I thought I'd pass on the results of all the research and labor:
I contacted Rasmussen MINI in Portland, OR. about tires. The parts person
thought going with 205/50/16 was a good idea. He also said that they
weren't really competitive in price or quality so I should consider Les
Schwab, a regional tire change. I really respect that. I was planning on
going that route anyway so I just had my Toyo Proxes TPTs put on today.
$650 with a 65K warranty. I got to drive home on a nice windy Oregon road
with no traffic. A bit slick with some standing water though.
WOW! For one thing I had forgoten how REALLY great the MINI handles. It's
been fine but as my runflats wore out the handling had gotten worse and I
really hadn't even noticed. It feels like my old (new) car again! Except
for a couple of things...First, these tires are MUCH quieter. And not as
gut-busting. Normally I'd accept gut-busting if it meant better handling
but these seem to hold the road at least as well as my Goodyear 195/55/R16
So..count me a happy customer. The car even looks slightly cooler with the
slightly wider tires. I'm assuming they won't last much past 30K but then
I'll cash in the warranty and, pro-rated, that should get me about 50% off
my next batch of tires. Plus, out here in the styx Les just about has the
market cornered on tires. I have two of them about 25 miles away but that's
close by my standards. Free rotation, re-balancing, repair and all that.
Plus, I might just have the only MINI in Tillamook County. People stare at
it all the time, just like I used to get in Seattle until MINIs started
popping up all over the place. Now if I can only deal with the occasional
flooded roadway that requires a jacked-up 4x4.