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MotoringFile First Drive: MINI JCW Coupe

It was my second stint on the track when it happened. A gentle lift of the throttle sent tail out and the JCW Coupe (with rear wing raised) gently drifted out and onto the rumbled strips on corner exit perfectly blending into the straight. It was that perfect track moment that sticks with you for days and week later. And it’s the kind of moment that defines the soul of the car like the Coupe.

More importantly it was exactly what I wanted and exactly what I expected the car to do. And no other stock MINI could have done it so easily and looked so good doing it. 

Since it was shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009, the MINI Coupe has reached almost mythical status among MINI enthusiasts and fans. It was a car that looked fast at stand still in a way no MINI had previously. Its design seemed to promise what many MF readers seem to be in constant search for; a faster, unique and (ultimately) exciting MINI that delivers more of the motoring experience we’ve all grown to love. From the coupe shape to the rumored lighter body, it all served to create a mystique about a car no one had seen much less driven. And now that we’ve seen and driven it extensively on the track, I’m here to report we were all wrong. 

The truth is that the Coupe’s benefits are much more nuanced than simply being lighter or faster. For one it’s actually heavier than the R56 hatch by about 45 lbs (due to a handful of reasons we’ll get to). And while it is faster, it’s not dramatically so (1-2 tenths 0-60 and it does 149 flat-out). 

So what’s the point? Why would you give up a couple seats of the standard hatch for so little gain? The answer is varied and not as straightforward as some would have hoped. This isn’t the Lotus Exige of the MINI family some had hoped for. Instead it’s simply an extension of the MINI family put in a sleek and sophisticated package with a different kind of versatility than the hatch. Yes it’s faster, slightly more agile with its own unique version of MINI’s famous handling traits. But at the end of the day,it’s quite close to the hatch on the track and on the road. 

No the Coupe isn’t head and shoulders better than what came before it. Yes it’s a little faster and perhaps a little more of a hooligan on the track. But that’s not what will get people to drop their jaws. That will happen when they see the finished car for the first time. 

It happened to me after spending a couple hours with the car on the track. We were led into a small (and hot) room littered with sketches, images and elements of the car on all four walls. And one other thing; a completely finished and finalized White Silver and Chili Red JCW. We were there to listen to Anders Warming talk about MINI Design and the elements that make up the family of MINIs. But all I wanted to do was get up and touch it, study it and take this new car in. From splitter to spoiler it pushes all the right buttons for a car that’s meant to be a personal styling statement. And it’s a bold statement that I immediately loved in person.

Styling aside, there’s a lot new here. The R58 Coupe is based on the R57 convertible and that means the Coupe gets the Convertibles extra bracing in the door sills and under the floor. Great for rigidity (especially with the extra roof the Coupe has over the convertible) but bad for weight. Additionally the Coupe gets a pretty serious brace where the rear seats would be that spans the width of the car. With this extra bracing it easily qualifies as the most structurally rigid car MINI has ever produced and one of the most rigid cars sold today. But totaled up this makes the Coupe about 45 lbs heavier than the hatch. And it’s the added bracing that makes up the majority of the extra weight.

Additionally MINI has added further pedestrian impact safety into the front of the car (more specifically around the bumper) to comply with 2013 EU laws. Finally the movable rear spoiler adds about 6kg (13 lbs) in the rear of the car. 

Models

MINI plans to offer four models starting with the 121 hp Cooper Coupe (awkward isn’t it?). Next in the chain is the 143 hp Cooper SD (n/a in the US) and the 181 hp Cooper S. Finally book-ending the line-up will be the JCW which (despite rumors) features the same engine it’s had since the 2009 launch. But we’re not ready to call that a disappointment. With 208 hp and the best character of any engine in the line-up since the GP we’d have a hard time not opting for it if we were also considering a Cooper S. 

On The Track

We had two full stints in the R58 Coupe at Austria’s Wachauring to fully get a feel for the car. Within seconds of the pace car pulling off I was into a high speed sweeper with the tail out thanks to a liberal dose of lift-off oversteer. Lift oversteer is a result of weight balance shifting from the front to the rear while corning. With the weight distribution moved slightly forward and the suspension set-up altered the JCW Coupe we tested with the sport suspension showed a propensity to oversteer on lift like no other MINI I’ve ever driven since perhaps the GP.

