I have an '08 Mini Cooper S 6-speed and I added the Dynamic Stability Control and Limited Slip Differential ($500 each), plus got the all-season run-flat tires, instead of the summer tires. This was all in an attempt to make the car winter worthy. It didn't work.
I've been stranded in my house for a week at a time, unable to leave. My neighborhood is almost never plowed, so I have to wait until it's been packed down enough to try and venture out. I work from home 4 days a week, which has been a blessing and allowed it to not be as big of a deal, but I still need to go to the grocery store, the gym, etc. Our other vehicle is a RAV4 AWD, but my husband drives that to the office everyday, and we often are going in different directions and need to be out at the same time, which means I need a vehicle I can get out of my garage. I just don't like the feeling of not being able to leave if I wanted to. There have been a couple of times this winter when I could not get to my mom's house when she was very ill — and she is only 3 minutes from my house!
If my driveway has more than an inch of snow, I can forget about getting into my garage. It's not steep, but there is just enough incline that it's very hard to get up without a big rolling start from down the street. When I finally make it to the garage, I have very little control over "where" in the garage I end up, and that doesn't work well when there's another vehicle in the garage! The tires spin a lot and it's almost impossible to get it moving on slushy snow, which makes it dangerous when you're trying to get through an intersection and unable to get traction. The lack of ground clearance is another problem.
I love my Mini!! I spent months picking out the accessories and it was the first car I ever ordered with just what I wanted. I asked about how it would drive in the snow, and everyone said, with the equipment I was getting, it would be fine. Well, it's not. I've had it two winters, and I'm looking for a new vehicle with AWD. I would love to hold out for the new AWD Countryman, but probably won't for a couple of reasons: 1) It's going to be very expensive, and 2) If you order one, they won't be here until February 2011 (that's from my Mini sales rep). That means almost another complete winter of being stranded.
Of course, I'll probably sell it, get an AWD wagon of some kind, and then next year it won't snow. That's always a possibility in the mid-west — the winters are very unpredictable. If I had it to do over, I would not have bought the Mini.
Prior to my Mini, I've owned a lot of AWD or 4WD vehicles — just about every model of Subaru, a couple of Grand Cherokees, an Audi A4, and a Volvo V70. It really is amazing the difference AWD and a couple more inches of ground clearance make! As the winters seemed to get more and more mild in central Ohio, I finally thought it was safe to venture out to a front-wheel drive vehicle. Of course, the Mini isn't just any front-wheel drive vehicle. Many of them do fine in the snow. The Mini (at least the turbo model), however, has so much torque, it's just really hard to drive in the snow. The 6-speed probably doesn't help, either. I've thought about snow tires, but then you're stuck without a spare (I don't think they make run-flat snow tires. If they do, they would be really expensive!).
So, I hope this helps you. I hate to be a party pooper, because the Mini is such a sweet ride most of the time, but vehicles are expensive, and I should have remembered the 1st goal of a vehicle -- to get you from point A to point B in most situations. Style should be 2nd to that.