Luxe

Indulge in this MINI treat

S Muralidhar | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 16, 2016
Petite performer: The car accelerates with characteristic MINI flair and there is no dearth of power across a range of situations on the road

Petite performer: The car accelerates with characteristic MINI flair and there is no dearth of power across a range of situations on the road

Versatile: The MINI Convertible goes from soft top to topless in 18 seconds

Versatile: The MINI Convertible goes from soft top to topless in 18 seconds

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There are many reasons to not buy a top-down in India, but the new MINI Cooper S Convertible is cute enough to change your mind

Three weeks ago I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and Mulholland Drive in downtown Los Angeles. I was sitting behind the wheel of the new MINI Cooper S Convertible, and was attempting to recreate the quintessential Hollywood experience – top-down motoring along some of the most iconic landmarks in Tinseltown.

It doesn’t get more cinematic than this...or so I thought. The real picture of the town, though, was quite a letdown. Last year’s drought in California was showing in the dry hillside, shorn of vegetation, with the iconic white Hollywood sign now looking dirty and unkempt. Random graffiti, cracked walls and tired looking palm trees with dried out fronds painted a drab picture of the downtown area.

Realism ruled in other parts of the reel world too this year. With the Oscar ceremony less than a week away, I was reminded about the number of nominated movies which were inspired by real events and real people. Thankfully, the car on hand was every bit as unreal as the brand has always wanted it to be. This, the new generation of the convertible, even has some pyrotechnics going for it!

The MINI’s much talked about USP is its Go-Kart like driving feel – unreal acceleration and performance from an unbelievably cute, tiny, hatchback. It is tough to imagine the MINI as being anything else but a blur on the road.

Sequel number 3

Still staying true to the original’s founding principles, MINI has had a strong revival under the current owner – BMW. The design continues to be a mix of cuteness and aggression. The new, fourth generation’s is a profile that harks back to the original, but also incorporates modern design elements. The new MINI Cooper S’s design has been carried forward into the convertible too. So, it is an unmistakable MINI with its round headlamps, hexagonal bonnet grille and the chrome surrounds to the headlamps and tail-lamps.

The convertible is now about 100 mm longer and sports a larger boot volume at 215 litres (with the soft top closed). The extra length has also been used to optimise the space inside the convertible, though being a two door, the entry and exit from the rear seat continues to be a bit awkward (not so much with the roof down).

The space at the rear has got a little better and the seat surface has been lengthened for more comfort. The first Mini Cooper Cabriolet was out in 1993, and it wasn’t very popular, registering sales of just over a 1,080 units in three years. But the second and third generations clocked about 3.3 lakh units cumulatively.

Gone in 18 seconds

The new MINI Convertible goes from soft top to topless in 18 seconds. The fully automatic opening and closing mechanism can be operated even on the go at speeds of up to 30 kmph. Want to keep some of your privacy, but let the sun in? The sliding roof function lets you do that, working a section of the textile roof making it look like the old version’s hand-folding option. Adding more British flavour, my Cooper S convertible also sported the Union Jack in a Herringbone weave on the fabric roof.

The mapped test drive route took me from the streets of downtown LA and wove through the hills surrounding the city to reach Malibu Beach. As the dilapidated and rustic parts of the city flashed by and gave way to large, beach-side mansions, the cars too changed from the mundane to the fancy. The Cooper S Convertible was, however, completely at home, drawing equal number of stares as the Astons and the Ferraris. The Cooper S’s mild, burbling exhaust note adds just that extra bit of ‘unrealism’ to this petite performer.

Road runner

The Cooper S Convertible that I was driving featured a two-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with BMW’s trademark TwinPower Turbo technology. My test mule’s powertrain also included the six-speed steptronic auto gearbox. The engine generates a peak power of 192 hp and peak torque of 280 Nm available across a wide rpm band from 1,250 rpm to 4,000 rpm. Top speed is 228 kmph. The car accelerates with characteristic MINI flair and there is no dearth of power across a range of situations on the road.

The ride quality sees a big improvement. Though the roads here are likely to be poorer, on average, than the ones I drove on in LA, the suspension’s sporty, yet comfortable set up is likely to come through. The soft top could mean higher noise levels in the cabin in Indian road conditions. Dynamic damper control can be used to boost the MINI go-kart feel with an even firmer setting.

Remember the pyrotechnics that I spoke about earlier? The one that matters is the invisible roll over protection that is a first for a convertible – where a set of four pillars are released when sensors detect the risk of a roll-over. Located at the base of the B and C-pillars, these metal pillars stay retracted until an airbag release style explosion deploys them within 110 milli-seconds.

And the Oscar goes to...

The new MINI Cooper S convertible’s cabin is a familiar place. The same high-quality materials and classy finish as the coupe is standard. High-grade leather, chrome and other customisable trim options are part of the package. The sports instrument cluster and the modern reinterpretation of other MINI trademarks like the switches and controls are the stuff that add to the brand’s aura even today.

There are other engine options that are available including a two-litre diesel engine and 1.5-litre, three- cylinder petrol and diesel engines. A manual transmission is also part of the options list.

A convertible is always a difficult vehicle to recommend in the Indian context - if the heat, dust and grime of the sub-continent didn’t get to you, the monsoons would. Thankfully, the new MINI Cooper S convertible has a rain sensor to warn you of a coming deluge. But who needs a reason to buy a MINI, anyway?

MINI Cooper S Convertible Technical Specifications

Parameters

Dimensions

Length/ Width/ Height 3,850 mm/ 1,727 mm/ 1,415 mm

Wheelbase 2,495 mm

Turning Radius 5.4 metres

Fuel Tank Capacity 44 litres

Kerb Weight 1,295 kg

Boot Capacity 215/ 160 litres

Petrol engine

Type 4-cylinder, in-line

Displacement 1,998 cc

Peak Output 192 [email protected],000-6,000 rpm

Peak Torque 280 [email protected],250-4,600 rpm

Transmission 6-Speed Steptronic

Tyres 195/55 R16 87W

Acceleration (0-100 kmph) 7.1 seconds

Top Speed 228 kmph

Published on March 16, 2016
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