Thanks everyone for writing in to this segment of Ask an MA. If you didn't get your questions in to us in time no need to worry – we'll have another “Ask an MA” next month with our first MA contributor “Foolsdragon”. So without further delay here are the answers from Aleks…

Hi All,

Let me start by saying thanks to Gabe for allowing me participate with the Ask an MA Column on Motoringfile.com. I consider myself to be a regular on the site, and even though I don't post often, I am on it every day checking things out and seeing what's new. I consider this one of the best sites for up to date info and I am constantly amazed at how accurate and timely that info is.

I was looking forward to answering all of your questions and I have done my best to try and pry some answers out of our service department. Unfortunately some of these questions really cannot be answered accurately without having the car in the shop, on a lift, road tested etc. by a tech. All I can do is try to interpret your posts and guess what the problem may pertain to. I am not a service technician therefore my interpretations and opinions should not be the final answer on any of these questions. If a problem persists go see your service dept, and if you are unsuccessful there, try to go to another dealer. There is nothing like a second opinion. Hopefully I can shed some light on some issues. Here it goes:

Anthracite Headliner
The Anthracite Headliner is going to be phased out of US cars beginning September allocations. This isn't news to anybody who has been reading the headlines here lately, but it is unfortunately true. We have been told that it is due to cost issues, and I would assume to help streamline the production process a bit in the early months of this model year. I have been anticipating the anthracite headliner for some time because I was always a fan of them on the sport and ///M versions of BMW's. I was even going to get it on my next MCS, but for now it won't be available. However in MINI USA's defense our dealership has not received many orders for cars with it, but I suspect it's because nobody has seen it yet. Maybe it will make a return in January when we see some oft the other new options.

Head Unit on MY05
The new head units on the 05's will be interesting to see. I am looking forward to the MP3 capability. As of now we have yet to have confirmation of this feature. We have very few brochures of the convertible floating around the dealership and the stereo in the pictures looks identical to the 2004 models. The picture that we saw on MotoringFile look promising, but I was looking at some of the international sites and it looks similar to the radios that are offered with the tape deck only it has a CD. I am sure that MINI has something up there sleeve.

As far as a retrofit goes, it is impossible to tell until somebody gets a hold of a 2005 head unit. From my experience whenever BMW/MINI makes updates some of them are cosmetic but a lot of them are the behind the scenes kind of things that most people don't notice. Anybody who owns a 2002 model will attest to the fact that the newer cars seem to have a more solid feel and less rattle and clunk. A perfect example was the heat shield that would rattle when it heated up which was corrected on later models. Another is the new 3 piece dash that is less prone to creaks and rattles too. So as far as a retrofit goes I am sure that some ingenious MINI owner will find a way, just like the one touch up windows.

MINI & JCW, MINI & DINAN,
This seems like a good match up considering DINAN's track record with BMW products. I was fortunate enough to meet with Steve Dinan at a BMWCCA event a few years back and he is a very intelligent man. He was sharp as a tack and as an engineer and a racer himself he was able to explain his products advantages with surgical precision. As for the relationship with MINI I cannot say for sure, but I know he would not want to tarnish the good reputation he has built over the years by releasing an inferior product. DINAN does have a website that explains how their warranty works and lists some of there products they sell. Check out the site and see for yourself.

www.dinancars.com

As far as aftermarket options are concerned I am sure all of you already know how they can possibly affect your warranty coverage. When looking for more power though, I would not hesitate to go with the JCW kit. Not to sound like an advertisement but, I feel like with the warranty on the JCW kit comes with peace of mind. Not to mention that John Cooper Garages has the full cooperation of BMW/MINI when it comes to developing the products they make. I have driven more than a few cars with aftermarket mods and while they may be able to match and even exceed the power gains of the JCW kit, none of them felt as polished and drivable. Especially if you are going to be using your MINI as a daily driver you can't beat it. The MINI is a very advanced car with a lot of electronically controlled items, so nothing pains me more than to watch a car with aftermarket upgrades come in with the dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. However If anybody can match the polish of the JCW kit, DINAN might be the one to do it.

