MotoringFile Review: One Week in the 2007 MCS

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This being my third MINI, you’d think the purchase process wouldn’t be that big of an occasion. I surely didn’t expect it to be. Order my car in late May, have a busy couple of weeks, go to Europe for a bit of work and the next thing I know my car would be at the dealer. However as the wait wore on (and on) I found myself more excited to take delivery of my 2007 MCS than any previous MINI. By the time the delivery day finally rolled around, I had never been more thrilled to simply see a new car before.

It may surprise some but most of the color and specification combinations chosen I had never seen before. The Astro Black with the JCW body kit for instance was a combination that had eluded me except for one or two blurry photos I found on the web. Likewise the Black Carbon Lounge leather seating with the piano black dash and Creme White color-line was something I’d never seen before let alone heard of somebody doing. And while I was convinced the combination would be striking, there was still a little apprehension knowing that these were untested waters and that this wasn’t exactly something I could just return if I didn’t like it.

And the entry price wasn’t exactly cheap. The total is certainly more than I had originally planned for. However as the options piled up I realized that, after my 3rd MINI, it was time to get everything I had been wanting. That meant navigation, full leather seating, JCW body-kit, and all the goodies I’ve always shunned in the past. And the result has completely blown my expectations away.

The delivery process was as painless as one could be. I got a call from my Motoring Advisor David Olenick (on his day off mind you) that my car had come in that morning and it would be ready to pick-up that afternoon. After a quick check of my calendar I decided I was able to leave work a few minutes early and catch a train up north to Lake Bluff from downtown Chicago. My wife met me at the station and we drove in from there. Both of us were clearly excited but a touch anxious to finally see this thing we had created.

Upon arrival any fears we had were put to rest. The exterior, the interior, everything had exceeded our expectations. Granted seeing the cars with Crown Spokes on was a little jarring, but that was rectified within minutes of getting it in my garage.

The actual purchase process was only about 10-15 minutes and went as smooth as you could hope for. I can’t recommend Knauz MINI (and specifically David Olenick) enough. David has been my MA since before MotoringFile was even a glimmer in my eye and he’s always treated me the same exceptional way. As MINI owners, we’re lucky to have some great people (enthusiasts really) selling these cars and David easily qualifies as one of the best.

While Knauz handled the delivery process with perfection, that doesn’t mean the car was utterly perfect. And the fault of the few issues all lie with the VPC. For one, the right side of the Aero-kit skirt had a broken plastic clip that didn’t allow for a flush fit. While the fix was simple for Knauz, it should have been caught by quality control at the port after install. Also the iPod adapter was installed in the glove box rather than the much more sensible (and official) iPod storage area above (aka the secret compartment). This means my iPhone will be sliding around until I get the MINI glove-box organizer to secure it.

However with that said the aero kit paint job was (as you would hope) excellent. The color matches perfectly and it looks as if it came from factory in Oxford.

Speaking of the iPod interface, I’ll have a full review in the weeks ahead. However I can say after a week of use, it’s easily worth the money if you rely on your iPod (or in my case an iPhone) as your single source for music. The ability to navigate through playlists, artists, albums, genres and even songs is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with automotive integration. While the interface can be a little sluggish (more noticeable if you have a large list to scroll through) the overall experience (so far) is quite positive.

The navigation has also been a welcome addition. Beyond the simple fact that I have a constantly updating map, the screen gives me a window into the car’s electronic functionality that is a God-send as compared to the standard LCD interface found on the radio. It also eliminates all of the design and interface issues I have with the speedometer and center stack. Actually eliminates isn’t the word. It transforms this part of the car from “quirky” (at best) to sublime. Again I’ll have more with my long term one month review coming in a few weeks.

The car’s performance has also lived up to expectations. The same performance that I fell in love with on my press car at the Dragon earlier this year is there despite the extra pounds up high with the sunroof. The torque, the eagerness to rev and the slick shifting transmission all combine to give the car an effortless feel that just encourages the kind of hoonage MINIs are best known for. And the exceptional weight transfer with the new aluminum rear suspension makes that wonderful lift-off over-steer predictable and incredibly fun.

