MINI May Offer Torque Steer Elimination Retrofit

For 2011 MINI has introduced updated steering software that (in conjunction with refined engine management) virtually eliminates torque steer. Yes that tug you feel from your R56 MCS’s steering wheel while going around corners is now gone for 2011. But what about those who bought a MINI mere months ago? MINI hasn’t forgotten about you and discussions are underway at MINI to potentially (with a capital “P”) offer a retrofit of the new steering software for JCW models from 2008 to 2010. But what about the MCS?

The idea is to just offer it as a software upgrade at the dealer for all JCW owners. Interestingly also under consideration is to offer the same software upgrade for MCS owners for a small fee (further differentiating the models). So that begs the question; if you have a 2007-2010 MCS, what would you pay for a software update to eliminate torque steer?

[poll id=”18″]
  • Drill

    Probably not a very popular position but I think this should fall under the “New Feature” category and as such, if you want to retrofit it you should pay for it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000719142059 Kevin Collins

    What I WOULD pay for would be for them to rip out the crappy electric steering and replace it with a good manual rack! That would be worth cracking my wallet for. These cars should have a manual steering option, if not nothing but. It’s not an F150, it’s a tiny car that would be easy as pie to steer with a good old fashioned manual rack.

  • James Irmiger

    Yes, I will pay if needed, HOWEVER, since it is just software, it should be free. Consider it a warranty charge and be done with it.

  • grueinthebox

    If it’s just software, I’d consider it to have been bad programming to start with… Meaning they should consider this a “bug fix”, not a “retrofit” or “new feature” and it should be part of the standard software upgrade, and performed on any car that’s brought in for service at no additional charge.

  • JM in NH

    There shouldn’t even be a question about this. MCS is supposed to be a small car with great performance, and quality customer service…long racing tradition…oodles of fun to drive… etc. Customers pay enough to purchase. I’m not laying out a wad of cash for ‘fun.’ What’s going on? Do they forget about you once you drive the car off the lot?? So there was a problem with the software and they’ve fixed it. Offer it, gratis, to anyone who wants to upgrade.

    I agree there should be a manual steering option.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610504117 Dylan Bland

    I wouldn’t pay for the upgrade, but I feel that it wouldn’t be a massive ask to do the work if/when your car is already in for scheduled servicing. If MINI decide not to do this – I would understand and respect that though, it certainly shouldn’t be expected imho.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    I would understand and respect that though, it certainly shouldn’t be expected imho.

    That’s my position as well. I can’t think of another carcompany that would even consider retrofitting software like this at any cost let alone free for potentially JCWs and MCSs.

    Electric steering is here to stay due to how efficient it os as compared to a manual rack.

  • Rocketboy_X

    Although I wouldn’t expect it to be free (it still takes time from the dealership and a tech to install the new software), I do recall when I bought my first gen MINI, how one of the benefits of the car was it’s easily upgradeable software which would allow MINI/BMW to update your car with new features.

    I did have the dealership turn off the running lights, activate the auto-lock, and set the time that my headlights were on after the car turned of longer than standard, so the sales pitch was not all hyperbole. I’m just not sure that changing the way the car drove would be in the scope of the original bullet point.

  • JM in NH

    The issue is whether or not this is a software upgrade, or a software fix.

  • goat

    Very cool of MINI to be considering this seriously enough that they are publicly canvassing owners. Possibly precedent-setting for car industry… as more car systems can be “tuned” via software would be a strong sign of goodwill for OEMs to adopt such an “Operating System support” model as in personal computer / smartphone industry. Would also allow OEMs to make more such e-upgrades as “running change” software upgrades to keep customers enthused between new car purchases.

  • jbkONE

    Think about it this way: if they said (we’re in pretend land right now, follow me here) “we changed the mounting bracket for the steering rack such that it eliminates torque steer” would you still expect it for free? I don’t think the torque steer is a software bug or glitch, it’s a design element: poor design, yes, but that’s the design. You want a better design, you pay for it. Forget the fact that it’s software for a sec, if it were a mounting bracket, or hubs, or brake cooling ducts would you still think it should be free? Some people think we should have gotten brake cooling ducts originally, but they don’t expect them for free.

