About three months ago, after my Mini Cooper S hardtop (pepper white with black roof) arrived from England and I drove it home for the first time, I predicted that the car would bring me perfect happiness.
Since so far I've only been able to drive the Mini from Portland to Salem, then around town here a bit, I can't be 100% confident that this car-of-my-dreams will bring me the unalloyed happiness that I so richly deserve after having postponed the consummation of my Mini love affair for eight freaking years.
First impressions matter a lot, though.
And after spending ninety minutes or so with my new best mechanical friend, I can tell that we're going to get along great. Why, look -- my beloved Thermos coffee mug fits perfectly in the front seat cup holder.
Many other features of the 2011 Mini Cooper S are equally appealing to me. But I'll leave descriptions of most of those for other blog posts once I've had more time to familiarize myself with the appealingly quirky nature of the Mini.
This is a down payment on that last promise. I'll focus not on the Mini's overall driving experience, which is terrific, but on the options I ordered which have turned out to be excellent buying decisions.
For me, at least. Your results may vary.
But if you're thinking of buying a Mini Cooper and having one built the way you want it, how I feel about some options after 1,400 miles of driving time will give you some additional info to consider.
Automatic windshield wipers. I wasn't sure about whether they'd work, but when I was pondering this option with a Rasmussen Mini salesman in Portland, Oregon, he assured me that the automatic wipers turned on and off just fine.
Which, they do. I'm really glad I ordered them.
Here in the Northwest rain is a frequent fact of life. It's great to have the car do the windshield wipers thinking for me: whether they should be on interval or continuous, how fast they should move, when to turn them on and off.
There's a setting for how sensitive they are to drops on the windshield. I've bumped that up to "most sensitive" as this seems to work best for my taste in wiping rain away. As with the next two options, the automatic wipers allow me to think less about controls and pay more attention to the joy of driving my Mini.
Automatic transmission with manual shifting option. lt's been a long time since I had a car with only a manual transmission. So I ordered an automatic. Good choice. I can play around with manual shifting when I want to, either by pushing the gear selector with my right hand or pressing on the dual steering wheel paddle shifters with either thumb and forefinger.
Most of the time I drive around with the automatic in "Sport" mode. The car shifts and sounds subtly different. Not surprisingly, I'd describe the change as...sportier.
It seems to me that going Sport only reduces the mileage by less than one mile a gallon. In mixed city and country driving I get about 28 mpg in normal automatic mode and a bit over 27 mpg in Sport mode. I realize that many serious drivers eschew automatic transmissions, but I prefer to mindfully enjoying the whole Mini Cooper experience, rather than have part of my attention focused on what gear I'm in.
Automatic headlights. This is the first car I've owned where the lights automatically go on and off as needed. So far, I haven't ever overriden the car computer's decision. When the sun is about to set, the lights appropriately turn on. They seem to be biased toward "better on than off," which is the safest way to go.
As long as I'm talking about lights, I've chosen to turn on the daytime running lights option, as I'm a believer in this safety feature.
A few days ago I also turned on the "three click" lane change option, where you gently push on the turn signal lever and a light flashes one or three times. I like this feature, as you don't have to remember to turn off the turn signal after merely making a lane change.
Matching headliner. I made a wise decision to fork over $250, or whatever it was, to get a black headliner in the front seat area rather than the default cream color. Sitting in a car at the dealership, the cream color up top and black/gray down below seemed discordant and distracting.
Going all black makes the interior look a lot more harmonious to me. This is why I didn't get any of the accent color options for the front seat area. Maybe that would look good on some Minis, but I wanted to go for a more subdued look. The interior of the Mini is plenty quirky and eye-catching without any additional accents, to my eye.
White front turn signal lights. Yeah, they do look better on a pepper white Mini. Amber lights aren't very Feng Shui on my car, as they don't harmonize with the white/black exterior colors. Not a big deal, but when I walk up to my Mini from the front I often think "I'm glad I went with the white lights."
Xenon headlights. Nice. I'll admit that I was expecting an even more dramatic difference in night illumination, but I now agree with what the salesman told me: "Once you own a car with Xenon lights, you'll never go back to the regular kind."
Well, this is a rundown of how happy I've been with the major options that I ordered on my 2011 Mini Cooper S hardtop. I haven't regretted any of these decisions, nor have I longed for any option that I passed up.
Next post, I'll extol my Mini's driving and handling virtues.