However there are still a couple things that I miss with my old R53. The sound for one; the Supersprint exhaust combined with the pops of the ’05 ECU tuning is something truly unique. And while the R56 out generally performs my previous MINI, a little steering feel and is lacking in the new car. And then there’s the tug of the wheel during hard acceleration. With all the torque on tap, the R56 inhibits something hints of torque steer the R53 never had the luxury of dealing with. While it’s certainly not something that interferes with your enjoyment of the car (nor the all-out performance), it does rear its head now and again in hard acceleration around very tight corners.

Yet the car is still a revelation. Just like with my first MINI over five years ago, I found myself looking for errands to run and taking the long (long, long) way home every time. Even just tooling around the neighborhood is a complete joy in this new MINI. The slick shifter and the quick steering make it as fun (and even more so) than any MINI I’ve ever owned at doing.. well practically nothing. Just row the gears and throw it around a few corners and this MINI comes to life like all the others before it.

In the coming weeks look for the more details in my month long review as well thoughts on the car and how it performs at an upcoming BMWCCA track weekend.

Modifications Completed

  • JCW Steering Wheel (leather)
  • JCW Shift Knob
  • JCW leather shift boot
  • JCW leather e-brake boot
  • 18″ OZ Ultraleggeras
  • Removal of factory armrest
  • BMW OEM silver bulbs in all turn signals

Modifications to Come

  • JCW Engine Kit – ETA: Mid August
  • JCW Suspension kit (drops the car 1cm) – ETA: late July
  • Helix Short Shift kit – ETA: Available now, installation in August

For those who may have missed it earlier, you can find a full list of options and accessories ordered with the car below

[ Buying a 2007 MCS: the Order ] MotoringFile [ Buying a 2007 MCS: The Accessories ] MotoringFile

Photos: Simply click on a photo to see a larger version. Once you click a photo, you can also use the “n” and “p” keys on your keyboard to go to the next and previous (respectively). To close either click the “close” button or type “c” on your keyboard.

You can browse the entire collection photos from my Flickr below:

  • http://www.jayomatic.com Jay

    Its nice to see someone have some balls to order the options that you haven’t seen before and its true that it turned out amazing. I would have never thought about ordering the piano black with the white colour line before but after seeing your interior, i just may have changed my mind. The jcw kit just looks amazing and really helps make that car look so much meatier than before. Especially from the front. It still seems strange that the new car requires 18’s to make it look sporty compared to 18’s looking massive on the previous version.

  • Jon

    Fantastic Gabe!

    Great pictures and really enjoying your eagerness for the car. Think you knocked it out of the park, wasn’t to sure about the white interior option but have to say you have a sharp looking car.

    the inclusion of the JCW steering wheel, shifter boot, and the e-brake really stands out too. What size tire did you end up running on the car, looks like 35’s to my eye.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    What size tire did you end up running on the car, looks like 35’s to my eye.

    Trust your eye! They are 35s but I’ll be moving to 40s after a couple days on the track this August. I figure that’s the only proper way to end a tire’s life :)

  • http://mcarlo52themotorcade.com mike c.

    Wow, there’s a lot to like about that car. A little beyond my budget, but well worth it I imagine.

  • http://www.jayomatic.com Jay

    oh yeah. Does the Sat nav include the live traffic information yet or was that something that mini had planned for the future?

  • http://www.electricpixel.org Amit

    WOW! Stunning Gabe. Congrats, can’t wait till it’s dropped. I think I’m going to make the switch from my ’05 next summer.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    oh yeah. Does the Sat nav include the live traffic information yet or was that something that mini had planned for the future?

    Yes the navigation includes real-time traffic information. It’s already saved me tons of time in the two commutes I’ve done with it.

  • http://www.virb.com/m1sters m1ster s

    A truly beautiful car. Love the mirror caps. Looking forward to more thoughts and pics.

