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Not sure your location. Options vary country to country. here in the US...
I have a 2015 F56 S with JCW options (wait for long for JCW standard transmission at the time I ordered it) for 15 months now. I have had a Gen 1 for 10 years, and have a Gen 2 (wife’s 2013 Coupe). It takes some time but program, program, program. There are a lot of options and it takes a while to try them. Just a few observations of your observations.
--The inconsistency of material quality is really strange. And a bit disappointing.
My first thoughts, as well, but no problems, scratches or breaks.
--The tachometer is just this side of useless, with its positioning, orientation, and size. Would it have been so bad to have made it a full circle gauge next to the speedo?
In Gen 2 and 1 cars, it used to be the size and location of the present speedo. Again, programming is a must. If it is the same on the ’15, use the light rim around the center info gauge. When shifting hard (up or down) it is easier to see and “feel”. After some time, one learns from engine “noise, whine, feel of speed” to know when to shift. Have never come close to red line yet and I push it pretty hard.

--Sport mode..what does it actually do, in terms of engine response/power?

Increases throttle response, changes steering and suspension. Advances timing. Pops and gurgles from exhaust. Look into a NM module. Warning-you will get permanent smile wrinkles on your face and a dumb look lasting for minutes after you exit the car.

--The nav system is excellent, as is the real time traffic information.


--Driving lights only come on with highbeams.

If you live in the US, it is federal law. There are ways around it, however.

--It could be the tires are too new, but the car is REALLY squirrelly under heaving braking.

Something you have to get used to and control. Front engine/drive cars with no back weight do that. Watch an IMSA race with MINIs (Continental Series ST) online or TV. They do the same under race conditions (hard break corner) but exit the corner faster than the competition. The ABS is good. I also noticed that breaking is ‘straighter” in sport mode-probably do to stiffer suspension.

--Love the suspension, just the stock sports suspension. Very firm without being harsh. I had anticipated wanting to go aftermarket with it, but I'm really not seeing a need. Other than a 3/4" drop, maybe.

--Do not love the shifter.

I thought the same, at first. But compared to earlier MINIs, I really like in now. The clutch is totally different than earlier Gens. Longer throw. At first I thought that the shift throw was too long, but I never miss a gear, going up or down, like I used to, on occasion. I thought about going to a Cravens shift knob but decided against it. At first I did not like the feel of the JCW knob but got used to it very fast. The side “flats” are ergonomically better for up/down motion to hit the desired gear.

Just my observations. It took me about a year to finally get it where it is set for me. If you have a significant other, use their key to set up all of the options. It stores everything, including radio stations. It’s all about programming, programming… Also check other MINI sites. There are a lot of instructions as to help make your “adjustments.” I am still learning new feature choices. Motor on.
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