1911 says:

    Yeah lava… the R56 engine is sourced from Japan… Imagine that! Guess that R56 does have the heart of a Camry… and it finished 4th out of 5 in a head to head competition… besting the Sentra!

    Educate thyself here –> http://www.northamericanmotoring.com/forums/showthread.php?t=101967&highlight=r56+engine+japan

  • lavardera says:

    Oh yes – I remember that thread now. I even posted in it! The thread starter is connecting Peugeot and Mitsubishi and is guessing that some of the engine block are coming from Mitsu.

    So what are you saying. That Mitsubishi or Japan is bad, worse than say Chrysler or Brazil?

  • slag1911 says:

    No… I’m saying the R56 is going mainstream… including its Japan sourced engine… ala’ Camry…

  • lavardera says:

    or Peugeot or France for that matter!

  • lavardera says:

    You can tell me “I told you so” when it becomes america’s best selling car.

  • gz says:

    Slag1911. By reading responses to the post you cited it would seem that the engine comes from France, although that’s nothing to be thrilled about. Maybe it will run on cheese and be really fast in reverse.

  • slag1911 says:

    GZ… uh… did you read the very 1st post in the link? Additionally, if you read through the entire thread I posted, you will come on entries where R56 owners have scanned and attached their window stickers, and it clearly shows the R56 prince engine is sourced from Japan… try again.

  • chakaluka says:

    So it sounds like we are all in agreement that the many fatal character flaws of the R56 make it a far inferior car to the exquisite R53. Glad we could finally settle that and move on.

  • gz says:

    Nah Slag1911. You bored me too much the first time to read it again. All this anti R56 bs is getting old. Go start your own website or put your posts on Mininuts where you can whine in union.

  • Kurt says:

    This is for two or three people who are considering a 2007 MC automatic. (and yes, I can drive 5-speed, but the wife can’t and frankly, in rush-hour traffic, it’s a chore that I no longer care to be bothered with).

    I drove a couple of previous generation new MINI’s, a 2003 and a 2006, both automatics. They were pigs. Nonetheless, something possessed me to order a 2007 auto, filled with faith that the auto tranny would be more responsive. It is. Whereas the R53’s didn’t seem to move until over-revved at 6000 rpm, this one kicks in in all gears. I’m very satisfied, but my needs were much more pedestrian, I guess – A fun and funky car with a decent auto tranny. I like nice cars, but I’m not an “enthusiast”, I suppose. In Seattle, and I-5 gridlock, there are few opportunities for enthusiast driving, but it’s nimble and zippy around town and can dart in and out of traffic quickly. I fully can’t compare it to the R53, but the R53’s I tried didn’t do it for me, sorry R53 fanatics. For me, the R56 is my first MINI and I will judge the next gen MINI against this one and may end up hatin’ it just the way R53’ers hate the R56. And it might be tinged of jealously towards the new model, which is what I think some R56 critics currently possess.

  • slag1911 says:

    GZ…. the R56 engine is sourced from Japan… there is nothing anti-R56 about this fact. I do find it amusing that a R56 fan such as yourself would consider this a slam… but soon enough your will be back touting this as another example of “R56 refinement” when you read your own window sticker… such is the case of the uninformed.

  • Nigel says:

    Kurt, is not jealously or sour grapes…. The R56 is half baked effort at best.

    It sounds like you previously test drove R50 Cooper CVTs. You never drove the R53 Cooper S Manual or automatic. Not a good comparison against a R56 MC auto which I have driven before. Admitedly a very nice car to drive.

    Again I own a gorgeous R53, free and clear. I was looking forward to the next MINI but was dissapointed after repeated test drives. The new car has potential but is not there yet.

    My R53 simply gets better with time and mileage, like the finest of wines. Frank Stephenson’s R53 MINI is a timeless classic and a cut above the highly processed and cosy cut ridden R56 MINI under Hildebrand’s watch.


  • Nigel says:

    Last night I was perusing NAM and found that member Ryephile is selling his Astro Black R56 S not even 2 months into ownership! But here is the kicker…. Ryan was a very enthusiastic supporter of the R56 and he has owned 2 R53s prior (2003 & 2004). He essentially says that the new car is “too damn refined around town” and bores him to tears!!! He is going back either to a R50 or R53 MINI.

    May be Slag1911 is right after all. MINI has managed to transform one of the most sought after pocket rockets in the market into a Toyota Camry.

    I see more R56 dissertions…. And Ryan is not the first one dumping a new R56 and going back to a first gen MINI….ouch!


  • gz says:

    Uninformed? Try uninterested. I don’t care if the engine comes from Jupiter, the R56 smokes the R53. As a former ’05 triple JCW owner I am pleased with the’07. Ticky tack details like “the wipers are from Costa Rica” frankly bore me.

  • slag1911 says:

    Boring is the key to this whole discussion now, isn’t it? The R56 is a bland and cost cutting result of what once was the hottest import in years… and best hold on to that R56, the legendary resale of the R53 has also been lost in the redesign, as the number of R56’s sitting on dealers lots can attest to… enjoy your Sentra trouncing R56!

  • gz says:

    ZZZZZZ….oh, sorry. Did you say something?

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