Ask Vinnie: Your Chance to Talk Directly to MINIUSA’s Product Manager

Over the past couple of years we’ve found some of the most popular stories on MF have been our “Ask MINI” features. They continue to be a rare opportunity to ask questions and get answers from MINI USA’s product manager; Vinnie Kung. So with the 2011 MINI’s about to be released and the Countryman and Coupé both hitting US shores next year, we thought it would be an ideal time to continue the tradition.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Post your question in the comment section below by Friday July 30th 11:59 pm.
  2. We’ll go through and pick the very best, combine them with a few of ours and interview Vinnie.
  3. Finally we’ll post the full Q&A interview right here next week.

The comment section will be open from today to Friday. Look for his answers on MF within two weeks.

  • Will the new MINI Connected feature in any way have the potential to be retrofitted to R56 models? If not, will the upcoming Nav update have a similar map interface as the MINI Connected, or any similarities to the MINI Connected system?


  • Jas

    Will mini connected be orderable before oct?

  • harry

    will the 2011 mini jcw have the valvetronic system??? how can there be an issue of CO2 emissions, when in 2006 the mini jcw GP already had it… thanks

  • Master Yoda

    Have the high pressure fuel pump and intake manifold/throttle body freezing issues been addressed for the 2011 MINI Cooper S?

  • Here’s a zinger – Vinnie, what’s with the horrendous reliability record of the HPFP on the R56 MCS engine? BMW is suffering the same problem with the N54 engine family, dating back to 2007, and all we get is dealers accusing owners of using bad gas, which is scaring people away from the brand. There is clearly a problem with these pumps, that somehow isn’t being resolved, yet BMW & Mini are silent on the issue. What gives? What’s the real problem here, and when can we expect a permanent fix, if ever? It’s time to come clean.

  • barry

    Recently drove a car with Heads Up Display – a real drivers revelation – knowing your speed, rpm and gear without having to shift your gaze! Any chance of MINI getting it?

  • Drill

    Will we see any of the parts/technology from the Prodrive WRC Countryman make their way on to the other models?

  • vinnie- do you think that the coupe model will be released in the us next year..or is that really just high hopes?

  • jason

    Is there any chance of a stripped down lightweight version of the coupe (think Exige) that will not cost an arm and a leg? I would like a basic radio w/ ipod interface and ac, but everything else can go. Thank you.

  • Hard to resist answering a few of these questions myself.

  • nykwan

    Why did Mini choose for the cloth and leatherette seats to not include lumbar support?

  • Duane

    Hello Vinnie. When wil we get clean diesel engines?

  • Bill in Iowa

    Vinnie: Is there a chance of the early JCW’s being able to get the black headlights in either the HID’s or the Adaptive headlights. On the same note, beings as Mini/BMW has elected NOT to offer the black headlights, could you answer for us, WHY NOT?

  • AJD

    Will the parts/technology from the Prodrive WRC Countryman be offered as a retail model, similar to the Subaru WRX/WRX STI, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution and Ford Focus RS? Would this be considered the Countryman JCW model or a separate model?

  • Jas

    Can you get both adaptive headlights and black headlight casings? Hope so.

  • Bill in Iowa

    Vinnie: Just can’t resist. On April 14, 2010 it was announced, that Mini/BMW realized that they had made some mistakes with the JCW and now they were going to rectify that by offering a revised version of the JCW Aero kit standard, as well as the Valvetronic to get the power up to around 215 hp or so. What happened to a reasonably great idea?

    I know that cost came in there somewhere, but as over priced as the JCW is at this time, I’m sure that this would have meant sales, as well as much more exposure. WHAT HAPPENED?

  • EGP

    Simple non tech question Vinnie. When will all the rattles be gone? Both my JCW’s still have rattles which are hard to find. I cannot imagine what the countryman would be like if you drive it 10 miles on a dirt road ( if it has the same rattles issues as all the other models). My toyota 4 runners have 185,000 miles and no rattles, why cant MINI do the same?

  • David

    Is it true that there will be no three seat rear bench option in the U.S. version of the Countryman? If so, are there any plans to modify the vehicle in future year’s models to allow for that option?

  • Evan

    When will a JCW Tuning Kit be available for the Countryman? A year after it’s USA on-sale in 2/2011 or sooner.