Granted it’s not a trait that should surprise any R56 owner who’s been at the track. That car has the same tendency. But with the Coupe’s stiffer body shell and revised suspension set-up it’s more prevalent. And it makes things nothing if not exciting when you push the car to the limit. In fact afterwards in the paddock, a few journalists and I had a lengthy debate whether or not that much lift oversteer was a good thing. In my mind an experienced driver will love it and appreciate. But it could catch-out a few unexperienced drivers on narrow canyon roads. Either way it’s insanely fun on the track.

While MINI engineers have clearly dialed it into the car, they’ve been very careful not to allow for too much fun. I could drift the car into and sometimes out of a corner, but never felt out of control. Even with DTC completely turned off (and no electronic aids on) the Coupe never really seemed to get flustered. 

Speaking of DTC, it’s worth noting that MINI has slightly revised dynamic traction control to be more aggressive and allow for more slip before intervening. It’s much like what BMW M does with its own version of DTC. 

All test cars were JCWs with the factory sport suspension but all three (standard, sport and JCW suspensions) are available on all four models of Coupe. However each suspension on the Coupe is slightly more aggressive than the equivalent on the hatch. While MINI didn’t divulge every detail we did get out of them that the rear anti-roll bars are 1mm larger on the Coupe versus the hatch. Additionally the Sport suspension felt slightly more aggressive than the hatch’s set-up in terms of damping. 

And for what it’s worth nothing confused the press on hand more than how MINI allows the mix and match of every kind of suspension with every kind of car. Every one of the representatives of the major US car magazines was a bit baffled as to why the JCW didn’t come with the JCW suspension as standard. Granted I also gathered from most of them (and I agree) that the JCWs we tested with the sport suspension felt like a great combination of aggressiveness without being too punishing.

Through the high-speed corners the movable rear wing also helped reduce lift by 40 kg. This, combined with the new more aggressive front splitter, reportedly keeps the car less nervous at high speed and allows for better control at the limit. 

Could I feel the difference with it all? Is the Coupe really better than the R56 at the track? In my limited experience I would say yes. It’s got a slight weight disadvantage when put next to an R56 without a sunroof but it felt slightly agile, more playful and ultimately more MINI-like. The fact that the defining characteristic on the Coupe on the track was lift oversteer makes this car inherently more interesting. I can imagine throwing a JCW suspension on the car would button it up just a bit further and give you even more control at the car’s limits in the corners.

Whats New

One of the most talked about additions to the Coupe since we saw it at Frankfurt in 2009 is the movable wing. It’s the first time a wing like this has shown up on any BMW product. And as cool as it looks, it was born out of functional need. As mentioned the wing reduces lift on the rear axel by 40 kg or almost 90 pounds. It also helps reduce turbulence that is a by-product of the short rear window with air first flowing through the roof mounted spoiler onto the larger wing. 

Both spoilers were created in BMW’s new wind tunnel and are considered so crucial to the performance of the car that, if the wing doesn’t move up at 50 mpg for one reason or another, the car won’t allow DSC to be fully dis-engaged. 

You can flip the wing up at any time below 50 mph via toggle switch near the dome lights (ironically the same place you would have put the roof down on a convertible). It’s a cool trick and one that owners will love seeing in the rear view mirror. It also really completes the look of the car – especially with the optional stripes. 

Speaking of stripes, MINI has done a few things that will define the look of this car no matter how you spec your Coupe. Most importantly MINI will only offer the Coupe with a contrasting roof in either black, silver or red (for JCW). The only exception will be the Coup in Midnight Black which will be available with a body color Midnight black roof. Otherwise MINI wants this car’s roof to define its look. 

After seeing the final car un-camouflaged I tend to agree with them. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the camouflaged cars at the track weren’t that impressive to me. It wasn’t until I saw the finished product that I realized the roof design of the Coupe completely defines this car and helps give it an entirely unique character. 