  • Jon

    Can’t wait to get my R56, currently running 18″ OZ Ultraleggeras on my 06 S, can’t wait till I have some extra rubber on the new car. Right now cringe every time I can’t dodge the craters here locally.

    Very timely you choosing that interior Gabe. Just listened to the White Roof interview with Tim and you did something he was talking about. You took an idea with the white color line interior and went with it despite being a little nervous, you have pushed a personal boundries, and what results you have for it!

  • TC

    You are making it very hard for me to wait till the 09’s come out! Looks wonderful. Have fun.

  • Darren

    Wow… I simply love it! As many have said before I wasn’t sure about the interior before I saw the photos but it looks fantastic. The OZ Ultraleggeras suit it down to the ground, why more don’t go down the aftermarket route still baffles me.

    My only concern over the R56 is the gap between the arches and wheels, I hope the JCW suspension goes some way to sorting that one.

    Very individual and very cool!

  • VMMVMMM

    Gabe, can I ask why you’re going with the leather JCW steering wheel instead of the Alcantara version this time?

  • Vanwall

    I notice the JCW mechanical upgrades for later in the next month or so are a bit staggered – is this the plan, so you can evaluate in stages, or are you gonna hold up and do ’em all at once? The integration of the kit looks factory, you’re right – would that they all go that well. Overall, looks better with every viewing.

  • eto

    I love the look of the white mirror caps on an all black car. I think it is a great touch. Overall, the car does look great, and I’m glad you’re enjoying it, Gabe. Only one more year for me, just one more year (hopefully a month or two less).

  • http://www.smartboxusa.com/chicago GSKChicago

    Damn you Gabe! Just when I thought I was content hanging on to my ’05 MCS now I’m getting itchy – AGAIN! I will resist though.

    Fantastic build though, outstanding choices.

    Oh…. How do you like the upgraded sound system? How does it compare to the previous model’s H/K??

  • Nathaniel Salzman

    It’s just sweet man, I especially love the subtly aggressive touches of the body kit and the white details in the interior. And you’re so right, the NAV pretty much fixes the center stack!

    I’ve resisted it, but I swear your ride is making an R56 convert out of me!

  • Drill

    Nice write-up Gabe, thanks! And btw, EXCELLENT positioning of the ‘Ring sticker 😀

    http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1224/867156402_4db4b353e2.jpg

  • Nick

    Hi Gabe,

    Looks fantastic! I’m glad to see some good pictures of an Astro Black with the JCW aero kit, I couldn’t find any before either. Thanks for the great interior shots too, I decided to go with English Oak/Dark Gray, but otherwise our order is very similar. Makes the waiting a bit harder though :)

  • Hossam

    Congratualtions Gabe! One of the most beautiful Minis I’ve seen.

    Curiosity: Could you comment on the standard suspension please, especially around tight corners? Do you think at least the basic sport suspension is needed on this car?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Curiosity: Could you comment on the standard suspension please, especially around tight corners? Do you think at least the basic sport suspension is needed on this car?

    For 85% of people out there the stock suspension is fine. However if you’re asking about it, my guess is that you should get the optional sport suspension.

  • Brian
    the Supersprint exhaust combined with the pops of the ‘05 ECU tuning is something truly unique.

    Is there a way to remap my ’03 MCS ECU to have the ’05 exhaust pops?

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Is there a way to remap my ‘03 MCS ECU to have the ‘05 exhaust pops?

    Unfortunately no.

  • nuvolari

    Gorgeous car, but “Holy wheel gap, Batman!” :)

  • MINI Vanilli

    gabe, the car looks great! those seats are AWESOME!!! question. it sounds like you subscribe to the “drive it like its going to be driven” when you get the car new as opposed to “break it in”. am i correct in this assessment? and do you feel it has any affect if at all in a positive or negative way long term?

  • http://mini2 Fabio

    Car looks very classy 😉

    congrats

  • http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4646283 nina simone

    a hesitating beauty… lookin’ smart, Gabe!

