A big thanks to all the readers who took the time to send in questions. Beyond a few duplicates, we were able to answer almost all of them. Now, let’s get started…
Reader: JP: What does Sparkling Silver look light in the sun?
MF: Great. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Reader: Chilly: Could you give your opinion on what you believe to be the best configuration combination for both the MC and MCS, i.e. wheel size, regular vs. Sports suspension, etc. Does the ride suffer much from this combination or does the new/refined suspension in the R56 more than make up for that?
MF: 17" or 18" (aftermarket if you’re worried about weight) and yes to SS if you want less body roll. Ride is much improved on all sizes of tires. It gets better without runflats (as before).
Reader: Has the Cooper lost that little extra surge we currently experience around 4k rpm? If so, is the driving experience less because of that or do the overall improvements compensate for this?
MF: It’s much smoother and thus the power is easier to modulate (especially on the track).
Reader: How did the new colors look in the flesh? Were you surprised – positively or negatively – by any.
MF: Sparkling Silver is incredible.
Reader: Did you hear anything about a special 50th anniversary edition at all?
Reader: SB: Another brake question. Are the R56 front brake pads compatible with the current R53 JCW brake pads? As in. When aftermarket companies start producing performance pads for the R56. Would that give more of a choice in pads for the R53 JCW?
MF: Yes and yes (so I’m told by Jeff Stracco).
Reader: MINI Fireman: Will dealers be able to load the non-US ECU profile to return the exhaust burble at customer’s request?
MF: There are no plans for this.
Reader: Rocky: 1: Do the US Cooper or Cooper S come with mood lighting (an option for European models)
Reader: 2: Any conformation whether the US navigation will have real time traffic information or not and will it comes with lifetime subscription
MF: I believe it’s free for three or four years but you’ll want to verify this with your MA.
Reader: 3: What’s your opinion on the regular leather seat?
MF: Personally I think they’re nice but not worth the money. The lounge seats or half leather half cloth are better choices IMHO.
Reader: MINI Fireman: How about an update to be able to change the default position of the Sport Button (like other changeable defaults such as auto-locking doors)?
MF: Great idea but there are no plans for this that I’m aware of.
Reader: eto: Were there any cars with the new panoramic sunroof and what was your opinion of the dual-pane vent setting? What is your overall opinion of the quality of the new sunroof?
MF: Yes and great. There’s a definite improvement in design and quality of the sunroof. One thing to note, the shade isn’t spring loaded anymore. And no, for those who live in the desert, the shade is not opaque.
Reader: MINI Fireman: Is MINI ever planning on offering European delivery like BMW does?
Reader: Tio Barry: Can the front seats for the new car be retrofitted into the current MINIs?
MF: No – the base is different.
Reader: Nate Cole: Is there an official response to the non-functional hood-scoop? This aspect of the new MINI is the most disturbing of them all.
MF: I agree. The official response? It helps cool the turbo. Reading between the lines? It does nothing. I also asked if MINI had any plans for it down the road. The answer? No.
Reader: MrChips: MF – Does the “sport button” have a memory? Does it keep the last setting across restarts? If so, then no default setting at the dealer would be necessary. Just set-it-and-forget-it regardless of which setting on/off you prefer.
MF: I wish I could say yes but the answer is it does not. I think our fingers will all get a little sore constantly hitting the sport button. I guess you’ll have to consider it part of your pre-flight warm-up for the time being.
Reader: Glen B.: Two questions: 1: Leatherette Seats: Previously, the leatherette was monotone black (in my 2006 MCC). The R56 specs call out a black/grey combo. Did you see that, and how did you like it?
MF: It’s two-tone as seen here. I think it’s a nice improvement over the previous version.
Reader: 2: New Ipod Adapter & Navigation: Did you see, or here anything about, a new type of Ipod Adapter that together with Navigation in the R56 will display song names etc. on the navigation display?
MF: I did not but I understand the new version gives you total control over your iPod.
Reader: mike c.: I’ve decided to order my MCS now rather than wait until the Audio Package comes out. I really want Sirius, so when that’s available will we be able to install it and integrate it with the SAT/NAV, and will it also come with the lifetime subscription.
MF: It will not if ordered after the fact.
Reader: Sam: MF, did you actually find the Aux audio input for MP3 players ? is it standard across all Mini’s ? where is it located ?
MF: Yes – under the toggles.
Reader: Fake Scoop ! MF, still do not understand why ?? What is your reaction to this ??