    I also would like to echo the rattles in the R56. My dad’s 2009 is full of them while my 2004 R50 has one that may occur on very cold mornings only. The quality has to remain good.

    And thank you for the 2011 LCI interior updates. Also, when will be the last month of ordering the current generation Clubman?

  • Brian

    When will European delivery, preferably in France or Munich be offered? When is someone going to update the ask the product manager section of the owner’s network ?

  • Franz

    My family is likely expanding in the next year which means our dog needs to move from the back seat to the boot. I desperately want to stay with MINI, but the boot in the Clubman is not quite big enough for our dog. The Countryman may be our salvation, but all I see for boot dimensions are volumes not lengths. I understand that the rear seat position is adjustable by moving fore and aft as well as a “cargo” position. I assume the “cargo position negates the possibility of passengers in the rear seat, so that doesn’t help in my case. What is the width of the boot in the countryman? What is the depth of the boot in the seat fully forward and fully back positions? Please specify depth both at the floor and top of rear seat.

  • JellyDounut

    Vinnie. Has there been any real movement to give the Mini a more user friendly instrumentation and control layout? Shrinking the center gauge by 50 percent would free up valuable space for additional instrumentation, more intuitive climate control, etc. I’m not sure who the driver’s rev meter was designed for but in my R56, I cannot see the top of the gauge and I’m 5-6 with the seat all the way forward and at the lowest setting and the wheel set to the max up position. In any position, part of the gauge is obscured. I understand the need to acknowledge Mini’s heritage, but at the expense of proper driver controls and instrumentation? I love how my Mini delivers the driving experience but I abhor interacting with it. I hope you guys hire some real ergo designers and adopt their designs.

  • bee1000

    Will there be a Justa Cooper Coupe?

  • I have owned 2 different Minis for the past 7 years. I am looking at a hybrid now. Why doesn’t Mini have a hybrid? I would think the countryman would be ideal.

  • JonPD

    My question would center on the jcw sub-brand. With the lackluster sales of the R56 jcw has had and the reactions to the minimal changes in 2011 what do you see MINI doing to recapture the early enthusiasm? I know there is hope that the R60 jcw will fix some of the current short comings. Its agonizing to me to think the top of the jcw brand will be a crossover (SUV still to me since its larger than the original Range Rover).

    What info can you share with the performance fans of the MINI brand to give us some hope?

  • Mari Ernst

    I have been excited about the 2011 arrival of R56, but am having second thoughts about it due to what I am hearing about a persistant problem with the HPFP when the car is hot. I don’t want to get a car that is going to be in the shop all the time, never mind, a shop who won’t believe my report! Mini seems to be silent on this issue. Could you explain what your plan is to address this issue. It is well written of on the internet.

  • Thom

    When will we see a cradel for Verizon phones. My 2008 Clubman has been waiting for almost two years. When I bought it I was told by the end of 2008 – still waiting. You shoulden’t be charging for something you cant or woun’t deliver.

  • Adrian

    Will you bring back the real LSD for the MCS or any other model in the future? The optional LSD was big part of the reason I got my 2007 MCS. It shows that MINI has real performance in minded people in charge. I’m sorry but I just don’t think the electronic differental locks can deliver the feel that I so enjoy from my LSD equipped car.

  • (JAS)-you cannot have adaptive headlights with black headlight housings, just figured I’d mention it since I tried that when customizing our 2011’s for MINI of Pittsburgh

  • Dusty S

    Will the R60 have improved ride with less rattles? Has the freezing body throttle fix been applied at the factory level? My R56 has the final fix for the freezing body throttle from MINIUSA that came from New Jersey. Will there be a spare tire? The run flat tires are hard and noisy and totally worthless in winter and I’m talking the all season run flats. I had to switch to snow tires.

    I like the dinner plate size speedometer. It’s unique to MINI, makes the car stand apart from anything else. MINI could use some richer exterior colors. Enough with the grays and silvers and powdery blues. Laser Blue and Deep Sea Blue from BMW are nice.

  • Evan

    The original 1970 Range Rover is 15inches longer than a Countryman. It’s wheelbase is 2 inches shorter. The Rangie’s height is 8.5 inches taller and it is 0.4 inches narrower.

    So, the MINI Countryman is shorter by over a foot and much lower than an original Range Rover (Standard Wheelbase) and is not even worth comparing to any Range Rover after that.