    Is there a way to remap my ‘03 MCS ECU to have the ‘05 exhaust pops?

    the fabulous news, Brian: applying the “1 ball operation” to our 03 mcs birthed wonderful pops! ;D

  • http://www.gbmini.net Ian C.

    I found the clutch “lifeless” on the R56 I drove at MINI United – no feedback (compared to my GP of course). Do you find the same? Or maybe it was just that particular demo …

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gorgeous car, but “Holy wheel gap, Batman!” :)

    Actually there’s not quite as much difference as you think:

    2005 MCS / 2007 MCS

    I noticed this when we had my car and a 2005 MCS side by side this weekend doing an exhaust install.

    the car looks great! those seats are AWESOME!!! question. it sounds like you subscribe to the “drive it like its going to be driven” when you get the car new as opposed to “break it in”. am i correct in this assessment? and do you feel it has any affect if at all in a positive or negative way long term?

    Actually I subscribe to whatever break-in technique the manufacturer recommends. In this case baby it (kinda) until 1500 miles. That’s why these pictures aren’t at a track :)

    Why do I do this? I figure the engineers at BMW probably know a thing or two about their cars.

    I found the clutch “lifeless” on the R56 I drove at MINI United – no feedback (compared to my GP of course). Do you find the same? Or maybe it was just that particular demo …

    It’s a little lighter and the take-up is different but I wouldn’t quite call it lifeless. Generally speaking the transmission is a revelation compared to the previous Getrag box. From my experience (based on three separate R56s with one week each of use) the clutch weighting matches the quickness and the hot knife through butter action of the new transmission.

  • callahan

    What are your thoughts about the ambient lighting in the cabin.

  • miamijag

    Very cool & done in good taste, hope you get to enjoy it for a long time!!!

  • Aurel

    Fantastic looking car … no doubt about it. It has me sold on the R56 in and out now.

    The only big minus being is the $$$ you have to spend to have it look this great.

  • Greg W

    Looks absolutely stunning. I particularly like the choice of black leather. Is this available in red leather for a silver car?

  • Mark Smith

    Gabe you have a way with words. It’s very difficult for me to describe how and why I like my R56 better than my two R53’s (’03 and ’06 Vintage). I absolutely LOVE my Laser Blue/ Black Cooper S and plan to keep it for a very long time. I happened to choose a lot of the same upgrades that you did when I ordered my car back in February. I added the JCW Aero Kit, I-Pod Interface, and Black MINI Sport Stripes for some added flavor. I also added a short antennae that was originally Silver with a Black Tip and Base and had it painted to match the color scheme of my car. I also took a chance and ordered Pacific Blue Colorline, Anthracite Headliner, Checker Interior Surface, and the Black Leatherette abd I have to say I am very very happy. Your interior is the business though and really complements an already good looking car on the outside inside. JCW tuning kit is next for me!

  • http://www.chicagominiclub.com Steve

    MINI needs to come out with a special “Gabe-spec” edition for next year, with a small motoringfile logo on the back..

  • James
    With all the torque on tap, the R56 inhibits something hints of torque steer the R53 never had the luxury of dealing with. While it’s certainly not something that interferes with your enjoyment of the car (nor the all-out performance), it does rear its head now and again in hard acceleration around very tight corners.

    I noticed the same thing. The R56 is my first MINI so I have nothing to compare it to, but wondered if it was the LSD trying to decide where to apply the power, as the car has ample torque capability of spinning wheels even on dry pavement.

    Having an AB/B car, I must compliment you on your impeccable taste.

    I was going to go for lounge leather but decided against it because of price and what appears to be a different implantation in the US. Am I wrong, but don’t the UK models have the ‘tuck and roll’ on the seating surface as opposed to the leading edge?

  • Shamus

    I second the special “MOTORING FILE EDITION”. A tasteful, yet outrageously appointed Cooper S Works model dressed in a lightly-pinstriped, all black motif.

