MotoringFile Review: 2005 MCS Automatic

Few things have garnered as much debate as the new for 2005 optional automatic transmission for the Cooper S. Quite a few MINI enthusiasts have expressed outrage at the idea of an automatic transmission in the MCS and believe the reputation of the car will be suffer from it. Yet, there are those with physical limitations, long commutes, or who simply don’t know how to drive a manual that have welcomed the new option and praised MINI for finally bringing it to market. Needless to say the debate as raged on for months with no end in sight for those most opinionated.

Despite all the debates and opinions, the MCSa will be out on the streets of the US in large numbers within months. In fact, more than one Motoring Advisor I talked with was seeing about 75% of all recent MCS orders equipped with the automatic. What’s more, he was seeing a shift in the customers that were coming in to specifically ask about the MCSa. The type of customer that simply wanted the fastest and most expensive MINI equipped with a transmission they could finally drive. Certainly it’s all enough to get the diehard manual fans out there up in arms.

However, with this review I wanted to try to put all this debate aside and focus on one simple question. How does it drive?


I finally got my chance last Saturday when I found myself sitting in a 2005 MINI Cooper S Convertible Automatic in the parking lot of Knauz MINI. It seems MINIUSA is a little slow in getting press cars out so I took it upon myself to get a hold of a machine as soon as I could. While I’m still hoping to do a longer term test on the car, I wanted to get a first drive published as soon as possible. And the timing couldn’t have been better. The car came off the truck, went in to get detailed, and a few hours later the keys were in my hands. And all on a mild (for Chicago) Saturday in February no less. BTW – A big thanks to David Olenick for helping to set everything up.

The car had a great spec; dark blue leather with orange stitching, chrome trim in and out, and the exterior was finished in Pure Silver. All well and good but the star of this show was that Aisin 6-speed automatic that sat under my right hand.

Actually the diameter of the shift knob itself is a little smaller than one might expect. It doesn’t feel nearly as comfortable to hold has the manual shifter. It almost feels like it was designed for use by small hands or, at least, certainly not mine. Further, the clicking mechanism that allows for moving the shifter from gear to gear wasn’t particularly easy to use at first. It also has a nasty habit of pinching fingers if you’re not used to it.

As I went to start the car my left foot instinctively reached for the clutch pedal… it would appear old habits die hard. So I threw the gear lever into Drive mode (referred to as D or full automatic mode from here on out) and pulled away slowly. As I was pulling away I tried hard to forget all of the debate that this car has generated. However, I have to admit that it was all a little disconcerting. Here I was, in a MINI Cooper S and I’m idling away from a stop. As I pressed on the accelerator I realized how normal the car felt to me for the first time.


It didn’t take long to realize the distinct differences between the three operating modes. D seemed to be meant for laid-back motoring. SD for more of a sporting comfort type of drive, and manual mode for some interactive fun.

I started out in the standard D mode. In general, I found this mode to be about what one would expect a modern automatic to feel like. The shifts were smooth, silent and certainly guaranteed to never spill a drop of a latte or wake a sleeping passenger.

SportDrive (or SD) mode gives you more determined acceleration with the transmission changing the gears typically at higher shift points than the standard auto mode. Kickdowns were maybe just a bit snappier, and like the standard mode, occurred just when you’d expect them. While they weren’t nearly as fast as what you’d get reaching for third yourself, there wasn’t a lot of hunting for the right gear like some automatic transmissions. However, with both full automatic modes, I couldn’t help but feel some of the charm had been stripped from the car.

But the real fun, and where this transmission finally comes to life, is in manual mode.

Shifting is about as fast as any manually controlled automatic I’ve ever driven. Shifts (in either direction) generally seemed to happen about .50 – .75 of a second after a click of the paddles. Certainly, an expertly driven manual or sequential transmission can be shifted much quicker. Of course with the auto in manual mode you won’t ever have to worry about being slow or fast. They just click off, without drama, the same way every time. Knowing that, you’re able to keep both hands on the wheel and focus on the road ahead clicking off subsequent shifts with your fingers and thumbs. Certainly an attractive feature to some drivers out there.


By the 20 minute mark I was totally comfortable with the mechanics of the paddles on the steering wheel. So much so that I never used the gear selector on the shifter. MINI designers did an expert job shaping the steering wheel controls and movements as my fingers and thumbs fell on them like I’d used the transmission for years. I managed to push and pull the paddles without fail and quickly forget all about the differing paddle placement in BMW’s SMG M3 (where each paddle only upshifts or downshifts). While that placement may be superior during performance-oriented driving, the MINI’s two-paddle, four-function design is surely a bit more foolproof in day to day motoring.

