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MotoringFile Review: The 2014 MINI Cooper & Cooper S

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The thing about driving in Puerto Rico is that there are a lot of stray dogs littering the roads. Relaxed and seemingly unaware of any potential danger, they roam the countryside with a casual authority. Their reign on the roadside wreaked havoc on my nerves as I put mile after island mile on the next generation MINI Cooper and Cooper S.

Then there are Puerto Rico’s roads. They’re twisty and feature plenty of elevation changes. They challenged me like any foreign twisty road will. However these roads are about the width of a typical American driveway — often with significant drop-offs on each side. Remember those dogs? They’re right on the edge of the road with what seems like supreme confidence that, no matter the situation, you’ll figure out how to avoid them and oncoming traffic, all while not having a heart attack.

Luckily, I was in the right car.

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Initially it was with trepidation that I slid into our Volcanic Orange, Cooper S test car. After all, the car we’re testing here (the F56) will form the basis of an entire generation of MINIs over the next decade. If MINI and BMW got it wrong it would be a major blow to a brand built on exciting the senses. To further complicate things, the car I started with that day had one proverbial arm tied behind its back from an enthusiast’s POV: it was an automatic. No sooner did I get seated and buckled in, it started to rain.

All of my concerns evaporated the second I hit the gas in the first roundabout. Put simply, the 2014 MINI Cooper S is a revelation.

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Handling

Obviously, handling and steering feel is subjective. Yet sometimes it’s just plainly obvious how good something is. The F56 is immediately good. While the steering ratio hasn’t changed, it feels sharper and quicker than the R56. The reason is a decrease in unsprung weight and a revised rear suspension — especially the new hollow anti-roll sway bar in the rear.

In talking with the MINI engineer responsible for suspension design, I learned that this was area was of intense focus for MINI. The goal was to create a foundation that allowed for a greater range of either comfort or performance as desired. The effect is a car that feels more composed even over the bumpiest mountain roads we found in Puerto Rico. Trust me, that’s saying something.

With the R56, and to a lesser degree the R53, modern MINIs were incredibly fun to drive but often felt like they were working against you when you pushed them hard. With this new car, MINI has created an experience that feels both more communicative, more balanced and more forgiving at the same time.

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There’s decidedly more feel in the hands with the F56. The electronically boosted steering is an entirely new system and feels much more transparent than the unit found in the R56. It’s a relief that after years of us complaining about how MINI’s steering feel has gotten worse, we can finally drive a MINI with better steering than it had before. Is it on par with the R50/R53? Not quite, but it’s a big step in the right direction. The immediacy of the turn-in, the improved grip (heavily assisted by a new generation of Pirelli P-Zero run flats), and the increase in road feel has produced an experience that doesn’t feel far removed from the first generation new MINI. I don’t make that statement lightly and intend it as a huge compliment to the new car.

Yet I wasn’t the only one with that thought. My passenger, an Editor and Chief of a leading consumer publication, thought that it felt like a German front wheel drive version of the Subaru BRZ.

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The suspension is not simply redesigned. Each level of that tuning has been rethought. MINI engineers explained it to me like this: Consider the base Cooper S suspension at the “0’ point — the neutral — between performance and comfort. When equipped with variable dampers, the suspension has a range of -10 in Normal / Green modes, and +10 in Sport mode. Then there’s the optional stand-alone Sport Suspension, which is at a +30 to the performance side of the scale. Reportedly, the updated Sports Suspension is more aggressive than today — equivalent to the R56 JCW factory sports suspension setting (not the dealer installed kit). We only drove MINI’s with the variable dampers, but given my personal experience, I’d likely opt for the sport suspension if I was buying a performance-oriented MINI. However if I was buying more of a daily driver or commuter MINI, the variable dampers would be hard to pass up. That said, I would have liked greater differentiation between the two settings. The difference was noticeable but not as dramatic as I had hoped.

MINI’s new driving modes are a significant update to the car. Sport Mode made huge improvement over the previous sport button. The system now adjusts three things: throttle mapping, steering weight and suspension firmness in cars with the variable dampers. It’s also lightly configurable, with drivers able to select the suspension settings separate from the Sport Mode throttle mapping and steering weight. You cannot, however, turn on Sport Mode and then turn off the extra steering weight that is programmed in. You also can’t select the firmer “Sport” suspension dampening in Green mode, which is unfortunate. All that said, the big take-away for me was that at least the firmer steering of the sport mode doesn’t blunt the feedback through the wheel like the previous system did.

