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Gen2 modifications?

  #1  
Old 09-25-2017, 10:41 PM
squawSkiBum
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Gen2 modifications?

One of the best things about owning a MINI is customizing it to your personal style and modifying it to increase performance. New owners will often ask "what should be my first mod?" Here are some ideas and opinions. I am not going to cover cosmetic mods as that depends on personal taste, these are all performance modifications.

In my opinion, the first priority is handling, then the driver. After that, braking. Power increases come last. Most cars (MINIs included) come from the factory set up for the average driver who needs a "safe" setup that won't get him/her into trouble and has predictable understeer when when pushed too hard in a corner. Fortunately this is easy and relatively inexpensive to change.

1) Ditch the runflat tires for a non-runflat tire. Since runflat tires have a very stiff sidewall to deal with no air pressure, non-runflats typically have a smoother, less harsh ride. The trade-off can be a loss of that "go-kart" handling feel. I switched to Michelin Pilot SuperSports and haven't looked back, the traction, turn-in response, and overall performance wet or dry and on the track is amazing. There are multiple options, check the Tires, Wheels, and Brakes forum for suggestions to match your particular driving style and weather needs. You can also consider going a bit wider than the stock tire. If you're cheap (like me), wear out the tires you have first, then go for an upgrade when it is time for new tires.

2) Install a stiffer rear swaybar (RSB). This will reduce understeer and have an immediately noticeable effect. This is the best "bang for the buck" modification you can make, you'll feel it every time you turn in to a corner. Plenty of options from NAM vendors, and an easy DIY upgrade.

3) Mod the driver - you! Sign up for an autocross or a track day. You will be amazed at how much you will learn about the behavior and capabilities of your car, and yourself as a driver. Careful, this may become addictive.

4) Further suspension modifications - replacing the stock dampers/springs, adjusting camber, upgraded bushings, etc. Check out the Modifications - Suspension forum for ideas. Check out my sig to see what I did, which is going way overboard for performance. Many other people have been happy with just replacing the stock dampers with aftermarket options for improved ride. This all depends on your priorities - improved ride/comfort, performance, etc.
 

Last edited by squawSkiBum; 02-26-2018 at 06:36 PM.
  #2  
Old 09-25-2017, 10:53 PM
squawSkiBum
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Continuing with Modifications: Braking.

5) Everybody should have a great set of brake pads. The stock pads do a fine job on the street, but they are inadequate for the track and create a lot of brake dust. The stock R56 calipers are very impressive with a good set of pads, even on the track when appropriate pads are installed. I have done multiple track days on the stock calipers with EBC Yellow pads, it took a lot of laps before I felt that I needed improved brakes and upgraded to the JCW calipers.

But most people, even most MINI drivers, never go to the track. There are multiple options for upgrades from the stock brake pads, EBC Red pads are recommended often for excellent performance and reduced dust. Check the Tires, Wheels, and Brakes forum for options, or see what the NAM vendors recommend.

6) High performance upgrades: If you aren't taking your car to the track, don't bother with these as there won't be any payoff for street driving. If you are going to the track, then these are essential:
a) High Performance Brake Pads (see discussion above)
b) High Temperature Brake Fluid. Very important to flush your brake fluid and replace it with a fluid that can take the high temperatures that extended high performance driving will create. I have used Motul RBF600, there are other options available.
c) Stainless Steel Brake Lines: Helps to get that last bit of brake feel for high performance driving. Unnecessary bling if all you ever do is street.

7) Upgraded Brake Calipers: There are plenty of options for the R56 etc. There are the Gen2 JCW brakes (4 piston Brembo front calipers, and larger diameter rear rotors), or aftermarket options such as Wilwood or Stoptech. Read the forum for options and opinions. I updated to the JCW calipers front and rear. I have to admit that seeing the the big red JCW calipers looks really cool, but that's only part of why I did it.
 