I was so taken by the manual mode on this transmission that I never had the desire to switch back to automatic mode. While it may not create the same sense of satisfaction as a well engineered manual, it does give you the ability to be involved. And sure, shifts may not be quick enough to mimic a sequential box like the SMG. But they are quick enough for the transmission to avoid the disconnected feeling some manually controlled autos are saddled with.

That being said the car did feel slower than it’s manual counterpart. MINI’s own stats back that up. First and foremost, the 0-60 time increases by .6 seconds with the automatic. Top speed also decreases from 137 mph to 134 mph. Further, the MCSa weighs in at almost 50lbs more than the standard MCS. While they’re numbers that you might not feel on public roads, you may notice the difference at the track.

Another big difference between the two is the lack of an optional, factory limited slip differential with the MCSa. It has also been noted that the automatic lacks the signature 2005 MCS exhaust popping that so many people seem to love. While that’s true 95% of time, I found that when you go from 3rd to 2nd at moderate revs you can still hear a hint of it. Of course for those feel the need to make up for these deficiencies, JCW will indeed be releasing a Works Kit specifically designed for the MCSa later this spring.

In a sense, broad-based conclusions are hard to make in a case like this. For me I was happy to find that the transmission, in manual mode, doesn’t suck the life out of the MCS as I was worried it might. While I missed the tactile feedback and precise control that one gets with the standard Getrag, the auto (in manual mode) is quite lively and does an decent job keeping you involved in the process of driving. While it doesn’t possess the purity (or the fun for that matter) of the manual, I still managed to walk away from the test with a smile on my face. Come to think of it, it was somewhat similar to the grin I had when I test drove the MINI for the first time.


  • Josh

    Gabe, do ya have any more pics? Those are definitely my favorite part of the review.

  • Cruzin Chris

    I think the MINI is a car that can be defined well beyond what type of transmission it has. My old VW Bus has a 4 speed and that doesn’t make it a performance car. I say we welcome the MCSa and those who buy them.

  • loki

    I’d be curious to know how much of the slowness experienced is due to the extra 199lbs of the convertible in addition to the 50lb automatic tranny.

    I’m just assuming, since the test car in question was just off the truck, but was break-in prodecure being applied to this review?

  • Chris LW

    a) I’m wondering if the smaller knob might be because it’s targeted at a broader population — female? Not to insult the women who drive sticks nor the men who have ordered this y’know. For me, if I was commuting into the city every day I’d definately be checking it out, manual shifting in an hour of stop & go traffic is cool for the first 5 mins, LOL. b) Wonder if you can put a Whalen on it? c) Why a different JCW kit? Exhaust pipe configuration to “get around” the tranny case?

  • Stevie C

    In my opinion, if you can’t drive a manual you don’t deserve a performance sports car. Until an auto gives you the same connection to your car & pure enjoyment in driving as a manual, an auto will always be a “softies” option to me! Don’t get me wrong – I realise that MINI has a lot more money to make by adding an auto – but don’t kid yourself, if your reason for getting an auto is because you suffer from long commutes, you don’t need a sports car, I love changing gears! Or if you simply can’t drive a manual – learn! The more fun the better!!!

    In the end – MINI – go the auto, anything to increase profit (for BMW) which will (hopefully) lead to a more reliable, squeak free car in the future.

  • loki – the break-in procedure was definitely not followed. Especially in my second drive of the car a week after the first. This was a demo car, I can’t imagine anyone following the break-in procedure.

    According to the official 2005 spcifications from MINI, the convertible adds .2 of a second to the 0-60 time. The auto adds .6 of a second.

  • Steve – I agree with one thing you said. There are a few good reasons an auto might be a good choice for you. However, for those who are thinking of ordering the auto specifically because they don’t know how to drive a manual – I urge you to reconsider. If you consider yourself an enthusiast who likes to drive you will get a lot more satisdaction out of the manual. I know several people that have ordered manual equipped MINIs without knowing how to drive stick and after a few days of ownership that can’t imagine driving anything else.

