Shift Paddles Disappear from the Cooper

We’ve recently been informed by several sources that the shift paddles on automatic transmission equipped MINI Cooper’s will be phased out starting with March production. We’re not sure if this is specific to the US market or will impact all markets but we would expect the latter. This includes all bodystyles (R55, R56 and R57). Of course the Cooper S model of each of these cars will continue to offer them when equipped with an automatic.

It’s worth noting that a few weeks of auto R57 Cooper production will include the paddles making them pretty rare in the years to come.

We don’t have confirmation on this but we believe that this change may have been put into place to give greater differentiation between the Cooper and Cooper S model.

  • C4

    I guess that this is nothing but a cost cut measure. The US spec first gen Cooper CVTs never offered the steering wheel paddles (But they were available in other markets) and I was glad to see them offered in the R56 Cooper for the first time.

    This is really sad. I enjoy driving the car with them. Very quick upshifts and downshifts in full sport mode.

    I am happy to have them in my Clubman S. Today I am driving a brand new Astro Black/white 2009 R56 S hardtop automatic dealer loaner with just 400 miles (My 2005 R53 S is getting the clutch and flywheel replaced) and I am loving the paddles.

    The AISIN is really a solid unit. Needless to say, my next MINI will also be auto.

  • Hunter

    I’ll keep my 6-speed manual over paddle shifters any day…

  • hank chinaski

    hmm… I remember a buddy having an 1st gen cooper with paddles.

  • hank chinaski

    More importantly, they need to offer a steering wheel redesign.

  • glangford

    I originally ordered a R56 MC with an auto (as manual wasn’t available till march on the intro year.) I was on the fence with them, having preferred to use the actual stick shift on an automatic in manual mode. Well I eventually rejected that car (no MFSW) and reordered in a manual. On a non S I can see deleting them, I don’t think I’d have gotten much out of it, I couldn’t do with the stick. On the S I can see the argument for keeping them.

  • GregW

    If you have an auto, I can’t see the advantage of having paddles. I hardly ever used them. Either you want a manual or an auto – not a quasi transmission that is a mixture. Come to think I never used the stick-shift to change auto gears anyhow.

  • C4

    Until MINI decides to switch clutch and flywheel OEM suppliers, I will not be buying another manual MINI in the future. The crappy LuK clutches and FWs are pure third world quality. Been driving manuals for 23 years and never had to replace a clutch on any car before 100K miles until I got a MINI. The second gen MINIs are also experiencing the same clutch/flywheel issues (Go and look NAM, MINI2, etc).

    MINI needs to source their clutches from a reputable company like Clutchmasters. I would gladly pay extra to get a good quality clutch and a flywheel that does the otherwise outstanding Getrag gearbox the justice it deserves.

    My next MINI will be auto. The AISIN 6-speed in my Clubman S is simply sensational. Around the auto-X course in full sport mode and with the sport mode on with the paddles is INCREDIBLE. It shifts and downshifts faster than the manual.

    And all without the uneven wear and problems of the OEM LuK clutch hardware. Replacing a clutch in a MINI is a 9-10 hour job. You don’t want to be doing that every 25K miles!!!!

  • C4

    GregW, you are missing out on the fun you can have with the AISIN. Nothing will ever replace the feel and gusto of the clutch pedal and manual shifter, but come to think of it, the AISIN shifts faster than my left foot and right hand can. Manumatics are the future. Heck even Alec Issigonis, the father of the original Mini called manuals the “Barbaric stick” and he envisioned something along the lines of a manumatic transmission. Too bad he passed away in 1988 to see that in a MINI.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I got to drive a whole slew of really hot cars at Laguna with “flappy-paddle” autos, to use the Top Gear vocabulary. There’s no reason to not at least offer it as an upgrade. As C4 says, running an auto in manual mode with paddles is a very fast way around a track, autoX or whatever. I can see not offering them in a base package as a way to differentiate the cars, but there’s no reason not to offer them as an option for those who want them. If they’re not offered at least as a for cost option, this one has me baffled….


  • glangford

    I’d agree for the performance oriented S that the paddles would be a good thing. However, for a MC, having a manual mode with the ‘auto stick’ is good enough for everyday driving where a manual mode would be desired.

  • Melis

    As much as I want to yell, OMG This Sucks! I only use my paddle shifters of my R56 when I’m being super lazy. I always use the shifter. Just feels more connected, and less PlayStation, driving that way. And yes, I am from the PS2 generation and my other cat is a TT DSG, but still on that car I like using the shifter on that too.

  • Mark

    I wonder if you’ll still have the manual shifting ability by using the shift lever still?

  • John

    I love the paddle shifters and use them all the time whether it’s quasi-auto or manual. I think they are a great option that adds one more (OK, 2) element(s) to the driving experience.

  • robble

    C4 – true the auto in manualk mode would be great for the auto-x course but the lack of LSD would not.