Last edited by squawSkiBum; 09-25-2017 at 11:48 PM.
  #3  
Old 09-25-2017, 11:45 PM
squawSkiBum
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Continuing with Modifications: Power

Welcome to the land of diminishing returns, where every incremental increase takes more $ than the last one. There are many options for power, again in my opinion adding power comes last. Improve handling, improve the driver, improve the brakes. Then add power. I have spent a track day chasing a track prepped Miata with only 2/3 the HP of my R56S, the difference in handling and tires on the Miata meant that even with the my power advantage I had to drive well just to keep up, and push really hard to be able to able to pass. (It was also a lot of fun to do laps with a car so evenly matched in terms of performance.) So address the tires, suspension, brakes, and driver skills first. Then add HP. There are many threads in the Modifications-> Drivetrain (Cooper S) forum that cover the topics below.

Options for HP:

8) A Cold Air Intake (CAI). This actually won't get you any significant (if any) HP increase, but depending on what intake you choose, it may sound really cool. There may be better flow capability, that will only be used if you get a tune. Generally a simple DIY install. Note: in California, the air filter/intake is considered part of the emissions equipment, and unless your intake has a CARB (California Air Resources Board) approval sticker, you will fail the visual inspection portion of a smog test. Some manufacturers have spent the time and $ to get the approval, some have not. The solution is to hang on to the stock air filter box and swap it back in before the test.

9) Upgraded Front Mount Intercooler (FMIC): This will provide slight HP gains with the stock engine, the main benefit is reducing the intake air temperature (IAT) so power can be maintained for extended periods. I have done enough datalogging both before and after installing my FMIC to show that the stock intercooler can not handle sustained periods of full throttle acceleration, IAT goes to 50C above ambient very quickly. But with an upgraded FMIC, it only goes up 9C. That means keeping the full engine power all the way down the straight when your foot is to the floor the whole time. Also this is important to support an ECU tune for increased performance. Installation is a bit more involved, but easily DIY.

10) Plug-in tune devices, such as the JB+: The JB+ is a small electronic box that plugs in between a few key sensors and the ECU to modify the sensor signals so the ECU provides more boost. This is a quick, DIY installable, and easily reversible way to get 10-15% more power. A similar product is available from NM. This is not an advertisement for, or endorsement of either.

11) ECU tune: There are multiple sources for ECU tunes on the N14 and N18 engines, read the Modifications-> Drivetrain (Cooper S) forum to find the alternatives. For the N14 engine, there was a tuning device called the Accessport that allowed the user to download and modify the ECU tuning, however it is no longer supported for the N14 and was not available for the N18. There are usually 1 or 2 available on the Marketplace. Getting a tune on the N18 generally involves removing the ECU and shipping it to the tune vendor who updates the programming and returns it.

12) Removing the catalytic converter (aka "down pipe") and replacing with a straight pipe. Facts: With a tune, getting rid of the catalytic converter will provide increased performance. It will also make your car emit 10 times the pollution, leave you with a constant check engine light (unless artificially masked by the tune), and you'll never pass an emissions test. It's also illegal and subject to very stiff fines. Still, many people do this. The environmental, legal, and moral issues have been debated elsewhere, and will not be debated here.

13) A bigger turbo! Now we're starting to consider big bucks. There are multiple turbo upgrade options available for the N14 and N18 engines, starting with the JCW turbo to various aftermarket options. These require a custom tune to take full advantage of the performance potential. See the Modifications-> Drivetrain (Cooper S) forum for options.
 

Last edited by squawSkiBum; 05-19-2018 at 09:31 AM.
  #4  
Old 09-30-2017, 09:20 PM
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continuing with performance mods...

14) A water/methanol injection system. The origins of this date back to World War 2, when engineers discovered that injecting a small amount of water into the air intake on high performance airplane engines cooled the intake air enough to prevent premature detonation, meaning they could run higher compression ratios and get more power out of the same displacement. For automobile engines, the water injection allows higher boost without detonation. Adding methanol increases the overall octane rating of the fuel, also supporting higher boost and/or compression ratios. There are a couple of popular water/meth injection kits available for the R56S models, check the Modifications-> Drivetrain (Cooper S) forum for threads on installs and performance results.
 
  #5  
Old 03-15-2019, 03:18 PM
Velothree
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For those of you who haven't installed a aftermarket upgraded sway bar, do yourself a favor and install one. Transformed my car's handling in corners. OMG!! This is how the car should have come from the factory.

I installed a ALTA 22mm bar.
 

Last edited by Velothree; 03-15-2019 at 06:02 PM.

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