Red Roof Radio Episode #1: R53 vs R56, R60 Debate, Countryman Coupe & Why a 9 Speed Auto Doesn’t Tempt Us

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What is Red Roof Radio? It’s when a few of us get together when we’re not suppose to be doing a podcast this week and just talk. Consider this a behind the scenes show without the normal production values or even sound quality you might get from WWR (although it’s not half bad). But what you get are unbiased opinions. Sort of like Black Roof Radio but something we can actually post.

To that point I wanted to start off the show by going after the most debated topic on the MINI web: R53 vs R56. It’s been done to death but I gaurentee this isn’t like all the other debates you’ve heard. This is three guys trying to break-down the differences and why they frankly are both great cars and successful stewards of the MINI brand.

But that’s not to say we don’t pull any punches either.

And where does the R60 fit into the picture? Why do we think it succeeds as a small crossover but fails to perfectly capture the “feel” we ultimately want.

The Countryman Coupe has also taken it’s first prototype steps in public and surprisingly it’s identical to the concept. No rear doors and no update to the front-end of the car – both at odds with what several sources have told us. We also dive into why there are aspects of the CC that we both love and question.

What about that unofficial MINI Zero concept? Our take is resoundingly negative. But you’ll have to listen to hear why.

Finally we tackle the rumor of a 9 speed auto in the next MINI. And not just any auto but one that is the next generation of ZF’s current 8 speed found in many BMWs. Would it make us switch from a manual? Naturally we all have opinions on the matter.

And just like that it’s over. Red Roof Radio episode one may be the first or may be the last. Either way we hope you enjoy the show.

Look for White Roof Radio to be back from it’s extended vacation in the coming weeks.

  • Mark Rosenthal


    • to answer your original question – the show unfortunately won’t be in the WRR podcast feed at this time. 

  • JonPD

    Good show guys. As a GP and JCW Coupe owner have some similar feeling about the entire R53/R56 debate.  Have a lot of respect for the JCW Coupe but it just feel numb and uninvolved in comparison with the GP. Hands down the clutch in the Coupe is one of my least favorite ones to day (right up there with the R60). The Coupe is quick but lack the engagement the GP has. If I had to get rid of one or the other and use the other as a daily driver the GP would be the easy choice. The JCW Coupe just does not feel as special. Add to this I am horrified that the R59 along with the R56 burns oil at a rate similar to a mid 80’s VW I had. To me the R53 is a drivers car and the R56-60 are moving slowly towards feeling like an appliance (have hope that MINI can salvage this).

    Funny to hear your review on the Zero design concept, going ot have Gabe throwing things my way but have not a lot of faith in MINI not moving similar ways as BMW who broadly speaking today I think that BMW has lost more and more of it over the years. A lot of the core design aspects between most modern cars is WAY to similar from one to the next. Yes they work hard on design flurishes such as panel lines but the base cars tent to follow predictable paths all in all to me.I hope that I am wrong but think MINI is likely to move this way also as the years pass..

    Its bizare to say but have to say that the Jeep Wrangler Runicon I recently picked up feels more iconic than the R56-60. Add to this that its clutch is more crude but still better than the one in the new MINIS and also does not burn oil at the same rate.  I continue to keep my fingers crossed but I feel that the R50/R53 are likely to always be the highlight of the brand.

    • Hotrod hemi

      Where do you get the oil burning issue from. My ’11 JCW has yet to need ANY oil added between change. I change at 4500 mile intervals. Of course, maybe you beat the sh** out of yours, and that cod be your issue on the oil usage. Oh yes, I do drive mine, no garage queen for me, or with my 39 hotrod.

      As for the new R61, schools still out on that one intil see it on reAl life. As for the JCW. Clutch, yes it could be better, but one gets use to it..

      • JonPD

        Nope our JCW does do some spirited drives but nothing to horrible. MF, NAM and WRR all have had info on them of the about the oil habits that plague the R56+ family. One gets used to losing an eye or a limb, not exactly a glowing term for a new car. I have found that they are high and questionable when it is going to bite.

        • Hotrod hemi

          I’m relating the experience that I have had with my ’11 JCW.  Granted, I only drove a r53 once, and just about lost my rear teeth fillings.  I was very unimpressed.  It was a ’06 GP.  That owner was very surprised on how my JCW ran, as all he’d ever read about them was negative.  He was the one that complained about oil consumption.

          As of having owned my JCW now for over 18 months, there’s nothing that I would  ask of it, other than a GPS system.  Oh yes, there is never enough power in any car.

          My next Mini?  Yes, I will be back to Mini, will either be the F56, or Countryman Coupe.  If they put either, a 2.0 diesel or  2.0 JCW package together for it.  Test driving a Countryman S, I was very unimpressed.  Like many have mentioned, the clutch sucked.  No fell like my JCW at all.  Didn’t feel as big as it looks in pictures either, so I have some hope for the Countryman Coupe.

  • ulrichd

    Funny they mentioned the clutch on the R53. During the six years of ownership of my 03 MCS I developed the habit of slightly blipping the throttle from a dead stop to keep the car from bogging down. You had to get the takeoff revs just right.

    • R Burns

      no worse habit

      would not have been your successor on this Mini…

      • ulrichd

        sorry don’t understand your comments

  • R Burns

    So when at last will you recognize that the R56 necessitates JCW frame or Bilstein or H&R frame to benefit from the Mini feeling ???

    Although this feeling is on R53 outgoing factory…

    • chad

      I assume you mean the R56 needs JCW or aftermarket suspension to achieve the same feeling as the R53 had from the factory? I’m not sure this is the case as I think those suspension upgrades would certainly increase the limits and the handling ability of the car, but I am not sure those changes increase feel…I think this may dovetail on JonPD’s comments. 

      On another note- loved the show, love this sort of discussion. Love talking about what certain cars do well and what sense of occasion each car may provoke. 

      Maybe RRR episode 2 could touch on the R53 GP vs. the R56 GP (once details are known). 

      • R Burns

        I can tell about suspension upgrades on R56 : yes the feeling is way better ! and i am objective, i own both 😉

  • NotRandy

    Someone in the MINI tuning business once told me that the R53 feels like a MINI built by BMW, and the R56 feels like a MINI built by Toyota or Honda. I thought that was a pretty apt description from my experience behind the wheel of both cars.

  • awesome debate on the R53 and R56. Glad you mentioned the clutch of the R53. I dont know how many times I shift horribly from 1st to 2nd, especially while making a turn from a stop sign. Even after 3 years of ownership. I get into my dads E46 330 which I’ve only been driving occasionally for 2 months and I shift way smoother.

  • Bob Hayhurst

    It was a interesting podcast. I listened to part working in the garage saturday and finished listening while driving to work sunday. I was curious to hear the R53/56 comparison though I was pretty sure how that was gonna go.

    For me, the MINI Zero concept is pure conjecture and has nothing to do with any actual concept or design. I think the more important discussion was where MINI design will take future product. Will they be homogenous automotive units or will they be the edgy, quirky, stand alone cars that defined the R53. I believe that is the basis that defines the argument of the IhatetheR56 segment of the MINI community. The R56 was seen as the first step in that direction. I hope MINI understands this and takes note.

    I just got a ’12 S (wanted the valvetronic motor) for my daily driver but the new GP does interest me. I’ll wait until after MINI United to see how much. How this car is executed is key to it’s success. It’s a niche market for sure and I can’t wait to see the actual vehicle.

    While an automatic transmission doesn’t interest me at the moment; an 8/9 speed has potential. I just wonder how such a complicated bit of machinery will live the real world.

    Nice podcast with just a bit of Bimmerfile music intro… 🙂