Along with the contrasting roof, MINI will offer what they’re calling sport stripes. For years in the US MINI world they’ve been known as ‘viper’ stripes. What’s interesting about them on the Coupe is that they alternate in color as they go from hood to the roof and back down to the boot. If you have a White Silver and Chili Red JCW you’d have Chili Red stripes on the hood that turned white on the roof and then back to Chili Red on the boot. It’s surprisingly effective and, when combined with MINI’s white array of colors, should give the Coupe another visual calling card. 

Inside MINI has a few new additions. Lounge Toffee seating will be the exclusive interior color for the Coupe. It’s the same color seen in several special edition cars over the years and should look great in combination with green, white or even any of the silvers. Also new (whether it was exclusive was unclear) was a new black leather ‘Punch’ seat. It’s essentially black sport seat with stripes of punched holes in the leather that allows another layer of white to show through. 

Another addition is the polar beige trim being offered in the center of the doors. This serves to add a bit of brightness to what will likely be a pretty dark and sporty interior.

Along with that theme MINI will only offer the anthracite headliner on the coupe along with black doors. Similar to what BMW does with their sportier cars, MINI wanted to cut down on glare and any driver distractions in what many will view as MINI’s sportiest offering. 

While the Coupe loses two seats it gains a huge amount of storage space with a total of 280 liters compared to 160 in the hatch. AdditionallyMINI has provided a pass-through (essentially a 170 cm square through the extra bracing that was added) to allow for skis or other long objects. And for those who are curious, yes you can fit a golf bag in the Coupe.

There’s even some space between the front seats and the bracing for a laptop bag. 

One major concern since the concept was unveiled has been headroom. Thanks to two large recessed ovals in the headliner above the driver and passenger there was a surprising amount of room. I’m 6’ 2” and I likely had another four inches above my head as I sat in the driver’s seat. 

Beyond the obvious, there are a couple changes on the outside that are worth noting. The car has been slightly lengthened thanks to a more aggressive front splitter on the Cooper S and the JCW. Also new is a set of 17” wheels that will be available across the range. 

Pricing and Launch Dates

MINI will be officially pricing the Coupe in the coming days. They reiterated to us that the price will fall between the hatch and the convertible for each of the models. 

And while we didn’t get details on the standard spec, one thing was hard to miss. Yes the JCW aerokit will now be standard on R56, R57 and R58 JCWs starting with the 2012 model year. And on the Coupe it looks even better with the exclusive more aggressive front splitter. 

MINI will launch the R58 Coupe worldwide October 1st 2011.

Why Should I Love it or Hate it?

In its current form MINI Coupe isn’t the new GP. That may come. But for now it’s just a new iteration on the same formula so many of us love. Albeit one with a few twists.  

Are the twists worth it? Does the styling work for you? Does the formula of two seats and bigger boot make sense? Ultimately for most it won’t. Like the Z3 M Coupe or even the GP there will be too many compromises to make most of us ever seriously consider it. And that’s by design. It’s meant for a person with a specific mind-set or perhaps in a particular place in their life. Whatever the circumstance it’s the owner that’s meant to make the compromises and not the car. And the result is low volume and a car that will achieve cult status years down the road.

Do we love it? I’m a bit relieved to say I (for my part) do. After a couple of stints on the track and some quality time with the finished product my expectations have been exceeded in every way. Yes there were some surprises and even a few disappointments (the weight clearly falls into that category) but the car exceeds at delivering what the concept promised.

It may not be as light or even as fast as some of us had hoped. But it’s everything a MINI already is, with a bit of swagger thrown in.

Official Photography

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MotoringFile Photography

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Written By: Gabe

  • Versus

    I’ve been waiting for this review all day and you didn’t disappoint. Interesting tidbit about the rear spoiler and how it plays with the DSC. I’m really looking forward to seeing one of these in person.

  • Seth Longmire

    Gabe – Given the choice, would you buy a new Mini Coupe (any trim) or a used M coupe?

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      In the current market their two totally different cars. The MINI will have a warranty and could be a daily driver. The M Coupe comes with neither option IMHO. So pretty subjective really. The M Coupe is an animal. The MINI Coupe is more versatile.