The Stumble / YOYO
I have heard so much about it on the message boards and forums. Fortunately I have not experienced it on my MCS, but I can imagine that it would be frustrating. At our dealership we haven't seen too many cars come through with the problem. Our techs tell me that it usually stems from an air leak on the PVC down-tube, or any of the intake gaskets, but in general anywhere in the intake system. Outside temperature, load on the engine and driving habits all will change how often and when it is exhibited too. If possible have your car checked for intake leaks and see what happens.

On the Cooper with the CVT, the throttle pedal is electronic and very responsive, not only does it sense how deep you press it, but also how quickly your inputs are. This is very different for most people and takes some getting used to. In addition the transmission does not have a torque converter, instead it has a hydraulic clutch pack. This makes the transmission feel more like a manual transmission when starting and stopping. The clutch works only at low speed and then disengages. Like a true manual sometimes when you let off the throttle or go from reverse to 1st while still rolling you get driveline backlash and that is where you get some of the jerkiness. The same happens when you press and then back out of the pedal quickly. My best advice is to try to adjust your driving habits slightly and be deliberate with your throttle inputs. I've driven quite a few CVT equipped cars and they are great. I have been asking customers how they like it and if they have any issues and most just say they love there cars. I say just keep driving and enjoy the car.

[Note: lots more info on the CVT can be found here.]

Bluetooth Phone Kits
As of now the Bluetooth phone kits are available for cars with and without the HK Sound. The kits are not compatible with the Navigation vehicles though. Your local dealers should have all the info you need to get the proper version for you car.

iPod
This is going to be a big hit with the MINI crowd. I know I have been anxiously awaiting a system that will play MP3's. What's the point of getting a MFSW if you can't use it to play your tunes? The integration of the IPOD and BMW/MINI seems a perfect fit. As far as compatibility goes, it looks like it will work on cars with and without HK, but the navigation system may be a problem. The main culprit seems to be the limited inputs on the back of the head unit for the radio. Whether or not this will be resolved in the MY05 is yet to be seen, but my guess is that with such an interest I am sure MINI is working hard to make it happen. If you want an IPOD adapter for your car I would definitely pre-order one, call your dealers' after sales/parts dept for details.

[Note: you can read a full review of the iPod connector here.]

Rear Fog Light Kits for '05
No word on availability yet. We had a cooper convertible in the showroom this weekend and nobody seemed to even notice the bumper insert for the rear fog. MINI people are very detail oriented though and I am sure that people will be looking for the kits. No word on price or availability yet though, as soon as I know I will post.

Accessories from abroad
I was looking these up on the UK website and I pulled a part number off the site for the rear shades, but when we look it up in our systems it doesn't come up. While trying to get some more info, the side shades came up and it looks like those are available in the states. I wasn't able to tell if they come in a pair or if they are available individually. It would make sense that they come in a pair though.

The parcel shelf is a nice option I wish we had on our cars here. While in Europe I was in some cars that have it and its good way to get a little more space for mobile phones sunglasses and such. On the pre-production convertible we had on Sat it looks like the bottom of the dash is the same as the 04 MY so I would assume that it will fit on the '05 cars. Again, nobody will know for sure until the 05's start coming in.

As far as JCW options go, I believe MINI will be bringing more of them to the states soon. Interior items, performance items and more are on the horizon so sit tight. Many of the items offered abroad are not available here for some reason or another, but if you have a good parts dept at your MINI dealership you just might be able to get you hands on some of them.

[Note: as mentioned before on MotoringFIle we should see a full catalog of JCW gear by the end of the year in the US.]

Wheels for MY05
For 2005 the standard wheels for the hardtop Cooper are the 7 hole 15″ wheels. The 16″ 5 stars continue to be part of the sports package or stand alone. The 16″ tires will only come with the runflat tires, as will the 17's on the MCS. The standard wheels on the Cooper S continue to be the 16″ V-spoke. On the convertibles the standard 15″ wheel is a 5 spoke Rocket wheel, and the no charge optional 7 hole. The upgraded wheel is the 16″ 5 star. On the MCS Convertible 16″ 7 fin wheels are standard, and V-Spokes are optional at no charge. The 17″ wheels are available in two styles now, 5 Spoke Bullet style with performance tires, or the 8 spoke S-lites with all seasons. Either way the cars will look great. They have some awesome new wheels available at the dealer too. One of which can be seen on the MC40. The two tone R90's look sweet, and a new R99 will be hot this year. The R99's can be seen on some of the pics of the convertible with the aero kit posted here.