  • Aaron

    I think it’s probably a good differentiator between the MC and the MCS. However, I also agree with Melis. I use the shifter when I drive and don’t bother with the paddles. They’re cool and all, but functionally, I find it annoying to shift while in a turn using the paddles (the paddles are fixed on the wheel so they’re awkward to toggle with hands at 11/3 or so), so I stick with the stick.

    “Either you want a manual or an auto – not a quasi transmission that is a mixture. Come to think I never used the stick-shift to change auto gears anyhow.”

    Well, I see your point but I don’t think that is the case for everybody. When I ordered my MCSa, I didn’t know how to drive manuals and I was thinking of moving to San Francisco…didn’t want to be a novice manual driver learning on those hills. But when I learned I was moving to Africa instead, I started using the shifters to learn the gearing, when to shift, etc. Then I learned and drove manual cars while living in Africa.

    Now I’m back, living outside San Francisco and though I miss driving manual, I am very happy at times that I have the MCSa: when I’m on a hill in S.F. or when I’m stuck on the 101 or the 80 in stop and go traffic. Pop it in D and relax. It’s nice to have both the regular automatic drive as an option but also to be able to downshift into turns, to slow the car on hills, etc, or to get an instantaneous response for freeway on-ramps/passing lanes.

    I drive with the stick, shifting gears, about 95% of the time. I will, however, be buying a manual whenever I get around to getting a new car in a few years. However, I do think that manumatic is the future, at least as an option in America. I think that in 20 years, the vast majority of cars in the US (if not all of them) will be straight automatics with manumatics reserved for the “sportier” versions. You already can’t buy some higher end cars in manual anymore (in the US; see the Volvo line-up).

  • GregW

    Have to agree with C4 about those troublesome clutches. Even a slight slip of the clutch while trying to take off in third gear in error means smoke and smell. Also the “groaning” release bearings when taking off in first are common. And while you are doing the clutch you may as well put an exchange box in to fix those noisy gear train or the metal splinters on the drain plug. The achilles heel of R50 is the gearbox and clutch. But what about the old CVT that costs the GDP of a small country to replace. R56 seems to have fixed the gearbox, but now we have noisy knocking “S” engines.

  • GregW

    A couple of other thoughts; Formula 1 race cars have paddles or push buttons on the wheel, but don’t seem to cross arms on turns. They said back years ago that the Manual box would be obselete because of the auto. The marketing people are deciding about the auto only in higher end models. How would a BMW 7 series go in manual?

  • greg

    No one will miss them who bought a Cooper. If they cared about “sporty” driving they’d have bought an S or gotten a manual so no one uses them anyway.

    I realize some people can’t get a manual for physical reasons and like to drive zippy so poney up and get an S.

  • John

    >If they cared about “sporty” driving they’d have bought an S>

    Yeah right. It’s all about the car to be “sporty”.

  • beken

    My neighbor has an R50 auto with paddles (comes with the auto in Canada). I thought the paddles were the best part of the car. If I were to get a MINI with an automatic transmission, even if it’s a Cooper, I would definitely want the paddles. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t get a MINI at all (if I needed an automatic transmission). First a softened suspension, then an optional sport button, then paddles, what next? An engine detuned to make it more economical? More dialed in understeer? Use a less sophisticated rear suspension? I know I’m going too far here, but it seems with each iteration, our cars are getting watered down.

  • C4

    Beken, Canadian market R50 and R52 Cooper CVTs were offered with the steering wheel paddles. They were kept out of US spec Coopers (Same as the Electric Blue Metallic that was offered only on Canadian R50 Coopers).

    For the most part, shall we say, the R56 is already, hmmm, watered down.

  • greg

    Hey Johnny! “Sporty” is the purpose of the paddles in the first place. Were you under the impression they were supposed to be simpler to use than the shifter? Why do you think you have to put the shifter into the “sport mode” in order to use the paddles? *** ****

  • John

    I bought the first version of the Cooper S auto with paddles solely because I always wanted a clutchless car with paddle shifters. Now I know this is not a true clutchless manual, but it as just as fun. When reving high (like on a track which I have done) the shifts are really, really fast. But even in normal driving they are a blast. I NEVER and I mean NEVER use the car as a straight up auto, I always shift manually with the paddles.

    The other thing I LOVE about Mini’s paddles is that up and down are the same on both paddles unlike most cars where up in on one side and down the other. That works great on an F1 car when you never turn the wheel more the 90 degrees, but on a regular car where you turn the wheel all the way around it’s great not having to figure out which paddle is under you at any given time. Kudos to Mini. Now just mate this to a true clutchless manual transmission and you would have the perfect car!

    And to answer the guy above, you don’t ‘put into sport mode’ to use. Yes you go through the sport mode procedures to get to the manual shift mode, but once in the manual shift mode you are shifting when YOU want to shift, not via sport mode, regular more or anything.

  • niggelig

    u can use the paddle any time, not only in SD. in D mode u can shift up and down, too. very usefull for saving fuel when the auto doesnt up-shift but it could do so. or shifting down, before u start to overtake. u cant get the same feature via the stick, because gear shift is only possible in SD and 1 shift makes the auto “full” manual. after all its a loss of a fine and useful feature. think its only cost cutting.