Aleks has a ton of information for us in the form of asnwers from the recent Ask an MA post:
It’s great to be back! I have tried to dig up as much information as possible for all our MINI enthusiasts out there. Hopefully everyone will get what they were looking for. As before, I attempted to answer all of your technical and service related questions. Unfortunately I was unable to answer all of them, as some questions are best left to your local MINI Service Department and trusted MINI Service Advisors. Lots of new stuff to cover so here we go.
New Options and Accessories
For most of the regulars on the site, a lot of the info you are about to read has been reported on already. The biggest news has come in the last few days. New options for the 2005 Cooper S and S Convertible are on the top of the list. Starting January production the cars will have a Limited Slip Differential available. If performance is on your mind, this is definitely an option box that you want checked! For those who don’t know how LSD works, here is brief description provided by MINI:
“A limited slip differential is a modified or derived type of differential gear arrangement that reduces wheel spin, especially when cornering at high speed (or on a slippery surface) by allowing for some difference in rotational velocity of the output shafts. LSD does not allow the difference in speed to increase beyond a preset amount. (30% according to a previous report) By limiting the velocity difference between a pair of driven wheels, useful torque can be transmitted as long as there is some friction available on at least one of the wheels.”
For the MINI it is a clutch type LSD that has a 30% rate of slip. I have heard that it will be manufactured by a reputable British company, not AISIN or Quaife etc. Basically the LSD will help you put the power down more effectively, and keep that characteristic Go-Kart like handling. It will retail for $500 as a stand alone option in the US. This price is well below what it would cost to put in an aftermarket unit, and of equal if not better quality. As far as the discrepancy between the US and UK prices, I imagine that like most things it is a matter of supply and demand, and market position. I feel that $500 is more than reasonable considering the aftermarket units by Quaife would sell for around $900 without the cost of installation and warranty issues that come with it.
Many will agree that a MINI is best when it comes with a manual transmission. Still there are people who prefer the convenience of an automatic. If you live in a more congested area but still like to wring out your ride, then you will love the new Automatic Transmission for the Cooper S/ Cooper S convertible. I can’t count how many times people have asked for this and bought a CVT Cooper because of it. The hardcore purists among us will still opt for the GETRAG manual, but now there is a choice for people who can’t or just won’t drive a stick. The six speed gearbox is manufactured by AISIN which is responsible for a number of high performance transmissions for various makes. It is going to be the more conventional torque converter equipped type rather than the more exotic CVT version found on the Cooper. Steering wheel paddles will be standard to facilitate quick shifts during spirited driving, or if you prefer shifts can be executed by a tap of the gear selector. It will be a $1350 option in the US and is expected to sell very well here.
The rear fog light is back! Many people were curious why it was not available from the beginning of the 2005 model year. Well the main reason is because it was not 50 state legal in the US. Now it is available from the factory once again, and the price has stayed the same at $100. For 2005 the rear fogs have moved to the blacked out plate where the reverse light use to be on the 02-04 cars. It will also be available as a dealer retrofit, for roughly the same cost as the previous kit. The kit will most likely be around $100 with about an hour of labor. Get your orders in early, I have a feeling people will be looking for this one.
The Center Armrest has been announced and will be available early next year. There is an in depth article already up on the site, for more info go here.
It looks like a quality piece and I am sure there will be a crazy amount of people retrofitting these into older models. Don’t expect to see cars with it until the middle part of the first quarter of the year.
After a brief hiatus, the anthracite headliner is now available for all MINI hatches. Apparently the US customers made enough noise to be heard and MINI obliged the request to bring it back. Beginning again with November production, it will be a $200 option. Personally I think it makes the interior look much sportier. It’s a nice touch that only a true enthusiast would notice.
17″ Web-Spoke 2 piece Wheels
A new wheel is on its way from MINI! Available for an additional charge, the 17″ Web-spoke wheel will be included in the Cooper S Sport package. Try to picture the 16″ Y spoke and the 17″ R90 coming together in one wheel and that’s the new 17″ Web-Spoke.
The package price will increase to $1850 instead of the current $1350. This two piece wheel is supposed to appeal to the driving enthusiast and comes equipped with performance tires. The 17″ S-lite wheel and the 5 Star Bullets will still be available at their regular prices. I can’t wait to see the new Web-Spokes in person. They will be available starting January production, and will be a nice alternative to the other factory wheels.