MF: I don’t like the idea and I really wish it served a purpose . But you know, it does sorta look cool. I guess you could say I’m torn.
Reader: Drew^3: I second the request for a comparison between the regular “sport-tuned” suspension versus the sport suspension upgrade.
MF: Didn’t have a chance to drive both. But I would guess if you’re asking, you really should get the SS.
Reader: What are your thoughts about each with 17? wheels for on and/or off track use?
MF: They feel much better than stock 16"s on the track. On the road the ride is barely any different with the improved wheel and suspension design. And of course 17″s look much better (especially on the R56) than the 16″s. Seems like an open and shut case to me.
Reader: Also, how is the sound quality of the stock stereo? Did you have a chance to hear the upgraded 10-speaker system? Is it worth it?
MF: Yes – the stock stereo is really nice. The Hi-Fi is better. To my ears it sounded easily as good as the H/K if not better.
Reader: Eliot" Is the red trim on the door the same color as the Rooster red seats? Or do they clash.
MF: They clash.
Reader: Jason Dainton: Audio package-Is there a delay till summer 07? What is the delay for- HD or Sirius? How come my MA does not now about this yet? Should I have a production number yet if I have the audio package or the automatic for the MCS ordered.
MF: Looks like it’ll be delayed until 06/07 production.
Reader: Andy Richard: What specific measures has Mini taken to reduce rattles (e.g. increasing chassis stiffness xx%, redesigning attachment anchors in the headliner, etc.)?
MF: Stiffer and much better put together. Does that mean all rattles are eliminated. No. Our test car had a small one in the dash near the door. Does that mean they’re greatly reduced? My experience so far says yes.
Reader: lambdacalc: MF, several quick questions: Any hope for Recaro sport seats?
MF: Rumors say maybe.
Reader: If not, how did the new leather lounge seats compare to/make up for the lack of Recaros?
MF: They’re the best US spec MINI seats yet. But still not Recaros.
Reader: If the sport button does not ‘remember’ its last setting, is it even possible to have it dealer-re-programmed to either remember the last setting or reverse the default setting (i.e. sport mode UNLESS the sport button is pressed)?
MF: Again great idea but it’s not in the cards for the time being. Maybe the aftermarket can help.
Reader: Any hope for a JCW Cooper (i.e. with the JCW engine upgrade) with an automatic transmission? (Don’t hate me, but NY stop-and-go traffic is no fun with a stick.)
MF: Nope. You heard it here first, no JCW auto for the R56. And I don’t hate you!
Reader: Any experience with the button-less entry/start?
MF: Not yet.
Reader: Is the sunroof cover still the see-through mesh, or has it (finally) been replaced with a solid, non-see-through fabric?
MF: Mesh and it’s now not spring loaded. It’s still mesh. The chances of it being replaced with something solid are hopefully slim.
Reader: Any experience with the two-spoke steering wheel?
MF: Yes – very much feels like the base wheel compared to the 3-spoke. Probably not what most 2-spoke fans want to hear.
Reader: Any hope for a two-spoke “sport” steering wheel?
MF: Unfortunately no.
Reader: Does the MCS with an automatic transmission still come with the paddle shifters?
Reader: If so, has their design been improved at all? (I test-drove a ‘06 MSC with auto. trans. and hated the paddles).
MF: The paddles are identical.
Reader: Is there an option for an auto. trans. WITHOUT the paddles?
MF: No. In the US they come standard. In most of the world I believe they are optional.
Reader: Tomas: Hi guys, do you know if the R56 will have specific instruments for oil temp/battery power, like the previous mini had?
MF: Not at this time.
Reader: Jon: Is there an official response to the non-functional hood-scoop? This aspect of the new MINI is the most disturbing of them all.
MF: See above.
Reader: Why would Mini include this if it were fake ?
MF: Marketing is my guess. I’m not happy about it either. But as I said above… it does kinda look good and at least it’s not totally fake. There is atleast air being passed through.
Reader: kelly: dsg, awd, yaw control, 300hp?
MF: Yes please! Are they expected in the MINI anytime soon? DSG – doubtful. AWD – not on the coupe most likely. 300hp – not anytime soon.
Reader: robble: what is the exact physical difference between the sports and sports suspension. Is it anti-sway bar, shocks, springs or a combination ?
MF: Great great question. Here’s the official answer straight from MINI product manager Jeff Stracco:
The sport suspension is made up of thicker sways and different springs vs the standard suspension. Incidentally, STOCK ride heights are: Cooper = 134mm / Cooper S = 130mm. Fully loaded both are at 105mm. Keep in mind that the "height" or clearance typically varies along the length of the car…some parts hang lower, so this is a bit of a generalization.
