If you don’t love it …

… then it’s just a rather expensive, small car!

No doubt, there will be MINI owners – R56 owners especially – that are shocked by this post. You have been warned πŸ˜‰

Ever since I first saw a MINI back in 2002, and certainly ever since I first drove one, it’s been a love-love relationship with MINIs. Everyone agrees that they are not perfect cars: the rear seats are hardly practical, the ride over rough roads is shocking, and I’m sure that more can be added to that list. But, there’s something about driving them, for me at least, that is simply pure pleasure. The connectedness I think – you feel so in control of the car, the road; you get feedback from steering, from the engine, from the clutch and gears, everything. Which is why I’ve been driving nothing else from mid 2002 till now.

I bought GBMINI#5 to get experience with the new engine and functionality of an R56, so that in a years time I’ll be able to order a new-design convertible knowing exactly what features I do and don’t want. In the meantime, I’d have some fun driving an R56.
Well, the evaluation is over and I know now exactly what new-design convertible I’d order: NONE!

For me, the R56 has lost it’s “MINI genes”; I simply don’t love driving it.
It’s a fine car … but it’s not a MINI. And if I’m going to drive something that’s not a MINI, there’s loads of other choices out there …
But I’m not ready to not drive a MINI; I still love MINIs. I just don’t love R56’s. I don’t feel “connected” to GBMINI#5 like I did with my other MINIs.

One of the worst things about the R56 is the clutch; apparently they removed it 😦
It’s hard to describe exactly what’s wrong, but whether it’s the feel of the clutch pedal, the clutch plate itself, or the lack of engine sound to give feedback – whatever it is, it’s not a thrill to deal with it.
Curiously, when I spoke to someone on Friday about this same issue – and she has recently switched from an R52 to an R56 – one of the first things she said was “I can’t get used to the clutch”. So it’s not just me πŸ˜‰

The engine sound is a step back for me, too. I’m sure new-to-MINI owners prefer it, but I “grew up” with the supercharger whine and it’s a huge thing to lose.
The steering, also, seems to be a step backwards. The default (non-Sports) mode is very light and easy, but it’s not what I’m used to. And turning on Sports mode doesn’t really improve it much, it simply makes it heavier (presumably it reduces the level of assist, but it can’t change the physical connection between steering wheel and road).

The default gas pedal responsiveness is also odd – although here the Sports mode does significantly improve it. But still, the engine response is too different from the R50/53/52 engine; maybe it doesn’t have turbo lag as they claim, but it still behaves curiously like it needs a bit of time to get going sometimes.
I’ll freely admit that the R56 engine has masses of power once you find it, and it can accelerate quite impressively. But even then, it doesn’t give me the “love” that I want from a MINI.
Power isn’t everything – not to me, at least.

So, something has to be done … sorry, something has been done. At they say, “watch this space”.

EDIT:
I forgot to mention – the stereo in the R56 is appalling too! and since it’s so heavily integrated to the car, you can’t replace it. The previous generation is much more amenable to stereo upgrades.

(and yes, I’m probably mad, so there’s no need to point it out in the comments πŸ˜‰ )

Too cold for an R56?

It was 10f when I left for work this morning – and that’s basically where it stayed!
I took GBMINI to Sublime Restorations so I’m driving GBMINI#5 tonight … and when I started the car, she started fine but the clock was gone, and there was no trip information.Β Curiously the date was correct, while the time had vanished.
Anyway, note the exclamation mark above (the triangle to the left of 000.0 – not very visible in picture, sorry) … calling up “CHECK INFO” gave a display on the NAV screen:

And pressing the joystick (which I didn’t do but apparently GBMINI#5 got fed up while I was taking pictures, and “pressed” it for me) gives a description which very (un)helpfully says “turn off unnecessary electrical consumers … in case of repeat occurrence, have the system checked by your MINI dealer”:

Meanwhile, GPMINI – with it’s smaller than normal weight-saving battery – had no trouble with battery power, during the same cold, also un-driven due to our Florida trip. I hope this issue doesn’t recur …

UPDATE:
Something else now … yesterday the R56 stalled three times when initially moving it; I assumed it was because the brakes & tires were frozen from sitting in the cold / wet for a week.
But this morning, it again stalled twice when I tried to go; I had to give it LOADS of revs to have enough power to move without stalling – and this was on a flat driveway with no overnight icing!
Apparently GBMINI#5 has no power when it’s cold; for the first few minutes you could feel that it wasn’t happy to run, sluggish and under-powered.

R56 storage

We all know our MINIs are small, so it’s hard to find places to store things … given that, you wonder why the R56 designers decided to make it HARDER! Maybe they’re hoping to trigger sales of the forthcoming Clubman πŸ˜‰
So while the cupholders grew in size, the door pockets shrunk dramatically – and are harder to access due to the tiny gap between door panel and armrest/handle; more frustrating is the shrunken glove box – it’s apparently been designed to hold the MINI manuals, and nothing else!

 

I tried a couple of aftermarket glove box organizer “solutions” – many thanks Peter at MinSpeed – but really there’s no great solution, the R56 glove box simply isn’t suited as well as our favorite R50/53 GBO. Anyway, this is how GBMINI#5’s glovebox looks at present:

This shelf is sturdy and looks practical, but there’s no way to attach it to the glove box – it sits loose, resting on the MINI manuals. Maybe it’s because GBMINI#5 has so many manuals (with navigation, iPod, etc) … or maybe the designers simply forgot that people have stuff, even when they drive a MINI πŸ™‚