  • http://twitter.com/AUSmotive AUSmotive.com

    Cheers Gabe, sounds like you had some fun!

  • Tschwob

    Disappointing. The car offers essentially no benefit over the more spacious, more practical, better looking, less expensive Cooper hatchback. Who in their right mind would buy this?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272564629 Jim Petersen

      Went to my dealer 2 days after the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2009 to make them aware that when this car came out I wanted one. My situation may be special as I am single with no kids. In almost six years of ownership I have used the back seat in my hatch 4 times. When on trips the luggage has never been higher than the bottom of the back windows. I see the coupe as a more convenient use of luggage space as it is mostly flat back there and your items will not be visible to the outside world when the hatch is closed. Now to really throw you over the edge….. I can’t wait to pull my trailer with this thing. After all who wants to be normal.

      • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

        I think a lot of people will be jealous that the coupe is perfect for you Jim. It’s the kind of car a lot will wish they could buy but few can.

  • Lazerblue

    And comparing it to ANY BMW M product is like asking if you would rather buy a Toyota Corolla S or a Lexus LFA. Come on people.

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      A MINI can be plenty purposeful and (specced right) is surprisingly fast on the track in the right hands. I’ve eaten my fair share of M3s alive on the track to know the MINI shouldn’t be underrated. The coupe (specced with the right suspension) will be a fun track toy while getting you 35+ mpg the way there and back.

  • b-

    Gabe, how about getting into and out of this car? Do you really have to be cautious not to hit your head while getting in? That is why I loved my R53 and my R52, I don’t have to think to not hit my head while getting in.

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      No it’s really not bad.

  • Benzz

    A great write-up (as always), and a gorgeous little car….I almost want to run out and buy one just because of its looks. :)  But it’s hard not to be disappointed that the car we all hoped would be The Ultimate R56 turned out to be little more than window dressing.  I don’t see the point of tarting up a car with a sexy fastback roofline and two fewer seats if you’re not going to also improve the performance with engine upgrades (which we all knew wasn’t going to happen) or, even better, less weight.  

    It seems like you could mimic the R58′s superior stiffness (its only significant performance-related improvement, if I’m reading the review correctly) by simply throwing a rear sway bar on your lighter, cheaper, and more practical R56…

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      The R58′s stiffness comes from extra bracing built into the chassis at the sills, under the car and in the form of a giant brace behind the seats. If you wanted to replicate that in an R56 you need lots of metal, two less seats and some serious skill.

      via mobile

  • Benzz

    A great write-up (as always), and a gorgeous little car….I almost want to run out and buy one just because of its looks. :)  But it’s hard not to be disappointed that the car we all hoped would be The Ultimate R56 turned out to be little more than window dressing.  I don’t see the point of tarting up a car with a sexy fastback roofline and two fewer seats if you’re not going to also improve the performance with engine upgrades (which we all knew wasn’t going to happen) or, even better, less weight.  

    It seems like you could mimic the R58′s superior stiffness (its only significant performance-related improvement, if I’m reading the review correctly) by simply throwing a rear sway bar on your lighter, cheaper, and more practical R56…

  • http://www.facebook.com/dylan.bland Dylan Bland

    Great write-up. I’m a sucker for great design, so I’m very excited to see this car. For me, this car would be plenty fast enough and I’d be buying it for its unique visual statement and contemporary design. Appreciate that I’m stating the obvious, but the review would have been much sweeter had you been able to say “with weight down by 100 lbs and a tweaked powerplant producing a further 10hp, the MINI Coupe not only looks fast, it’s the fastest MINI ever made and BMW’s best attempt yet at a stripped out sports car along similar lines to the Porsche Cayman R” :P oh well….I’d still buy one if I hadn’t bought a 1M. Neat car.

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.apon Robert Apon

    Nothing like a bit of trailing throttle oversteer to bring some grins. Even better when you to add some power oversteer and opposite lock out of said corner.  Not always the fastest way ’round the bend but good fun. The BMW Z3 M is good for this as well.  :-)

  • beekay

    It sounds like it will be a beast on the autox course. Can’t wait.