Reader: Why do people who hate the smallest design change think the S model shouldn’t have a scoop if it doesn’t do anything? 😉
MF: Personally I like to see form following function. For instance I was never a huge fan of the first generation aero kit because of the faux scoops on each of the side skirts. But the more I thought about it the more I realized much of “performance” automotive styling these days is really a caricature of real performance parts on race cars. The fake rear defuser on the R53 and R56 are a good example of this. I suppose if you’re going to hate the non-function hood scoop you should probably hate just about ever rear bumper on the MCS since 2001.
Reader: David: Did you drive a Mini with the standard leatherette seats and if so how does the comfort & support compare to the R53 leatherette seats.
MF: The seats are much better than the R53/R50 seats so by default the leatherette is better as well. But based on my experience of owning leatherette, cloth and leather over the years, the leatherette would probably be my third choice on both the previous car and the R56.
Reader: Johnny: How is the fit and feel of the half leather seats, and where is the pacific blue in the lightning/laser blue spectrum? For that matter, where’s the lighting blue in the spectrum of previous blues? Thanks!
MF: The Pacific blue is closer to the Lighting blue but may still work on Laser Blue. The fit and finish was noticeably better than the Black and Red Octagon leather/cloth seats in my 2005 MCS.
Reader: Jeff : I like those red leather lounge seats. Do you know cars colors in the new MINI S those are limited to?
MF: Check MINI USA.com for all ordering info.
Reader: Do you know if MINI will take special orders for color, like BMW does?
MF: MINI does not offer anything other than the colors shown on the configurator. For a time they offered some very expensive "flip" colors but I’ve been told those have been discontinued.
Reader: What is the headroom in inches? New seats make us tall guys nervous about headroom.
MF: Headroom was the same for me and I’m 6’2". Check the specs on MINIUSA.com or MINI.com for more info.
Reader: How many color combos do the cloth/leather seats come in? Or the color line dash as well?
MF: Check MINI USA.com
Reader: Was the dash rattling? ; )
MF: Yes, at one point there was a slight rattle where the door came in contact with the dash.
Reader: what can you comment on the missing WHINE of the SuperCharger vs Turbo ?
MF: Yeah it’s missing and it’s something that I had to get use to as a current MINI owner. There’s certainly less of a visceral feel because of that.
Reader: Did you get a chance to try out the new anti-rollback feature that’s now included with DSC? Was it effective? I live in San Francisco and am pretty curious to find out.
MF: Yes – it worked flawlessly.
Reader: Since the R56 suspension was designed with runflats in mind (unlike the R50/R53), how can you optimize the handling when you switch to non-runflat tires?…something just about every car enthusiast will do.
MF: I would assume but I didn’t test a car without runflats.
Reader: Can the ECU be reprogrammed to get the burble back?
MF: We can only hope.
Reader: Any idea whether the shift knob design has been changed, specifically the way it attaches? I’d like to know whether the custom Whalen in my ‘03 MCS will fit on an ‘07 stick.
MF: BMW has been using the same shift knob design since the 80’s so I doubt it’s been changed with the R56.
Reader: Thanks for the great review. I just have a few questions. 1: Did you spend any time with the new navigation system? If you did, is it similar to BMW’s iDrive? Will we be able to watch TV with the system like the English can?
MF: Nope – not available until march production. US law will not allow MINI to offer a TV system in the front seats of the car.
Reader: 2: What are your impressions of the new HiFi sound system? How does it compare to the previous H/K system?
MF: Sounds as good if not better from my limited experience.
Reader: 3: Would a Chili Red exterior work with a Redwood Red interior?
MF: No – they would clash due to the Redwood Red being a bit more orange.
Reader: DJBMini: A lingering question on the strut tower mounts: Did Mini address the problem of “mushrooming” found in the strut towers on the previous version?
MF: I had heard they did but photos have proven inconclusive.
Reader: Paul and Naomi: We know that there were no R56s w/ Navigation at the launch, but do you happen to know what the voice control can do? Also, does the real time traffic information come with lifetime subscription?
MF: The subscription is 3-4 years – not quite sure. Voice control is similar to BMW’s system in that it can control just about anything on the Nav.
Reader: Jon: Would appreciate and info you discovered about the JCW. With the problems they are having really interested if they said anything about it.
MF: We’ll have more on this soon…
Reader: cflm3: What safety improvements are there in the new mini? Do you think this car is safe for a teenager?
