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.

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