I've just started a review of the 2006 Mini Cooper S, and here are my initial impressions. The Mini body style looks great and has held its appeal well, now that the novelty has worn off. And it has decent power, with the S version's 168-horsepower, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Its supercharger gives it notable acceleration even from 70mph, although I imagine it would be a different story with all seats full. I particularly like the six-speed transmission, with power bands that seem well laid out. Gears two and three are pretty wide, giving a lot of latitude in city or windy mountain-road driving. Four through six offer the attentive driver valuable choice at higher speeds. With previous manual transmissions, freeway driving usually means fifth gear, and that's it. Being able to drop down from sixth to fifth, or even down to fourth if needed, lets drivers adjust for all sorts of high-speed driving situations.
But this is about where my praise ends. Although the Mini Cooper S interior looks as good as the outside, it's kind of weak in its tech offerings. Mini does offer a navigation option, but it wasn't in our test car, and I've never seen it equipped in any other Mini I've come across. It could be the least-popular option for Minis. Most other options that would be of interest, such as iPod connectivity and Bluetooth, are dealer installs, so they wouldn't be included on a press loan from the manufacturer. I do give it credit for having these options, but I sure would like to try them out. That leaves us with the stereo, which in this case is the premium Harman Kardon option. This stereo sounds excellent, especially blasting the Junkie XL remix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" while cruising down the freeway at 80mph. The CD player reads MP3 CDs, but it doesn't display ID3 tag information, such as the song title. It also doesn't offer any other navigation besides next track or previous track on an MP3 CD. Strangely enough, buttons on the steering wheel include controls for a telephone, yet the dealer Bluetooth option doesn't seem like it would take advantage of them. They are probably for a factory Bluetooth option offered only in Europe.
Beyond electronics, our Mini Cooper S came with the dual-pane panoramic-sunroof option as part of the $1,400 premium package. In my opinion, this is a waste. Having a sunroof over the front seats is great, but the second pane sits over the rear seats. In every coupe I've had, the rear seats get used maybe once a year. You'll find 20-year-old coupes in the junkyard with rear seats in perfect shape, because they generally get used only for groceries. Your groceries don't need a sunroof. This Mini also has the really horrible center stack-mounted cup holder, which is truly atrocious. It looks bad, and it gets in the way of the stereo and glove compartment. My first instinct on seeing it is to try to pull it out, although Mini has it too well attached to come off without damage. The base price for the 2006 Mini Cooper S is $20,600, entirely reasonable for such a fun-looking little car, but options, which didn't include navigation but did include a $1,700 leather interior and a $450 paint job, brought it up to $27,950.