  • goat

    Great review to read so thanks for putting the time into it yet still getting it out so quickly.  I do know what you mean about the styling and “personal coupe” feeling being what will define this car – and that’s not a bad thing at all since the basic underlying performance seems quite solid (and can be improved by fitting JCW suspension). 

  • JonPD

    Fantastic write up Gabe. I have been anticipating it since learning that you were going to drive the car that has kept me transfixed on the MINI brand. Styling wise its a great look however I do have a laundry list of disappointments.

    To me it seems MINI was happy to make a tiny tweak to the standard cars hoping its buyers would be attracted to the unique design alone that is promising much more than what the car actually is. I would say this is 10% performance and 90% style. MINI has taken something that has brought a great deal of excitement that has been lacking in the brand for a long while and I think has broadly missed the mark.

    For a sporting car being unique is pretty much ruined for the fact that we will have three levels of the car that broadly look the same. This is the exact same issue that has been brought up by a massive numbers of people about the jcw car (including you I believe). This development fits however into the company that was willing to broadly split its fans over bringing a crossover to market. I can say personally while this car will likely come to our house to replace one of our 06 R53′s to me I am broadly indifferent to it. I don’t have the slightest care if its a Cooper or jcw, to me it will be just another MINI. Hate is to strong of a word, lets just say massively disappointed that BMW/MINI has bothered to produce what is basically a R56 with a different roof. I believe this car is more about the potential sales than making a statement, aka a bean counter car. Its just missing the feeling of passion that I get from the GP where you can feel the character and passion of the designers coming out of every surface and sound on the car.

    As much as I dislike crossovers I have to say that even the R60 has more feel of passion what it is than this car.  This was the one redeeming moment for the brand that I feel have be lost over the last many years. Pinning so much on this bringing back MINI to its former glory I think it will turn into just another MINI as the days and weeks go by. Sorry BMW/MINI but I honestly feel that you need a major bit of new blood in the company as at the end of the day we will have R56, R57, R58, R59, and R60 that are all basically the same car with a tiny actual change one from the next. Its almost like having multiple bodies wrapping basically the same car.

    Sorry for the rant just honestly a wall of hope for a brand I adore has pretty much been crushed by mediocrity.

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger
      GP where you can feel the character and passion of the designers coming out of every surface and sound on the car.

      It actually has more passion within it’s design. It’s really impressive in person. The sound part will come… 

      • JonPD

        Are you telling us that there is some hope of redemption of some sort in the future? If your speaking about the upcoming R58 race car its cool but not like I can buy one for the street. While I am not expecting a 4 second rocket, I was hoping for just a cleanly defined sport car.

        The design is there for sure just I feel if I were to slip behind the wheel and close my eyes the base feel of the three models would feel like I was sitting in a R56 with little tweaks to its stability and performance. Something that you would never have the same feeling about in the GP.

        Btw Gabe think your money was well spend. While I still would have loved to see BMW do a small tweak to the 1M that car feels 1000% more special in every way.

  • http://about.me/bentyyc Ben Tsui

    As always, thanks Gabe for your insight, opinion and depressing the hell out of us that we weren’t there with you. Great write-up. Now, to start the list of excuses and compromises to make this a reality for me… :)

  • JonPD

    Guess my main issue is not actually mainly about the car (other than the embarrassing gain of weight)  as much as is it about the pitiful place that jcw is at.  With a R58 S you could add red to the roof, buy the 17″ wheels, and brakes. Then add a few badges and you have a car that looks exactly like the top of the brand. Just imagine if BMW did this with any of their ///M cars and I think it would still continue to be quasi sales success.

  • Kec201814

    One of the many things I appreciate aout the R56 is the great side and rear visibility. How does the new Coupe compare?

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      Not as good but not as bad as I expected.

    • unknownlegend

      I  was wondering if you could comment on the benefits of waiting for the 3 cylinder JCW version of the coupe that may be ready for the following year. Has anyone discussed whether there will be a JCW version available in a year?

      • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

        I’m not convinced there will be a 3 cylinder JCW engine any time soon.

