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2009 MINI Cooper Convertible Preview

2009 MINI Cooper Convertible Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2008

Critical Knowledge:
  • Redesigned convertible built on the "Mk II" platform
  • Integrated sliding roof functions like a sunroof
  • Roof can fold in 15 seconds at speeds up to 20 mph
  • New hidden protective rollover bar
  • Next-generation 4-cylinder engines
  • "Openometer" records time spent with roof down
  • Up to 24 cubic feet of cargo space
  • Available in April of 2009
Introduction
Fifty years after the small, economical, and go-kart like Morris Mini-Minor was launched, BMW reinvented the brand and launched its own version of the MINI (all capital letters signify BMW's MINI brand). Mixing updated chassis technology, modern safety advances, and the original Mini's small-car formula, a brand-new MINI "Mk I" was launched in 2001 (2002 model year) as a 3-door hatchback. Four years later, in 2005, the MINI Convertible was launched on the same "Mk I" chassis. The innovative drop-top featured a large convertible cloth roof that folded onto the rear of the chassis (staying true to the original) and a heated glass rear window. Top down, two prominent fixed roll hoops extended from behind the rear seats to protect passengers in the event the vehicle overturned. While an obvious safety benefit, they significantly blocked rear visibility.

An all-new, second-generation "Mk II" MINI Cooper hatchback model debuted in 2007. However, the MINI Cooper Convertible and Cooper S Convertible continued on the original "Mk I" platform through 2008. That changed in early 2009 when MINI presented the all-new "Mk II" Convertible at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. New sheetmetal and powerplants distinguish the old from the new. Notably absent on the new model are the visible rear safety roll bars. For 2009, they are discreetly replaced by a new concealed rollover protection bar which increases outward visibility. The all-new MINI Cooper Convertible is expected in showrooms in April of 2009.

For more information:
Model Lineup
MINI will offer two versions of the 2009 Cooper Convertible: standard and S. Differences between the two are found under the hood and on the equipment lists. The standard Cooper Convertible is offered with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder powerplant. The performance-oriented Cooper S Convertible is fitted with a 1.8-liter powerplant with a twin-scroll turbocharger and sport-tuned appointments. Both Cooper convertibles share the same durable soft top with integrated sliding roof function (it can be partially opened like a traditional sunroof). Differentiating the sporty Cooper S Convertible from the standard Cooper Convertible is the sport suspension, limited-slip differential, aggressive hood scoop, dual chrome tail pipe, sport seats, aluminum foot pedals, and other cosmetic enhancements.

The Cooper convertible's soft top opens automatically in 15 seconds flat-even if the car is in motion up to 20 mph, according to MINI. The automaker is quick to point out that the new convertible offers outstanding versatility with its Easy-Load Function, folding rear-seat backrests, and generously-sized loading area between the luggage and passenger compartments. These combine to increase the convertible's cargo space to nearly 24 cubic feet.


Hardware
Like its fixed-roof siblings, the 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible is available with a choice of two engines. The standard engine, found under the hood of the MINI Cooper Convertible, is a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder developing 118 hp at 6000 rpm and 114 lb.-ft. of torque at 4250 rpm. The more powerful MINI Cooper S Convertible models are equipped with a 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger. Output is rated at 172 hp at 5500 rpm and 177 lb.-ft. of torque at 1600 rpm. Both MINI Cooper engines are mated to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission, the latter equipped with paddle shifters for manual control. According to MINI, the standard MINI Cooper Convertible with an automatic transmission will accelerate to 60 mph in 10.2 seconds. The quickest model is the MINI Cooper S Convertible with the manual transmission. MINI says it will sprint to 60 mph in 7 seconds flat. All MINI Coopers are front-wheel drive.

The Cooper's low center of gravity, long wheelbase, wide track, short body overhangs, and stiff body shell all contribute to the MINI's adept handling, the company says. The front suspension is based on the MacPherson spring/strut principle and features an anti-roll bar to reduce body sway to an absolute MINImum. The central-arm rear axle is unique in this segment-most other manufacturers use a less complex suspension, according to MINI. Front and rear brakes on all models are discs (vented in the front, solid in the rear) with standard anti-lock control.


Safety
The 2009 MINI Cooper Convertible's chassis has been specially reinforced for open-roof duty. According to the manufacturer, the body structure is crash-optimized with a newly conceived floor pan, reinforced A-pillars, and strengthened side sills. Both front-seat occupants are protected by dual-stage deployment "smart" frontal, and seat-mounted head/thorax side impact, air bags. Rear outboard seats are equipped with child seat LATCH anchors. All Cooper Convertibles feature standard run-flat tires, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Corner Brake Control (CBC) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and Dynamic Stability Control (DSC). Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) with Electronic Differential Lock Control (EDLC) to enhance traction under acceleration is optional.

Technology
Addressing outward visibility concerns found on the previous-generation "Mk I" model convertible, MINI has equipped the 2009 "Mk II" convertible with a newly developed electromechanically-operated rollover bar. Situated behind the rear seats, the sturdy bar automatically extends if the Cooper's central safety electronics sense an impending rollover. The innovative safety bar is recessed to allow optimal visibility to the rear and sides of the car. On a less serious subject, the electrohydraulic-powered roof comes with a standard "Openometer." The unique timer records the time spent with the roof down-a frivolous feature, but fun nevertheless.

For more information:
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