Big MPG Test

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.

Jake: Hit it.

Or something like that. More like I have a fresh set of tires, a new set of plugs and fresh oil in the crankcase. You get the idea.

Since the weather has been cooler and I haven’t need to use my A/C, Bruce’s MPG numbers have shown marked improvement, actually breaking into the 30’s (MPG) lately. Considering my daily drive is 23 miles each way and it usually takes me about 2 hours to round-trip, I’m ok with that.

The big test is this week. I’m heading out to spend the holiday with family, so I will be driving about 500 miles round trip. My thinking is that, with the fresh tune-up, oil and tires, I should be able to finally break into the high 30’s for MPG. I’ll be doing mostly highway driving with a little desert back roads thrown in for good measure.

Because I know you will ask, went back to the old standby of Kumho ASX. The boys gave me a bunch of great suggestions, but they were all out of my budget. For my needs, this is a great that has never steered (!) me wrong.

Next up, brakes! Pretty exciting to think about doing my first R56 brake job. I’m thinking sometime in December. Stay tuned!

Every Little Bit

Last tank was +2 MPG after installing the K&N filter. Considering the average temps (105+), this is huge. Went from 27 MPG to 29. At this rate, the air filter will pay for itself before the end of the year.

It is the little things. Besides improved MPG, there is now a little bit of noise coming from under the hood and the engine has a little bit more to give. /me thinks it might be time for some mountain testing.


Making Better Air

Mod Log: 68,000.

The first “performance” mod on Bruce has been completed. I put performance in quotes because it wasn’t really a mod, more like an upgrade. Not knowing the history of the car, I have finally gotten around to replacing the air filter, but instead of OEM, I went with the K&N drop in filter (duh). Since I was doing filters, I went ahead and changed out the cabin filter.

I could tell that they filters had been changed recently. Guessing by appearance on the air filter, I would say approx 10K miles ago. It still looked ok, but was definitely over due to be replaced. The cabin filter looked much rougher, possibly not changed for years. It was pretty bad.

Amazing how well the A/C works now. Can’t tell if the K&N has made a difference yet or not, but I think it will, at least, help improve MPG.

Following up on the CEL, the decision has been made to change out the Vanos solenoid. I’ll have photos and more information as soon as that gets done.

Not for nothing, but I get more compliments on the overall appearance of this MINI than I did with Roxy. I mean, people would always say she looked nice, or looked amazing considering the amount of miles I had. But with Bruce, I get people telling me all the time that he looks bad ass or really cool. Part of that is the wheels, they are really sharp, even when dirty. The other part has to be the body kit. It really looks stunning.

Overall, short of a wet sand on the hood, I am very happy with the way he looks. Just need to get the performance sorted out.

Errors and Toys


As previously mentioned, Bruce has taken to showing me the CEL just like Roxy did. As you can see above, that is the error code I am currently getting. A search on the internet tells me this could be something simple like making sure the car has oil (it does) or something bad like OMGWTFBBQWEAREALLGONNADIE. I really <3 the internet.

I’m not a big fan of self-diagnosis and I am not a mechanic. I’ll get him in to have it checked out before too long. I’m keeping fingers crossed for sensors that have gone caput, but who knows.

You guys are probably wondering about the fancy screen shot above too. I’m sure you already thought “my code reader doesn’t look like that”. Being the nerd that I am, I am using a device called Automatic. Plugs into the ODB port and connects to my personal computing device via bluetooth. I’m currently testing the device with it’s default settings and full nanny mode. Configuration changes will be coming shortly.

I got this device because, not only does it read engine codes and tell me where I left my car and how far my last trip was and how much fuel I used on my last trip (you are getting the idea), it also ties in with the nerd machine, You can have it save CEL codes to your Evernote. Tag drives for business and save them to your Google Docs or DropBox. Have it turn on your Nest or Hue lights when you get home. All kinds of things.

I’ll have a full review coming in another week after I have spent some time with it. In the meantime, if you have any questions, the comments are open!


R50 vs R56: Bruce Takes Las Vegas


Just back from AMVIV. Had a great time seeing everyone that I haven’t seen since MTTS, Southwest MINIfest or the last AMVIV (or last week). I love these kinds of events, not for the event part so much, but for the reunion part. Anyway, today’s post isn’t a love fest. More like Roxy vs. Bruce, part 1.

The drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas is very challenging for low horsepower automobiles. The elevation change is crazy, starting at approximately 1100′ in Phoenix, passing through 3500′ in Kingman (and higher through some of the passes) and down to about 2200′ in Las Vegas. Sure, that doesn’t sound like much, but some of the grades in a car with 118 HP can’t be pulled with your foot on the floor in 4th gear.

Oh wait, that’s not right. Most of these passes I could easily take at 4th gear, at the speed limit. Just not in a 2008 MINI Cooper R56. For the job, a 2003 MINI Cooper R50 handled the job much easier. Not what I was expecting when driving the newer MINI across the desert.

Part of the problem is gearing. The R56, which is equipped with a 6 speed manual gear box, which is really a 4 speed with 2 overdrive gears. 5th is mostly crap when pulling hills, but if it’s a 1% or less grade, you might be able to maintain speed. 6th is crap unless you are driving level interstates. Hell, 4th gear, on steep hills, isn’t low enough to maintain 65MPH. I was driving in 4th on the steepest grade and watched my speed drop to 56MPH as I crested the hill and finally began to accelerate. I almost had to shift into 3rd. In Roxy, 4th (with either the 5 or 6 speeds) was perfect, 5th would still pull hills and 6th was more like 5th in the R56.

Also, for a car that gets such great fuel economy around town and during my normal commute, making this drive was embarrassing for the amount of fuel needed. I did not compute my MPG this time, but it took more than 2 tanks of fuel (at 14 gallons per fill) to get to Vegas and back, which is roughly 600 miles. This is a trip that should have used slightly more than a single tank, instead, it took more than the R50. An R56 S did the same trip in slightly more than a single tank. I don’t understand why I would need twice the amount of fuel as an S. It must be the new math.

And, you remember how I didn’t believe an R56 Cooper with a manual transmission actually existed until I purchased one? I have a new search/mission. I am now looking for a MINI Cooper (not S) that will make the drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas (or Southern California) without throwing codes. Every time I made the trip in Roxy I would get the CEL. It would seem that Bruce suffers a similar hate of leaving Arizona as he also decided to show me the CEL when making the drive, both ways, along with a trip to Bullhead City on different roads, also both ways.

Other than that, Bruce was a hit at AMVIV. Thanks for all of the compliments guys. It’s taken a lot of work to get him looking good. I am more than pleased with my results. Glad that you noticed.