What of the torque steer that plagued the R5X chassis? During my hard driving of both the Cooper and Cooper S, torque steer was completely absent. There’s the inevitable understeer when you push the car, but the R65’s sensation that the car is trying to take the wheel out of your hand is gone. I spoke with the lead on the project after my first stint in the Cooper S and mentioned to him how I felt the torque steer was gone. He just smiled and causally mentioned he has been driving the current JCW for the past year and had made it his personal quest to eliminate torque steer from the new car. How? By redesigning the meeting point between the driveshaft and the suspension, along with some electronics. However it’s done, it’s quest complete.

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The Engine, Transmission & Brakes

Cooper S

The new 2.0L engine of the Cooper S feels every bit as strong as the current 1.6L JCW power plant. The focus on mid-level torque increases drivability. In combination with the revised six speed automatic, the engine almost never felt caught off guard by anything I asked of it. On paper, the overall power of this engine is not up significantly over the previous unit, but the power delivery is much better. Also, keep in mind that this is just the beginning of this new family of engines. In talking with MINI engineers, these power and torque figures are just a starting point for future development.

The sound of the engine is also all new. The 2.0L creates a deeper, more refined growl that is a big step up from the previous Prince family of engines. With Sport Mode engaged, it emits some serious pops and burbles – even with an automatic transmission onboard.

What about that revised six speed automatic? A lot has been written here on MotoringFile about how lackluster the six speed Aisin auto has been in previous MINIs. In this updated unit, MINI has made both mechanical and electronic revisions and has put those previous issues behind it. As much as this new unit may seem like a carry-over from the previous car, it’s a whole new driving experience.

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Accelerating up the mountain roads of Puerto Rico, the shifts snapped off effortlessly. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the new transmission’s ability to downshift more quickly and with less driveline shutter than before. While this revised Aisin isn’t as quick or as smooth as the transmissions we were hoping for (the 8-speed automatic found in BMWs, or a proper dual-clutch unit), it’s a significant improvement in both performance and comfort.

Braking on both cars was very similar to the R56 for good reason – it’s a very similar setup. While there are some weight saving measures and a general re-think of the system, the results aren’t shocking. The performance was good with the R56 and it’s slightly better with the F56. These are marginal improvements, but improvements none-the-less.

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Cooper

Years of anticipation and here I am – sitting behind the wheel of a 3 cylinder MINI. It seemed like such a foreign idea a few years ago but with downsizing of engines across the board, it’s now clear that BMW was heading down the right path with their plans to slice their famous inline six in half and put it in the MINI.

While this new Cooper has torque on par with the original R53 Cooper S, the mission of the car is clearly different. That mission has pushed the Cooper and Cooper S further apart in terms of driving experience. The F56 feels more comfortable and more softly sprung than the R56 Cooper. Even with the variable dampers in “Sport” mode, there’s a noticeable ride difference between the F56 Cooper S and Cooper. However, a more compliant suspension doesn’t mean it’s not fun. On the contrary, the Cooper had a gentle fluidity to it that the MCS didn’t posses. Couple this with a slick shifting six-speed (an entirely new design) and you have one of the purest driving experiences of any MINI I’ve ever driven. Evan after two hours of wringing the hell out of the Cooper on mountain roads, it was still averaging 26 mpg.

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The 1.5L is quick to rev all the way to its slightly low 6,400 rpm redline. That aside, the new engine a joy to wind up and I found it responsive at every stage of the power band – especially with that new manual transmission.

Both the Cooper and Cooper S feature all new Getrag six speed manual transmissions with rev matching. The system works like the new BMW M system. For example, you downshift from 4th to 3rd and the engine blips the throttle for you to match the RPMs needed for a perfectly smooth shift. It’s an automated version of a process that many of us have perfected with our own feet over the years. Which had us wondering, can it be turned off? As it turns out, yes. The easiest way is to simply turn on DTC. When you do MINI assumes you’ll want more manual control over experience and switches rev matching off. However, the system is so good that even diehard throttle blippers (of which I count myself) will likely appreciate the experience. The experience is especially good on the Cooper where the throttle mapping (even in Sport) isn’t as conducive to manual rev matching.

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Enough of that, though. You probably want to know how it sounded right? With the windows down the 3 Cylinder had a vague similarity to a BMW inline six, albeit a little angrier. Which of course makes sense given that it’s basically half of that engine, but still being asked to do some real work. It’s a fantastic growl, but one that was too quiet to my ears. I wanted more. If you’re an enthusiast intent on buying a Cooper, you may want to consider getting an aftermarket exhaust once they hit the market. There’s no doubt that the 1.5L three-cylinder has some magical sounds to it. They’re just a bit buried under too much baffling.

Many MF readers have asked about clutch feel. Like most new cars the F56’s clutch is lighter than the one in the R56.