Warranty and Modification Questions
Like all service related issues, each problem needs to be looked at on an individual basis. Every car is different, and every driver is different. Just because a vehicle is exhibiting a similar problem doesn’t mean that diagnosis and course of action should be the same. Especially in this day and age where almost everything is electronically controlled, the correct diagnosis is critical.
With respect to any non-MINI approved items, no matter how simple they seem, the dealer will look at the repair that is being done and attempt to determine if the aftermarket item was the root of the problem, regardless if it is in reference to a warranty claim or not. Here is a brief synopsis:
A customer has a Cooper S that has overheated. He calls MINI roadside assistance to tow the vehicle to his favorite MINI dealer. When the car is examined by one of the technicians, it is noted that the water pump has failed. The tech will proceed to search for the cause of this pumps failure. Upon closer inspection the tech notes that there is an aftermarket pulley installed. The aftermarket pulley which makes the supercharger spin quicker to provide more boost has inadvertently made the water pump spin quicker as well since they run on the same belt. Many times, running a diagnosis via the onboard systems will support what a technician finds. The over spin has caused the pump to fail prematurely and as a result, the engine to overheat.
However oversimplified, this type of situation is a good example of why the work performed on this vehicle in this instance would not be covered under warranty. Ultimately the MINI center that services your vehicle will determine where the problem came from and what aftereffects it has caused. Only then will the dealer know if it to be covered under warranty, or treated as a customer pay situation. Once the center has determined it is a warranty claim, it can be submitted to MINI for dealer re-imbursement. My advice as before is to avoid any of these potentially costly situations, unless you are prepared to cover the expenses that can be incurred. In addition, just because an aftermarket device was installed somewhere on the engine (i.e. Intake) does not mean that you have voided your entire warranty. Other elements of the vehicle will still be covered, but you may be vulnerable if there is some sort of engine or drive-train problem that can be sourced back to the intake.
Many times aftermarket companies are not prepared to fully test the products that they have developed. How many tuners do you know that will test their products under various weather conditions? Will the product hold up to extreme heat, or extreme cold? How many test miles have been driven to prove the validity of the company’ claims and can their results be duplicated regularly. There are exceptions, AC Schnitzer, DINAN, and obviously John Cooper Works Garages are some examples of top notch tuners that invest tremendous amounts of time and money to perfect the products they make. I can speak from experience that the JCW products are first rate and well worth the peace of mind they provide. I have seen the Works kit run in 105 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as minus -25 degrees Celsius. These are extreme conditions and many times the small aftermarket companies are not able test under such conditions. My advice is to stay with authorized MINI products. In the coming months there will be a barrage of hop-ups available for your MINI and they won’t void your warranty. All of the JCW upgrades will fall under the coverage of your existing warranty.
What to expect when purchasing / Your Dealer Experience
Buying your MINI should be a fantastic experience from the very beginning. It’s not very often that a person buys a car, especially a vehicle as unique as a MINI. As a result customers often have high expectations. A good dealer should not only fulfill your needs for a car, but go beyond your expectations and provide a truly pleasant experience. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open with your MA during the entire buying process. Once your car receives a production number, your MA should provide it to you so you can track the vehicle via the MINI Owners Lounge on MINIUSA. Once again, while you are tracking your car it is important to keep the lines of communication open.
Every MA will have their own way to make the customer feel special. Your MINI should definitely be clean and trouble free at time of delivery. Any good MA will have checked the car thoroughly and made sure that all the features are working and that the car looks great before the customer arrives to pick it up and that goes for factory and dealer installed items as well. I like to show my customers their vehicle before we sign any paperwork. This usually makes people feel much more at ease. After an explanation of the warranty, maintenance and road-side assistance programs, and all the boring paperwork is out of the way, there should be a very thorough walkthrough of the car. There will always be questions and it’s important to gauge how much info the customer is looking for. It is also important to be introduced to the service department. The service department is going to be the next level of the MINI/Dealer relationship and is just as important as anything else that has been done thus far. Again every dealership and each MA will have a different way of doing things, but this is the BARE minimum. I can’t give away all my secrets, but ultimately the customer should be 100% satisfied with the whole process. It is also important that your MA stays in touch after the delivery.
