First post here but I have been lurking for some time. First, I must praise this community for being very helpful and friendly. Nice to see an internet community that is serious about their cars.
As the title suggests, I purchased a 2006 MX-5 about a little more than a year and a half ago. The car really has been a treat to own with a fabulous drive and very little maintenance. But recently I have been doing a lot of highway driving which is not the MX-5's forte. It is loud, and cramped even for someone who is average size (5'9 to be exact). I can put up with a lot of it but on a long highway journey, I am simply worn out. In comes the R56.
I must say that I was a big fan of the last-gen Cooper S. I drove many but ultimately decided against it as it was expensive (for me at the time), offered a shinny and chintzy interior, and rode too hard. But I nearly bought one so my taste for a MINI is not spur-of-the-moment.
The thing that catches me about the new one is how much better it looks; it is more masculine than the previous model. Additionally, the interior is leagues better with better trim pieces, bang-up-to-date BMW digital readouts and entertainment displays. The steering wheel is the perfect size and offers all the controls you would want. I really enjoyed simply sitting and admiring the interior. There is plenty of space for two people and four is still a push but at least doable.
The main characteristic is driving. I must preface my comments by saying that my MX-5 has an aftermarket exhaust and MAZDASPEED suspension and intake. But even in comparison to my improved MX-5, the Cooper S simply drives better. There is loads more grip and awesome balance. Very few, in fact none, front-drivers are this balanced offering almost zero-understeer and lift-off oversteer. Sure, it will plow like all the others if you drive like a baboon but drive well and the payback is huge. Additionally, I far prefer the new turbo to the old supercharger. Sure the supercharger offered the distinctive whine but this one feels far more powerful and still sounds very nice indeed. It could be louder but I believe that would compromise the all-around driveability. If the engine sounded bad, I would modify the exhaust but it sounds very nice stock making aftermarket exhausts unnecessary in my opinion.
As good as the drive is, it must be said that my test car had a good sampling of torque-steer. The car was fitted without the sport suspension but was fitted with 17-inch wheels; additionally, no limited-slip diff was fitted. Out my test-drive I concluded that the LSD was an absolute must for this car. Sure, the torque-steer is easily manageable but it can sometimes ruin the perfect corner you have going. The car also had too much body roll. For many, it would be perfectly fine (I'd say almost 95% of owners would find it perfect), but in my opinion the sport suspension is also a must. It is a good ride quality compromise but even the sport suspension rode well (though, I drove it for a much shorter time than the non-sport car).
A couple of other observations include the Sport button which simply must be pressed all the time. Turn Sport off and the car is frankly lame. Soft, soft steering and poor throttle response. According to the dealer I test-drove it at, they are coming out with a retrofit option that starts the car in Sport mode. When in Sport mode, I was quite impressed with the electric steering but it still could do with some more feel. It must be said, though, that the weight of the steering was well welcomed. While the gearbox is quite good, the throws are still too long and dont offer enough feel. The clutch additionally bites too high off the carpet and makes for a strange feeling when working the clutch. These problems are emphasized when compared to the MX-5 so for must people I can understand them not understanding the problems.
I must say that this car is extremely tempting. I actually think that the driving experience is somewhat better than the MX-5 and its engine is far superior to the MX-5's 2.0 NA mill. I was really impressed both by how well it drives but how much better the new car is in comparison to the last-gen Cooper S.
I had an R56 MCS and just traded it in because I prefer the older model. One thing I will say though is that it was better on long journeys. Much more comfy seats and less gear changing with the turbo.
Having to press the sport button every time you get in is a pain in the back-side. It start as a novelty but end up being more hassle than its worth. It should be called a 'floppy girly mode' button and should only need to be pressed if.... actually its a waste of time, its just a gimmick.
The key fob is a also a pain, so if you order one make sure you spec Comfort Accesss. One in three attemps inserting the fob you have to retry as the car wont start.
Careful, us 'girlies' do have a tendency to push the sport button once in a while
Interesting point about the car not starting. I've never had a problem with this. Maybe you had a dodgy one????
BMWF1 - nice write up. The MX5 is a great car, I seriously considered one of these when deciding what I wanted (but in the end there was no contest, it had to be the S!). We've had Mazda's in the family for years and they just keep going forever. Sounds like you have a distinct pull towards the R56 though, I know that feeling
That will most likely be the case. The MX-5 has been so trouble-free that it really would be a risk to get out of a car that is so reliable. That said, I owned a previous Mazda3 that wasnt nearly as reliable as the MX-5 but the dealer was very pleasant to work with which made it bearable. From my first observations, the MINI dealer by me seems very friendly but I guess time would only tell.
The MX-5 really is a lot of fun to drive and, in many ways, would probably be more fun on a tight backroad than the MINI but around town (95% of my driving), the Mazda isnt nearly as fast or as enjoyable to drive. I really enjoy the drive but there are many times where I wish I didnt have to rev the engine to at least 5,000 rpm everytime to get good performance out of it. The S's turbo engine is just so well designed that you get all the torque when you need it and the high rpm horsepower that is so appealing in the MX-5.
Really, the R56 S is very, very, very, very tempting but I would have to drive one with the sport suspension and LSD before I could sign off. The torque steer wasnt terrible but I really would like to eliminate it as much as possible. Additionally, I would like to see the dealership actually perform the Sport button retrofit before I buy. I dont want to take the salesman's word for it.
Out of curiosity, is there anyone who has driven the S without and with LSD? It would be very interesting to see what sort of comparison there is between the two models.
Very Proud Owner of a 2006 Mazda MX-5 GT 6-Speed Manual
Mods: RoadsterSport exhaust, MAZDASPEED intake and springs, Aluminum dash and pedals, Voodoo
I've got a R56 S with a LSD and i still noticed some torque steer when I first received the car, but now I've put a few miles on the car I don't notice it all. I think my driving style must must have adjusted to suit.
Which MX5 do you have???
NB or NC.
I've got a NC and prefer driving it to our R56.
Far more feedback and it feels alive compared to the grown up, almost sterile feeling R56.
In the transition from the R53 to R56 something very important has been lost...
It's now just another BMW predictable (and more then capable) product which has lost some soul
MINI, RX8 and MX5 - Done those............. It's now TTime
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