    You guys have to give the Countryman a little more credit here. As long as MINI keeps the hatch and brings the exciting Coupe and Roadster, we have a great model line-up. A 4m car is still very small, or mini in size.

    I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let that sit.

  • There are a few of the above questions have already been answered in our previous Vinnie related QA earlier this year. For the record here’s Vinnie’s response to the three seater Countryman question.

    VK:There is no plan to have the three-seater rear due to US requirements for vehicles our size. Because a rear-seat retrofit requires seatbelt changes, this modifies the car’s safety standard that is acknowledged by the US DOT. So, we will not have it available for retrofit.

  • Tommy S.

    Will the JCW ever be configurable with the auto transmission? (ducks) Will Mini ever get the 2.0 diesel or other higher performance engines, especially in the larger Countryman? I’d want a JCW Countryman or similar performance, but need an auto tranny as it is a family car.

  • CiaoBoy

    Any chance that we will see both the tachometer and the speedometer in front of the driver at least offered as an option again? I really dislike the large speedometer in the center of the dash.

  • Alex

    Will the new base(6 spkr) audio system in the 2011 onward still have the bass removed from the rear 6×9 speakers that are actually meant to have bass? This is a major annoyance in my ’09.

    Thanks in Advance

  • J

    The new MINI has been at the forefront of in-car tech since day one. One class of features that’s missing is remote telemetry ala Viper SmartStart or GM’s OnStar. The Viper product covers remote door lock/unlock, sounding the horn, remote engine start. New OnStar systems provided safety features like alerting 911 if the airbags deploy as well as remote vehicle maintenance reports (ie, email if the tire pressure monitor goes off).

    I’ve read that GM developed a smartphone app for the Volt that employs OnStar to provide additional features like the Viper SmartStart supplies and that since its been built for the Volt, they’ll expand it to the rest of their fleet.

    Will we ever see these features available in a MINI? Just being able to remotely sound the horn would be a huge help when your MINI is lost in the mall parking lot in a sea of SUVs and mini-vans. MINI Connected seems to leverage a smartphone for the car to access the internet. Will my MINI ever be able to connect on its own?

  • Vinny,

    One thing that I had to do with my R53 is install limo tint on the sunroofs to cut down on the sunlight. Any chance MINI would offer darker tinting? Also an optional solid screen for the sunroofs instead of one that allows light in would be nice. Second, will MINI ever offer power seats so that we would have more seating positions available?

  • RP

    As I understand it, black headlight housings will not be available as an option on the 2011 JCW. Why not?

  • Jas

    (Jon Merkel) That is too bad, Hard decision for me now. What did you decide on?

  • B

    Will we ever see an AWD R56 (or that size) model in the mini line-up? I think an AWD R56 JCW would be unstoppable. I’d buy one tomorrow if that existed (after a lot of begging to my wife)

    How about an AWD coupe?


    We all can dream can’t we?

    When will we see pics of the production mini coupe?

  • How about a nice bright white, instead of the dirty pepper color?

  • Captain

    European Delivery Program – definitely would appreciate an update on any plans MINI has in the future on offering European delivery. Recognizing the revenue/profit/unit may be less than other vehicles (including BMWs) that have an existing delivery program, perhaps a no frill version to get MINI started in 2011? (i.e. no free airfare or hotel, but we got you covered with a month of motoring insurance and perhaps a modest discount on pricing, etc.)

    We are planning a trip to Europe in 2011 and would like to time it with a purchase of a new vehicle; MINI would be our vehicle of choice to travel in Europe or any continent for that matter.

  • I have a question, and not a complaint. 🙂 Will Auto Stop Start ever be an option? I have heard the whole EPA testing thing, and the economy of scale ordeal, but I still think its cool. Could we at least have this as an option or an add on? Not every MINI has to come with it, just mine. Maybe the shift indicator lights too, or is that to much to ask for? Thanks. Either way, its one cool little car.

  • QL

    Since the WRX has more then 300 horsepower,think you folks at Mini can help us out with just a tad more horses.(:

  • Minipuma

    Any chance that we will see the return of the silver roof to the hardtop R56? Some of the new colors (Hot Chocolate, Horizon Blue) seem born to live under silver roofs, not white ones.

