This edition of Ask MF comes courtesy of John H.

>I’m about to order my 2007 Cooper S and was seriously considering getting the Nav until I saw thar MINI now offers a portable Garmin unit. It’s $750 vs $2000 but I’m not really sure how nice this Garmin 360 is. Do you guys have any opinions on it?

For one it’s great to see MINI offering buyers a choice. And it’s a great choice as well; the Garmin Nuvi series is (in our opinion) the best portable automotive navigation devices on the market today. However we strongly discourage going with MINI’s version of the Garmin Nuvi 360 for one reason: price. The regular 360 can regularly be had well under $450. In fact the much better Garmin Nuvi 660 (complete with huge, hi-res wide screen, incredible depth of color and traffic updates) can now be had for around $600 – a bargain all things considered.

The only MINI specific things the 360 has are the start-up screen, set of icons and the MINI logo on the lower left side. As you might expect, both the official MINI icons and start-up screen for the Garmin Nuvi series can be found on the web and can be easily loaded via Mac or PC (you can find them here). In fact the only true new feature the MINI version itself gives you (beyond the ability to pay $300 more than you need to) is the small MINI logo on the lower left side of the device.

However there is one (almost) unique benefit you get with MINI’s 360 that’s iconically not part of the nav itself. The mount that comes with the MINI version is a specific design that integrates into the MINI’s dash to the left of the tachometer. If installed correctly, it can also provide power. While this could be considered a huge selling point, there are several 3rd party solutions that provide similar integration. It just depends on how serious about DIY you want to get and if you prefer a mount closer to your field of view. And if you dig deep enough in the MINI parts system you can even find the mount itself for sale.

So to answer the original question, we’d highly recommend getting the Nuvi 360 (or Nuvi 660 if you have the $600) at a retailer like Amazon. Less money for the same technology… not a bad deal in our book.

Of course if you don’t mind spending the cash ($2100 of it), we’d highly recommend checking out MINI’s integrated navigation system now that it’s the center piece of not only navigation but also entertainment and communication systems in the R56.

The Garmin Nuvi 660 was the unit that was featured in several of our Dragon videos this year.