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2014 F56 MINI Cooper S Hands-On Gallery

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We’ve seen it, driven it and reviewed it. But we’ve never taken our time to bring you the ins and outs of the F56 MINI until now. The Chicago Auto show media days afforded us (Nathaniel and I) a chance to get some quality time with a Volcanic Orange Cooper S with barely anyone around – not something that was possible in Detroit or LA. What that gives you is a great look at a few of the details you might have missed in the official MINI press photos.

Our opinion after seeing the car in person again? For me this marks the forth occasion I’ve seen the F56 (three of those in final production form) and the initial questions I had with the front of the car (specifically the chin and the size of the overhang) have completely worn off. Replacing it is just excitement to get back in and drive it. For Nathaniel, this was his first time seeing the F56 in person. His immediate reaction was one, “now I get it” to the front and rear of the car. He can elaborate a bit more himself but it was similar to my first reaction in that the dimensionality of the car only really came out in person.

The F56 will be on display at all major auto shows in the US including Chicago which runs until February 16th. The first cars will hit dealers in the UK in March and Europe and the US in April.

Written By: Gabe

  • Lee

    Wow, not a fan of the tach/speedo combination. Would have looked SO much better if they had gone with two full circles side by side.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Not enough room.

      • http://about.me/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

        The R50/3 managed two circles with the Chrono Pack or with Nav, so this is hardly impossible, although I always thought the dual pods looked a bit contrived. I would have preferred a large tachometer with a large digital LCD speedometer. The tach is just too small and looks like an afterthought.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          The speedo dial was unusable for one. Secondly (and more importantly) LCD screen is too large to contain in the old r53 dual gauge size

        • Paul Niemczyk

          Gabe, I just wish they had flipped it around, Porsche-esque style. There is no need to see giant speedo in front of you; I think it’s more critical to clearly see the revs and continue with a digital/analog speedo.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Yes I agree. My ideal would be a massive half-circle digital display that could have several modes – one being giant tach and digital speed.

  • ulrichd

    Still having a really hard time with the tail lamps. Just a color change to amber for the blinkers would have helped. They still look cartoonish to me.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Yeah those took repeated viewing to sorta “get” for me.

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

      I struggled with those in the photos also, but as soon as I saw them in person they made sense and looked great.

      • tobi

        indeed. they look awesome in real

    • scamper

      It’ll be interesting to see if we soon see messages more like: “Okay, I finally saw this thing in person, and, yeah, the design still looks janky to me.” Or is this new MINI like bigfoot: it just can’t accurately be photographed. “Guys, you can’t fully understand this car unless you buy one!” ;)

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        It was way worse with the R56.

        • scamper

          (Actually, cosmetically, I have nothing against the new car. The overhang is troubling from a design balance perspective… but my opinion is admittedly moot since I’m only considering electric cars henceforth.)

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

          Well in that vein, I sat in the i3 yesterday and really, really liked it.

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          Thinking of coming over to the dark side? All kidding aside the i3 is a well engineered machine and is very functional. The interior is killer. Still waiting on a drive of the REx before I finalize my order.

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

          If I didn’t legitimately need AWD on any future vehicle purchase, then I’d be seriously considering an i3.

        • Alexandre

          So what are you leaning towards Nathaniel? An All4 F54?

        • CMMC_Steve

          I also liked the i3 much better in person than in photos, but I think there is less room in the back than there is in a Clubman.

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

          Yup. The boot in the i3 is about the size of the Roadster. Stupid batteries. ;-)

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          What if MINI had a plug-in hybrid? (hint hint)

        • scamper

          You know I would be the first in line. The only reason I’m flittering around these forums is because I can’t quite pull the trigger on the Fiat E. I’m a MINI guy, still. I’m just… waiting… until I’m 50, if I need to.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          If you can wait 18 months you might be in luck.

        • scamper

          I’ve been waiting a decade. 18 months is a coffee break. I’m camping out in line, starting now. Sorry, Tesla.

        • ulrichd

          Don’t forget Tesla is working on a smaller, less expensive model. Likely a 2015 model through.