MF: The body is more stiff and MINI has dramatically increased the size of the side curtain airbags. And yes! It’s totally safe for a teenager. I’d recommend a manual Cooper as a great car for a teenager.
Reader: Brendan: How did it feel on the autocross course? Will the car be able to compete in GS???
MF: It felt like the R53: Will it compete in GS? Even the folks at MINI weren’t sure with the way the competition has been classified.
Reader: Also what did you think of the Cloth/Leather seats. I know everyone liked the lounge leather, but the other seats are the ones I ordered.
MF: They were very nice – a big improvement over the cloth/leather in my 2005. Based on my experience I’d personally only consider two seating options, the Lounge leather of the Cloth/Leather combo.
Reader: I realize this may be a tangential question but one that I am sure many of us would appreciate an answer to: Are there any concrete plans to include the MINI D for the U.S. and-or Canada and Mexico?
MF: There is none.
Reader: Although you have reported that the R56 seats are much more comfortable, I am not enamored by their appearance. Their shape and upholstery design are far too retro (1960 Morris Minor/Austin America) and incongruous to the overall interior design. A set of Sparco or Recaro seats would be far more appropriate in keeping with the sport/enthusiast aesthetic of the vehicle. What’s your opinion, MF?
MF: Couldn’t agree more. The new seats are a welcome improvement and but until we get something like the Recaros offered in Europe I’ll still have seat envy.
Reader: Do you miss the Whine in the MCS? Be honest! I suppose that depends on if you are a fan of the whine or not? Many of us MCS owners are huge whine lovers, and have gone to great lengths (and expense), to get as much whine as possible.
MF: Yes I will miss it… and I’m always honest 🙂
Reader: Will we find similar aural pleasure with the new turbocharged MCS?
MF: Not from the stock car. The new engine sounds great but without the pop and burble from the exhaust (via ECu tuning), no chance.
Reader: Does the wood steering wheel look classy or cheesy?
MF: Surprisingly nice. In fact the wood trim in generally is exceptionally nice.
Reader: msh441; Who makes the turbo for the R56S MINI/PSA engine? Model or part number?
MF: It’s either a Borg-Warner KKK or Garrett depending on who you talk to. I’m sure we’ll know for sure soon.
Reader: Will we be seeing thread after thread on NAM complaining the front cup holders are too small to hold a 64oz Mocha Latte? 😉
(This photo was taken at a Press event far away from public roads. Please don’t drink and drive.)
Reader: Anywhere we can get the unsprung weights from the different wheel/tire combinations?
MF: MINI2 has a great listing on their FAQ page. If they don’t have the wheels weights I’m sure either they will or we will very soon.
Reader: Oh, and has anyone tried the 10 speaker stereo?
MF: The Hi-Fi stereo is a great upgrade and sounded as good if not better than the H/K in the previous MINI.
Reader: Kelli: My MA told me he didn’t need to know my preferences for all the programmable stuff (like DRL,etc) because this would all be programmable by the driver and not the dealer, is this true? If so, do you know what interface would be used to program these preferences?
MF: Yes this is true! The multifunction button will allow you to program in these options now instead of having to go to the dealer. A very welcome change!
Reader: nate: 1: Do the mood lights in the interior come stock? or is it an option, and if it is an option, approximately how much will it cost? and what colors are there?
MF: It is stock on US bound R56 MINIs.
Reader: 2: What sound-system package does the mini come with now? is it still harmon kardon because i heard it’s 10 speakers with hi-fi or something.
MF: Hi-Fi is the name of the optional stereo upgrade. So above for my thoughts on it.
Reader: J.Melrose: This is maybe less about the review, but more about giving the new car a proper welcome. What driving style is appropriate with the new engine on the MCS, and what is recommended in regards to breaking the engine in? I know often I read about keeping it below 4500 RPMS for the first 1250 miles, but others say there’s no need and doing so will cause your car to learn your driving habits incorrectly if you do that.
MF: Always follow BMW’s approved break-in procedure as listed in the owners manual. I don’t have anymore insight other than than that unfortunately.
Reader: Chris: I have heard many places about the low end torque in the turbo engine. Does the non turbo engine have improved low end torque as well.
MF: Yes, the Cooper’s engine is also a huge improvement over what came with the previous car.
Reader: How is the new automatic transmission.
MF: The auto on the Cooper S is identical to the old one in my testing. The auto on the Cooper is identical to the one found on the previous Cooper S and the 2007 Cooper S. Poor on the track but adequate on the road.