Which of the two would I choose? To me there’s a simply choice if your like power. But things get a little muddy for those who value efficiency as part of the package. With the manual Cooper S apparently going own in MPG and the Cooper going so far up (42 MPG highway with the auto) the idea of a performance oriented Cooper sounds appealing to us. However at the end of the day it’s the Cooper S that really stole our hearts during our time with the cars.

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Design

The looks of the F56 take some getting use to simply because we’ve been seeing the R56 for seven years now. In the flesh, that newness gets stripped away quickly. Well, almost. The new, larger front overhang is still something I personally struggle with. In dark colors, the size of that overhang tends to disappear. Yet in something like Volcanic Orange, it’s hard to ignore. Given that most front engine, front wheel drive cars will also have to adopt the larger overhang to comply with EU crash standards, I’d expect that I, and most of us, will get use to the look. After a few days being hands on with the car, I’m already noticing it less.

Overhangs aside, elsewhere on the car there’s lots to like. The exterior was driven by function more than any MINI before it. That function has everything to do with performance and efficiency. The goal was to decrease aerodynamic drag from the R56’s .39 coefficient of drag to under .30. That’s no small task, but success would represent significant gains in fuel efficiency. According to the F56 product manager, this was a very difficult task given the MINI’s overall shape. MINI engineers looked at every millimeter of the car — optimizing the shape and adding details. The improvements were measured in the thousandths and became incredibly incremental. All those microscopic tweaks added up to an astonishing drag coefficient of only .28.

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Our Cooper S test car was finished in Volcanic Yellow and black with black wheels. Our Cooper had a more classic and much, much better looking combination of Deep Blue and white, with silver 17” wheels. Of all the colors at launch (Thunder Grey, Volcanic Orange, Blazing Red) Deep Blue was by far the most impressive. It reminded be quite a bit of Indi Blue from the R50 days.

There’s little question that the design of the F56 is one of the main points of contention people have with the new car. The front end with it’s trapezoid grille harkens back to the classic MINI. However, due to pedestrian safety regulations, the nose protrudes at certain angles that make it a challenging look at first. Also, the rear taillights dwarf any previous generation’s lights, giving the rear of the car a more squared-off, board shouldered look. To my eyes, it all makes more sense in person, but still isn’t as immediately attractive as the R50/R53 from most angles.

The higher belt-line and increased overall width serve to make the car look more aggressive and dare we say it, sporty. Other design details such as the LED headlights and subtle creases on the front and rear flanks create a more purposeful look that is reflected in the driving experience. In fact, if you think about a design brief dominated by two factors — new safety regulations and a need to visually convey more of a sense of performance — the new MINI’s design makes a lot of sense.

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Interior/Infotainment

The center speedometer is dead, but I doubt I’ll ever actually miss it. The new MINI’s interior is such a revelation in design and quality that it feels two generations removed from the previous car. The material quality alone is on par with at least a BMW 3 Series and at times even better.

Our Cooper S test car had the Leatherette/Cloth combination called Black Pearl. The cloth fabric is actually made from recycled materials and has the appearance of a thick wool weave. It’s a surprisingly rich-looking fabric that has the appearance of a ’60s throwback couch. The leatherette is also surprisingly nice, with a feel that is much closer to real leather than any material MINI has used before.

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The Cooper we drove had the MINI Yours interior package with the white trim and Punch Carbon black seating, featuring Dynamica. Simple, but effective, and especially well-spec’d given the Deep Blue/White combination of the exterior.

How about interior space. The car has gotten every so slightly bigger, so what difference has that made in the interior? Front legroom feels about the same. At 6’ 2” I’ve never had any issues fitting in a MINI and there were no issues in the F56 either. Headroom feels as cavernous as ever – especially without the optional sunroof which is how our test cars came.

Rear legroom has increased slightly but don’t expect even Clubman, let alone Countryman levels of room in the new F56. That will come in the new four door F55 and F54 Clubman on up.

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There are three things you need to know about the new MINI’s interior above all. First, the sport seats have improved substantially. Not only do they have longer, adjustable thigh support, but they have surprisingly aggressive side bolstering. They’re not far off from the optional Recaro seats in the R56 and overall offering better support and much higher quality. Even the stock seats are a huge improvement – coming close to, if not surpassing, the old R56 sport seats. Yet don’t let that dissuade you from ordering the sport seats. They are worth every penny.

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Second, the new navigation system is fantastic and a must-have in my mind, even though every piece of functionality not associated with nav (or MINI connected) is available on the stock dash.

The cars we tested had the full 8.8” Navigation system, which dominates the interior is a very good way. The screen is a huge improvement in both quality and resolution over even the latest R56 nav system. The software itself, while based on the current BMW system, is also hugely improved. It’s faster and offers much better overall user experience. There are also subtitles within the interface design that help better convey the functionality. Most of all, the significant increase in system speed will likely be greatly appreciated by owners who use the system a lot.