  • Michael Martha

    Sorry, but after reading Gabe’s (very well written, I have to say) report, the MINI Coupe is DOA as far as I am concerned. I am particularly turned off by the fact that it weighs 45 lb more than a Cooper HT. At least most of that 45 lb is due to additional structural rigidity enhancements, but none the less…

    The other HUGE let down in my opinion was that there were no improvements to the JCW mill. I was holding off to see what MINI would do special for the Coupe, but it doesn’t seem to be much.

    This car just makes the Miata seem that much more relevant.

    • dcmotoring

      For what it’s worth, I had an 06 Cooper that I loved but I sold it to a friend and after a few months wanted a car that was more fun to drive so I got a Mazdaspeed MX-5. It was fast, handled great and was overrall a good car but it left me feeling cold. It lacked the character I love in MINIs and BMWs so I traded it in and bought a JCW Clubman. The more I drive it, the more I love it and the more I realize how phenomenal the JCW engine is. It has the soul the MX-5 is lacking.

      • Hemisedan

        DC….I mirror your thouhts here, as i had a 2007 Miata MX-5.  It was a fun car, but I found that the top didn’t come down as often as I would have thought it would.  It was a nice handling car, but the performance just wasn’t there and the fuel economy wasn’t either.  

        I took delivery of a 2011 JCW hatchback in October and love it to death.  Sound, the performance, the economy.  all there.  It’s kind of a sleeper, unless you know whatto look for.  Is it a race car?  No, but it is comfortable to drive and they should elliminate first gear.  Worthless if you floorboard it, even second gear has a lot of  wheelspin, and nothing has been done to the motor, other than breaking it in on the highway.  Just about the best car that I’ve ever owned.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=832554306 Mark Rosenthal

    Gabe – what (if any) change did you notice from a visibility standpoint – both front and rear?

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      The only huge change was the rear visibility with the wing up. It reminds me of the X6 – which is akin to looking through venetian blinds with one slat open.

      • Minidux79

        I’m 6’4 will I fit ?

  • Alpinamike

    It looks like people will tend to bump there heads if they are tall and the seat is moved to the highest position. 

    Gabe did u put the seat up high, then get in?

    I bet u didn’t so it was put down to the ground and then no problem.  I cannot tell not seeing things up close, i know the window sill is very curved allowing extra head room on the inside, Helmet design, but its the entry.

    That window and sill does look like a porsche boxster in first production. 

    http://www.seriouswheels.com/2005/2005-Porsche-Boxster-RA-Hardtop-Mountains-1920×1440.htm

    • Alpinamike

      BTW it is a really nice design, and I cannot wait to see it in person. Could you see this in a R50, R53 adapted. wow

      • Really?

        I hate to say anything negative. I was really hoping for Mini to knock it out of the park but as usual, they bunted. I wanted this to be exciting so I would go to my dealer and order one. If they had delivered on the 150-200 lighter promise and/or the tweeked JCW power output I may have overlooked the fact that this car is asthetically dull.

        It doesn’t outright suck but as usual Mini has underwhelmed us.

  • KPH

    As far as disappointment at not hearing “It’s a GP II!” , I’m guessing -again- that there are plans afoot just waiting for the Teutonic nod. Get the range established and settled down then have some serious fun. “How can you have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”   Eagerly awaiting the color line shots. Thanks Gabe.

  • JonPD

    How about a poll for Approve/Disprove and Will/Will not buy (Cooper, Cooper S, JCW)  to see how the greater silent majority is feeling about this car now

  • that.guy

    Huh.  This is pretty underwhelming.  Sounds like the only reason to get this car is if you like the styling?   And if you like this basic form factor, then what you really want is a TT.  And, if you want to dail out understeer no need to buy this car.  Just throw an aftermarket sway bar on any MINI for $200 and you’re done.  My R53 with a comp bar on full stiff was a tail-happy lift-throttle-oversteer freak. 

    And an M-Coupe cannot be used as a daily driver?!  

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      No one said ‘cannot’.

