Oct 29th, 2014
We’ve driven the new F56 MINI Cooper S plenty since its launch early this year. But so far track time with MINI’s latest has eluded us. With our recent trip to MINIUSA’s Miles Ahead at the Indianapolis Speedway, that finally came to an end.
While typically all of the Cooper S at Miles Ahead are automatics (the best choice for the vast majority – even most enthusiasts) I was lucky enough to be handed the key to the one manual in the fleet. Given my affiliation with MotoringFile and my previous track experience they wanted to give me an extra challenge in the form of a third pedal. It was welcome.
Pulling out of the garage and into pits for the first time you’re once again struck by the scale of the place. IMS isn’t as large a track like Talledega but due to its design and layout it feels infinitely more impressive and almost majestic.
First up was getting acquainted with the car and the track. My very first session was full course lapping behind current Indycar driver Pippa Mann. My initial focus was of course the reacquaint myself with the car and the track. But the F56 felt so immediately comfortable and confident and moderate track speeds I was able to focus on strictly learning my braking points, shift points and corner angles. From there I shifted focus trying to better understand what I had in my hands and how it compared to the MINIs that came before it as a track tool.
The verdict? Like all MINIs before it, the F56 makes for a respectable track car right out of the box. And with some tweaking of tires, brake pads and maybe light suspension changes it could be a giant killer.
In stock form grip levels are up thanks to improved tires, redesigned suspension and a stiffer chassis. The extra power and more importantly torque allowed for much more speed coming out of corners not to mention the ability to chirp the tires going into third at times.
One area that’s also improved upon is steering feel and feedback. Again thanks to that stiffer chassis, revised suspension and tires design from the ground for the car, the wheel feels more alive in your hand and connected to the outside world. There’s an eagerness to the car on initial turn-in that stock R56 at times lacked. The result is a MINI that feels utterly engaging and quick witted while not being overly dramatic as the R53 or R56 could be at times.
At 120 mph on the front stretch of IMS an increase in vehicle stability was also obvious. The extensive aero work done by BMW has clearly paid dividends in a car that feels at home in triple digits. While a MINI will never quite match a 911 or M4 due to its shape, the F56 feels much more confident at 120 mph as compared to the R53 or R56.
Braking from 120 down is another story. Obviously you’d want to swap pads and fluid for any track action. But in stock form there was clear fade by the end of the day and a lack of stopping power that R56 JCW owners are used to.
Having a chance to drive the manual also meant I got to experience the new rev matching feature in some extreme situations. While part of the charm of manual driving has always been blipping the throttle for that perfect gear change, this addition allows for greater concentration at critical moments in and out of corners.
The F56 at the track was everything I hoped it would be. With the new Cooper S MINI has built on its tradition of producing giant killers that are immediately quick and (more importantly) utterly engaging on the edge.
In short if you’re thinking about upgrading to an F56 and plan track time, don’t hesitate. While a few light mods would be welcome for extended track use (like all previous MINIs), the F56 was a fantastic track companion offering up an excellent mix of speed, stability and feedback throughout the day.
Oct 27th, 2014
You enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through a tunnel on 16th street with little pomp or circumstance. You exit into the infield with awe. Such is the scale of the place that there’s a golf course in the infield. And it only takes up a 1/3rd of the infield.
These are hallowed grounds for the Motorsport obsessed and it’s a treat to simply be allowed inside. But today is special. Today I will be one of the first civilians to drive the road course at IMS in anger. And my ride couldn’t be better – a 2014 Mini Cooper S. continued →
Sep 16th, 2014
For those of you who listened to recent episodes of White Roof Radio, you probably heard that we are currently testing Automatic. This accessory acts as a smart driving assistant that communicates with a car’s on-board computer and uses a smartphone’s capabilities to provide insights and data points on how to improve your driving style. Additionally, Automatic partners with car manufacturers to have their platform integrated into infotainment systems. continued →
Sep 11th, 2014
It’s been almost a year since the official release of the F56, but reviews continue to come out. This time, Autocar and CNET take a ride in the 2014 MINI One and Cooper respectively. Read on to find out what our colleagues have to say about these two models.
Aug 25th, 2014
Photo Credit: Eileen Dugan
Preston Thomas Tucker. Most people know him as the car manufacturer Jeff Bridges portrayed in the critically acclaimed film Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Others know him as one of those formidable entrepreneurs that only the United State seems to have the recipe for. Following the end of World War II, Tucker strongly believed the US car market was ripe for disruption and that unprecedented car designs would bring people back into the dealerships. With that in mind, he started the Tucker Corporation with the ambition of building the car of tomorrow. Even though it would never fully reached production status it would be revolutionary in its form and function by boasting a fuel-injected engine, disc brakes, side impact protections and adaptive headlights. While one can argue about the relative success of Mr. Tucker’s venture, he was, by any measure, a visionary; he saw the future and acted to change the world regardless of the obstacles he faced. Though we must remain objective in evaluating what the Tucker Corporation achieved and what MINI is doing today, our favorite car brand had to overcome serious challenges to remain the undisputed contender in the premium small-car category. After a 5,142 miles MTTS rally, not only has our F56 surpassed these challenges, but moreover MINI might have a serious sales hit on their hands, especially with the soon-to-be-released F55. continued →
Aug 20th, 2014
The description of “go-kart” handling has been lavishly heaped on MINIs since the classic Mini rolled off the assembly line. However with the introduction of the modern MINI, the phrase seams almost so inescapably linked as to be cliche . Comparison such as this stand to be tested and the MINI Cooper and go-kart comparison is just what Crank and Piston sought out to settle with the latest third generation MINI Cooper S at the Dubai Kartdrome. continued →
Jul 24th, 2014
Editors note: Normally we don’t bring you BMW news from our sister site, BimmerFile. However the new BMW i8 represents the best of the BMW Group’s technology in one awe-inspiring vehicle. Vast utilization of carbon fiber, intelligent power management and beautiful design make the i8 one of the most important cars released this year and perhaps even this decade. Perhaps even more salient, at the heart of the i8’s drivetrain is MINI’s 1.5L three-cylinder engine (coupled with the familiar Asin 6 speed auto) delivering an astounding 230 hp. We think the application of that power train, along with the usage of carbon fiber (BMW is the first automaker to begin using CF for mass production) make this a particularly interesting car for MINI fans.
With the key fob in my hand, I raised the door and properly maneuvered over the carbon sill and into the low seat of the BMW i8. I glance at the controls, check the mirrors and press of the start button to begin a test drive I’ve been waiting seemingly forever for.
The first thing you notice is nothing. But the lack of noise is punctuated by a glowing display that has confirmed the i8’s readiness. Pulling back the lever and slotting it into the D the i8 responds with an electric idle that belies what this car hides beneath. continued →