    Does your Lotus bore you with it’s lack of amenities? Is your Lambo a bit long in the tooth? Do you fear the crunchy image your Prius projects? Find the features, performance and fuel economy you crave dripping with a sexy, midwestern style found only in the greater metropolitan Chicago area. Rush now to your local MINI dealer to put your deposit down on this very rare edition. [Free subscription to bridger.us included with test drive]

    VERY jealous Gabe!

  • phi

    How’s the iPhone integrating into the car terms of phone features? I’m very envious! Very nice ride. I’m still saving up my pennies.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I second the special “MOTORING FILE EDITION”. A tasteful, yet outrageously appointed Cooper S Works model dressed in a lightly-pinstriped, all black motif.

    Maybe I should put down a set of spec rules similar to the GP? Must have black lounge leather. Must have white colorline, black piano dash and nav. Must be a AB/AB MCS w/JCW aero kit? Then again if I do that my car would be less unique :)

    How’s the iPhone integrating into the car terms of phone features?

    Perfect.

    Am I wrong, but don’t the UK models have the ‘tuck and roll’ on the seating surface as opposed to the leading edge?

    The US seating is different due to the US only mandated airbag weight sensors in the seats cushions. We can thank our wonderful government for that.

  • http://www.myr53.com SB

    Gabe, are you going to get the JCW spoiler? At least it looks like a much less complicated install than the previous version.

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  • Mark Smith

    Gabe you must have left that last message late in the evening. The Lounge leather comes in Redwood Red and the Leather/ Cloth combo seats come in Rooster Red. With such a great job on this site everyday you’re excused ;-).

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  • Imurtrbolvr

    Gabe you should get the ultimate exahust upgrade for this car, a full system by Milltek.

    200+ horses!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Gabe, are you going to get the JCW spoiler? At least it looks like a much less complicated install than the previous version.

    Not sure yet. I kinda like the stealth look of the stock piece. The JCW spoiler (even the black version) has those silver supports that might stand out a bit too much.

  • Dean Cory

    Gabe,
    I knew that you were a Jet Black Fan but your 07 AB monotone MCS is FANTASTIC looking. Reminds me of my former MINI (MINI In Black, 06 AB Monotone MC). They did a fantastic job on the aerokit. Love the Motoring file Mirror Caps!

    Didn’t you have the same 18″ rim and tire package on your R53?

    Dean

  • Dean Cory

    OOPS my bad didnt see the fine print MINI UNITED mirror caps!

  • fdavid

    Gabe: As an owner of the JCW spoiler on my R53 I would suggest to stay with your stealthy look. Don’t go for it…I kind f regret I did go for it actually because it really kills the roof line I think. Great ride Gabe, love it!

  • ejkd

    Gabe, just curious- do you have the “secret compartment” in your baby?

  • Gaston

    The torque steer in the R56 is my biggest disappointment. The steering lacks the wonderful linear feel of the previous generation. My 2003 MC just feels better in the curves than my 2007 MCS. And given how important handling is to me, this is a serious concern.

    I hope that once I hand the 2003 over to its new owner, and can’t drive it anymore, I can become comfortable with the 2007.

  • Rupert Livesey

    You sure that’s enough black you got there Gabe?

  • http://www.dickdavid.com dickdavid

    That is one beautiful MINI.

  • http://mini2.co.za Timmee
    However there are still a couple things that I miss with my old R53. The sound for one; the Supersprint exhaust combined with the pops of the ‘05 ECU tuning is something truly unique.

    I had an R56 Cooper S loaner yesterday, and found it pops and burbles even more than my R53! This was a car with stock exhaust. Needless to say I didn’t turn on the radio.

    I think it is a real pity the pops are not available in your market.

    In terms of handling, the R56 definately needs sports suspension, IMHO. The standard suspension does not compare to the R53 in terms of that feeling of connectedness.

  • nuvolari
    The steering lacks the wonderful linear feel of the previous generation. My 2003 MC just feels better in the curves than my 2007 MCS.