  • TJKonarski

    I’ll second that comment regarding a squeek free car! What’s up with MINI and all the squeeks and rattles? While waiting for my MINI to arrive it seemed that most every review in a magazine or newspaper made mention of a squeek or rattle. And of course, my car had squeeks and rattles — One of which was almost un-repairable and spent 28 accumulative days in service. And I can’t believe how many posts about squeeks and rattles exist on this and other websites. A car can have all the advanced technology, safety, design and engineering. However, it will still have the essence of being “cheap” if it’s an annoying rattle box. This is a sore spot for me. I spent $35k on my MCSC, I guess I needed to keep in mind when I ordered it that it was really a $18k car that I decided to put $16k worth of options on it.

    (Now cue all the posts that state they’ve never had a sqeek or rattle…)

  • Lets try to keep this one on topic if possible. They’ll be a ton of comments in a few hours and it’ll be easier to read and follow if the posts are generally about the topic at hand.

    TJKonarski – if you want to see a post about rattles let me know.

  • beekman

    Gabe, when I test drove the MCSa (hardtop), I found the shifts in manual mode took more like the .25 second time as claimed by MINI. Shifts definately felt pretty much instantaneous, as fast as most drivers could achieve in a manual, albeit with some loss of feel.

    a .75 shift time isn’t great. some testers have also found differences between upshifts and downshifts. It makes me wonder if there is variance between individual cars, or perhaps between hardtop and softtop.

    Thanks for the review!

  • The shifts weren’t all consistant but on average I’d say upshifts were around a half a second typically. They may have been just a bit faster at times but not by much. I also found downshifts and upshifts could be a bit different in their speed.

    I actually recorded part of the drive and was planning on posting some portions where you could hear the actual shift lag. Unfortunately I didn’t have my mic with me on the day of the test and the quality of the recording is pretty bad.

  • Tom M

    When I was a callow youth, I believed automatic transmissions were strictly for those that didn’t understand how to really drive an automobile. Now that my left knee has become a bit dodgy and driving my MCS is equal parts pleasure and pain, I’ve developed a new appreciation for a car that can do some of the work for me. My next MINI will have to be an automatic, and it’s nice to know that the driving experience won’t be too terribly compromised. Thanks!

  • Well said Tom. Obviously your needs represent a good reason as to why there is a need for the automatic option.

  • Nreyes

    This is in reference to an earlier post about people learning to drive stick in a MINI. My wife was one of those people. Let me tell you from first hand experience, that learning to drive a manual and teach someone how to in a MINI is not all that painful. In fact I would have to say that the MINI is almost the perfect car to learn in. It is small and the gearbox is very smooth and somewhat forgiving. That having been said, my wife loves driving her manual tranny MINI. However, she does admit that if we continue to live in a big city (Houston), that her next choice would be and AUOTMATIC MINI. I would have to agree with her, while driving a manual tranny is fun, it is also a lot of work in stop and go traffic. So I guess what I am trying say, is that yes, there is a place for an automatic in the MCS line up. From what I have read so far, this one seems to fit the bill.

  • Bruce

    I have seen people ask this question a few times and never saw an answer: does the engine rev during downshift to match the lower gears?

  • Since this is just a manually controlled automatic it does not match revs during downshifts. Typically the only transmissions that do are the sequential types – aka – manuals that have computer controlled clutches. BMW’s SMG and Ferrari’s F1 transmission both do this.

  • Patrick

    I ordered my Cooper S having only driven a total of 10 minutes on a manual transmission. I learned the whole thing on my way home from the dealer. not a single stall that day. I barely had to think about my shifting mechanics after a couple weeks, and in under 2 months, I was shifting like a natural. if you think you might like an manual, definitely go for it, as Gabe says. Automatics are great, just less driver involvement required, which is what the mini is all about.

    I say welcome to the MCSa. We need more MINIs on the road.

  • Ian

    there are those with physical limitations, long commutes, or who simply don’t know how to drive a manual that have welcomed the new option” – I don’t have any of these disadvantages but I have decided to “have a change” and drive the new MCSa for a while … my decision and it does not make me any less of a MINI fanatic either!

    if you can’t drive a manual you don’t deserve a performance sports car” – seems like a very negative attitude; hopefully such opinions belong only to a few.

  • dgszweda

    Someone asked the question about the JCW upgrade kit for the MCSa. I would say the differences between the current JCW kit and the new MCSa JCW kit would probably center around the ECU. I bet that they will speed up the shifts or center something around how the auto works during spirited driving.

    Something else that may be mentioned, is that I don’t think these are sold outside of the US. Automatics are extremely rare in Europe. In fact I live in Europe on and off and I have personally never seen or driven an auto in Europe, although I know they exist. At onto the fact that most manufacturers don’t offer them in smaller cars, I just don’t see this as a viable sales option in europe. So I am not sure where else these may be sold.

