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Discussion Starter #1
Had a call this morning to say I could pick up my new Mini (originally ordered at the Birmingham NEC) next week. At long last!

But the dealer has said the car is not fitted with either the Visibility Pack or the Xenon headlights, which I originally ordered and claims that neither will be available until June.

Can people here tell me if this correct or whether the dealer is trying to cover up a mistake with my order?

With many thanks in advance for any help anyone can give me.

Robin
 

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Xenons question

Sounds like no one has received a MINI with the xenon option yet--but can any one tell me if they Bi-xenon or just single xenon lights and how you can tell from pictures?

Also, if only single xenon-which beam would be Xenon and which would be Halogen? Thanks.
 

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They are not bi-xenon. MINIemployee turned them on for me at NAIAS. The auto-leveler is so cool when they come on. The xenons are on the low beam. :)
 

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March it is. AFAIK, finished xenon lamps have been leaving the supplier's factory for a while now. At least for UK and European cars.
 

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Xenon...?

Pardon me for sounding stupid...

But could anyone please tell me the point with these Xenon lights?

I.e what's the advantages and disadvantanges...
Do they last longer?
shine brighter?

etc.etc.

Cheers!
 

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You've seen all those BMWs and Mercedes with headlights that look blue-ish, and seem to change colour depending on the angle they're at? Those are Xenon lamps.

The technology at work in a xenon (aka high intensity lights, gas/arc-discharge headlamp, daylight lamps etc etc) is exactly the same as the electronic flash on your camera; an electric spark (or arc) jumps a gap inside of a capsule filled with Xenon gas. The arc produces much more light than a glowing filament, and the light is of a higher "color temperature", meaning it more closely approximates a true-white color. Trick was getting it to do this constantly without waiting for the unit to recharge like a camera flash!

There's a limit to how bright headlights are allowed to be, and the current standard halogen lamps reached that a while back. (If you're into ancient history, you'll remember the original Mini came with weedy tungsten filament bulbs until very recently - now they were awful! The light didn't reach as far as your braking distance at 50mph!)

So Xenons can't really be any *brighter* - although they might look it at first glance, that's illusory because of the higher blue content of the light they throw out.

Instead, they are a higher intensity light - the light penetrates air better, so you can see out further in the dark.

The bulbs also last longer, but that's a pretty minor consideration - they cost whole orders more to buy, so that despite the fact you should never have to replace them, they are not a money-saving feature.

There are problems, however. They're too expensive (and the electronics are pretty complicated) to have one xenon bulb for main beam, one for dipped beam. So there are complicated systems to dip the beam mechanically (usually using a stepper motor) - increased complexity and cost there, too. There are also problems with back-glare, when driving in fog, snow or rain.

And the blue-ish light they give off can be a problem for other oncoming drivers too, as the blue light messes with your night vision! (I know I don't like it much when there's a git in a Mercedes heading towards me; but I get the same feelings of loathing in the daylight :p) This was the thinking behind the yellowish lamps required under French law for many years. To try to minimise the effect of this, European law requires that the xenon headlamp be able to trim itself dynamically - the aim of the beam is automatically adjusted as you're travelling to take account of loads on the car, so it won't aim high and blind anyone! More cost, more complexity ...

Getting a useable, safe beam pattern is darned tricky - the designers on these lamps have really been burning the midnight oil to come up with a package that fits in the two round holes in the front of your MINI's bonnet.

The cost is a real penalty to be aware of, though. If the lamp needs replacing for any reason, it's going to be very, very pricey. There's a lot of expensive electronics in there, so a stone-strike or a front-end shunt is going to get real expensive, real quick. These are not lamps you'll be able to fix or mess with yourself, either - to get the lamp fired-up when you turn the lights on, it requires some pretty scarey voltages (higher than that at the spark plugs, FWIW) - scarey stuff.

Is it all worth it? BMW think so - but then they have the spares market in mind, too. Other manufacturers also specify HID/xenon lamps on their premiere cars, so they think so (probably for the same reasons - looks good, and they can sell spare lamps). And on a dark night, screaming along at 120mph in a Cooper S, you'll think so too - a halogen lamp will be struggling to supply enough light far enough out in front to see as far as the car's stopping distance! That's been a problem for the 24hour endurance racing cars for a while now.

I get all this info second-hand from a source who is involved in the design and production of these lamps in the UK, BTW.
 

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Thanks VC for that detailed explanation. Despite the extra initial & replacement costs, I am going to spec them for my 'S', very soon I hope, I'm waiting for The Call from my dealer.


GeoffP
 

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Thanks you very much for that great explaination... it was of great help.

I just wanted to add that if you plan to race around at night @ 120 mph in you 'S you really dont need Xenon-lamps.

What you need is to pick up the phone and call the nearest mental institution and have them accept your lifetime application - instantly. :D
 
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