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I like the arm rest. Wouldn't be without it. When you apply the hand brake it lifts up to clear the handle. Happens in one motion, so it's not like you have to perform two separate operations. I sometimes put it in the full upright position. Usually when I have on a heavy coat or am carrying a 1911 to ease access to the seatbelt latch. It makes the car much more comfortable on long drives. Once you release the brake you just squeeze the front of the rest and it lowers to make access to the iDrive more comfortable.
It's been my experience that most people that don't like a certain option either don't have it or have never tried it. The armrest in my R56 was so bad as to be nonexistent. I changed it out for one of the euro style rests with much better results. It could also be a matter of the driver's size. At 6'4" the rest fits me perfectly. YMMV
One man's meat is another man's poison. I HATE the armrest. IMO Mini's look better without it. I had to get it in order to get some options I really wanted. It lives in the straight upright position. That way it doesn't interfere with buckling the seatbelt or using the IDrive. And I think the front looks better with it out of sight. JMO.
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