    That said, differeniating the models by offering freebies to JCW vs MCS? I don’t agree with that at all. What if one spent $38,000 on an MCS and another spent $31,000 on his JCW? Does anyone think JCW buyers deserve to be treated better than the rest?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590102201 David Park

    if it’s a software thing, does that mean they can bring the “burble” back too? that would sweeten the pot, i would think.

  • jbkONE

    I bet an aftermarket MINI tuner could give you some burble.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=814825706 Sideways Eh!

    This is indeed a cool thing to be considering. What has already been mentioned above is that even if MINI HQ offers it as a no charge fix, it is still going to cost a tech time to install, and the dealership hoist time for the car. Unless MINI HQ is suggesting to pick up the tab for the dealers I can’t see them seriously offering the upgrade for free…And lets be serious here…it is an Upgrade…Not a fix! an upgrade would have been within a few months of the original going on sale, not 3 years down the road.

  • Ryan

    The burble is suppose to in an upcoming update from Revolution Motor Works

  • jim

    how about they give us that and the software upgrade the 2011 gets with more power. the extra power is just software isn’t it? i think most people would pay 200-300 for power and the steering fix.

  • Chad

    Torque steer is a potential safety issue. Should be a fix, not an upgrade. Especially if you’re bringing the car in for service anyway.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    how about they give us that and the software upgrade the 2011 gets with more power. the extra power is just software isn’t it? i think most people would pay 200-300 for power and the steering fix.

    The 2011 MCS has a new engine with Valvetronic and a host of other mechanical changes to the engine and drivetrain. A retrofit would mean installing a new engine and transmission.

  • Cody jarrett

    How about an iPod integration retrofit to my 2006. Being that the original is horrible

  • JM in NH

    Cheers Chad – I couldn’t agree more.

  • Andrew

    I would pay a small amount ~$100 if the burble were included, but would not complain if it were free.

  • Neal
    Gabe: So that begs the question; if you have a 2007-2010 MCS, what would you pay for a software update to eliminate torque steer?

    It does not “beg the question,” it raises the question.    /peeve

    If the torque steer is a safety issue fixed without any parts costs, then it should be provided free at the dealer (scheduled at the mutual convenience of dealer and owner). If this isn’t a safety fix, then MINI should charge.

  • FrankB

    I can’t believe MINI is actually thinking of charging for this. It’s a defect prevalent in all MCS…that’s called a recall and should be covered under warranty. That is, if you still want to be known as a quality company. I’m in the software biz and know only too well the cost of fixing bugs, but we do it for free, because that is what our customers pay for! Do the right thing!

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    It’s a defect prevalent in all MCS…that’s called a recall and should be covered under warranty.

    Front wheel drive cars with any power have had torque steer since the 1930’s. Torque steer is not a defect. It has been a way of life for 70 years (ask a Saab 900 Turbo owner). It’s only in the past few years that automakers have had the technology to alleviate the problem.

  • http://www.lilcoopr.com lilcoopr

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The insane torque steer is my major gripe about my gorgeous JCW Clubbie! It’s unsafe at times to pass trucks with a sudden acceleration because sometimes the car starts jerking towards the truck = unsafe!

    I would love to fully enjoy the power that the car has without worrying about whether I’m still driving in a straight line!

    Even if I have to pay for the upgrade, I will do it!

  • Michael

    BMW have ruined the MINI – I test drove one for a couple of days recently – Just horrible – The “no feel” steering is just one of the problems on a’10 MCS. The car is no longer a MINI, but a mini BMW, with the price to match.

  • Alex

    If I recall correctly when I had the window dipper error due to a software flaw MINI updated this under warranty. The service slip indicated that it would have been $148 big ones to fix as it took an hour of labor. However, it was probably 10 minutes of labor with 50 minutes of sitting there from what I have heard about their software system.

    That said if this torque steer problem is ONLY due to the software and the car is still under warranty then this should be free. Why should one software bug be any different than another? You can say that you can get used to operating the cars steering as is. But you can also force the windows to close even when the auto up fails. Would you accept that? I didn’t.

    The service slip would probably look like this: “Customer complains that the car jerks uncontrollably during cornering.”