Delivery Options
Where you can take delivery of your new MINI is currently limited to your US dealer. I would love to see a European delivery program, where you could choose to pick it up in the UK or even Germany but no news of that yet. I am sure that the performance center in Spartanburg would be a popular choice because of the MINI's sporting character. I think that part of the reason it hasn't been offered is cost, how much is it worth to be able to pick up your MINI somewhere special? As far as getting a right hand drive car, the only way I could see that happening is through the grey market which is a not something I recommend.

Warranty Issues
Sometimes it is difficult to say when you have crossed the line when it comes to modifying your MINI. There are so many options on the market, customizing is part of what makes the car so fun. If you plan on modifying your car try to take into account what effect it will have on your warranty as well as the cars overall performance and look. If there is a premature failure of a component on the car, engine, electronics, suspension, brakes etc. the warranty may not be honored for the repair if it is found that the failure was due to a modifications on the car. I would recommend using MINI approved accessories and options to keep you protected. As far as 4 driving lights go, not sure if there are warranty implications that go along with that. If the relays and the wiring that they run through aren't designed to handle the load then it could be a problem. Installing it by your self definitely does. The parts that you installed would be covered, for 2 years unlimited mileage. (I have to double check that with the warranty dept.) The labor to install it is not, so if you had to pay somebody to put the new part in would be out of your own pocket, but if you had it done at the dealer they would replace it under warranty free of charge. Someone mentioned a problem with roof rack caps coming off or being discolored. If there seems like premature wear on an item take it to the dealer and see if it's covered under warranty. We've seen some strange pieces replaced under warranty when possible. If you have a question or issue related to service, check the warranty manual for contact info for MINI customer assistance, and remember that address isn't only there for complaints.

Extended Maintenance Program
The MINI has a fantastic maintenance program available right from the start. For those looking for a bit more coverage, owners can opt to extend there maintenance program to 4 years or 50000 miles. It must be done before the initial 3/36 program expires and applies for model years 2002 and up. It cannot be transferred to another vehicle. It has a suggested retail price of $399, but prices may vary form dealer to dealer. I highly recommend it!

2005 Model Year Summary:
There were more than a few questions regarding some of the new options and equipment for the 05 MY. Paul asked for a “Jesus” bar. I prefer to call it the “Oh Crap” handle for the passengers because that's usually what they say when they are reaching for it. It will be available for 05's for the two rear passengers and for the front passenger. Not sure if they will be in the first batch of cars, but on some of the info we received it was in the sketches so it's a good bet. I have also heard rumors of an additional driver side sun visor to protect from side glare.

The Limited Slip Differential is going to be a great option for the performance minded. As far as we know it will be available for January production cars with a delivery date in February or March. No pricing is available yet but if you look at the rest of the MINI option list I am sure it will be reasonable. As to whether or not it is made by MINI we don't know, my guess is that it is probably outsourced like some of the driveline, but they may surprise us. There are a lot of companies that make a high quality differential, but I wouldn't mind seeing a Quaife diff in the MINI.

The new colors are gong to be awesome!!! I am very excited about the Astro Back and Hyper Blue. Astro Black will look a lot like the Carbon Black metallic that was offered as an exclusive color the recent E39 M5 and E46 M3. The Hot Orange will look amazing in the bright sun, and Purple Haze will be a nice alternative to those mourning the loss of Indi Blue. Chili Red is a perennial favorite, and the Pepper White has been gaining popularity. At our dealership the top 5 sellers would have to be Chili Red, Dark Silver, Pepper White, Indi Blue, and Pure Silver, all with contrasting roofs, but not necessarily in that order. My Favorite is Indi Blue/White and it's got to have the bonnet stripes on it. It's nice to see so many different combinations available, and it makes each one that much nicer. Even though I hate to see Indi Blue go, I personally like the fact that they change the colors every so often, and my guess is that MINI does it so that the variety is maintained. It's nice to be motoring and see a MINI approaching and acknowledging a fellow MINI driver with a blip of the headlights. It's even better when it doesn't look exactly like yours.