        • Nick Dawson

          Scamper, you have been telling us for some while now that what you want is a two seat electric vehicle. Unless you have suddenly changed your mind, I’m afraid that you are going to be disappointed if you are waiting for MINI to build one any time soon. The car Gabriel is alluding to is most likely the rumoured plug in hybrid version of the 5 seater F54 Clubman, which will have a longer wheelbase and greater girth than the F55.

          MINI doesn’t actually need to build hybrid or electric vehicles. BMW, however, most certainly does, to enable it to meet forthcoming stringent European emissions regs, because many of its vehicles are large and heavy with large power plants. The regulations require lower ‘average’ emissions across the brand as a whole.

          MINI is a stand alone brand, and will be able to meet the requirements without the need to build electric or hybrid version. The hybrid version will be nothing more than a nod towards what is currently the trend, so that it doesn’t appear to be bucking that trend in the eyes of the consumer.

        • scamper

          Ah! Thanks for the insights, and for not letting me get my hopes up too high. (I’m definitely not the Clubman type.) Well, it’s still early days for electric cars. In another few generations, I hope to return to something electrified with a familiar winged emblem on the front. (And I’m not talking about Bentley.)

        • Dr Obnxs

          My wife got the 500e. The car is a friggin hoot and cheap to boot. Don’t wait. Get one….. If MINI is going to roll out a plug in hybrid version of the F56 in 18 months, they are already late to start marketing it!

        • scamper

          Test drove a 500e just today, in fact. It’s really cool. It’s no MINI, but driving an electric definitely feels more virtuous than burning gas for another 3-5 years. Plus, the 2014 500e lowered the driver’s seat by 1″, so I’ll actually be able to fit. ;)

        • BimmerFile_Michael

          The tech BMW has is great for that system…

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

        We’ve had a few comments from people who’ve seen it in person and still don’t like it. It’s not going to please everybody. I had sort of the reverse experience yesterday while shooting it. I’m looking at this thing in the flesh and really liking it, then taking photos and seeing kind of a different car in the screen on the back of my camera.

  • William

    Is the shade for the moonroof still just a screen, or is it finally something that can actually block the sun? No one has mentioned it or included pictures.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Its a screen similar to what the R56 has.

  • Jason

    That key looks a little… “special”

    • sugurunishioka

      Must say I think R56 has the best Key design of all generation MINIs IMHO. (or any other cars) Always fun conversation starter, and actually quite practical in use.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        The new one has NFC in it which will communicate in new ways with new things I’m told.— Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • scamper

    Purely out of curiosity: are people really okay with the cheap-looking steering wheel cap? (I don’t know if “cap” is the right word. The middle bit, where the logo is.) My 2003 MINI has a shiny glass- (or plastic-) coated steering wheel cap that still looks pretty classy. But ever since the first MINI redesign, they downgraded them to use dull, cheap-looking rubber caps. The other materials in the cockpit look fine, but that steering wheel looks like dull tire-grade rubber. I know this isn’t a major issue, but if it looks bad now, imagine after 12 years of ownership.

    • John

      I have a 2005 with the three spoke steering wheel, still looks fine to me with a 9 year old car.

      • scamper

        I know it’s just the most minor of quibbles. But I’m used to black and shiny and refined looking (just looking at the cap): http://angeloautomotive.com/images/steering_wheel2.JPG

        So the dull low-grade rubber look is a bit jarring: http://s3.motoringfile.com.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Chicago-Auto-Show-2014-144.jpg

        • r.burns

          You’re possibly the one on earth that likes more a ’03 steering wheel, than a ’14 steering wheel

        • scamper

          I think the ’14 steering wheel looks great overall. But the middle bit — just the inside circle — looks like something fell off. Dull rubber glob. Anyway, I guess it’s just me, so on with the show!

        • Tim H

          I see what you mean. The glossy black bit. The “wheel” is fine. But the middle does look a bit rubbery. Good eye.

  • Jason Natanson

    Wow… how much does the bigger than my house MINI Connected display go for? That would look awesome in my basement.

  • oldsbear

    You got some excellent photos, Gabe! You selected and captured the details and subtle contours that never show up in official images. And, by being so careful to get just the right angle you used the ambient light to translate shape and texture beautifully! MINI needs to hire you.