  • Nicholas P

    I ordered my 05 MSC (and received 11/10) without having ever driven a manual…and i’m THRILLED that i did…i can’t imagine driving an auto anymore…whenever i have to drive an auto, i feel disconnected and more like a passenger than the controller of the car…i also tend to put my left foot on the brake pedal whenever i first get into an automatic and get a nice surge as i brake while trying to pull out…oops…

    anyway, if u wanna get an auto, then go for it…i won’t judge u…but i would STRONGLY consider the manual…don’t be afraid of learning to drive a manual…i also live in Atlanta, where we have one of the worst traffic situations in the country…so i know how driving a manual is in traffic…but if u are a motorer, then u’ll prolly be able to tolerate that fine since it pays itself back in spades once u hit those open twisties…

  • RB

    Since you wanted to concentrate on the driving part….how was entering and exiting a corner under hard acceleration? Would it be possible to break the tires loose by coming off and on the power during cornering? How did the gear selection, how many gears does it offer, and rpm range compare to the manual? In other words how close, if I wanted, could I get to the experience of a manual?

    Did you get a chance to really push the car? Was it more like driving a “Cooper” than a MCS?


    (this morning when I entered the site it all looked diff? Yes? No?)


  • how was entering and exiting a corner under hard acceleration? Fun.

    Would it be possible to break the tires loose by coming off and on the power during cornering? Absolutely.

    How did the gear selection, how many gears does it offer, and rpm range compare to the manual? It’s geared quite like the ’05 manual, meaning it’s not as snappy feeling. In terms of the ratios you can check out the stats of this car and the other MINIs here.

    In other words how close, if I wanted, could I get to the experience of a manual? In my mind you can’t get an experience like the manual in any automatic transmission. The only thing that comes close (and is even faster actually) is a sequential transmission like the SMG from BMW).

    Yes – we’re in the middle of rolling out MotoringFile 1.4 and some design changes.

    To make sure you’re seeing the changes please refresh your browsers!

    Those with Safari may need to hit refresh more than once.

  • Damon

    I ordered a 05 MCS with the auto and it is due in late May/early June. I orderd the auto just to have something diffferent. Living in the Bay area the shifting in traffic and around town can get tiring. Long drives on curvy rounds just don’t happen that often. It is usually going to meetings and to Target or shopping etc. We have an 04 MCS and the six speed is wonderful but why not have one of each? I love shifting but it seems the MINI auto will be a very nice comination for my purpose.

    ps. The worst thing MINI did is put differrent shift patterns in the 5-speed Cooper and the 6- speed MCS. When switching cars, I constantly put the S in sixth and the Cooper in first trying to find reverse.

  • Frank

    Gabe, you don’t sound too terrible excited about the MCSa.

  • Beken

    Gabe, I’m wondering if you know whether or not this is a “learning” transmission. I noted in a Mercedes C230, the transmission adjusts it’s shift speed based on how the driver is driving it. My sister-in-law drives extremely conservatively and when I first get into the car for the first hour or so, I find the shifts extremely slow but smooth. After about an hour or so of spirited driving, I note that the shift from gear to gear is much faster and more abrupt, if you will. In auto mode, the shift points move up the revs a bit also.

    Would this be the case of the MCSa?

  • Beken – Yes I’m aware that the transmission has “fuzzy logic” built into it. That’s why I tried to give a range of how long the shifts took. However after extensive driving on two separate occasions I didn’t notice much of a difference in shift times from the 5 minute mark to the 50 minute mark of the drive.

  • Aleks

    Great concise review Gabe, as usual. My wife also learned to drive a manual on our MCS and I was quite impressed with how quickly and easily she picked it up. The MIN is perfect for learning on.

    I do understand that for some people driving a manual is not something they are interested in and/or have limitations keeping them from doing so. I welcome the new automatic, and hopefully it will help proliferate the brand and let MINI bring better and more exciting products in the future. Who’s to say that they wont further differentiate their “halo” performance model in the next generation of vehicles and make it only a manual with all sorts of performance goodies on it.

    One of the best parts of the MCSa is the fact that you can left foot brake and downshift at the same time. Thats not possible on a manual MCS. I think we should try to look at the positive points of this option, and for those that don’t like the idea of an automatic in their performance vehicles it’s simple…dont buy one.

