Tuning the Mini Cooper

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The Cooper versions and special John Cooper Works versions were available across the Mini range, offering more sporty parts and engines at the top end of the tuning range.

The usual suspension, engine and brake upgrades are already there but many Cooper owners are looking to tweak it and get a little more power or improve the handling further.

Herein we review Cooper tuning and point out the ultimate upgrades. Mini Cooper really good project cars and with carefully chosen upgrades like a remap, turbo improvements and camshafts you will greatly increase your driving enjoyment.

Tuning tips and articles

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

 

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Many Cooper owners uprate the handling of their cars with suspension kits as a priority, this will certainly increase your enjoyment of the car.

Good suspension tweaks that usually enhance handling for the Cooper include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe in or out on the front wheels. Toe in for stability, or Toe out to improve cornering. It would also pay to improve the brakes, by adding larger discs and or higher friction pads..

We suggest that you fit uprated suspension and lower the car by 29mm - 35 mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with performance suspension.

Top end bhp should be your overall aim with a nice fat wide peak torque band.

Cooper make good sleepers if you debadge them and fit the most powerful engine mods and handling mods you can source!

The best power gains come from larger engine sizes. The more you start with the bigger the return on investment so engine swaps are good value mods for small engined cars.

Engine Tuning.

This list of the stages and mods are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to go before you start.

  • Cooper and Cooper S used versions of the Brazilian-built 1.6 Tritec engine
  • 2001 -2006 a supercharged version was offered Cooper S
  • Mini John Cooper Works (2009–2014)  208 hp 193 lbft with torque raised to 206lbft on acceleration
  • The Mk2 Cooper used the Prince engine
  • A diesel engine version was offered based on the PSA DV6 block.

From 2015 the following engines were offered on the Cooper versions

  • 1.5L turbocharged B38A15M0 I-3
  • 1.5L turbodiesel B37C15U0 I-3
  • 2.0L turbocharged B48A20M0/B48A20O0 I-4
  • 2.0L turbodiesel B47D20 (125 kW) I-4 (Cooper SD)

Getting the best sports upgrade kits for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 (competition) mods just don't work well on the road and will make the car undrivable.

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How to tune your car

  1. Improve the handling

    Focus on Suspension improvements, such as coilovers and make sure the bushings are in good order and that the alignment is correct. Then focus on improving the brakes, with a big disk brake conversion kit and fast road brake pads.

  2. Remove restrictions

    Focus on the intake and exhaust with filters being the common point of restriction in a tuned car. Intercoolers may also become restrictive on turbo engines so this may also need to be uprated.

  3. Burn more fuel & air

    Increase the fuelling so it matches the air coming into the engine. The ratio is important so you need to improve the fuel pump and injectors, so the head mods, big valve conversions, fast road camshafts and forced induction upgrades extra supply of air is adequately met.

  4. Test and replace any weak parts

    Weak areas are commonly the clutch, the turbocharger and pistons and crankshaft in a highly tuned engine. Makes sure these components will cope with your power aspirations.

  5. The Tune or Remap

    A cars ECU controls the fuel, timing, spark and even the turbo in some cases, so to fully extract your gains you should remap the car last and this will fully release the power. Some cars are easy to map, and others require piggyback ECU's or aftermarket ECU's but this is the most vital step of your tuning project.

Modifying to Stage 1:

 Sports exhaust, Suspension upgrade (drop 29mm - 35 mm.), Panel air filter, Remap, Lighter flywheel, Alloy wheels.

Modifying to Stage 2:

 Power/Sport clutch, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam, Ported and polished head, high flow fuel injector.

Modifying to Stage 3:

 Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Sports gearbox, Competition cam, Engine balancing.

You should keep as much low end power as you can and aim for a wide power band rather than a narrow top end power spike.

The whole point of our pointers is to give a little insight into the world of tuning modifications and point you in the right direction, our forum is best place to go if you need more detailed advice and tips on your car tuning project, the best performance upgrades and all aspects of modding cars.A fast road camshaft proves to be one of the best NASP power mods you can do from a single upgrade to your engine.

It improves the intake and exhaust durations and pushes up the power if done right. Ideally you'd add other mods and finish up with a performance chip. TorqueCars would caution you not to go with a motor sports profile cam as this upsets the engines idling and general town driving characteristics.

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to uprate the fuelling.

Using higher octane fuel is another option if you find you are suffering from pinking or premature ignition on your Mini project after fitting other uprated kits. Improving the injectors is another beneficial modification and will deliver sufficient fuel.

A fuel pump will only deliver a finite amount of fuel, so you may need to uprate this if your injectors are demanding more fuel.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

The next area for modification is the intake and exhaust.  Please note that WE DO NOT SEE IMPROVEMENTS WITH INDUCTION KITS, unless you have tuned your car massively and are finding that the standard air intake has become the bottleneck.

Induction kits can work well on turbo engines and larger engines (if supplied with a suitable cold air feed or air box), generally though we'd just recommend for Cooper engines you should settle for a sports panel air filter preferably made from cotton.

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can buy this will slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best exhausts for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. It is the shape and material more than the bore size.

Head work including a gas flow and 3 or 5 angle valve job will really help to release the potential of the engine. In nearly all cases of Cooper tuning your clutch will start to complain and this should be improved - read our tips on clutches for more information. The best mods that we recommend for your Cooper are fast road camshaft, remap, induction and exhaust, suspension.

Remaps offer big power gains on all turbo charged cars. On NASP engines the benefits are doubtful. However a chipped ECU on a NASP engine will help unleash the potential if you have done a lot of mods. Despite the large cost involved adding forced induction to a NASP engine will give large power gains. It is often cheaper to bolt on a supercharger than it is to fit a working turbo. With a turbo the power curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it harder to map.

Superchargers will give a boost which is correlating to engine speed so is simpler. Alternatively you could add water injection to reduce the risk of knock.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

The benefits of alloys include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling. Get a good track legal slick tire to improve your handling and help improve traction on your Cooper. The downside to large alloy wheels on your Cooper is that you alter your effective final drive ratio and this will have a detrimental effect on acceleration.

Although some people have fitted larger wheels we would stick to a 17 inch rim size as the maximum.

For more information on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss Cooper options in more detail with our Cooper owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Mini tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

Please help us improve these tips by sending us your feedback in the comments box below.

We love to hear what our visitors have got up to and which mods work best for them on each model of car. Comments are used to improve the accuracy of these articles which are continually updated.

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