Friday, March 02, 2007

R56 Thoughts . . .

So I have now been exposed to the R56 for, oh, two weeks, and I am very overdue for a review. Thanks to Heather for the reminder . . .

Geez, where do we start? I want one, but I want it with most of the bells-and-whistles. This translates into a $30,000 hardtop! If you count the wheels I want it will be another $2,500 or so. $32,500 for a non-JCW hardtop S!?!?!?

So I have a Cooper S and love the Cooper S, so most of this is about the Cooper S. Sorry Cooper owners.

Let's talk power. A measly three horsepower increase does not sound like much to most people, and really it's not. However, those that know better look beyond horsepower when judging the "power" of a vehicle. Torque. The new R56-S features an increase of 16 ft/lbs under normal acceleration, and an additional 15 ft/lbs under hard acceleration due to a 2psi "overboost" courtesy of the new twin-scroll turbocharger. That's 31 ft/lbs over the R53! And believe me, you can really feel it . . .

Fuel economy has also increased. The R56 stickers 4mpg over the R50/R53: 29/36 in the Cooper S and 32/40 in the Cooper! What's that? Over 400 miles on a tank of gas? Yes please!

Let's talk suspension: One common complaint from current MINI owners, especially those of the R53, is that the car has a rough, jarring ride. I'm not sure what these consumers expect from a sports car, honestly, but the people spoke and MINI listened. The new Cooper and Cooper S share the same standard suspension, which features a much softer ride without compromising handling. The upgraded Sport Suspension is now an option on both models for $500. I have not driven a car with the upgrade as of yet; look for my thoughts on that later.

Let's talk toys: Now, as many of you know, I like gadgets, and the new MINI makes me feel like a kid in a toy shop! All cars have the option of Comfort Access which features a proximity key. What? You are too lazy to pull your keys out of your pocket to unlock the door? To crank the car? No problem. Just leave them in your pocket, press the button, and motor!

I was a little upset to hear that the new car's upgraded sound system would no longer be Harmon/Kardon branded. In fact, as far as I can tell it not branded at all; just simply the MINI 10-speaker Hi-Fi Sound System (as if 8 wasn't enough). After hearing the new system, it's OK that it doesn't say H/K anymore. The new system delivers clear highs and smooth lows: me likes. And, surprisingly, the new system has a lower power output than the previous system, but still sounds better. This just goes to show that bigger is not always better . . . it's MINI!

Hill Assist. Love the little things in life. Picture this: you are motoring along in your manual transmission MINI (as they ALL should be) and you come to a stop light at the top of a hill. Worried about rolling back into the person behind you? Of course you're not, because all R56 MINIs come standard with Hill Assist, which keeps the brakes applied for 2 seconds after you actually let go of the pedal. Brilliant!

Turn signal. Also love this. You now have the option to program the signal to flash three times when briefly tapped. BMW's have had this for a few years now - glad to see it in the MINI. If you prefer the single flash, that's OK, too, which leads me to my next topic . . .

Personal Profile. So this is really cool. These options are what we used to call the "MINI Vehicle Memory" and could only be modified by a MINI dealer (unless you are one of those computer-geekie-hacker types). This includes options such as auto locks, selective central unlocking, units of measurement, daytime driving lights, pathway lighting, and the turn signal activation. And what's better: each key has it's own profile, so if hubby his pathway lights on and wifey doesn't, no problem. Neat!

Telescoping Steering Wheel. Yes, it moves up-and-down, and in-and-out!

Cup Holders. Yes! You can finally use the two bottom cup holders! They are set further out from the console, so even an Cafe Americana fits! Hooray for American gluttony!

Push-Button Start. Very cool. No more tradition metal key . . . we now have a fob. Very fancy. Just push-in the key and press the button. I love toys!

Sunroof. Now both panes of glass vent, though the back glass still does not open. Oh well, we'll save that for the Clubman.

Seats. All the new seats are much more comfortable, featuring an extended seat bottom and larger side bolsters. Also, the new heated sets have three power levels and now heat not only your bottom and lower back but your upper back as well. Very luxe.

Ambient Lighting. This sounds a little hokey, but it's really quite nice. Choose between five colors (blue, pink, purple, red, and orange) to accent the cabin of your MINI. This is very useful in keeping you interested and awake at night, plus it makes for great conversation!

But, sadly, life is not always sugarplums and ferries. Here are the little things that I don't care for:

Exhaust Tips. I will have to say this is the first thing I noticed about the new car. If they modeled the R50/5R53 tips after a beer can, these new ones must have been from a cold 40oz! A bit too large for my taste, but at least there is no more awful exhaust "POP". Sorry to those of you that actually enjoyed this sound; it is no more.

Center Console. I don't really care for the way this whole setup looks, but the buttons do feel nice. Perhaps it will grow on me.

Side-mirror Switch. I'm waiting for this thing to break-off. It's a little flimsy and in a bad location: on the driver's side door. I will tear one-off, you wait and see.

Engine. Now, don't get me wrong, the new BMW-built engine is an awesome performer, coupling more power with better fuel economy, but darn if it doesn't sound like a diesel! I don't know what it is, but the ticking sound really bothers me. Maybe it will subside after break-in. On a positive note, you can only hear the sound at idle.

All-in-all the new car is refined. It's fast, it's fun, it's even more MINI! Now there's just one problem: what is Morris going to say about all this?

Cheers Y'all!


Blogger ♥ Christina ♥ said...

Hey Matt,

I thoroughly enjoyed your review of the R56! Have you had a chance to take a good test drive of the Cooper S yet? I've only been able to drive a Cooper across the lot, so I'll wait for a good driving opportunity before I write a review :)

I agree with your points - all except the exhaust "pop". I think I really like this feature! But only when I'm driving alone. I've had a few passengers comment on it thinking that something was wrong. I like it though when I'm on my own and I can appreciate it as one of Stella's quirks. Does this mean that since the pop apparently came from gas just burning up without being used (like wasted gas, kindof!) that the new engine just doesn't do this anymore? And maybe that's why the fuel economy is better? Hmm.

Anyways, LONG COMMENT!!!!!!!!!! Talk to you soon,


8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice job - although many of your pics are "blown up" and very pixelated, detracting from the articles quality.

My biggest issue today is that sticker price issue. Both MCSs I bought were around $25K pleasingly equipped - OK, the GP was $31K but if offer some very special stuff at that price.

On the R56, you're bumping up close to $31K yet you don't have anything really special when you get there ... the various packages and options just seem to be getting too pricey (and I'll bet MINI is making huge profit on many of those options)

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you forgot the non functional hood scoop. weak!

11:48 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home