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

      It was a fun shoot. For you camera nerds, I used a Nikon J1 stabilized on a microphone stand and an f1.8 prime (natural), fixed focal length lens. The boom arm on the microphone stand let me get the camera up inside the car, down low, and even up high but still take long exposures with sharp focus in the low light of the convention center. I also used an infrared remote to trigger the camera so I didn’t jostle it pushing the button and blur the image.

      • oldsbear

        Let me apologize! Excellent shooting, Nathaniel! Your technique is superb! Seeing your eventual image can be tough. Did you use a Cam Ranger for preview? THANKS again, from a camera nerd.

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

          No, just the display on the back of the camera.

        • oldsbear

          Your photos #111 and #114 capture the lines of the bonnet, fender, grill, and headlights in a way that no one else has. I don’t know how you did that with just the LCD (especially #111, from overhead), but your images have me liking the “fish face” front end that so many have decried :)

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

          The prime lens mimics the “natural” focal length of your eyes, meaning you get neither telescopic compression nor wide angle fish-eye distortion.

        • oldsbear

          That, plus your POV angle — relative to the bonnet, fender, grille, light, and fascia — is such that their 3D relationship becomes apparent.

      • Tim H

        Wow a mic boom. What a great idea!!! I hadn’t thought of that before. Thanks!!! I looked at the Nikon but just couldn’t do it. Went 4/3. Great shots too.

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

          My Nikon is 4/3.

        • sugurunishioka

          Just a quick note: (not trying to be an xxx, just a friendly memo)

          “Prime Lens” doesn’t mean near 50mm equivalent focal length (what people often consider as normal/natural field of view for humans) as you’ve mentioned elsewhere. It just means fixed-focal length lens.

          Also, probably Tim H meant Four Thirds standard by saying 4/3 (further, I think he actually meant Micro Four Thirds, not SLR standard FT which is pretty much dead) Nikon J1 is not FT or MFT. It uses 1″ sensor with their proprietary mount system.

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

          Thanks for clarifying that and for not being a typical internet jackass about it! I’ve been using that term incorrectly then. What I meant was actually both. It’s a 50mm-equivalent, and also a fixed focal length. And yes, micro 4/3.

        • Tim H

          I thought the Nikon J1 was a custom size?

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

          It may be. I really don’t care. Ha!

          It takes great photos and has the Nikon UI conventions. Really don’t care about the rest.

    • r.burns

      Maybe that’s already done

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

        If we were doing anything like that for MINI in an official capacity, we’d tell you. We’d celebrate it. Meanwhile, we do this for you, not them.

  • bk_R56

    Hey Gabe,

    Do you get to borrow that one? I see it’s a Cooper S with a stick. It would be nice to know how that is from your opinion.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      No. I likely won’t have seat time in a manual MCS until late March.

      • bk_R56

        BAH… Get them to drop one off at my house. I’ll make sure to break it in properly with autox’s and some hard canyon runs.

        It’s the least they could do for me since my R56 fell victim to the knock knock of death.

      • lawrothegreat

        I’m hoping that’s when I’ll get delivery of mine. It seems as though none of the cars offered from last week were Cooper S manuals?

      • Dr Obnxs

        MINI always seems to do this… They sent a Paceman All4 auto to an event at Laguna Seca. Seems they like to pile the options onto the press vehicles and leave the ones that I’d really like to drive as rare as hens teeth!

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

          The unfortunate reality is that many of the automotive press can’t operate a manual transmission without destroying the clutch.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          I mentioned that to them :)— Sent from Mailbox for iPhone

  • CMMC_Steve

    Fun fact.. no more external latch under the hood.. two pulls from inside unlocks. I agree the car looks much better in person than in photos.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Yeah the engineers were very proud of that :)

    • Gary

      Does it function with the car in motion? I thought preventing an inadvertent opening was the whole idea of having an external safety latch.

  • matt

    I haven’t seen any pictures (or configuration option) for integrated roof rails. Is that coming? thx

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      At this time not for the US launch.

      • Tim H

        Just hope up here to Canada. They are listed. Thought the jaw wheel isn’t. Wth?

        • Tim H

          Hop not hope. Jcw not jaw. Sigh.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          I’ve inquired about this with MINIUSA. Should have answers to this and more soon.

      • matt

        Thanks! Any hope for after launch? I’m in line at my dealer for an F55 and plan to order with the rails. Thanks for the great coverage!

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

      I would be if the timing lined up. Unfortunately I need to make the change this autumn rather than next.