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Third, the light ring. I know it sounds ridiculous in concept, but let me tell you, it actually works. Honestly, I assumed that this would be something I’d turn off within the five minutes behind the wheel. While you can turn off the light ring’s association with individual functions in the car, I didn’t want to. I so quickly get used to the subtle element of theatre it adds that I just left it on and really came to like it.

Overall, the interior design mixes both new and old — with MINI clearly iterating on some well established, high-level design themes but wanting to creating an experience that feels thoroughly contemporary. The results speak for themselves the first time you sit in the car. Every touch point exudes quality and thoughtfulness. There will be a few who bemoan window switch placement and a downsized rev counter, but overall the decisions made and the materials chosen are hugely successful and a big improvement over the previous car.

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Like the Navigation system, the new heads-up display (HUD) was the other piece of tech that became indispensable throughout my day with the cars. Like other HUD systems, it allows the driver to focus on the road while still getting speed or even navigation directions directly within their line of site. The only downside to the system (and a common issue with HUDs) was that it disappeared the moment I put my polarized sunglasses on.

Let’s talk about audio. All the MINI press launch cars had the fantastic, optional 12-speaker H/K system fitted. Gone is the CD player slot in the dash and in its place are two USB slots and a hard drive that can store a music library similar to BMW’s current system. If you’re not ready to give up your shiny data coasters, there will be a glovebox mounted, six-disc changer offered as an option.

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The Take Away

Since MINI introduced the Countryman and Paceman there’s been a growing concern that MINI had forgotten how to create a car that felt as alive and exciting as the R50/R53 generation of cars. In talking with MINI engineers today, it was clear that they felt they had something to prove. Each one of them I spoke with had such enthusiasm for their area of responsibility that I could sense that the F56 was going to be good before even driving it. Turns out my hopes were realized.

When I opened the door to the F56 Cooper S for my first drive, I really didn’t know what to expect. How would it compare to the R56? After all, the previous car that sold more in its last year than it’s first. Yet perhaps more importantly, how would it stack up to the R50/R53 — the car that re-launched the brand and launched this website? Would it hold up to the legacy of a car that is quickly becoming something of a modern classic.

It seems impossible, but MINI has somehow made the F56 a more broadly appealing car and a better driver’s car for the enthusiast at the same time. MINI designers and engineers have brought forward some of the purity found in the R50/R53 generation of MINIs and added a massive dose of technology, safety and performance that car never could have dreamed of. Not everything is perfect, of course. The front overhang will take some getting used to. Also, the MPG figures, albeit not finalized, aren’t particularly encouraging for the one specification that many of you care about: the manual Cooper S. Yet the overall driving experience is such a huge improvement over what came before it, that I can’t look at the F56 as anything but a stellar achievement. Sure, maybe the car took one-and-a-half steps back in some regards thanks to safety regs, etc., but it also took about ten paces forward in the areas that matter most.

Written By: Gabe

  • asdfas

    i honestly feel bad for anyone who buys a new mini with the aisin and doesn’t wait for the new auto transmission

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      Keep in mind that it’s not the exact same unit. It has updated internals and updated software. Sure, it’s not the 8-speed we were hoping for, or a DTC, but it’s not the exact same transmission as before and more importantly (as Gabe will get into in his in-depth review) the experience of the new transmission is very, very different and much improved.

      • Kevin Stephenson

        Also if you have never driven the current generation Aisin with the JCW upgrade, it is a much improved experience. I had a normal “S” that I felt was lacking and laggy. After upgrading to the JCW package and the computer was reprogrammed to shift for performance instead of economy, it was a different animal. I enjoyed it with no complaints then and can only imagine how much better it is since they have had more time to update it.

        • r.burns

          If they had paid enough there would have been the ZF9 ! whereas once again they have to deal with a 2005 transmission (9 years old) improved since 2005, they could’nt do less

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          The ZF9 is coming- Rover has exclusive rights (they have the cost parity to build the royalty into their offerings) for 12 months.

          Chrysler will have it as well and will build it stateside.

          Personally I would not be surprised to see it next fall and some amazing fuel economy numbers.

          The AISIN has been reworked extensively and is not just software, the case remains but there is a new instant on pump and a new converter.

        • Nick Dawson

          In the meantime, if the early reviews of the Evoque HP9 are anything to go by, an F56 Cooper HP9 would be able to match an F56 Cooper S manual on the 0-60 MPH sprint. Now that’s impressive!