  • goat

    Can we look forward to “on-road performance-tuned” AWD versions of the hatch or Coupster (at least in JCW spec)? By this I mean an AWD system and accompanying suspension focused on tarmac performance, akin to what Audi offers in the RS quattro / Mitsu in the EVO / etc., but in the smaller footprint of the Hatch / Coupe rather than the R60 Crossover?

  • goat

    Will we see brighter non-metallic colour choices in future, inspired by heritage racing colours? (Please see Porsche with their use of non-metallic green, orange, yellow.)

  • sdmidget

    Why no 16″ white wheel choices?

  • BananasRUS

    I would like to know if the flush-mounted driving lights, as seen on the Beachcomber concept, would be available? Possibly a replacement grill could be purchased with the lights already installed?

  • jason

    “Hard to resist answering a few of these questions myself.”

    Gabe, go on…

    Also, any chance of being able to do a PW roof option, or, in the future, allowing a red roof option on non-jcw cars?

    Furthermore, how is MINI USA going to compete with the 500 (price) without offering a One variant stateside considering that the cost of even a non-S MINI is getting so expensive?

  • Jas

    Why can’t black headlight casings be with adaptive headlights?


    Got to reply to Ciaoboy about the large speedometer being displaced from the center. Made me laugh that someone would want to take away the one thing that defines any generation mini.

  • CiaoBoy

    Hehe. I much prefer both gauges in front of the driver, as in my 2006 MCS JCW.

  • Bill in Iowa

    CiaoBoy…..You do have both gauges in front of you. You have the tach and you have a digital speedometer. Personally, I think that the center mounted speedometer gives the Mini individuality, plus I rather like it there, maybe a bit smaller, but still I like it. All cars have the speedometer and gauges right in front of you and Mini makes it different.

  • mike

    What can we expect for mpg figures specifically the all4 with 6 speed manual?

  • CV

    Any chance that we will see both the tachometer and the speedometer in front of the driver at least offered as an option again? I really dislike the large speedometer in the center of the dash.


  • BobS

    European delivery. I don’t expect any special pricing, airfare, or the like. Just would like to order the car States-side, pick it up in Oxford or wherever, drive it for a few weeks or months through Europe, and have it shipped home for me with the next delivery to my local POE/VPC. Way better than renting a car…

  • Sal Salerno

    I really wanted a Camden edition but some of the new features such as Mini connected are enticing. Will White silver be among the new colors for standard use on an S

  • Again many of these questions have been answers on several occasions. If you’re looking for 2011 information be sure to check out the 2011 Refresh section for answers to many of the questions here.

  • CiaoBoy

    I still would prefer an analog speedometer, not a digital one. As far as individuality is concerned, I don’t mind as long as ergonomics are not compromised as a result. I don’t like how Toyota put the instrument cluster in the center of the dash, like on the Echo or the Scion, and I don’t want MINI doing it either, even if it is part of its heritage. It’s the same reason I don’t like Saab putting its ignition switch in the center console or Porsche putting its ignition on the left side of the steering wheel.

  • Hoover

    OK. I’ve decided to stop reading these questions now. As I read them I can’t help but mutter, “Answered…answered…stupid…bitter…stupid…answereed…” I do realize that there are new folks on this site, and that not everyone reads everything here…but I just don’t have the patience for this. Hope you get at least a couple of good questions, Gabe.

  • “Answered…answered…stupid…bitter…stupid…answereed…” I do realize that there are new folks on this site, and that not everyone reads everything here…but I just don’t have the patience for this.

    I’ll likely just grab a few from here and interview VInnie with my own questions. This is by far the worst showing we’ve ever had. Still 24 hours left though.

  • JonPD

    Another question Gabe

    What can Vinnie tell us about MINI USA’s view on the WRC MINI. I would love to see if MINI USA see’s this affecting the production models in the USA in the foreseeable future. If so will this be limited to the R60 or is the R58/R59/R56 going to see anything from this in his view?

    Another question would be what has Vinnie excited about the MINI brand today, in one year, and where would he like to see the brand go in the next 5 years.

    One final one for now would be as a self proclaimed performance enthusiast does he see the R58/R59 being the top of the performance MINIs in the future. Personally would still to love a R59 GP mk2.



    It is hard to put together a a good question without it being

    A) Stupid – why can’t I get a green interior on a blue car with red mirrors and yellow wheels? B) Confidential – so what are the official EPA numebers on the 2013 with 3cyl turbo/6M?? Hp?