    • Bmwmike

      You can find the production video(YouTube) of the new F56. There is a PW F56 with the new roof rails. It’s the MINI in the video shows assembling. Look like the one on the CM and PM.

      http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CACYOaLKO80&list=PLEUFEfcUbPaXpmRr91_0Bhxviv7ZAreBj&feature=plpp

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        Right but it’s not coming to the US at the moment.

  • Gary

    For a show car, I’m surprised at how dirty they let the interior get.

  • ulrichd

    I do have to wonder what in particular makes this car such a bad photo subject. The “looks better in person” comment seems to come up all the time. I remember being smitten with the R50/53 from the very first shot I ever saw. I knew this would be my next car without ever having seen one.

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

      I think a lot of it is that people tend to shoot things on a wider -than-prime focal length and that makes the car’s proportions look different in photographs. Having seen it now both in person and behind the lens, it isn’t that it looks worse in photos, it just looks very different in photos. In person, you can see the actual proportions and details of the car and it makes a huge difference.

    • r.burns

      The R53 is sweet because for most part, it is a little car. The F56 just cannot claim the same benefit, nothing more logical…

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

        Didn’t look big to me.

        • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

          I think it’s fair to say the F56 is generating mixed opinions:

          https://twitter.com/harrismonkey/status/423149280363171841

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

          I’d be willing to bet he’s referring to the original Mini, not the R56.

        • http://twitter.com/matthewwanderer matthew

          I’ll take that wager :-)

          Click through. That’s Chris Harris’s tweet from the Detroit Auto Show, and the image is of a F56.

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

          Yes, I saw the tweet when he originally posted it.

          What I mean is that s a brit, I would still bet that he thinks of all the new MINIs that way, given how common the classic car is there.

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Looks like a positive comment to me. Maxi is what a lot of the UK press have referred to the modern mini as.

  • Starlight

    Will the Countryman wheels fit on F56? as they have same bolts pattern.

    • r.burns

      different width (7,5″ vs. 7″)

  • Nick

    That Countryman looks good!

  • Tim H

    Would my R53 winter tire/rims fit an F56?

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

      Rims for sure will not. Tires will depend on what wheels are available on the new lug pattern.

      • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

        I wouldn’t say that.

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

          How will his 4-lug R53 wheels fit on the 5-lug F56?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          I thought the question was would an R60s wheels fit an F56.

        • Tim H

          thanks for the info. sooooo anyone looking for R53 rims? LOL

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

          I might be, actually. Shoot me an email: nathaniel@motoringfile.com.

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

          Different question.

          Tim asked “Would my R53 winter tire/rims fit an F56?”

  • mczinn

    Looks aside, I am really really sad about the smaller gas tank. Any hope that will be changing in the future? I want to spend time driving, not filling.

  • Eric Toller

    I agree. The car looks a lot better in person. I wished MINI had decided bring a cooper to the Auto Show

  • Tim H

    WOW. ok i just got back from the Canadian Auto Show. saw the new F56 (manual with sun roof) and loved it. holy smokes! bigger…yeah i guess it is a bit. (huge freaking side mirrors lol). but wow what a comfortable car. i think people who see it in person will appreciate it a lot more. it’s not distractingly bigger as i was worried about. far roomier in the cockpit for sure. feels better and great features (though HUD is…amusing). anyway, i hope those that seem to hate on it lately get a chance soon to see it for yourself. loved those seats. wow. i’m amazed at the feel of quality in it (coming from an R53 myself). only thing missing is driving it! (the clutch is horribly soft though…need to get over that bit in my mind) just wanted to shout out some praise of the look and feel inside. now to wait for test drive season.

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      Thanks for the report. Agreed on all points – especially the clutch.

  • Sal

    Any word on whether accessories like the mirror caps have changed size or are the same as the current ones or when accessories like the gold jack caps and scuttles like on the UK website will be available?

    • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

      They’re totally different. I’d expect summer availability.

      • Sal

        Sorry to continue this but are the sun roof dimensions different also and if so anywhere we can get those dimensions? I have an order in and wanted to arrange for an aftermarket if the the accessories are going to be that late?

        • http://bridger.us/ Gabriel Bridger

          Not released yet but I can confirm they’re all different.


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