          BTW, the balance of professional opinion has recently shifted in favour of hydrogen fuel cells being the future of motor vehicle propulsion, and not EVs. Where that leaves BMW’s ‘i’ project, I’m not quite sure.

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

          Hydrogen fuel cells are basically a different battery technology, not a different means of propulsion. So EV isn’t going anywhere, the batteries are simply going to continue to evolve. So making a BMWi run on a HFC is more a matter of packaging.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          It leaves them is a great place- a little known fact is that both BMW i models can accept a fuel cell- there is plenty of room and the storage tanks would replace the battery location.

          BMW has a significant research joint venture with Toyota and they have made huge strides already- there are 1 Series testing with fuel cells right now…. there are already lithium air batteries on the streets as well.

          BMW has future proofed the i cars on many levels. Also- BMW has stated many times they have the hydrogen tech- but there is no infrastructure. Hydrogen is a 25 year plan bc of infrastructure- electric is a stop gap- that is why Tesla is the one to worry about ;)

        • Nick Dawson

          Good to hear that BMW has hedged its bets :-)

          BTW, are you still going ahead with a lease on an i3?

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          I am awaiting some time in the REx but we going to get an i3 in one form or another- love the car just not sold on buying it (hedging my bets as well).

          I am leaning towards the electric only version as we will have the 120d if we need long distance trips.

          The one thing I have noticed is that the model they have at the WELT is beat up already- trim pieces etc. which is concerning when you look at the other models on the floor. The wool on the seats looks new still but the leather and rubber is in bad shape. I am sure a million people have sat in the car on display but how many more than say the X5? I also do not like how some of the panels attach (side scuttle like part) for the long term. It is not flawless and I think a lease is the right move….

          You being in the UK- I know that demand has been high due to exceptions etc. any interest or are you holding out for the Plugin Clubman which is rumored?

        • Nick Dawson

          Fascinated to hear your views on the i3. Our next door neighbour has just cancelled his order for an i3. He decided, ultimately, that he could live without the hassle of its limited range and time consuming re-charging. Nevertheless, he was very impressed with the car after his test drive.

          We, however, have pretty well made up our minds that our next daily driver will be the F55 Cooper Auto, in Pepper White, and possibly the diesel version. Insiders are speaking openly about 80 MPG being achievable with the 3 pot diesel. I have to say that the F54 Clubman is incredibly seductive, and to be able to upgrade to one with the HP9 gearbox in due course, would be very nice indeed :-)

        • r.burns

          Read the Jalopnik review that seems more objective about this “so-called” new Aisin, a reviw written by a R56 S owner…

          http://jalopnik.com/the-2014-mini-cooper-is-the-future-of-bmw-1512747749

          “As with every Mini Cooper, the automatic waters down the driving experience considerably. However, the new six-speed auto is a much better transmission than the one it replaces. Paddle shifts are tremendously quicker, almost DSG-like, and those paddles are on the proper left and right sides of the steering wheel instead of the push/pull system used in the old car. The throttle is also a lot more linear on the new Cooper S, whereas the old one’s acceleration could be jerky out of the gate.”

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          We’ve never called this transmission new….just greatly improved. Which sounds a lot like what they’re trying to say.

      • asdfas

        Wonder if mini will still claim the fluid inside of it is lifetime and the case is never to be opened.

    • carcrazed

      I sell MINIs and drive a BMW with the 8speed and it’s not all that. In fact, it’s useless when it comes to any resistance to slow the car down when downshifting because it has so many gears and it’s gearing. So the new updated 6spd auto in the MINI should be awesome! Don’t you worry! Don’t knock it till you try it

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        I will disagree with your view on the 8 speed- depending on how you are driving it / what “mode” it is it will brake you or you can simply use the shifter/paddles and skip shift at will. It is better than the DSG in many situations- granted i prefer the “sport auto”.

        I have yet to find any situation that it does not perform nearly perfect in and I am notoriously hard on cars.

        Going forward all transmissions outside a few high performance offerings will be geared for optimum efficiency (tall gearing in the higher gears) to eek out the most MPGs. Look at the new Corvette or even 911- same story. 2015 is approaching and manufacturers are getting the most they can for fleet average.

        • carcrazed

          michael, I have the sport auto and I would use the paddles when in sport mode and when slowing down from say 50mph to a stop, dropping from sixth down you meet very litle resistance (engine slowing the car like a manual) until second gear, so you have to click down shift four times before you get the slowing I want… not great, I stand by my argument

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          What model/market?

  • ken valley

    Did you get a chance to use the rear view display camera or the parallel parking assist?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Yes. Works just like the BMW system which is to say fantastic.

  • mini keeper

    It still looks awful. Looks like I’m going to have to keep my 05 brand new (1000mile) for a long time.

    • mini lover

      More F56s for us.

