MF Garage: The Rail System (Good, the Bad & the Exploding)

We’re almost 1,800 miles and over a month into our time with the Countryman and we’ve talked about the design, drifting and just living with the R60. But today we’re going inside.

The rail system is one of those great ideas that I find it hard to believe hasn’t been done before in the automotive landscape. What MINI has done with the rail and its accessories is to de-couple the functional needs of an interior from the design and engineers time-frame for a car. What do we mean? MINI designed and engineered the Countryman from around 2006 to 2009. And while designers and MINI’s strategic planners can envision lots of things, they can’t predict the future. The rail gives them freedom to not have to.

Similar to what Apple has done with apps on iOS, MINI has given us the system. Now it’s up to MINI’s own after-sales and the aftermarket to take up the challenge. Why? Because as you can see in the photo above, MINI hasn’t quite gotten everything right with the rail’s included accessories.

As you can see above the phone mount is a time-bomb that will go off and result in plastic shrapnel. It did to me. So then I switched one of the rear cupholders up to the front to use a do everything bin of sorts. But even that hasn’t worked as the cup-holders are too wide for the front portion of the rail if you ever plan on using the hand-brake. Yet (somewhat ironically) they’re too small inside to hold many American sized bottles of water (I haven’t no idea how they’d handle things like a Big Gulp but I’d guess not well).

MINI got the idea right with the rail. It’s brilliant and is one of my favorite aspects of the Countryman. Now it’s time to get the experts involved. I want to see MINI after-sales and the robust MINI aftermarket to do what they do best – find a way to make what MINI created even better.

Note: comments are off due to server issues with Disqus

  • Mark Smith

    Thank you Gabe. I am glad I wasn’t the only one having issues with Discus.

  • b-

    I see the rail as little more than a fad and not a signature MINI design element. The center speedo is iconic MINIi and is in every vehicle MINI has offered, except of course the early cars in Austraila which had the giant center tach, I am so jealous!

    I would not be surprised to not see this included on the next version of the countryman. Will the paceman and the space box have the rail?

  • Lee

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who borked up the phone holder. Of course, mine was in a service loaner that had about 25 miles on it. 😮 I managed to get it back together mostly, though I could not get the spring attached on both sides (not sure how the heck they do that) and it did still work, but I am sure it was a ticking time bomb for whatever poor schuck that next used the car.

  • jbkONE

    Is this the old comment system? LIKEY!

    I like the Rail. Of course, I won’t be buying a Countryman so I’ll never know how it is to live with but I think it was a GREAT idea. The idea that you can put different accessories on it for different seasons/whims/passengers/trip types/whatever is really cool. It allows YOU-ification on a minute-by-minute basis.

  • Neal

    The cup holders also seem to hate styrofoam cups.

  • I had exact same issues – my mobile phone holder exploded when a passenger caught their leg on it and the front cupholders are too small for my MINI accessory water bottle!

  • Dr Obnxs

    The rail is an answer to a question that no one was asking. Just look at the winning entries in the competition here on MF to create options…. The winners were underwhelming. There are design problems with the rail as implemented as well: It’s not strong enough for things like small tables, and there is no power built into the rails themselves. This combination of shortcoming killed whatever potential the system ever had to create something useful. Too bad, in a way, as there was a small, unrealized, chance to make something really usefull out of the concept. But to date, MINI has failed to deliver anything at all that would justify the rail systems existence.

    Were I to get a Countryman, I’d opt to delete the rear portion of the rail.

    • Aurel

      I agree in some ways. The rear portion of it blocks legroom (for stretching) for the rear passengers … this I see as a bigger negative than any potential positive it gives.

      I think instead of having the option a full OR partial rail in the rear they should make the rear part of it fold up or some way to remove it altogether if not in use or in need for more space ….

      Wonder how many people that got the full length rail had second thoughts and wish they didn’t after some daily use?!?!

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  • MINIme

    I knew this rail thing was crap!  It is nothing but a space-hogging novelty.  Anyone who was turned on by this gimmick, doesn’t deserve to drive a MINI.

  • Anonymous

    Its a shame they made such obvious design errors, such as having to remove your phone from its case to plug it in. Apple established a standard for adapter fittings for iPods just for this reason. My iPhone case came with an insert that fit in the standard iPod cradle socket for just this reason.