    Just my humble opinion

  • Aleks

    One thing I would suggest if you want any MINI in automatic and have sporting intentions, get the cockpit chrono pack. It’s nice to have the gear selector/display in front of you. Even if you are use to having the speedo and gear selector in the center, I think it just works better with it on the steering column.

  • Totally agree with that last statement. I forgot to mention in the review how easy it is to lose track of what gear you’re in with the automatic (another big difference from the manual). A gear indicator on the tach would be ideal. The second best option would be what Aleks proposes in the previous comment.

  • mark

    Gabe, I drove the same car later in the day. Dave just threw me the keys.

    The MCSa offers a new dimension of ownership and fun….driving with your left hand, clicking off the gears and operating the turn signal. the paddle shifts were as much fun as ripping through my 6 speed, only that i had power in stop and go traffic, at my finger tips.

    I will be ordering my third MINI this summer for an ’06 MCSa. with the addition of the auto, MINI will have a whole new set of customers….and what nicer thing to see than a world filled with MINI’s of all types, colors, and transmissions. Steve C. might even be able to live with that!

  • Sean Kim

    Great review I can’t wait to have my new MCSa.

  • Gabe, drove the silver MCSCa today. love those federal holidays. my wife felt i was a little nutz, driving around with the top down in 30degree weather with the heat blasting, didn’t quite work btw. it got a little chilly in there, even with the windows up.

    i really enjoyed the car. it was everything a mini should be. it was fun, it handled well. the automatic was good as far as automatics go. a little sluggish, of course we have to consider the extra weight of the convertible, but fun. personally, i didn’t like it. i never felt like it was in the wrong gear, but i never felt connected to the car. at least not in the same way i do when cruising sheridan in my MCS.

  • greg

    How does the driving experience compare with the Cooper CVT? Is it more involved? I love my manual and will not give that up, but am asking out of curiousity. It seems that the CVT doesn’t get a great deal of respect, thus the need/appeal of an S auto. I would think that the CVT could be a blast around town if one has an aversion to a clutch.

  • It’s a totally different feel actually. I’d say it is more of a driver’s car with the paddle shifter and the better reponse time – as compared with the CVT.

  • Bruce

    I one of those people not in favor of automatics and the article made me think about the car’s nomenclature. It is referred to as a MCSCa and the meaning is easy enough to decipher. But I was thinking that I (and people like me) perhaps wouldn’t mind the automatics as much if the model name of the automatic-equipped MINI was actually different from the 6-speed. Something such as “MCSa” or “Cooper S Auto”, actually badged on the boot lid maybe. It would help the sportier manual version differentiate itself from the new automatic version.

  • dan

    I’d be tempted to drive it just to see how the paddles work. I know I test drove both flavors of the RX-8, and I really was impressed by the paddle shifting on that car.

    I am continually amazed at how certain MCS owners display a bit of eliticism when it comes to the MCS in an auto. I owned a Cooper for 2 years and I know there was a bit of downward nose viewing of my choice of vehicle…afterall, if I was a true “enthusiast” – I would have gotten an MCS.

    So should Audi S4’s with an auto be labeled as such? BMW M3’s with SMG have a special designation? These cars certainly have “sportier” manual version as well – but badging to differentiate them?
    Personally, I do prefer a manual and currently drive an M Coupe. And I have come to love the rear wheel drive aspects of it after driving the MINI for 2 years…but I don’t look down on front wheel drive vehicles now (and there a plenty that do) The MINI really got me into the world of enthusiasts & tuning – and that was with a Cooper. I see no reason why an auto MCS can’t bring more to the flock and help motorsport gain new followers.

    Gabe – thanks for the work you do on this site, and even after not owning a MINI for almost a year – I still read it regularly to keep up on the brand. Great work.

  • Dan – that’s really a great compliment. Thanks.

    BTW the M Coupe is one of my all-time favorite cars. I like to think I own the really long version with my 3 series touring – manual of course 🙂 Anyway best of luck with it!

  • akab

    ~~ i always thought that those who cant drive a manual, or those who said they lives in city where there’s lots of traffic should just get the normalcooper..

    dont bother with the copper S if u live in a city with lots of traffic and cant handle a manual

  • Eric

    Don’t worry akab, I won’t be buying a “copper.”

    So Bruce, do you support a CooperCVT boot lid as well? Are you really truly dying to find out what that Cooper has for a transmission everytime you see one? Please….

