runflat tires on the R57

According to MINI UK will be eliminating runflat tires from all vehicles with 15″ wheels from the 2010 model year in the UK. Instead owners will get the MINI Mobility kit that has been a dealer accessory since the launch of the new MINI. For cars with 16″ and 17″ tires runflats will remain but only as a £75 option. There’s no word on 18″ MINI wheels but since those are bought from individual dealers, owners have always theoretically had a choice when it came to tires.

It’s also unclear if this is shift is specific to the UK market or will be mirrored worldwide. Since the launch of the MINI in 2001, owners have complained about the rough ride and the cost of replacement tires. We can only guess that it was the latter issue for BMW (combined with trying to improve customer satisfaction) that led to this change.

It’s also interesting to note that the R56 (and all the variants within its generation) had its suspension specifically engineered from the ground up to better accommodate runflats. However we have it from several sources that BMW has increasingly grown frustrated at the pace of tire company innovation in the area of runflat tires. When BMW agreed to equip most cars with the tires in the late ’90’s, the manufacturers promised that the new technology would perform and feel like normal tires within a few years. While they have indeed gotten better, clearly they are not at the level of a standard tire in terms of performance let alone cost.

We’ll have more on this change and how it may or may not affect other markets in the coming weeks.