The MINI Cooper S Automatic is NOT for Wimps!

All I can say is WOW!  I have made it a personal point to never put myself in a position of being called a ‘car salesman’ and thus the following needs to be put into this perspective.  I had my first drive today in a 2009 MINI Cooper S ‘Automatic’!   Now I would like to think that I am perceived as a real car nut!  In fact I have been racing a Mini Cooper of one type or another for the last 35+ years! Yes, that is a long time but then….

While I still occasionally drive one of my classic Minis on my commute to work, my usual daily driver is a ’07 MINI CooperMini Cooper from Mini Mania S.  While the MINI has a few modifications such as the Sprint Booster, performance exhaust, Turbo muffler delete, etc. the MINI Cooper S is close to stock.  As much as I have grown to really appreciate the torque and overall performance of the latest turbo MINI, it has suffered from the well know ‘death rattle’ for some time.  Our local dealer has been great in his best efforts to arrest the problem but alas it has again had to be taken back for what we all hope is the ultimate fix.  The bottom line is that as the problem as now been recognized as a potential warranty issue, a loaner car was established as acceptable.  While in the past the second best car provided as a 3-series BMW, this was a special occasion and a 2009 MINI Cooper S ‘Automatic’ was the loaner of choice.

gear_r56The bright Yellow MINI Cooper S automatic had all of 17 miles on the odometer as supplied before our 60 mile trip home.  As a fellow gear head and occasional visitor to Mini Mania, the service advisor assumed that no instructions were needed and thus the start of the experience.

While the ‘key’ to start the motor looked similar to the manual MINI Cooper, with no clutch to engage before pressing the start button, the obvious choice of depressing the brake pedal brought it all to life.  The next step was how to move the gear lever from park to drive.  First tried pulling and pushing- nothing worked!  So after a closer look I found an area in front of the gear lever that serves as a lock for lever movement.  Finally got into gear with no clutch I hit the gas!  Ugh! Not a good start.  The engine acted like an old fashion engine that needed a little choke at first.

Wgear_de’re off!    Still in the parking lot and thus still no feel for the car.  After another stop which felt strange without a clutch pedal, another cold start resulted in yet another engine choke.  But, acceleration was very brisk and before I knew it I was moving fast enough to understand that the road feel was MINI through and through.  So while still on the twisty bits of the Mini Cooper gearshiftroad, I spotted the “M/S” on the gear lever housing- it hit the lever to the left and the indicator on the dash changed from “D” to “DS”.  The engine now seemed to really come to life and all of sudden I could not tell it was an automatic.

Wgear_paddle1hile still on the twisty bits I spot the strange paddles on the inside edge of the steering wheel- one on the left and one on the right!  My natural tendency was to press them any way I could.  Using my fingers on the back of the paddles had not apparent effect.  Then I realized that the simply process of hitting the front of the paddles with my thumb resulting a very smooth down-gear.  It became clear that hitting one of the paddles resulting in a gear change down while hitting the back of the paddle up-shifted the transmission.

So “experimentation” was for sure the next plan.  Six speeds provide a wide range of choices that are available in either the “D” or “DS” modes.  The design of the automatic is such that you can simply allow Mini Cooper Tachometerit to do its own thing or use the paddles to direct it!  And this is where the “WOW” comes in!  Mini Cooper Gearshift IndicatorWhile the automatic clutch is not ultra quick as is it not possible to initiate any wheel squeals upon changing gears, it is possible to scare yourself as to how quick it all happens.  Up-shifting or down-shifting by a tap on the pedal is very, very quick and can be downright exciting.

Once one of the paddles is hit, the manual part of the automatic is engaged and shift activation is in manual control.  This can be both fun and dangerous.  For those of us that are more use to a manual clutch with the finite time required from depressing the clutch to moving the shifter to releasing the clutch, the speed of gear change in the automatic is a bit unnerving.  And most of all it can be done without lifting off the throttle.  While it is possible on the race track to change gears with little or no throttle lift in a manual MINI Cooper, it is never done when driving on the street.  The Automatic MINI Cooper S creates a whole new sense of control and speed.

If someone had asked me a week ago to take an Automatic for a test drive I would have made any excuse to not be bothered!   What a mistake, the best thing you can do as a MINI owner is to try this new experience!  All I can say is the MINI Cooper Automatic is not for wimps!  (Motor-on ladies as most of you are the fortunate ones to have the pleasure of driving one of these daily!)


7 thoughts on “The MINI Cooper S Automatic is NOT for Wimps!

  1. Welcome to the MINI Aisin auto tranny fan club!

    I’ve been evangelizing this for the past two and a half years… glad you finally got the chance to try it. Very good writeup and comparison of auto vs. manual behavior.

  2. I used to have Audi as a client, and the A4 Tiptronic was my first introduction to this hybrid option …. I LOVED IT! I’m now looking for the same experience, and vintage you’ve so nicely described above for my daily commute. Can’t wait to make the move once the correct vehicle presents itself. 2009 Mini Cooper S, or Clubman S with a few extra bells an whistles added … 🙂

  3. Great post! I’m an American, but I’ve lived in Germany since the 80s. All that time I drove manual transmissions until I bought my Clubman S last year.

    I live in an alpine region, and I must say the automatic is just great — I don’t miss working through six gears in eight seconds on these roads.

    Recently I had to pass two logging trucks on a very narrow rural road, and I was so glad I didn’t have to take my right hand off the steering wheel. This isn’t your dad’s automatic 😉

  4. Pingback: automatic mini cooper

  5. I recently fell in love with the Mini Cooper S and I am currently saving up for one! I already know how I want it to look. It’s going to be beautiful!

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