    • carcrazed

      let me guess, you haven’t seen one in person? So keep it to yourself! So tired of these comments with no basis

      • Jim D.

        So, none of us has a valid opinion just because we haven’t seen one in person? Uh, who put you in charge? I’ve seen plenty of cars in magazine were I go “yuk” and guess what? I go “yuk” once again when I see it in person. I happen to think the front end sucks. I don’t need to see it in person, and all its other wonderfull atributes. The front end is enough to sink it for me. But I guess my opinion does not matter… whatever.

        • carcrazed

          whatever is right bro

        • Jim D.

          bro? You are a doofus.

  • JonPD

    Good article Gabe. Lots of things to like but honeslty going to have to see this in person as right now still cannot get over that ugly “S” on the grill, the imense taillights, and front and year treatment. Love the pictures but visually the Cooper is still the clear winner. However have to say that I think I am still a R50 fan, every step along the way the car has become more and more of a visual mess to my eyes.While I appreciate the efforts of the designers there was/is something about the entire R50/R53 that measure up well above its spec and design that I have always had issues with the R56. Can only hope that once I see the F56 it will recapture some of the interest that I have lost for MINI.

  • bk_R56

    Any comments on the E-LSD?

    So you would pick the sport suspension (non-adjustable) over the adjustable suspension?

    Did you guys get any really in-depth engine info?

    Also Gabe: Would you buy one? (or wait for a JCW or BMW M2)

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      I have a 1M so I’m not in the market for anything like a M2 :)

      Seriously though given the fact I own a 1M I’d seriously consider a F56 if I didn’t know the four door was coming…

      • bk_R56

        Yeah but the 4-door will just be more weight/length right? It seems like that defeats the purpose even more.

        Any tidbits on the JCW yet???

        I love the site by the way. I’m jealous you guys get to go on these trips to check out the cars. Next time take me with you!

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          That’s just me. I have my magic bottled up in a 1M hibernating in my garage. What I need is an amazing daily driver that could haul a kid or two as required. I’d prefer the two door but the four seems like the more mature choice. Which of course is a bad choice :)

        • bk_R56

          Haha. I know the feeling. I have a kid now that’s why I bought a used E90. I like that car a lot, but it’s too heavy, and gets lousy gas mileage. I’m not carving canyons or tracks every day which is awesome in that car.

          I’ve started considering having a cheap 4-door, keeping my ’07 gti for daily usage/kid duty and having a 3rd gen JCW for track/autox. In a pinch you could fit a kid or two in the back, but it would just be my toy car.

          Unfortunately I also salivate over the future M2 which will be awesome of course, the new M3, the S3/RS3, and 911s etc.etc.

          Even with all of those cool cars I miss my mini. So I just may go that direction. The cooper s I had was awesome until it feel victim to the cam chain tensioner. Then I just didn’t trust it anymore.

        • Alexandre

          So you would prefer the F55 instead of your current E36?

      • SPICYJCWCOUPE

        Gabe…like you (& probably many others), I’m seriously considering the F55 S 4 door coming out late this year. So as a precursor to that roll out, I’ve done the MINIUSA configurating on the F56 S to give me a general idea of cost & options…expecting the F55 will likely cost 1.5-2K more than the F56. I would be making a huge ‘more practical’ change from my current 2012 JCW Coupe. Plan to also move from manual to the auto/paddle shifter. At 73, guess I should act more my age. Ha!

        Other stuff…I was really looking to include the HUD feature among my options list. But you said that your polaroid glasses made the display items disappear. That’s a real downer for me as I need to wear polaroids for daytime driving. Many others probably do the same!!

        So the H/K sound system option in the F56 will have 12 instead of the current 10 speakers? Is it a noticeable improvement over the 10 speaker system which I have in my Coupe?

        • John McLauchlan

          While we don’t have F55 pricing, it has been standard procedure for BMW & MINI to charge more for less doors. Countryman/Paceman for example. Perhaps the F55 will follow that policy too.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          Not the case with the F20 1 series hatch in the EU, 4 door costs more and I would bet that MINI does the same. The 2 door costing more is for coupes which usually carry a premium due to the lower volume.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          My guess is that pricing will approximately go: f56 20k / f55 22k / f54 24k

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          The F54 is looking amazing in silhouette- I am very excited for it, especially in JCW form with the new All 4!

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          So my initial thought that the F55 might end up having a base price of $1.5-2K more than the F56 might be on target with your guess. My test build on the F56 with many options came to about $35-36K meaning a comparably equipped F55 could run $37-38K….

          Another thing Gabe…you mentioned there were 12 H/K speaker on the F56 which is 2 more than the current H/K. Yet the configurator for the F56 still has it at 10.

