Sean Bartnik has some great info and photos on the new automatic MCS and all the other subtle 1/05 interior tweaks at his weblog. Here’s an excerpt from the site:

The shift lever is really sharp-looking and feels nice in your hand. It’s a leather knob and the shift release button is really slick-looking with the red S on the side (I think it looks a lot like a full-face helmet with a face shield, and the resemblence is probably intentional — very sporty). The shift pattern layout is the same as in the Cooper CVT, with P R N D in the normal fashion, and then the SportDrive mode available by nudging the shifter to the right from the D position. The manual mode can be operated via the shift lever in the same manner as on the Cooper CVT: tap forward for downshifts and tap rearward for upshifts. Unlike the Cooper CVT (at least in the U.S.), the Cooper S automatic can also be manually shifted via paddles on the steering wheel, which leads us into…

rom previous photos and reports on MotoringFile, I was a bit concerned about how ergonomic the paddles would really be, but it turns out that my concerns were unfounded. In the front view above, it appears that the paddles are tiny little things that stick up above the horizontal spokes of the wheel and that’s it, but you can see on the side view that in fact the paddles are much larger and extend down behind the spokes. The paddles are perfectly sized so that when your hands are at 9 and 3, your four fingers fit perfectly on the part of the paddle that is behind the spoke, allowing you to pull it toward you for upshifts.

For downshifts, your best bet is to reach up with your thumb and press the top portion of the paddle away from you. Gabe at MotoringFile was correct in how the paddles operate: Each paddle does upshifts or downshifts depending on which way you operate it. If you pull it toward you, it upshifts. If you push it away from you, it downshifts. Since each paddle does both functions, you can operate the paddles with either your left or your right hand, whichever is more comfortable.

Sean goes on to cover quite a bit of the changes in detail.
In all it’s a great read and well worth it if you’ve got a car on order or are looking for excuses to order another MINI! You can read the entire piece via the link below:

[ PHOTOS: Cooper S Auto/Other Jan. 2005 Goodies ]

FYI – We should also have an actual first drive review on the auto MCS soon.