Reader: Ed.: Sports Button Questions: 1) Is there a better “mode” for city driving vs highway driving, or is it all just a matter of personal preference?
MF: Generally speaking the sport button is more appropriate for any driving other than the highway. However during my time with the car I didn’t even think of turning it off!
Reader: 2) Is gas mileage affected with it ON?
MF: It seemed to go down very slightly but that could very well be as a result of me being over zealous with the throttle.
Reader: 3) (as asked before) Will we be able to program a default “ON” or “OFF” so it doesn’t need to be reset each time we get in to drive?
MF: No plans yet but I’ll be sure to mention this increasingly popular idea to the folks at MINI USA.
Reader: Reese: Is there a digital read-out for mph on the tach?
MF: Yes – much bigger than before too.
Reader: rustysteel: Any chance we will see the MINI One edition, or even a stripped down base version of the MC? A spec race version of the MC would be cool – don’t you think?
MF: Cool? Yes. Viable in the US? Probably not.
Reader: Husni: As long as you remember to click that sport button." For the Australian market, is the Sports Button an option? Or does it come standard for the R56 MCS Chilli Pack.
MF: I believe it comes standard on the Chili Pack but my Aussi knowledge isn’t great. Anyone else know?
Reader: Husni: For thw JCW Aero Kit does come in a full complete set? Or can you actually buy the Front bit separately? If do how much?
MF: Because it is a dealer installed option you will be able to order each part separately.
Reader: O(=^=)O Capn: unequal drive shafts= torque steer. How noticable was it?
MF: I think you’re inferring that MINI has down-graded the R56 with unequal drive shafts. This is not true. The R56 has the same equal-link drive shafts as the R50 and R53: Therefore torque steer really isn’t an issue.
Reader: TROPICAL MINI: IS THE QUALITY OF THE LOUNGE LEATHER SEATS SIMILAR TO THE PAST “ENGLISH LEATHER” SEATS ?
MF: Yes, the leather is similar. But with the seat design being different, the end result is a much nicer seat.
Reader: Dick Kershaw: I’m looking for a vehicle that will double my current Jeep Grand Cherokee mileage (about 16.5 mpg). I’ve seen the EPA figures for the MC and MCS but have been trying to find ‘real world’, around town and average mileage for the new models. I’m looking for ‘normal’ pedestrian driving type mileage – not what comes from all the road tests and general thrashing of the machines. Did you get any info like this during your recent drives?
MF: I got 26 mpg in some very aggressive testing throughout the day in a 2007 MCS (not including track time). I imagine I would have seen around 30mpg in the Cooper.
Reader: SKL: what impression does the manual transmission give you? How is the shifting experience? Thanks,
MF: Much improved! It’s much more slick and less notchy than before. In other words it’s now easier to drive fast.
Reader: Alice: What models exactly are these “4th generation” Dunlop runflats? Especially interested in the standard 195/55/r16.
MF: They’re supposedly lighter and a bit better riding.
Reader: Jim: I am amazed no one has asked: Tell us about “turbo lag”, or lack of same!
MF: I could feel none on the road or on the track. I could, however, hear the turbo form time to time at low-revs.
Reader: What happens when you “jump on it”, and how does that compare to your current supercharged MCS?
MF: It’s not as quick as my 2005 MCS with a pulley, exhaust and intake. But the 2007 MCS has a much smoother power delivery and more low-end torque.
Reader: Bilbo Baggins: A couple of questions about the wheels and tires. 1: Are the stock R56 MCS tires run flats?
MF: Yes – all of them.
Reader: 2: Are the stock R56 MCS rims the same size as the R53, ie 16?x6.5??
MF: Yes (according to the press information at the launch).
Reader: Glen: Sunroof: we know that the rear panel now tilts in addition to the forward panel. My question is: Is the total size (sq. footage) of the sunroof larger than before? Any other noticeable differences/improvements with the sunroof?
MF: No it appears to be the same. Generally speaking the sunroof feels more sturdy. The wind deflector is now much better designed and the sunroof sits lower when opened.
Whew! Now I know why we don’t do this sort of things every week.
Seriously though, thanks to everyone who sent in questions. We’ll have plenty more on the new car and other upcoming MINI products over the next year. Coming up this week we’ll have a slew of new R56 stories along with some information on the upcoming MINI Clubman and Hammer and Coup. Next week it’ll quiet down a little but well be dropping some JCW news that wil surely be of interest to all our readers.