    Amen. They nailed the steering in the first generation car. I test drove an R56 and was completely underwhelmed with the steering feel. It felt quite… ordinary.

  • Bilbo Baggins

    Great review, Gabe. Well done!

    In the photo taken in your garage, or someones garage. There is a red/white car with what looks like the new roof rack system. Is that also yours? How do you like the way it attaches to the roof?

    Any thing you can share about the new racks would be appreciated. You could post it here or PM me.

    From the information available at the dealer it seemed that they were more complicated to install than the first edition racks.

    Thanks again for a great and insightful review.

    John

  • lavardera

    So the new 18″ tires you mentioned will have a taller sidewall, slightly larger diameter. Sacrificing some of the crisp steering? I think the proportion will look better on the car, and it might spare you a rim.

  • MiniBar

    I gotta gotta gotta know more about the ipod adapter. I just got my hands on a similarly equiped mini minus the ipod adapter. THe local dealer wants $600 to complete the install and I just cant justify it man. Apparently the whole process is very labor intensive but I am just wondering how it works out with the whole nav system. Any thoughts? Perhaps a few pics of seeing how the thing works? This is an awesome review by the way. Not a lot published on the net with regards to the nitty gritty.

    Also- the armrest is the most rinky dinky peice of dooky I have ever seen. Were you able to remove it without causing damage to the rest of the interior?

  • Paul

    The new rack system is fantastic. Installation takes about 20 minutes and requires no drilling (like the R53 rack). In fact no part of the rack touches paint. It’s also very quiet on the road and thus can be left on all the time. It’s a great non-performance mod!

  • Aussom

    Love the interior colour combination. I’ve always liked the R53 Cooper S Park Lane leather trim and black/white/silver/grey/chrome colour scheme.

    This one is a variant of it that adds more style and exudes sporty class. Once you switch to a leather interior, it’s very hard to go back!

  • Elio

    Your car looks simply stunning. For some reason though, to me it looks like BMW and less like a MINI.

  • Sam

    Glad to see your new baby finally came, but you wouldn’t have that torque steer issue with the steering if you went with a Cobalt in the first place:)

  • Bob

    Gabe,

    AWESOME!

    How much difference is there between the JCW Aero kit and the Aero kit that comes with the HyperSport package? I opted for the HyperSport package because I don’t think it comes with the side vents (which look good on yours in black but not particularly good on BRG)

    I’m Diggin’ the “ring” decal. I need to get a “Bitte ein Bitt” sticker for the back of mine. :-)

    How much wind noise is there with the sunroof open?

  • 1825vine

    Gabe, when are you going to have the first oil change?

  • MiniMe

    I really dig your configuration Gabe! Nice ride. Makes me think hard about “upgrading” to an ’08.

  • http://www.TheOfficeMaven.com TheOfficeMaven

    Hi Gabe,

    Long time no speak!

    WOW! Now that’s a really great looking MINI if I do say so myself.

    I’ve just placed an order for a similarly speced R56 MINI (including nav, PDC, Hi-Fi, and the VDC installed iPod adapter). I just can’t get over how cool the new nav interface is when compared to my R53 (the PDC integration is totally wild and I think that I might even like it a bit better than the rear-view camera I installed on my R53). Kudos to MINI. I’m looking forward to figuring out an aux video input for the new nav just as I did for the old one.

    This will be our fourth MINI in less than three years (including the lemon that had to be bought back by MINI USA if you remember). I’m really looking forward to the new car.

    If you remember, I was one of the few who got up close and personal with the prototype R56 (long ago) and I absolutely hated the new interior. However, after seeing how nice it looks with the new nav system and all of the other really cool interior options, I’m starting to think that I might like it more than my 05 R53. The new R56 sure drives great. You gotta love that torque! I test drove one with the air on and it didn’t make any difference whatsoever. The air on my 19% modded R53 simply sucks the life right out of the motor at low revs.

    Take care.

    — MIKE

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