I picked up Pepper yesterday. That’s what I’ve decided to name my new car. She’s not pickled and she’s more than a peck, but Pepper packs a punch. She’s a 2010 MINI Cooper S Mayfair Edition in, of course, pepper white. Sure, she’s cute, but she’s spicy too. Push the “Sport Mode” button by the shifter and she growls with anticipation for the next curve. Pepper’s also rockin the upgraded harmon/kardon sound system. Best. Upgrade. Ever. I have always enjoyed a good car stereo, and this one sounds fantastic. I spend so much time in the car, and cranking the tunes on this system makes time fly by.

My life has changed so much since I first picked up Emeril four years ago. I’ll miss Emeril’s all-weather AWD capability. In fact, Pepper’s the first non-Subaru I’ve had in about 12 years. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to driving a Subaru, because they’ve served me so well and gotten me through so many foul-weather scrapes, but now that I’m a full-time photographer, I just don’t need that kind of utility. If the weather is truly awful, there’s no need for me to leave the studio. I thought it was time to drive a car that went a bit further on a tank of gas, and suited my personal style a bit better.

Driving Pepper takes a little getting used to. The six-speed manual transmission is the first six-speed I’ve driven regularly, so having that extra gear is unusual for me. The spacing between gears is also different than what I’ve grown accustomed to, so I’m still figuring out what gear feels right for different situations. Pepper’s feisty engine is harnessed to the front wheels, and especially in “sport mode” gives a pretty hefty torque-steer twist under heavy acceleration. It’s part of the MINI Cooper S’s character to do this, but it will take a while for me to not to be surprised after having driven those highly symmetrical Subarus for years. The suspension is also quite stiff. Emeril’s suspension rode a pretty fine balance between handling and comfort, so Pepper’s more sporty suspension, combined with low profile tires can be slightly jarring on not-so-perfect Southern Ontario roads. That being said, I’m not complaining. My 39-month leased journey with Pepper is sure to be filled with driving fun.

I have to tip my hat to MINI Oakville, who took great care of me, even though there were bumps in the sales process. I have to admire a company who takes immediately and unreservedly takes responsibility for its mistakes and moves swiftly to correct them. I’m a happy customer, and I’m thrilled to dealing with any of the Budd’s car dealerships in the future.

After picking Pepper up from MINI Oakville, we went for a little spontaneous photo shoot. After all, Pepper’s a photographer’s car!