January 20, 2009 Busting out of simulated ice blocks in one of the more notable pieces of razzle dazzle at last week's Detroit Auto Show preview was MINI's new convertible. Due for release in March, the 2009 MINI convertible gets new generation turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engines (118 hp for the MINI Cooper Convertible and 172 hp for the MINI Cooper S Convertible), a pop-up rollover bar activated by the car’s central safety electronics, a redesigned storage compartment and an electrohydraulic-powered soft-top roof that can be opened in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 20 mph. There's also a somewhat baffling "Openometer" feature which keeps track of the time spent traveling with the roof down. Gimmicky? Yes, but it will give you one unique stat that your non-MINI convertible driving friends can't match.
As we've come to expect, the new MINI Convertible is a funky piece of automotive design. Changes from its predecessor include more chiseled body panels, a chrome beltline molding that wraps around the cockpit, larger tail-lights, plus a "stretched" appearance courtesy of the almost-concealed rollover protection bar which only moves into position within 150 milliseconds when the safety system detects that a potential rollover is on the cards. Safety is further enhanced by an increase in passenger cell stiffness by ten percent over the former model, a newly constructed floorpan, frontal airbags and side head/torso airbags as standard, plus reinforced A-pillars and side-sills. In conjunction with slightly larger side windows, this new rollover bar set-up also provides better driver visibility.
Design-wise, the MINI Cooper S Convertible is distinguished by the "Powerdome" opening on the engine compartment lid, a larger air intake scoop, dual tailpipes and a two-piece rear foglamp. Both models receive changes to the cargo space include folding rear-seat backrests and loading options between the luggage and passenger compartments, which increases the car’s cargo space to 23.10 cu ft. There's also the option of a new rear rack installation kit which can accommodate a bicycle carrier.
The soft-top is designed to resist changes in shape at high speeds and is connected to a glass rear window which can be heated electrically when the weather turns nasty. The design also reduces wear by removing moisture as it collapses and avoiding pressure spots in the folded position. It also folds with the outer skin facing up so that there's no need for a tonneau cover. The electric roof can be activated by remote control when the vehicle is stationary or from inside the cockpit at speeds of up to 20mph. The sliding roof function, which can be used at speeds of up to 75 mph, and the option of slightly opening the front of the top provides further options for catching some breeze.
The new MINI Cooper Convertible has a six-speed manual gearbox featured as standard with optional six-speed automatic transmission and upgrades have also been made to suspension and handling with wheel suspension, electromechanical power steering and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) all standard.
Under the hood the two models pack a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine with the MINI Cooper Convertible putting out 118 hp at 6,000 rpm and the Twin-Scroll turbocharged, direct injection MINI Cooper S Convertible making 172 hp at 5,500 rpm. Torque on the performance model is 177 lb ft between 1,600 and 5,000 rpm with an "Overboost function" lifting this figure to 192 lb ft in short bursts. Acceleration figures put the S model at 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds with the manual gearbox and 7.2 seconds with the automatic and the top speed is 138 mph (135 mph for the auto).
Inside, the new MINI Convertible gets a list of trim customization options including three versions of leather in Carbon Black, Tuscan Beige and Hot Chocolate, plus footwell and exit lights as standard. You can also match the interior lighting to your mood with ambient lights that change from warm orange to sporting blue. A six speaker audio system is standard with the option of a navigation and infotainment system controlled via a 6.5-inch TFT colored display, an iPod ready interface and a hands-free telephone kit.
One thing is for certain, you have no excuse for speeding in a MINI given the size of the dials and in this incarnation they are joined by the aforementioned Openometer which sits to the left of the rev counter and records (to the minute) how long you have traveled with the roof fully down.
MINI, which MINI, which reported an increase in US sales of 29% last year at its NAIAS press conference, will unleash the new Convertible models at the end of March. Pricing for the MINI Cooper Convertible is USD$24,550 and for the MINI Cooper S Convertible $27,450.
MINI Cooper S Convertible : Four-cylinder gasoline engine with Twin-Scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection. Capacity: 1,598 cc, max output: 172 hp at 5,500 rpm. Max torque: 177 lb-ft from 1,600–5,000 rpm (192 lb-ft with Overboost). Acceleration 0–60mph: 7.0 sec Manual, 7.2 Automatic, Top speed: 138 mph Manual, 135 mph Automatic.
MINI Cooper Convertible: Four-cylinder gasoline engine with VALVETRONIC technology. Capacity: 1,598 cc, max output: 118 hp at 6,000 rpm. Max torque: 114 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. Acceleration (0–60 mph): 8.9 sec Manual, 10.2 Automatic, Top speed: 124 mph Manual, 119 mph Automatic.