As far as the interior goes on the new cars there are going to be even more choices for '05. One of the options that I am really looking forward to is the cloth-leather combinations. The Sunrise cloth leather combo and the Octagon red and black should be hot. As always they make it tough to choose between the options as they differ between models as well. I think the two-tones seats on the current cars look great and this just adds another dimension to it. On the convertible we had the Cordoba beige sport seats seemed to be a bit more bolstered on the bottom. It's possible that it was only for that car but I am hoping that it will make it into production.

The new cup holder should be pretty nice too. I was never a big fan of the current add-on cup holder because it was a bit in the way. This one is up higher and seems like it would be easier to reach for and stays out of the way of the shifter.

The anthracite headliner is not going to be a long lived option, but it should look great on the few cars that do have it. As of September production it will be phased out, but hopefully it will make a return later.

Chrome, chrome everywhere! The new chrome interior and exterior packages look great in person. The Exterior packages differ slightly between models, but all add a nice touch to the car. On the Cooper the front and rear bumpers will have chrome slits like seen in the recent pictures. Chrome mirrors and trim around the fog lights. On the S, the front grill is chrome instead of body color, chrome mirrors, and a chrome deck lid in the rear like the MC40. The chrome interior adds a touch to the interior, with chrome around the tach, speedo, cup holders and some on the hand brake.

For those of you who prefer to have the speedometer and tachometer side by side, but don't want a navigation system, the Cockpit-Chrono Pack will be perfect. It moves the two side by side and in the center where the speedometer normally goes there is a cluster of information like the face of a watch. Fuel, water temp, oil temp, and oil pressure along with a few warning lights on the side round out the package.

The three-piece dashboard looks fantastic, much cleaner, and it makes the interior look more finished. The dash on our pre-production car was anthracite and it looked great, can't wait to see red or hyper blue body color dashes. I think they will spice it up inside a bit, and especially on the convertible it will look great. My favorite though is the alloy patina which is now available on the Cooper and Cooper S. As far as the carbon fiber accessory kit that MINI currently sells, I don't think it will be something many 05 owners will be looking for unless they release an updated kit. It would be nice to see if they offer the real carbon fiber like the MC40 on all the cars as an option. The new 3 piece design will mean all of the accessories will probably need a redesign. Wood trim will no doubt be updated for the 05 year as well, it would be nice if they made a new shade or two. The elliptical door panels will also be available in body color, but more importantly they sport a redesigned armrest that is tremendously more useful than the current one. As a tall driver I was able to use them quite comfortably and I think they will make those long trips on the highways easier. In addition there will also be a center armrest available in January.

The rearview mirror is redesigned. The optional convenience package will also include a universal garage door opener that will be integrated into the rearview mirror not up on the roof. Along with that the center armrest will be added and an auto dimming rear view mirror, a nice touch. I also like the new interior light cluster which should go above the rearview mirror on all cars, 2 separate map lights and a larger dome light in between. While on the subject of lighting there are also lights under the doors to help you watch your step.

There was a question about the top on the convertible needing a cover when it is down. From the car we had here you can clearly tell there is no need for such a thing. The top is truly a work of art when it is in motion. The sunroof feature will be nice for those cooler days when you still want to let some air in, but this car was made to be driven with the top down. All the time!! 15 seconds and the top is down, all with the touch of a single button. Sitting in the car with it down provides a great feeling. The windshield is far forward and the view all around is great. Black will be the standard color for the top, while a dark blue and dark green will be optional.

Hopefully there was a bit of useful information here for everybody. The coming year will be an exciting one for all who are interested in the MINI brand. I am looking forward to being part of the action. If anyone is in the NY area I encourage you to come see us at Hassel MINI in Freeport. Our Motoring Advisors are always friendly and helpful. Thank you and Let's MOTOR!

Again Many thanks to Aleks for taking time out of his busy schedule and doing this!