  • Theotherbruce

    Eric said,

    “So Bruce, do you support a CooperCVT boot lid as well? Are you really truly dying to find out what that Cooper has for a transmission everytime you see one? Please….”

    Maybe He could start his own club, “the Cooper SS”. “Ve haff ways uff making you conform to our views…”

  • theotherotherbruce

    Yes, resistance is futile. All MINI’s must be registerd by order of der brucemiester. he he.

  • turbo miata guy

    Gabe, thank you for providing a great site with info & unbiased reviews. also thanks for giving us space to comment

    why does it matter to anyone what anyone else chooses as thier transmission? i tried to keep this from getting under my skin…and i will temper my response.

    My wife learned to drive stick on my turbo miata. loved it. Bought a 5 spd VW cabrio. Had a back injury…can NEVER use a clutch again. Traded Manual VW on Auto VW. Crappy auto in that car…yes. not as fun ass manual, yes. A car that she can drive again, yes.

    We have looked at the MC since before they came out. Never a huge fan of the CVT, and wanting more power than the cooper, we have eargerly awaited the MSCa. We plan to order shortly, i can not wait until we can get it home.

    It’s not like they are taking away 6 speed cars….you can still go & buy one. Is the MSC so perfect as a 6spd that anything else will render it a buick?

    And, it should have a different badge? How childish. Are you that uncertian that you have a 6 speed? Do you need to point out that others have the inferior transmission, and are not true sporting drivers? I would think that this community would be a little more open minded and accepting to those with differences.

    Each time you make your shift….think about the fact that you have a CHOICE in what transmisssion you can drive…

  • Well said…

  • Does this mean that I have to drive with a paper bag with holes in it over my head when I take delivery of my MCSa this week??? The unknown MINI driver!

  • Charlie

    Turbo Miata Guy,

    Right on.

    I just ordered a MCS C with the auto, and I don’t feel I’m any less of a person for it. Hell, I already own 2 MCS, both 6 speeds, one with a JCW Kit, and my wife and I enjoy both of them.

    Maybe if I had ordered my 03 Boxster S with a Tiptronic I’s have put more than the 1,800 miles it has on the odo, and not be selling it to get the MCS Ca. Different strokes for different folks. I can hardly wait for the cabrio!

  • august8pm

    Thank you for the very informative review. I particularly enjoyed reading about the the paddle vs clutch experiences. My lease expires soon and I have big choices to make – this has helped a great deal.

    I have never driven a manual transmission and have no one to teach me, so the S has never been an option. The increased overall power of the S, however, has been an attractive feature to me not because I wanted to be a pseudo-sports car enthusiast. Increased power is very welcome to those of us who live in congested, old cities with ancient highways dotted with blind merges sometimes as short as 100 feet, it can prove to be an honest-to-goodness safety feature. (Gabe and other Chicagoans will know what I’m talking about – 94 East at Willow, anyone?)

    I only mention all this because reading all the hate from some driving purists seems contrary to the MINI ethos, historically and currently. I have no doubt that the purist motoring experience (in performance, connection to the car/road, etc) far exceeds that of the CVT – and I think most others would agree. But to reserve the S exclusively to this doesn’t do anyone any good at all. More profits for MINI means a better car for all of us.

    Lastly, one needs only to observe a “purist” in full MCS-bliss to distinguish him/her from anyone else. Your street cred, rest assured, will remain intact and undiluted.

  • isellem

    i have a few comments to make regarding this issue… I have lots of customers who are eager to purchase the automatic and their reasons vary for each person.

    I have some customers who strictly want this for a fun commuter car. The MINI fits the commuter car perfectly because of its small size great handling and pretty good fuel mileage (compared to the other cars that they own) These customers havd 1hr drives from home to work and vis versa in stop and go traffic. For these extreme conditons i think the automatic optino does suit them quite well… I also have customers, and i am not trying to stereo type here, i am just explaing my experiance, were the husband wants a MINI and the Wife needs an automatic because she either doesn’t know how to drive the manual or simply refuses to learn. (trying to teach them might lead the couple in divorce i guess) The husbands are delighted to hear that they can get an S and not a cooper because they want a fun sports car but they have other commitments and people to think about.

    I also have a few physically disable customers who are extatic that MINI has decided to comeout with the automatic S. you should see the look on their faces! It would probably remind you of the day that you took delivery of your car.