    “Solution: Apply software fix #1234. Vehicle taken for road test and the issue no longer persists.”

  • cristo

    If a software update fixes it, then I doubt it was torque steer in the first place.

  • lavardera

    free would be nice, but there is no safety error here – torque steer is common and takes driver awareness and discipline to handle. If you can’t then you keep your foot out of those situations.

    This is more a question of how they want to treat the brand. Improving the product is one way of maintaining demand. If they had a policy to map every improvement back to the existing product they would undermine the uniqueness of their new cars. On the other hand, offering something that could have any safety value would only build the brand image and increase the ongoing value of their cars – both good for Mini.

    I say no burble, as much as I’d like to see that, and free torque steer – but on a voluntary basis, no recall, no notice such as the fuel pump letter that went out.

  • http://blog.markcichy.com Mark Cichy

    Love it! Can I sign up now?! 😉 Far too much torque steer in my ’10 JCW Clubman — not just on corners but from a stand still. Kind of embarrassing sometimes when ‘taking off.’ As a JCW customer I expect the upgrade and as an S owner I would pay a $100+/- fee to eliminate.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    If a software update fixes it, then I doubt it was torque steer in the first place.

    Some of these comments boggle my mind. To be clear… the software reduces torque at specific times when cornering and virtually eliminates the issue. Other automakers (notably Mazda) have started to use this as well.

  • LeeL

    So, the software reduces the torque the engine produces? After reading this with teh mentions of steering software, I almost wonder if they somehow were using teh electric steering rack to bias the steering in the opposite direction to compensate for it.

  • zm

    how does it reduce torque when corning? does it have a max torque (and power) output depending on steering angle, speed, etc, and detune the engine to compensate?

    how does it intrude on driving style? does it seemingly make the car slower during spirited driving or on a track, like some other electronic driving aids?

  • Versus

    Gabe, I’m with you on theses comments.

    You knew you were buying a FWD vehicle, unless, I dunno, you didn’t test drive it first FWD + some punch = torque steer. My old 02 Honda Civic Si (EP3) has torque steer and produces nowhere near as much torque as the MINI in the driveway.

    Some of these responses have been reasonable, but others…claiming bad design and the like. If it’s bad design it’s been bad design across the industry for the past 50 years or so. I think it’s great that MINI is even floating this idea to the public before doing it, if they do it at all. I’d hate to see what people would say about torque steer after driving a Ford Focus RS.

  • Versus

    BTW, how did the burble even get factored into the equation?

  • Ryan

    @Versus – Probably because the burble is also controlled by the software.

  • Chad

    Frankly, this sounds pretty surreal. Cars under warranty, even under maintainence, would not get a known software fix for an issue not affecting older or newer cars simply because it would damage the brand in regards to premium or current models? At the surface it would seem unnatural to think that I would be willing to trade my ’08 for an ’11 for nothing other than less torque steer, and if I WERE that crazy, don’t you think I’d also be upset that the software update was not made available for my ’08?

  • maximusGeek

    I would pay for it, if they also included other SW updates as well. I would assume its all one SW image, so would I also get auto-up windows? I’m in a 2007 R56 with JCW pkg.

  • Scott Hogsett

    Obviously the 14% that don’t have torque steer issues have a Justa and not an S.

  • Lee

    Would you have to have DSC for the retrofit? And would they need a different version if you have LSD?

  • r.burns

    Some would prefer to keep full power even with torque steer !

    That is why Mini let customers choose, wether they want this fix, or not.

  • alpinamike

    So I guess this will share the same platform as the DSC which reads the position of the steering wheel and gradually let off the throttle when max throttle/ power range is hit. Included with the software.

  • James Irmiger

    I guess the real question everyone needs to ask is, does this have to be a safety issue to be to be covered under warranty?

    My dealer replaced my entire clutch pedal assembly just because it was making a creak. Sure, they tried lubing it first, it still worked fine and posed no danger, but it got replaced anyway. On MINI’s dime no less!

    I personally don’t care what’s to blame, if something’s not right and I’m still under warranty, fix it. And just like my creaky clutch, my knocking timing chain, and my ever-rattling hatch, it should be covered without undo hassle or preamble.

