Thursday, July 9, 2009

Review: Mini Cooper S Cabriolet

With the hardtop version of the Mini Cooper S being on the scene for quite a while now, we’ve all been waiting for the updated convertible version. While the new turbo powered 1.6L in the new car is much more efficient, I find I do miss the whine of the supercharged version that was still the used in the as of yet, original Mini Cooper S convertible. So with the added wait over its hard top brother, I hope to see good things with the new car.


Well here it is, the next generation Cooper s Convertible with a freshly updated chassis and a turbo bolted to the exhaust system, the new car mirrors the fresh good looks of the hardtop. Not that there was anything wrong with the old one in the first place. So lets start with the interior. You’ll find the same straight-up driving position as in the last model, and same great pedal arrangement to aid in crisp heal-toe downshifts. That big Speedo/radio gauge is back and bigger than ever, as it seems to be in a territorial war with the steering wheel. Another odd gauge was the timer next to the tach that would let you know how long the tops been down. Cheesy at first, I came to realize its usefulness with a red forehead.


As mentioned, the Convertible gets the same mill as the hardtop, a now more efficient 1.6L turbocharged marvel that keeps up to just about any thing that wants to have a go. Sporting direct injection and an impressive 172 hp, the Mini can leave the line with a 7.4 sec spring to 98 km/h, while producing a scant 5.7L/100km on the highway, once your nerves have cooled down.


However, controlling your nerves may be a monumental task, as this new drop top has the same playful and exuberant character about it as the hardtop. Hell, it’s a Mini, and Mini’s are meant to be driven by a driver who loves to have fun behind the wheel. That’s just what this car is, as every moment behind the wheel inspires the driver to find some twisties, and open‘er up. However, as a driving enthusiast, there is a problem when doing this, the evil chassis rigidity of a convertible car rears its ugly head.


And lets face it, the only real way to make a soft top handle like a hardtop is to weld the doors shut, but Mini have done the best they can to counter act the roofless body movement. With a reinforced floorpan, A-pillars and side-sills, the body has a torsional stiffness increase of 10%. The suspension is also sprung extremely tight, with very stiff dampening to aid in a solid feel. While it all works well to disguise the fact that a convertible just doesn’t have the torsional stiffness of a hardtop, the chassis movement and vibrations do get a bit annoying. That’s for me as a driving enthusiast, however the sun worshipers who love the look and playfulness of the Mini, will likely not even notice.


However, this brings us to another slightly annoying trait, and that’s the price. A base convertible S will set you back a $36,350, a hefty jump from the $29,900 asking price for the hardtop. Sir Alec would be rolling in his grave. While I do like the Cooper S convertible’s playful spirit and I really do miss a roofless night drive with only the stars to look at, I have to say I personally am much more at home in the hardtop.



MSRP: $36,350

Price as tested: $40,017

Layout: Front Engine – Front Wheel Drive

Engine: 1.6L Turbo I-4

Transmission: 6-Speed Manual

HP: 172

Torque: 177

Brakes: Four wheel ventilated discs

Curb Weight: 1,295 kg

Towing Capacity: NA

0-100 km/h: 7.4 sec

Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 7.8/5.7L/100km

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