    That being said here are my attempts:

    How come there is no one touch down (or up for that matter) on the R57? Was this a safety thing? Programming?

    Why did MINI eliminate the tilt/slide/memory (for getting into the back seat) from the passenger seats in the late 2010’s yet keep them on the drives side?

    With all of the attention on the Countryman, Coupe, and Roadster what is MINI going to do to keep the current R55/R56/R57 fresh for the next few years? (the 2011 LCI is nice but I see more people fleeing for the three new variants)

  • Blainestang

    @goat: We don’t always agree, but I agree with you here for sure. We need fewer bland metallic paint colors, and more bold non-metallics. There is a Japanese R53 that’s done up like a Signal Green GT3 RS and it looks great.

    @sdmidget: Another good point. Why so few white wheels in general?

    @Hoover: my feelings exactly

  • Blainestang

    @goat: We don’t always agree, but I agree with you here for sure. We need fewer bland metallic paint colors, and more bold non-metallics. There is a Japanese R53 that’s done up like a Signal Green GT3 RS and it looks great.

    @sdmidget: Another good point. Why so few white wheels in general?

    @Hoover: My feelings exactly. The vast majority are either ridiculous (when will MINI build a car that weighs less than a Lotus, has 300hp, and costs less than the current JCW… Oh, and make Awd a no-cost option!) or have been answered before (many times more than once).

  • goat

    @Blainestang – I’ve seen that car I think… it looks fantastic! Was thinking of that MINI as well as of this P-car Cayman photo (assuming link works):

  • Minipuma

    If there’s one thing that I bet 99% of all the people on this forum would agree on, it’s that the current color palette is clearly lacking in a certain sportiness. Every color swap of the past year or two — Spice Orange in place of Mellow Yellow, White Silver in place of Pure Silver, Ice Blue in place of Oxygen Blue, and so on — seems to move the palette more into Lexus-ish luxury car tones, satiny finishes (Velvet Silver, Eclipse Grey), and ambivalent levels of saturation (Spice Orange) that seem to suggest a hesitation on the part of the color designers about what they are trying to accomplish.

    My question for Vinnie would be, is MINI getting feedback from American dealers, salespeople, and customers about what colors they’d like to see on the lot? Why do the new colors so often go against the grain of what appears to be public opinion? Are we being unfair when we note that it sometimes seems that many colors remain metallic only so customers can be charged the extra $500?

  • jason

    These might also qualify as stupid, but: With MINI/BMW’s decision to build the new city car from carbon fiber, could we see more CF options for MINI owners like a CF roof, hatch, bonnet, etc…? Also, I still really want pull handles (straps) for the interior door handles a la certain Porsche variants. Is there any way that we could see more simple, non costly ideas like this that will further differentiate MINI’s from other mass production vehicles?

  • b-

    Will a 6’3″ non petite person fit into the coupster? The MINI is great for tall folk but if I can’t get in without clocking my head…

  • Dusty

    One more question, will chrome wells be an option? I love my chrome rims on my R56.

  • mellowmcs

    Will yellow be offered?

  • JonPD

    I would also love to know with the Fiat 500 being brought to the US has MINI thought about bringing to MINI One to the US. How does Vinnie see the Fiat introduction here will affect MINI USA with its current stateside lineup?

    I would also love to if the MiTo and Focus RS comes stateside how is MINI USA going to deal with this move. Since the US being the largest MINI market what types of ideas does Vinnie have to keep the brand loyalty?

  • Vinnie: What is your favorite episode of South Park, and who is your favorite character? (I figure you were tired of all MINI all the time)

  • JonPD

    Any chance that we will see the Twins at any events in the US before the launch, if so generally when can we expect this. Also can he provide any further details on where they are at currently with the Twins.

    Keep hoping they sneak them to MTTS but I am quite certain that this time its all about the R60.

  • dc11

    Will mini ever make a product that is true to the JCW brand?

    Meaning, will there ever be what the M3 is to a normal 3-series? A true drivers car that is blatantly different from the normal 3 series, with the performance much better as well (standard and not at a premium, of course)???

  • Will we ever see a MINI One based R60 or something in the Cooper lineup. A nice entry level car to compete with the Honda Fit and Mazda 2.