  • Blainestang

    This is not a fix for something that is broken. This is akin to any other improvement that a future model may have. Should owners of 2010 MCS’s get Valvetronic for free? Or, more specific to software, should people who bought Windows XP get Vista or 7 for free?

    When people bought their current MINI’s, they either knew there was torque steer or they should have driven it more. In the same sense, they knew that the got 118hp/172hp/208hp and that future years would get more. You got what you paid for, and if you want something different, you shouldn’t be surprised that you have to pay for it.

    To be clear, this is different than something that is broken or not as advertised. If your timing chain rattles, your sunroof sticks, or your fuel pump doesn’t work, those need to be fixed because they’re not working as sold/advertised.

  • goat

    @ Blainestang: +1.

    And to sum it up mathematically: “common sense” >> “sense of entitlement”. Or should be, anyway.

  • DanM

    The XP/Vista/Windows7 software analogy doesn’t hold water to me. Microsoft released a number of free patches and service packs for XP. New functionality and performance improvements were often included in these updates.

    Say you bought a hot dog off a street vendor and as you’re walking away he puts out a new flavor of mustard. You turn around and ask for some of this mustard and he says “sorry, you’ll need to buy another hot dog if you want this mustard”. Is he “entitled” to say that? Sure. Is it good for business? I don’t think so.

    This analogy is flawed as well since, a) the mustard is a finite, consumable resource, and b) the time from initial purchase to “update” is extremely short.

    In MINI’s defense the dealers may need to be compensated for the time it takes to install the update (not to mention the engineering effort to develop the update).

    For me what it comes down to is this: is MINI attempting to charge whatever the market will bear? For an already pricey car with a lot of pricey options this strikes me as a practice that will not engender any goodwill amongst the enthusiasts out there. And I would imagine it’s the enthusiasts who would be most interested in this update.

    Pissing off the people most enthusiastic about your product just seems dumb. If the update can be done in a minimal amount of time just charge a minimal fee.

  • James Irmiger

    @Blainestang

    I think you’re exaggerating just a bit, don’t you? Valvetronic, seriously? Your Windows XP/7 example is fairly close in this case, except it’s more a Vista/7-type issue. It’s a good point though. There are many out there who feel that the problems of Vista were so serious and widespread that any upgrade away from it should have been free, while others take your stance. I tend to view this as more of a Windows 7 to 7.0.1 upgrade (which are traditionally, free). It’s not a complete system upgrade after all, just an update to make things run smoother :)

    @goat People here have different opinions and this post is asking for them. Just because they’re different than yours doesn’t mean they’re stupid or, using your maths “your opinion” > “everyone else”. Play nice.

  • Captain

    I have grown used to the torque steer and drive accordingly, the existence is one personality trait of my ’08 MCS.

    The only time I regret having to account for the presence is under full throttle and a partition exists in the road on a bank/curve (i.e. on an elevated on/off ramp).

    If I know the partition is there from past experience, I back off the throttle a bit to compensate and that keeps the MCS on target.

    However, if the partition is unexpected, it does jerk the wheel – a potentially dangerous situation if you are not dialed in.

    To answer Gabe’s question, I may be interested in paying for an hour of labor to tame the torque steer. Personally, I would like to get someone’s first hand experience/comparison on how the (’10 or earlier) MCS drives/handles pre/post operation before making the change.

    I would rather live with the torque steer if the solution neuters the MCS to the point of where it no longer drives like a MINI. I think Gabe’s review of the 2011 MCS is compelling, but does that experience translate over to the 2010, etc.?

  • robble

    267 lbs of torque run through my front tires on my MINI.

    Stock suspension.

    I have no problem with torque steer. It tells me I have my torque.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=529305914 Haemish Edgerton
    I have no problem with torque steer. It tells me I have my torque.

    Yeah, but your butt dyno can also tell you that just fine. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Joey4420 Joey Shreve

    Since Torque steer is inherent in any powerful front wheel drive car. I will admit that my MCCSm does have its share of Torque steer, and depending on the cost it would be well worth the upgrade cost. If it is a software upgrade and can be retrofit it shouldn’t cost more than the time to install it. If it is in someway a hardware, then the cost of the hardware and either time to install or I should have the option of installing it myself.

