Which Cooper, and which suspension (stock/koni ), for ride quality? (forum c2) - MINI Cooper Forum
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Old Aug 16th, 2014, 01:44 PM
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Which Cooper, and which suspension (stock/koni ), for ride quality? (forum c2)

Ive just posted the below post which is about differences between Coopers and Cooper Ss, generations 1 and 2, in several sub forums ... [EDIT: and the most complete discussion so far is in this sub forum]
Im in the market for a Cooper hatchback. Every cooper Ive ever tried has too harsh a ride, so my initial guess is I should go for the 2nd generation, base Cooper (not the Cooper S) with 15 wheels and without runflats. But I would rather like something faster. And I prefer the 1st generation. So I started looking on the forum, and learned that (1) Koni FSDs are a big improvement, (2) the JCW suspension is actually softer than the normal suspension because its designed for big wheels, so if I use smaller wheels , but (3) the 2nd generation Cooper S cannot use 15 wheels. Mostly good, but it leaves me with some questions:

Cooper vs Cooper S, and gen 1 vs gen 2: If one uses the FSD dampers and 16 wheels on all four of these cars, does one end up with the same ride quality, or do the Ss and/or gen 1 cars have stiffer springs or other components?

And how would the gen 2 Cooper S on 16s compare to the others on 15s?

What about the JCWs on the smallest possible wheels? How would the gen 1 JCW (on 16s) and the gen 2 JCW (on 17s) compare to the above?

(I know that the gen 2 cars were available with optional sport suspensions. In this case (and in all other cases) I am of course only interested in the cars with the least stiff option. P.S. I know there was a sport suspension + (SS+) option. Were there 2 other choices (normal and sport suspension (SS)) or just one?)

Thanks for any insight into this!!!

Last edited by rs10; Aug 17th, 2014 at 04:02 PM.
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Old Aug 16th, 2014, 08:50 PM
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This could open a can of worms. I will give my experience but there are others who completely disagree with my opinions on wheel sizes. I had a 2003 R53 Cooper S on 17's and runflats. The ride was hard. I was given a loan Mini with 15 inch wheels and I was surprised it was hardly any better. I junked the runflats and went for a slightly bigger size tyre 215/45. This was a big improvement. I then went for Koni FSD's and this was better again. I was satisfied with the ride quality and handling now. I then bought a R56 Cooper S in 2010. It was as slightly softer on 16's with non-runflats. I tried my old 17's and there was very little difference. I had Koni FSD's fitted early and these made the ride slightly better and tightened up the handling at speed. I now run 18's with 215/40 in the summer and 17's with 215/45 in the winter. I think the ride comfort even on the 18's is good for a small car. Just one opinion though and I am old so remember when fast cars needed 2000 rpm and careful clutch release just to pull away. The carbs, preferable a bank of them, needed adjusting every 6 months and the suspension felt like it was welded solid. Modern cars like the Mini are amazing in comparison.

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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 05:49 AM
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Thanks, this is very helpful!

So to be sure I understand correctly, the R56 Cooper S on 16s was softer than the '03 R53 Cooper S with FSDs on 17s?.

And switching the R56 to 17s made little difference - so even when both cars are on 17s the R56 Cooper S would be softer than the '03 R53 with FSDs?

If so, then I should remove the R53 Cooper S from my list. But there's still the question how the R56 Cooper S compares with the R56 Cooper. If the ride quality is almost the same when both have FSDs, then my decision is easy. If not ... .
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 05:54 AM
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About the wheel sizes, could it be that this makes little difference with runflats, but a bigger difference with non-runflats? (Do you know if the 15s you sampled were runflats?) (I can imagine that to enable the car to run on a flat tyre with a big sidewall, the 15" runflats would need a particularly big increase in stiffness versus normal tyres, whereas the larger sizes would only need to be slightly stiffer, as the larger non-runflats are already stiff.)
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 08:54 AM
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I think if you want ride comfort, then it is sports suspension that you need to avoid - and particularly the combination of sport suspension, 17" wheels and runflats which is like the perfect storm.

But it's likely that any Cooper S you find has sports suspension.

I didn't find runflats and non-runflats very different on 16" wheels. Best of all is 15" wheels and standard suspension.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 10:36 AM
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Quote: Originally Posted by SteveM3 (original)
... I junked the runflats and went for a slightly bigger size tyre 215/45. ...

One more follow-up question: Do you think the bigger tyre size contributed much to the ride quality?

(The stock 17" tyre is 205/45, so the new 17" size had 4,5mm more sidewall, whereas going to 16s provides 15mm more. On the other hand, perhaps with the wider tyre the correct pressure is lower? And I think the relation between wheel width (not diameter like 17, but width, like 7) and tyre width has some influence on sidewall flex - though I would think stock wheel/tyre combinations would usually be close to max flex.)
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 11:18 AM
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Quote: Originally Posted by SteveM3 (original)
... I had a 2003 R53 Cooper S ... I then bought a R56 Cooper S

P.S. I guess your R53 had the sport suspension (because there was no choice with the R53 - correct?), and your R56 had the normal suspension?

Thanks!
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 11:27 AM
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Quote: Originally Posted by Angib (original)
I didn't find runflats and non-runflats very different on 16" wheels. Best of all is 15" wheels and standard suspension.