      • that.guy

        Ok, you didn’t wrote ‘cannot’ but did write that using it as a daily driver was not an option (IYO).  IMO using an M-Coupe as a daily driver is more than a viable option, it is just about freaking nirvana.  

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          Believe me… my love for the M Coupe few bounds. But living in Chicago with poor roads and bad weather I’d likely not call an M Coupe an idea daily driver and year rounder.

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          Believe me… my love for the M Coupe few bounds. But living in Chicago with poor roads and bad weather I’d likely not call an M Coupe an idea daily driver and year rounder.

        • that.guy

          Just throw a set of skinny hakkas on steelies for the winter and man up.  :)

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          You miss my point… the M Coupe is too sacred. How could you let the salts and the grim and the nasties into the undercarriage. That’s what an old E28 is for :)

        • that.guy

          The M-Coupe is not sacred – it’s a car. (And a pretty ugly clown shoe car at that.)  In 30 years some anal weirdo with no life will restore it and seal it up in a high-security, low-moisture environment.   But for anyone who owns one now… Drive the living piss out of it!

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          You miss my point… the M Coupe is too sacred. How could you let the salts and the grim and the nasties into the undercarriage. That’s what an old E28 is for :)

  • jbkONE

    I think this MINI is fantastic!  I’m a bit perplexed at the use of a popup spoiler instead of a cheaper, lighter fixed one, but I’m no engineer.  Can’t wait to sit in one.  I think this car would fit me perfectly!  I wonder if my German Shepherd would be comfy in the back?  Looks like there’s enough room.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272564629 Jim Petersen

      Laying down your Shepherd would be fine but if he wanted to get up and stretch there may be an issue. Even with the rear cover tray removed. That brace behind the seats looks pretty substantial with only what looks like a 16″ wide opening between the seats the Shepherd will feel like he is in his dog house with no way to see out other than the back of your arm.

      • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

        Agreed.

  • Aurel

    Is the overall seating position lower or the same as the hatch?

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      It’s the same.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272564629 Jim Petersen

    I just took your picture of the rear cargo area and lightened it. Correct me if I am wrong but is there a cover that goes over the pass through between the front and rear?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272564629 Jim Petersen

      Please say the rear brace did not GP this car and take out the rear speakers. Or are those Carrera GT style humps on the rear package tray speaker covers?

  • Frogberg

    I can understand why they’d start with the convertible, but I think it’s a mistake.  Hearing how it’s heavier is a real turn-off for me.

  • Gerarddm

    Underwhelming it is. Migod, can’t the factory do a Jan tweak to the JCW mill at least? And I bet their overall quality control hasn’t improved any, either.

    • Hemisedan

      Oh, I don’t know what you’re talking about with the quality control.  My 2011 JCW, well I’m still looking for the lack of  quality control that you talk about.  No rattles…..ANYWHERE.  Sound system is great, of course I did go  with the H&K sound system.  Seats are done well, I don’t really care for the plastic in the door pulls, but that’s llife.  And, it is a JCW so it must be under powered and any S can beat it right?  WRONG.

  • cct1

    Dangit.  This was a chance for MINI to hit a home run, and it looks like they settled for maybe a double….

  • JonPD

    Hopefully the feedback on the car from the MINI community has reached the ears of those at MINI. To take one of the most sought after cars in the MINI family for a long while and getting at best a broadly negative review from lots of people. I know MINI is locked on course for these cars already just incredibly sad to see what should have been a great time for the brand to be met with a shrug from the community.

    Still also have to ask myself if the iffy sales for the factory jcw are really going to change with a red roof and aerokit. I would rather see them put off the jcw Coupe until they are able to relaunch the jcw brand with a more interesting sport car. Broadly speaking I think this is just a massively missed opportunity to create buzz in the brand again.

    Maybe somebody with MINI should try to explain how we came to what is basically a a little fancier looking R56. I would love to know at what point they decided that the car that generated a massive bit of interest for the brand should just be a tiny fraction better than the existing cars.If nothing else I hope that the push back over this will convince MINI to really re-evaluate their positioning of this auto. I am sure BMW/MINI though is perfectly happy with this half measure and lack the courage to finally address  many of the shortcomings of the brand towards its enthusiast ranks.

