Update: The armrest in this review has since been withdrawn by MINI due to several concerns. They have now released a new armrest which will be available on all Us spec MINIs with the Convenience Package and as a standalone option. You can find information on the new armrest here.
MINI has never included an armrest, and many have argued against the need for one. That may be true during spirited driving, but for many of us much of our time driving is spent sitting in traffic or on long straight drives on the highway. During these times I have always found my right arm wanting an armrest. There is a wide selection of aftermarket armrests out there, but many are poorly designed and very expensive.
I was about to purchase the Outmotoring Arc Armrest, which has a great design and is not as expensive as the others. But when MotoringFile premiered the Official 2005 MINI armrest I knew it would be my choice: exact match to interior material, continued use of cupholder, and interior storage, all for still less than most aftermarket armrests.
When the MINI armrest was featured in a group buy for MotoringFile readers at a discounted price, I immediately jumped on board. After a long wait with no news of anyone else in the first group receiving theirs, one day I returned home to find a big box from Germany on my doorstep. I was the first in the US to receive the armrest and I wasted no time and immediately installed it.
Installation is very simple. The armrest is one piece, with metal legs that extend down and slide under the seat rails on the floor. Simply loosen the front, and remove the rear seat bolts and install it. It took me only 15 minutes. Once installed, it is very secure. You can easily put your weight on it without bending anything unlike most of the other armrests out there.
The build quality is excellent. The body is strong plastic, the same charcoal color as is used throughout the MINI. The top panther black leatherette is the same material used in the MINI seats. The padding may feel thin when pressed with a finger, but when your arm is resting you’ll find it feels as if is is much softer–exactly the right amount for comfort and support.
The large button on the front features the MINI logo, and when pressed the lid pops open. It includes an antislip webbed foam sheet that surprisingly works very well. During several hours of spirited driving with a 9v battery inside, I only heard it bounce around once (my tires did not exibit as good traction!). The storage is a perfect spot for cell phone, ipod, head unit face, etc. Unfortunately it is not large enough to hold CDs, but given the small space between seats in the MINI, that can’t be expected.
The armrest is positioned at the perfect height for shifting, the arm is level and feels natural. It does not interfere with the rear cupholder, and there is still space to access the inside seat levers. This brings me to the armrest’s one downside: it gets in the way of the e-brake handle. I find I usually grab the e-brake from the very top now, and if you pull up all the way, the grip will hit the armrest. It may be possibly to tighten the e-brake cable to avoid this. But then again this can be defended by the surprise I found shortly after installation: the entire armrest is hinged and can be lifted up and out of the way! None of the initial reports had mentioned this, and is not a feature in most aftermarket rests.
Overall I am very happy with the MINI armrest. Its look and position are perfect, it is highly functional, and it enhances your motoring experience instead of getting in the way. In my opinion it beats all the aftermarket armrests in all these categories and most importantly in value. The MINI armrest can be ordered from your dealer’s parts department, part number 52 12 0 154 307, $195.00 USD retail. The part should be available very soon, and starting January 2005 as a factory option or available as part of the Premium package on both convertible models. Feel free to add comments if you have any additional questions and I will try to answer them.