Customizing your MINI doesn’t end when the car leaves the dealer, in fact it’s just beginning. Part of the fun of owning a car like the MINI is being able to truly make it your own. Your dealers’ parts and service departments will always have new items that will help make your MINI feel new again by helping you add your own personal touches over the life of the vehicle. As far as any accessories go, the MINI website has a clear disclaimer about possible discrepancies in the selling prices. Every dealer will have a different labor rate and as a result the prices can vary. Alarms, driving lights, bonnet stripes, it’s all there, but it is up to the individual dealer to set pricing based on their costs and markets. The website will list what the retail price of the item is, but it does not include installation and prep cost. Consult your dealer when making your purchases for the total price. $795 for driving lights is not uncommon, and some dealers are charging as much as $995. If you have ever looked at the installation instructions for some of these items you could clearly see how the install can be time consuming, especially if any difficulties arise. Overall there isn’t that drastic of a price difference and you should be able to find what items you want for a fair price.
On a more specific note, the auxiliary gauges can be installed on a 2005 model, but it does involve a bit more custom fitting. The center console has the new storage bin, and as a result the gauges don’t go right in. We have been able to install them on a few cars. Ask your dealer if they have installed them on a car, I am sure most of them will say it can be done but it may take a bit longer than before. Most people who wanted the extra gauges probably opted for the cockpit chrono-pack, unless they wanted the classic large center speedometer.
Unfortunately there is still no news on when the MINI version of the iPod adapter will be available. The last rumor I have heard speculates that it will be available before the end of November, but I am not holding my breath. As many of us already know, BMW/MINI will not rush a product to market, no matter how great the demand. I can only assume that they are still dealing with supply issues and trying to fix some of the compatibility issues that are currently being dealt with on the BMW version. Personally I would rather wait for a kit that will be 100% compatible with all MINI models no matter what the spec, navigation, HK sound etc. Who knows, maybe they are working on a way to avoid having to make 5 specific play lists (wishful thinking). Wouldn’t it be great to be able to access the entire library on your iPod? Only time will tell, but I am sure MINI will not disappoint us. Just be patient.
In the Works, Rumors and Speculation
Many people have been speculating what the future holds for the new MINI. Some of the most interesting rumors to come along are usually based on some factual information which usually makes them that much more believable.
Ever since the 2005 update, many have been asking where the clock is going to be moved to next. I have heard numerous things but I believe the most truthful info has come out of the UK. Some insiders have said that the new location of the clock will be the right hand side of the stereo where the RDS and PTY screen is. By pushing one of the 2 right side buttons you will be able to cycle between the clock and date, as well as turn the RDS and PTY on or off.
The washer fluid indicator is apparently a reality. No release date has been confirmed, but I for one can’t wait to see what it will look like to have the amber indicator on the right, and the alarm indicator on the left. For the US market having the alarm indicator move to the left stalk will help make the flashing red indicator more visible from the exterior of the car. Hopefully we will see this integrated before the new year, but I doubt we will see it before the 2006 models.
Many people have asked me whether or not an earlier first oil service is really necessary, or just overly cautious. I have seen the oil and filters removed as early as 900miles, and they look almost identical to units removed at 5000 miles. I have always believed in premature maintenance. It’s a good practice that will reward you in the long run, but with the synthetic oils I don’t believe there is any advantage to changing the oil before 6000 to 7500 miles. If you are the type of person who tries to keep your car for longer periods; (over 150k miles) then regular oil/filter and air filter service will definitely help extend the life and performance of your engine. The factory scheduled intervals are adequate but dependant on your driving habits and environment. If you want to keep your maintenance costs down they are perfect. For those of us who are a bit harder on our vehicles, I would highly recommend sooner changes to be on the safe side, but remember it will be at your own expense.
I hope you found the above info useful. I apologize if I was unable to answer all your questions, but I would rather wait and give the correct answers than mislead people. I always try to give an unbiased and technically accurate report of any MINI related news I get. Thanks to Gabe for letting me contribute to what is already one of the best MINI sites out there. I look forward to doing this again very soon. Happy Motoring!