Manual gear lever from the JCW

With the introduction of Electronic Differential Lock Control standard on all JCW cars and optional on the Cooper S, MINI has decided it’s now time to drop the old fashioned mechanical limited slip differential as as option for the 2010 model year (commencing in early September). LSD was first introduced on the car at the start of 2005 and has continued on as a must have option for the enthusiast oriented MINI owner. However with ELDC MINI claims to do more and weigh less than the LSD unit that comes attached to the manual transmission of a Cooper S.

Beyond weight, cost and mechnical complexity, MINI engineers found issues with LSD on the high torque engines of the JCW and JCW engine kit. Specifically due to the high amount of torque, LSD causes the car to engage too quickly causing what’s been referred to as “anti-torque steer”. Torque steer is something that usually causes the steering to pull to one side under hard acceleration.

With DSC fully deactivated and the car’s Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) engaged, the system also has an impressive poise in putting this power down to the pavement. While a mechanical limited slip may have more feel, EDLC proved in testing to be incredibly capable in very aggressive driving (unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to test our press car on the track) and its ability to do its job almost transparently was impressive.

In our tests we found the ELDC to perform surprisingly well in most cases. The system electronically slows the spinning inside wheel to enhance grip and ensure that all available power is transferred to the road through the wheel with greatest traction. In contrast to the way DSC and DTC manage power delivery to the wheels, EDLC does not intervene with the loss of engine power, meaning the driver has more control.

However the EDLC is different enough from the feel of a traditional LSD that some might miss the mechanical quality of the latter. Limited Slip always had a feel of pulling and shooting you out of corners in a satisfying way. Think of EDLC as an F1 style traction control (before it was banned) in the way it manages power back and forth between the front wheels with such speed and intelligence that its almost mind boggling. Combined with the new DTC (an exclusive Dynamic Traction Control system) a MINI equipped with the system (especially a JCW) manages its power as effectively as possible considering its stock suspension set-up.

While it’s sad to see the option go, it’s not entirely unexpected. One less option, less weight, less cost, and less mechanical complexity certainly made the decision ultimately an easy one for the powers that be at MINI.