  • Aurel

    When is this officially being unveiled with the wraps off?

  • Anonymous

    No shots of the interior??

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      Not allowed as it wasn’t finished in the test cars.

      • Alpinamike

        Yea, I was hoping to see that too. 

        I bet if you check other places someone will leak it. 

        Its close to the latest production or has it been redone 50 %?

        When looking out the side window , do you feel like your in a porsche boxster ;)

  • Dr Obnxs

    I think many with high expectations had very unrealistic wishes. The only way the twins would make it to market was by doing a slight modification of the existing chassis. So pretty much from the belt-line down would be the same. Same basic suspension, same drivetrain etc. There would be some sheetmetal changes, the interior and roof. So no matter what, you’d get a variation on the R56 theme.

    But it’s also true that with the bits that could be changed, the impact of the car, and somewhat it’s charecter, can be changed to a much higher degree. And that MINI has done. Whether it’s done well or not is more of a personal taste issue.

    But Gabe’s review of the driving dynamics are pretty much exactly what I expected, for what the cars could have been based on the constraints of the shared chassis. Wait till the aftermarket gets thier hands on it to tweak it, and there will be more power, and improved handling etc to take advantage of the slightly lower Cg and Cd.

    Matt

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  • Hans

    I’d like to see a different engine in this car, I really am not a fan of the Prince.  I feel like it needs something more to really make it special.  A turbo BMW 2.0 would have made me want this car.  I think this car would have been pretty cool if they did a shooting brake version of it.  It’s also good that they’re FINALLY going to make the JCW areo kit standard on JCWs, about time!

  • Anonymous

    As usual nice write up and I’d say one of the best you’ve written.

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      Thanks!

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MINI Model Cheat Sheet

1st Gen MINI
R50: One & MC Hatch
R52: All 1st Gen MINI Convt.
R53: MCS Hatch
2nd Gen MINI
R55: Clubman
R56: Hatch
R57: Convertible
R58: Coupe
R59: Roadster
R60: MINI Crossover
R61: MINI Crossover Coupe
3rd Gen MINI
F54: Clubman
F55: Five Door Hatch
F56: Hatch
F57: Convertible
F60: MINI Crossover
F58: Traveller

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MotoringFile Reviews

Reviews:
'12 JCW Coupe
'11 Fiat 500 Sport
'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
'11 Cooper S Hatch
'11 Countryman MCS (FWD)
'11 Countryman MC (auto)
'10 Mayfair MCS (auto)
'11 Countryman MCS (ALL4)
'10 MINI E
'10 Tesla Roadster Sport
'09 Cooper S Convertible
'09 JCW Hatch
'09 JCW Clubman
JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
'08 Clubman S (Auto)
1st Drive: '08 MINI Clubman
'08 Smart Fourtwo
Comparison: '08 BMW 135i
'06 R53 MCS vs '07 R56 MCS
'07 R56 JCW (Stage 1)
'07 MINI Cooper S Long Term
'07 BMW Z4 M Coupe
'07 MINI Cooper & Cooper S
Audio: '07 MC/MCS at the Track
'06 JCW GP Long term
Reader Review: JCW GP
'06 JCW Cooper S Long Term
Comparison: '06 Lotus Elise
Comparison: '06 Mazda MX5
Comparison: '06 UK Focus ST
Comparison: '06 Civic Si
Comparison: '04 TVR T350
Comparison: '06 Nissan 350z
Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
Podcast: Cooper S Auto
Podcast: BMW 325i
Podcast: JCW MC Soundkit
'04 JCW MINI Cooper Tuning Kit
'05 MCS: One Month Review
'05 MCS Auto
'05 JCW S 1st Drive
'05 MINI Cooper
'05 MCS Conv. Long Term
'05 MINI Cooper S
'05 MCS Cabrio 1st Drive
'04 JCW MCS First Drive
'04 MC w/JCW Tuning Kit
BMW M3 SMG Vs. MCS
'04 MINI Cooper CVT
'02 MCS 3 year Review
Autocrossing the MINI Range


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