    I hope you die hard 6-speed manual guys don’t think that the automatic transmission will devalue your car monetarily or devalue the car in the eyes of enthusiast. It is still and enthusiasts car! If you like the 6-speed buy the 6-speed, and let the other people who might not beable to buy a 6-speed enjoy a cooper s, these are people who are purchasing them because they have to because of the love of their spouse, their incredibly long commute, or because it is the only way that they will ever be able to drive a cooper S! Let them enjoy!

  • I find some of the previous comments amusing and some a little disturbing. As owners of a Cooper and a brand new rag top CooperS with Auto I can honestly say that the absolute last thing on my mind was a worry that other MINI owners would snub me in my automatic convertible. I wonder what level of personality or enthusiast would not openly welcome any and all MINI owners. If you are concerned about waving to an automatic driver MYNUTE 1 is a manual and MYNUTE is an auto, don’t worry if you don’t wave I won’t care I will be happily paddle shifting and loving every minute of it.

  • gmini

    How common are automatic transmissions on convertibles here. My experience is VERY.

  • Livingston Hinckley

    Interesting to see this thread… I just tried a MCSa and found the auto downshifting to be unacceptable. Riding at 35-40 mph and pushing as if to pass resulted in lots of thrashing about, over-revving and hunting for the next shift. This was easily repeatable, but the dealer didn’t even offer a comment on it. The paddle shifting was easy to become used to, and it will even switch to full auto if you don’t use it as you should… Still not the pleasure of the stick MCS we’ve driven since 2002. I loooked at it for a second car for my wife’s heavy traffic commute to NYC, but this is not what we want in a Mini – just doesn’t feel the same.

  • Luke

    Um… The review here was nice and all but didn’t really talk much about driving in Auto.

    I’m looking for a new car and don’t need the S, in terms of HP, as I don’t ever plan on going over 80 — When can one ever go over 75 legally?

    But I do need that extra boost in acceleration for making left turns, passing traffic, getting up hills, etc.

    The basic Cooper would be fine but I don’t drive stick… My left hand is for eating and drinking, not fiddling with a stick. And while it wouldn’t be that big of an issue, it sure is in stop and go traffic and steep hills.

    What I have to ask is: How is the automatic S compared to the automatic basic? The basic in auto is extremely sluggish and slow, the S auto is more quick and has more go from the start. Can anyone who actually drove, drove the automatic S confirm whether or not it has the power and acceleration to distinguish it from the automatic basic or other automatic cars in the class?

  • First off I think you need to re-read the article. Secondly if you really believe that your left hand is for eating and drinking (while driving) I think you might be happier with a beetle or a PT Cruiser instead of a MINI.

  • Luke

    I don’t need to re-read it. You didn’t give much detail regarding the car in Automatic mode or comparing it to the auto base cooper. You went off on a tangent with the auto transmission in manual mode.. Not helpful to me.

    As for the PT Cruiser, it’s plain ugly… And Chrysler = Old people cars. And the Beatle is claustraphoic inside, not to mention that it’s VW and I’ll never get another VW after our last experiance with them. Another note is that neither of the two cars offer the small size or visibility of the Mini.

  • Akeeah


    In your article you say —

    “In fact, more than one Motoring Advisor I talked with was seeing about 75% of all recent MCS orders equipped with the automatic.”

    Do you know what the sale fiqures are for MCSa and MCS?


  • Ralph

    Stevie C writes:

    In my opinion, if you can’t drive a manual you don’t deserve a performance sports car.

    if your reason for getting an auto is because you suffer from long commutes, you don’t need a sports car, I love changing gears! Or if you simply can’t drive a manual – learn!


    Steve comments are the kind arrogance and snobbish attitude that bugs me. I see so much of these attitudes on other Mini Websites and from other unique car owners. What gives Steve(and others) the right to write and say that if I can’t drive a manual then I (and others) don’t “deserve” a performance sports car?

    How arrogant! How elitist

    In my opinion these kinds of comments are ignorant. Sorry that’s the way I see it. Just because he wants to drive a Manual he thinks everyone else should or has to.

    Well I live in a City that has hundreds of hills (very steep) with stop signs at the top and people who like stop right on your bumper. I don’t want to be shifting constantly and possible roll backs. THAT’S MY CHOICE!

    I have a 2004 MC (non S) with CVT. I like it. Drives very well in SD mode and in full auto in the city is great.

    If I and others want a CVT for a MC or a MCS in long commutes, short commutes, up hill, down hill, whatever the reason and Mini makes one then that’s my choice and I have a right to buy one.

