I'm "replying all" since this article has applicability now that temps are dropping and Tire Rack has winter tires on sale... check here
or if that link breaks, copy and paste this into your browser:http://www.motoringalliance.com/library/all-about-mini-coopers-17/winter-driving-tips-18/?catid=searchresults&searchid=11
I posted that "compilation of winter tips" on Motoring Alliance a while back.
In short, Minis and Clubmen are tremendously capable in winter - on proper snow tires. The LSD does make a big difference. Ground clearance can be an issue, and a skidplate is a good idea up front - they're readily available for the[masked] models (up to 2007 convertibles), and help protect the power steering fan, among other low-hanging bits common to front-drive cars. The PittStopMINI Club has tested Minis in closed course winter conditions, with snow tires, all-seasons, and summer tires. Most telling was the autocross time: Summer tires: 1:05. All-season tires: 45 seconds. Winter tires: 31 seconds. Same car, same conditions. The winter tire-equipped vehicle run was undramatic and didn't "look" fast. The others were, shall we say, "interesting". "Interesting" isn't good when faced with a winter driving emergency. Oh - that was in 2007. In 2008, the summer-tire-equipped Mini couldn't make it up the road to BeaveRun, even in the hands of a professional driving instructor, due to snow. Do NOT drive "summer" or performance tires in snow or cold (below 35 degrees). They get hard and have very limited grip, even in the dry, and are sincerely hazardous in snow.
Busting through snowdrifts and ice dams, however, can cause a few issues. These cars aren't made for that (few are), and there are some expensive bits up front just behind that lower grille - and in back you don't want to be jamming your exhaust pipe into an ice bank. Short of that, however, they're great in winter. I drive mine everywhere, but am careful with the ground clearance and ice bank issues.
Hope this helps,
-------------- Original message from Stephen Stubbs <[address removed]>: --------------
> Hello All,
> I currently live in Champaign, IL. I ride a motorcycle 10+ months out
> of the year to work and on Saturdays. My old Skylark is driven on
> Sundays to church and the grocery store, and on the snow/ice days.
> I am giving serious consideration to the Cooper S with the limited
> slip differential and all weather tires to replace the Skylark. Being
> able to have the auto successfully navigate on the snow/ice days is
> critical to my decision.
> The photos of the Mini that I've seen seem to indicate very little
> ground clearance. That's a big concern to me. While Champaign may
> not get the amount of snowfall that you do in Pittsburgh, Champaign
> does have the prairie winds that tend to pile the snow up in some very
> high drifts. (This past winter the snow in my outdoor parking lot
> drifted higher than the roof of the Skylark's engine compartment!)
> The snowplows in Champaign will create snow/ice berms in front of the
> driveways and secondary street's access to the plowed, primary
> streets. Another concern of mine is how driving through these
> snow/ice berms might effect the front bodywork, or the rear bodywork
> if I have to back onto the primary street. (On my 1972 Skylark with
> chrome plated, *steel* bumpers front and rear, this was not a concern.)
> If memory serves, the Cooper S comes with 16" wheels. Will going to
> the optional 17" wheels give me a noticeable improvement in ground
> Should I be looking at the optional protective covers for the front
> Are there other suggestions or options that I should incorporate into
> my MINI selections?
> Thank you for all your replies,
> Stephen Stubbs.
> Please Note: If you hit "REPLY", your message will be sent to everyone on this
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