How to Tune a Mini Cooper

Updated July 19, 2017

The new MINI Cooper has been a huge hit for BMW and has developed a loyal following of enthusiasts. It has also become a popular car for tuning and modifying since it takes extremely well to performance improvements, whether it's something minor like an air intake or more involved like a suspension upgrade. There are also many companies that make performance parts for the new MINI, Out Motoring being one of them, so there are plenty of options.

Upgrade the suspension. Though the MINI handles great in stock form, one of the first areas that many owners upgrade is the suspension (see Resources 1). Here, start with a set of lowering springs and performance-oriented shocks or for the ultimate in suspension upgrades a set of H&R coilovers. There are also adjustable anti-roll bars that can be installed that eliminate excess body roll. Adjustable front and rear control arms are also another popular modification.

Replace the stock wheels. Once the suspension has been lowered, replace the stock wheels with some nicer-looking aftermarket wheels and stickier tires for an aesthetic as well as performance improvement. The Tire Rack (see Resources 2) carries a wide range of alloy wheels and performance tires for the new MINI.

Tune the motor for more power. Whether it's in supercharged S form or a normally aspirated version, there are quite a few upgrades that can help the MINI produce more horsepower and torque. Start with the obvious upgrades like a more free-flowing exhaust system, tubular headers and a K&N cold air intake (see Resources 3). After that, move on to the engine electronics and install a performance ECU (engine control unit) for more power. Pick up more power and free up additional RPM by installing a lighter aluminium flywheel.

Upgrade the brakes. With that newfound power and handling, better stopping ability for your MINI is also a good idea. If you want to keep it cheap, start by installing cross-drilled rotors--which will help heat dissipation during aggressive driving--along with a set of high-performance brake pads. Round out the upgrades with a set of braided steel brake lines, which will provide a much firmer and responsive feel to the brake pedal. If you want an even more significant brake improvement, install a big brake kit from a company like Brembo, which will dramatically reduce stopping distances.

Modify the exterior to complement the performance upgrades that were done on the MINI. There are a number of body kits that can be purchased for MINIs, along with numerous grill kits, different lighting and even carbon fibre exterior trim. Another common modification to MINIs is the addition of stripes or graphics that pay homage to the MINI's competition heritage.

Upgrade the interior. Here, you can install a pair of racing seats from a company like Recaro or Sparco and an aluminium shift knob and drilled pedals, which offer more grip. Round out the interior upgrades with a carbon fibre or an aluminium interior trim kit.

Things You'll Need

  • Socket set and ratchet
  • Specialised automotive tools
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About the Author

William Zane has been a freelance writer and photographer for over six years and specializes primarily in automotive-related subject matter among many other topics. He has attended the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, where he studied automotive design, and the University of New Mexico, where he studied journalism.