    Basically I bought my Mini knowing that it had torque steer and that I was going to live with it as I bought it unless I paid to upgrade things.

    I had a 1992 Dodge Shadow V6 that had torque steer, I didn’t get a free fix for it… so can’t expect one here today.

  • goat

    @ James Irmiger: “playing nice” =/= “playing dumb” i.e., I never implied anyone’s OPINIONS are “stupid” (opinions are all equally valid, they are entirely subjective after all), but I do call out some of the EXPECTATIONS (which are not the same as opinions) as betraying a sense of entitlement.

    Look… threads on “buyer’s remorse” and “demands” that manufacturers offer retrofit / upgrade options at free / low cost are actually quite common in the world of computers / electronics. This is partly due to the ever-shortening product cycles working to make whatever you buy obsolete… coupled with bombardment of advertising and enthusiast forums we all love to frequent which make us aware of all the changes/upgrades manufacturers release. As a result, the line between “functionality defect correction” and “functionality upgrade” has become quite blurred… and perhaps was grey in the first place since we are not as used to having this discourse in the automotive domain (because as I said, MINI is pioneering here with this potential functionality upgrade).

    My point (and I believe Blainstang’s and others’ above) is that we need a working definition of what constitutes a “functionality defect correction” (e.g., any item typically covered by warranty) and “functionality upgrade” (e.g., retrofitting the OEM AUX-IN to your stereo; dealer-installed JCW Suspension).

  • Lee

    What if MINI had never mentioned the possibility of a retrofit, or MINI determines (or just decides) a retrofit is not possible? Would anyone go to their dealer and say “My car has too much torque steer. MINI should recall my car to fix it.”? I doubt it, and no one would really expect them to.

    Torque steer is not a defect – it is (was) a limitation of the technology used at the time.

    So, does that mean MINI should ignore the possibility of providing a retrofit? No – if they can do it, and it doesn’t cost too much in development, it’s great PR and could garner some wonderful customer loyalty. So I’d love to see them do it, free or for a fee.

    But that’s completely different than saying they should provide a retrofit for free because it’s a defect.

  • http://fromthecontroltower.blogspot.com/ CV

    What Lee said +1

  • Jeltok

    I have a 2010 JCW and the torque steer is my second most hated feature of the otherwise wonderful car (first one is the reverse gear in the totally wrong place) Excessive torque steer makes me feel unsafe sometimes, so I end up driving this car in a very mild way, which defeats the purpose of buying JCW. I’d love to have a fix for that design deficiency.

  • Dominic

    Some people will always say the same thing: “Torque steer is inherent in any powerful front wheel drive car.” However, the first generation MINI MCS had virtually no torque steer. Even the 300+ hp modified MINIs I drove did not exhibit any torque steer. I could let got of the steering wheel, floor it and the car drove straight as an arrow, even when changing gears, nothing. I was amazed and saddened to find out what torque steer actual was first hand. That didn’t happen until I purchased a 2007 MCS. What a difference between the 03 and 07! This car became a beast to handle when pushed hard. I can’t believe we’re going backwards in technology with newer versions of the MINI (don’t get me started on the stereo!) Seeing as how BMW/MINI knew how to make a FWD car without torque steer way back in 02, then “add” it back in in the 2nd gen, I’m really at a loss. Call the “add” a “defect” or “an option” or “get used to it, all powerful FWD will have this” to make yourself happy, but I will call it a “defect” that should be repaired by MINI.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com David

    I’m not sure I want the retrofit, at least I don’t want to be the first to get it installed. The line “in conjunction with refined engine management” scares me. If the software upgrade decreases the power my JCW makes, I don’t want it. Hey, it’s a front wheel drive car with over 200 HP at the wheels, you’re going to get a little tug on the steering wheel from time to time under hard acceleration. If you can’t deal with that, get a Miata.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=712979558 Kevin Syler

    It should be free, that’s the bottom line. I have owned 2 MINIs. A 2005 Cooper and now a 2009 MCS Clubman. Issues with the 05 and now issues with the 09. They need to step up and take care of those that stick with the brand!!!!

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