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          My test build noted above was on the S not the base.

        • John McLauchlan

          Good point. We only get the 1er Coupe here, so did not have that as a point of reference.

        • SPICYJCWCOUPE

          Paying less for the 4 door F55 than an F56 would be nice (like less for the Countryman compared to the Paceman) but if that were to happen, the 4 door would become the least expensive among the MINI lineup. I was just comparing the pricing of the larger current Clubman compared to the F56 when I was guessing the F55 could run $1.5-2K more than the F56. In any event, I’ll be very interested in the F55 when it comes out.

  • Sal

    You show two interiors. One is the cross leather punch carbon black but the other interior looks nothing like anything in the Configurator. Which is it? Did they show you any more of the materials? What is your opinion of the new materials?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Hugely impressed by the material quality. The black pearl was really cool.

  • bk_R56

    Another dumb question: are the square holes on the front of the cooper S functioning brake ducts? or just intercooler ducts?

    • John

      Brake

  • Jason

    Gabe, what are those mesh-like grilles on the armrest for? They can’t possibly be speakers? Speaking of speakers, I see where 10 of the are (4 rear, 6 front). Where are the additional 2? Bass transducers in the front seats? Thx!

    • John

      On the doors or the center armrest? Looks like speakers to me on both spots.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Not sure – there’s one in the middle. Maybe under the seat. Need to investigate a bit.

    • carcrazed

      it is ventilation for when you have the snap in phone adapter to keep the device cool

      • Bmwmike

        Yep, the newer snap in adapter help dissipate the heat, they have a little fan. iPhone charges= generates heat. iPhone in use while charging and working with MINI connected= generates allot of heat.The console still gets hot with the lid closed so they added a vent there. I have found this to be the hottest down south in a convertible. Great that the engineers are paying attention to the little things. Saw it at NAIAS. Did not take my iPhone snap in adapter to test it. But that’s my theory.

        Also the a pillars are now fabric covered . Hood takes two pulls two pulls on the latch. Trunk is electronic push button.

        Question is how the rear diffuser will work when the exhaust on the JCW is one sided with a large barrel? That is if the diffuser goes past the rear axle? Akropovic exhaust was on the JCW concept. Good exhaust but not valved? :(

        We are all geting factory cloth mesh material belly pans and some underbody dynamic . This just it the belly pan has a little flap that opens to change the oil.

    • dragons1988

      http://www.mini.harmankardon.com/brochures/mini_2014_2.pdf New model has 12 Speakers. Other two are under the front seats.

  • eEighty8

    Will they offer an aero kit?

  • Tim

    Ok here’s my question. An r53 fully loaded that is in excellent condition or an f56 fully loaded. Which would you prefer. Ride, tech, fun and just what gives you that smirk as you walk away from your drive.

    • Nick Dawson

      I am an obsessional classic car buyer, but I prefer my daily driver to have state of the art safety features, especially when transporting my loved ones! The problem with the R50/53 is that it’s not the best car to be in should you be unfortunate enough to have an accident.

      When the R50 was put through its pre-launch Euro NCAP crash test, the results were never made public, but were sufficiently poor for the car to be returned to BMW with a list of recommended modifications, which BMW duly carried out. When the modified R50 was re-tested, it just managed to score 4 stars. Heaven knows what it would score under the current criteria, but it’s probably better not to know.

      The choice is yours.

  • ken valley

    the mood ring thing, the led light around the center panel…. all i would like to know is when you flip on a turn signal, does the mood ring also glow on the respective side of the mood ring denoting that the signal is on? (left turn / right turn)

    if i had a dollar every time i forgot about my blinkers because the way my arms block the lights in the dash, well i would have many many dollars.

    thx.

  • Nick

    That blue Cooper under the palms is the best looking F56 picture I’ve seen. I have very high hopes for the new interior. Looks like fun and quality continues to improve. Sorry I can’t imagine the S front will look that much better in person JCW or not.

    • b-

      Agree on the picture looking the best. I really wonder why MINI can’t shoot these cars to make them look good? I know the angles that my R52 will look amazing and which will make it look terrible… Guess which ones I shoot the most of and which I don’t even bother shooting.

  • Nick

    MINI should offer a JCW version of the Cooper with the 3 and/or 4 cylinder engines and without the S or JCW bodywork. Not gonna happen, but might be cool.)

  • JohnBLZ

    Perhaps a stupid question, but why would I want to get both the Sport Suspension AND the Dynamic Damper Control?

    • John

      You can only get one or the other. Each is a $500 option.

      • JohnBLZ

        Would hope, but the configurator allows both to be put on right now

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          It’s incorrect.

