Thursday, January 31, 2008

Other Accessories and Choices

But wait, we’re still not through with all the choices in all five boxes on the MINI website. We still have to think about interior trim and a few other miscellaneous goodies.

Let’s start with seats and upholstery. Since you’ve already opted for the Cooper S, you’re going to get a good set of sport seats, with effective bolstering to keep you from sliding around on those tight corners. And you can choose from a variety of different colors. We don’t have any advice on most trim decisions but we do suggest that you order the gray cloth upholstery rather than the leatherette or leather.

In our view, cloth upholstery is best because it provides more grip against the seat of your pants in tight maneuvering, helping those bolsters do their job. It’s also cooler in summer and warmer in winter, and won’t show wear as much as the leather or vinyl.

Best of all, the cloth doesn’t add anything to the cost of your MINI. We talked about trade-offs earlier. How about thinking of your decision as trading off the leather, which won’t help you go faster, for a set of tires and wheels that cost about the same and will definitely help you go faster. Seems like a fair trade-off to us.

There are a few other choices to make. If you didn’t choose the Sport package, you might want to look at those front fog lamps again, but as far as we’re concerned they don’t really do much good in fog conditions, and they just irritate other drivers ahead of you. Rear fog lamps, which provide brighter visibility to drivers overtaking you, on the other hand are a good option if you ever drive anywhere when you’re likely to be in the fog.

The navigation system is another option that depends on what kind of driving you do. If you are going to be driving back and forth to the same office every day, and rarely venture into unknown territory, you can probably pass on this expensive item. It certainly isn’t going to be much help getting through the corkscrew at Laguna Seca.

On the other hand, if you’re going to be using your MINI to make sales calls or long-distance trips, the navigation system can be a real time-saver. We’ve tested them and we can say that the latest generation of these high-tech gizmos is pretty terrific. It will change the interior in one important respect, however. The screen goes where that big pie-plate of a speedometer would normally be mounted, and instead you’ll get a smaller speedo mounted next to your tach on the steering column. That’s actually kind of a good thing.

The multifunction steering wheel and cruise control are also a matter of personal taste and requirements. If you expect to spend long periods of time on the highway, being able to set the speed and forget it, while tuning the radio without taking your hands off the wheel, are good things. If you don’t expect to do much over-the-road driving with your MINI, save the $650 to spend on your new go-fast, sound-good exhaust system that we’ll discuss in the next chapter.

Auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensitive wipers, and automatic air-conditioning are nice things, we suppose, but these are probably things you can manage to do for yourself rather than paying little robots to do them for you. As for the “park distance control?” Give us a break; the car is only 14 feet long, for heaven’s sake. If you can’t get it into a parking place without a back-up beeper, you’re never ever going to master the Charlize Theron parking maneuver or even hope to drive your MINI through a Beverly Hills mansion without knocking over the lamps.

Whew! That should take care of all the little choices to make and right-clicks to push, so you should have an idea of what the car is going to cost and be ready to talk to a real live MINI expert at your nearest dealer (the address of which, of course, can be found on the website, along with a map and driving directions).

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