    When Steve and others with similar attitudes run Mini Cooper then they can make the decision whether to offer only Manuals.

  • zig

    90% of car sales in the US are for cars with AUTOMATICS. F-speeds are for geezers. Get with the program…if they are good enough for formula 1…

    Can’t wait to get my cooper S Auto.

  • Jace

    I agree- CVTs are becoming the way of the future. Although I can see why some purists prefer the fun of a manual. It’d be interesting if the cost of installing manual transmission + clutch ended up becoming an OPTION!

  • Roby

    It is a shame that the Auto version of this car is not a better design quality. Audi managed to design an automatic that shifts faster than the manual (e.g. the DSG on the Audo A3), and gives the driver MORE performance for the extra cash outlay. You might think BMW could design a better automatic for a great sports car such as the MCS. Maybe we need to wait for the announcement for the MCS 2007+ model to see if BMW can improve their offerings for this MCSa.

    in the meantime – I’ll have to order the Manual version MCS.

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  • Salvador

    Or if you simply can’t drive a manual – learn!

    For nine years I drove an automatic. I always lusted for a precise, fun manual transmission car of my own. Life never brought one to me unfortunately. So I said screw it! I went to MINI of Concord and bought an ’06 Cooper S with the JCW kit on it already. I traded in my auto 3 series and was now in a posisition that I HAD to learn stick, and guess what? I learned. I got it home myself the first day and have since devoted all my effort to really refining the craft of using a manual transmission. There was a very nice MCSa on the lot that was a bit less expensive than my car. But why would anyone want it? A MINI is to DRIVE! Not to ride in. I drove auto for nine years and after 5 days of stick the only way I’ll ever go back to an automatic is if I am forced to. If you want a fun car w/ an automatic, buy a 3 series (not an E90 though, boycott Bangle). Leave the real driving to those who actually enjoy it. MCSa IS FOR POSERS.

  • Jay

    Oh Salvadore, you come off like a two-year old.

    As long as people have a choice, let them make their own minds up.

  • Oorial

    Well, I own an MCSa, and guess what, Mr. Salvador, I actually do get to DRIVE it. The secret is in the paddle shifters that enable me to override the auto on key stretches of road where it really matters and where one would actually want to “drive” the car. I live in Pittsburgh (very hilly terrain, similar to say, San Fran or Seattle) and I typically tend to use the shifters either when starting from a red light to “blow by” unsuspecting SUVs, or on hairpin bends that are accompanied by simultaneous changes in grade. Rest of the time (read boring straights) I just let the auto do its “thang” and enjoy the scenery. In a nutshell between D, SD, and the paddle shifters, I have a real fun time.

    So, as Jay says, live and let live — in the meantime, I hope you do enjoy your MCS.

  • Jae

    I personally own a 2005 MCSa and I love it. Living just 15 minutes away from Los Angeles and the freeway traffic being ridiculous I just couldn’t picture myself stuck with a stick for the life of the car. As you said the shifting is a little slower than on the manuals but pop it into SD mode and it’ll rocket it’s way out.

    One thing that I do wanna mention is about the “popping” or the back fire that the factory added to many stick shift MCS’s and surprise surprise!!! mine has the back fire despite being an automatic. After asking the dealer about this they said that the factory doesn’t put in the back firing into MCSa’s about 98% of the time. They say I was the “lucky” one since the dealer can’t put that option in even if the customer asks for it.

    So as a lucky MCSa owner with the “popping” I am extremely happy with an automatic MCS. For those of you MCSa owner without the “popping”… drool cuz it’s a sweet sound to here.

  • Jae
    If you want a fun car w/ an automatic, buy a 3 series (not an E90 though, boycott Bangle). Leave the real driving to those who actually enjoy it. MCSa IS FOR POSERS.

    Salvador… I don’t even know what to say about this “crap” your saying. It’s your opinion so I’m not gonna grill you for it but there are people in this world who have driven manuals and are sick of constantly attending to it in horrible freeway traffic that takes 3 hours for a usual 30 minute commute, like myself.

    And according to the dealers admitting that 75% of MCS owner opt for the automatic surely says you as a manual driver is the “poser.”

    Such an ignorant mindset. tsk tsk tsk

  • Choice is all fine and good but I can’t see how someone can call a manual owner/driver a poser.

  • Nacho

    Gabe: As always, a very good review. I’ve just ordered a R56 MCSa, do you expect to review the model soon and post some hints for us ?

    Many thanks from Spain