        • Henry Wu

          Weird… I cannot select both…

        • JohnBLZ

          MINI is watching ;)

        • Henry Wu

          Riiiiiiiiiiight…

    • carcrazed

      you can’t get them both, so no need to ask, if the configurator lets you its an error

  • hey

    Can you tell me about the steering wheel position and seating position? Is it just right and even more sportier? Where yous it into it not ONTO it kinda thing.

    Thanks

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      It’s either one or the other.

      • hey

        What do you mean? Do you sit lower into the car? than R56/ R60 ctms?

  • me

    It all just looks so… awkward. I’m definitely going to check it out in person, but I think unless I can get a great deal on a 2013 my 10 year MINI run will be over…

  • r.burns

    Oil temperature ? Water temperature ?

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Not going to happen on any future cars- will just be warning lights. The temperature swings bc of the variable electric pumps would make 99% of consumers think there was an issue when it is actually meant to do it for performance and emissions. BMW hasn’t used them on any new mass produced models since 2005.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        I believe there is a digital gauge in the instrument cluster.

        • r.burns

          Thank you for your answers :)

  • BimmerFile_Michael

    FYI- Just saw a blue/white Cooper on my way to EDEKA here in Germany- it looks great in person with out the camo and it really looks like a step in the right direction design wise. First time I’ve seen one without swirls.

  • lawrothegreat

    It has just occurred to me – you’re unlikely to get the full bank of toggle switches. Can the outer switches be used for more than option dependent on what is specified? I suspect not……

    • Chilly

      I noticed the same. It would be nice to have a full bank of toggle switches without having to spend a fortune on options I don’t really care for.

    • rlb

      Do you know what the far right toggle (the one that is usually blank) is for? If the far left is PDC, I’m guessing the right is parking related too. Thanks. (Blanks bother me too.)

      • MINIAC

        I think the right toggle is for the heads-up display.

        • dragons1988

          Yep, pretty sure your right, seen a video of someone using it somewhere..

  • Lucas

    Not that I’m doubting BMW / Mini engineers and their tuning abilities, however, it seem a bit suspicious to me how the engine tone and sound so nice and sporty, given BMW’s history of faking/tuning the engine and exhaust noise through the audio systems. I wonder if the audio system could be at play here in either helping to dampen unwanted noise and/or inject desire notes to enhance the driver’s “experience”. I am truly hoping that that is not the case, since audio tuning using the sound system really has nothing to do with the sounds and noises from a real engine, furthering my opinion that driving a BMW/MINI feels like driving a computer….

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      There is no active sound in the F56.

      • lawrothegreat

        That’s what I thought. Page 15 in the English MINI press release from Thursday talks about engine acoustics being affected by the driving modes?

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          It may be like on many cars there is a valve or flap the opens in the exhaust. BMW has used this technique on cars for many years.

          The “active sound” that some say is fake sound is not fake but the exact sound the engine is making pumped into the cabin via the speakers, it still sounds great outside without this but due to advances in cabin spun deadening, dual firewalls etc. noise is not transmitted as well to the cabin (if so desired). This was the case with the M5 since the 5 series is quiet inside (put the windows down and that is not an issue).

          Porsche had to do something as well… this is not unique to BMW, that said I do not think that the F56 is using “active sound” outside of valving..

  • RKCA1

    The fuel gauge really bothers me. It seems so out of place. I would have liked it better if they copied the tachometer pod so at least it matches. But I suppose that’s a small nitpick. How does the fuel gauge “pod” look in person?

  • ulrichd

    I assume with this front end design there is no room for the addtl. bumper mounted driving lights?

  • Mark

    You said the new seats were longer with adjustable thigh support. When you say adjustable, do you mean you can shorten the length? When I ordered my 13, I opted out for the recaro because they were too long. I’m short, and long seats don’t work!

  • Marco Antonio Galvis

    New mini enthusiast. Thank you for the review. I do have a few questions. – When the seats go down, I noticed in the trunk a cover that allowed the entire rear floor to be one flat level surface. Is this a standard cover or an added purchase. – the light ring.. Can you please elaborate.. How does it interact? Can you select colors?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      I believe it’s standard in the US. The operation is very simple once you do it a few times. The cover can either be in it’s default state which cover a compartment in the trunk, or can be lifted to make the floor 100% flat with the seats folded down! or removed creating the most space possible.

      • Marco Antonio Galvis

        I have 3 dogs so i’m looking at the most comfortable space for the big one. This works great for me. Thanks for the reply.


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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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Reviews:
'12 JCW Coupe
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'11 Tesla Roaster 2.5 '11 Countryman Comparo
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JCW Stage I vs JCW Stage II
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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
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Comparison: '06 VW GTI w/DSG
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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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