I'm guessing one reason differences in opinion about the impact of runflats is that they've gotten better since the Mini was first launched, so people who've compared them most recently will see the smallest difference. It also must depend on which brand & model runflat & non-runflat. Still, it's normal tyres for me ...
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 11:37 AM
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Quote: Originally Posted by Angib (original)
I think if you want ride comfort, then it is sports suspension that you need to avoid - and particularly the combination of sport suspension, 17" wheels and runflats which is like the perfect storm.

But it's likely that any Cooper S you find has sports suspension.

I didn't find runflats and non-runflats very different on 16" wheels. Best of all is 15" wheels and standard suspension.

Yeah, I know that I want the normal suspension, normal tyres, the smallest wheels that fit the car, and FSD dampers. But the question remains, which car?
  • If I understand correctly, a stock, post-facelift, R50 standard Cooper (not S) is stiffer than a stock R56 standard Cooper (correct?). But is this still true with FSDs? Or perhaps the stock dampers are the reason why the stock R50 is stiffer, and with FSDs, the R50 is as soft or softer?
  • And do I understand correctly that there is no relevant difference between a standard R56 Cooper and an R56 Cooper S with normal suspension when both have the same wheels and tyres? Or is the S suspension still in some way stiffer?
  • Also, there remains the question of how the JCWs would feel on smaller wheels.

Last edited by rs10; Aug 17th, 2014 at 03:39 PM.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 01:16 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by rs10 (original)
[*]And do I understand correctly that there is no relevant difference between a standard R56 Cooper and an R56 Cooper S with normal suspension when both have the same wheels and tyres?

That is correct. The S's ride height is 10mm lower but the suspension is the same and the 10mm doesn't affect ride quality except maybe for the very occasional big bump when the S would just hit its bumpstop and the Cooper wouldn't.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 03:38 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by Angib (original)
That is correct. The S's ride height is 10mm lower but the suspension is the same and the 10mm doesn't affect ride quality except maybe for the very occasional big bump when the S would just hit its bumpstop and the Cooper wouldn't.

So the only difference is the spring length? Is there is really no difference in spring rates? (I would ordinarily expect a manufacturer to compensate for a shorter spring by making it a bit stiffer - and by more than the small amount needed to compensate for the extra weight of the turbo.)

If this is the only difference, then choosing between the R56 and R56 S, I have the difficult task of understanding how much better the ride is with 15s than with 16s ...
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 04:42 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by rs10 (original)
So to be sure I understand correctly, the R56 Cooper S on 16s was softer than the '03 R53 Cooper S with FSDs on 17s?.

And switching the R56 to 17s made little difference - so even when both cars are on 17s the R56 Cooper S would be softer than the '03 R53 with FSDs?

If so, then I should remove the R53 Cooper S from my list. But there's still the question how the R56 Cooper S compares with the R56 Cooper. If the ride quality is almost the same when both have FSDs, then my decision is easy. If not ... .

Yes the R56 S with 16 or 17s was softer than the R53 S with FSDs and 17s. Be careful reading about the R53 S. Mine was a 2003 and they had softened the suspension by then and I found it acceptable once the runflats where dumped. The original 2002 S had much stiffer suspension and few people liked it with 17s and runflats. The few who liked it loved it though! Never driven a R56 Cooper so can't comment on that.

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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 04:49 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by rs10 (original)
One more follow-up question: Do you think the bigger tyre size contributed much to the ride quality?

(The stock 17" tyre is 205/45, so the new 17" size had 4,5mm more sidewall, whereas going to 16s provides 15mm more. On the other hand, perhaps with the wider tyre the correct pressure is lower? And I think the relation between wheel width (not diameter like 17, but width, like 7) and tyre width has some influence on sidewall flex - though I would think stock wheel/tyre combinations would usually be close to max flex.)

I bought the bigger size for looks and to give better protection against kerbing the alloys. I had come from an E36 M3 where you couldn't kerb the alloys because of the wide 235/40 tyres. 215's should benefit the ride as well but have had no direct comparison.

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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 05:25 PM
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I think the only MINI suspension which could be characterized as "harsh" is on those models built prior to May 2003 when they changed the oil viscosity and valve structure of the shock absorbers.

Sport Suspension Plus was only available on 1st Gen models. I believe this was standard equipment on US MCS models and in the UK SS+ became an option on later MCS models.

JCW Sport Suspension on 1st and 2nd Gen cars was a dealer fit accessory and looking for a car with this suspension will limit your choices.

Suspension should NOT be your first consideration in which model to select.
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Old Aug 17th, 2014, 07:57 PM
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Quote: Originally Posted by Caveman (original)
I think the only MINI suspension which could be characterized as "harsh" is on those models built prior to May 2003 when they changed the oil viscosity and valve structure of the shock absorbers.

Sport Suspension Plus was only available on 1st Gen models. I believe this was standard equipment on US MCS models and in the UK SS+ became an option on later MCS models.

JCW Sport Suspension on 1st and 2nd Gen cars was a dealer fit accessory and looking for a car with this suspension will limit your choices.

Suspension should NOT be your first consideration in which model to select.

Thanks for the insight! Just to clarify, I will not look for the JCW suspension on a MC or MCS. But if the JCW suspension would work well on a JCW with the smallest possible wheels, I might consider buying a JCW.

And suspension probably should not be the first consideration for most people, but alas, for me, it has to be. I've driven too many MCs with suspensions that just don't work for me.
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