BY Owen Bergwall, Green Car & Technology Contributor What new sedan…
The weather gods had been kind, gifting us a long weekend full of cloudless skies, bright sun and low humidity. Such weather lends itself to dropping the top on a vehicle like the 2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible. And drop the top we did – morning, noon, and night.
MINI’s mid-range ragtop starts at a reasonable $29,600 but easily makes the jump to $39,600. Our fully loaded tester came swathed in Melting Silver Metallic (only a $500 upgrade), which paired perfectly with supple Chesterfield leather in a cognac shade (worth the extra $1,750) and diamond-stitched sport seats. Tack on $4,750 more and our MINI convertible got the full works (well, not the John Cooper Works…), which included the Premium, Sport, Technology with Navigation, and Wired packages.
At first glance
The MINI Cooper S Convertible may be larger than all of its predecessors, but its design still rings true to the British brand’s vehicles of yesteryear.
Sixteen-inch alloy wheels are standard on this MINI; the Sport package swaps those out for 17-inch propeller spoke wheels, which, if you ask us, totally makes the car. A MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension add refinement to the sporty ride.
The power-folding soft top – just one element that keeps this MINI reminiscent of the original – opens and closes in less than 20 seconds. We appreciated the option to partially open the cabriolet top, revealing a sunroof without having to put the top all the way down.
Visibility can be a bit awkward with the top folded down. The way that the top rests on the back of the car can impede with visibility via the rearview mirror. But the side mirrors are large enough – and, of course, the top is open – so you can see what’s around you. The Technology package no doubt helps with this, too, adding a rearview camera and Park Distance Control (sensors that help you know when you’re getting too close to an object).
Inside, the cockpit feels plush yet durable. Both driver and front passenger are given plenty of elbowroom. And most importantly, it feels safe.
Our only disappointment was that the seats weren’t ventilated. In a vehicle where you’re exposed to the elements, a little cool air blowing on your backside would be a welcome addition in future versions. Our favorite feature? The interactive LED center instrument ring that changes color based on several actions that the driver takes.
In the trunk, if you can figure it out, is an adjustment bar so that you can store larger items by pushing the bottom of the ragtop upward. It’s a bit tricky to maneuver at first, but once you figure it out, it can come in quite handy for hauling your Costco scores. The 60/40 rear folding seats also prove helpful for carrying cargo.
Also, MINI’s Cooper S Convertible has plenty of tech for those who want it. The Technology Package adds a rearview camera, Park Distance Control, real-time traffic information and MINI Connected XL, which is a touchpad controller that recognizes handwritten gestures. Looking to call “Mom” from your address book? Simply draw the letter “M” with your index finger and this touchpad will pull up everyone in your contacts whose name starts with that letter.
The MINI Cooper S Convertible comes stock with a 6-speed Getrag manual transmission. We hardly missed the M/T in our tester thanks to the sprightly driving experience the Sport automatic trans provided, not to mention the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters (which we actually used).
Don’t let the 2.0-liter TwinPower turbo four-cylinder engine fool you. Its BMW engine does well to propel this cute convertible to 60 mph in just 6.7 seconds (in the A/T) with 189 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque. That doesn’t seem especially impressive by the numbers. But this MINI is quick.
The Cooper S vert also comes stock with three drive modes — sport, green, and mid — plus corresponding copy such as “Let’s Motor!” and coordinating lighting to indicate which one you’ve chosen. The traditionally British brand does well to make the driving and riding experience fun and light-hearted.
Would we buy it?
If we had a modest budget to put toward a car that would keep us smiling when the sun’s shining, the MINI Cooper S Convertible would certainly be on our list. My husband wanted to be in this car as much as I did. We found as many reasons as possible to take this car to run errands, to go on joy rides, and just to drop the top as much as possible.
The MINI Cooper S Convertible has plenty of pep in its step. We regularly received compliments at stoplights on its design and fun-loving appearance. Whether zooming around corners or challenging nearby cars on a straightaway, this is a car that is simply pure joy to drive and experience.
MINI does well to create an environment in the cabin that truly embodies the brand’s reputation for a spirited driving experience. At $40,000 fully loaded, it’s not an inexpensive member of the family fleet; we can vouch that the MINI Cooper S Convertible is more practical than one might imagine.
Given the price, we were pleased with the luxury features such as power-folding mirrors, upgraded leather, heated front seats, automatic heated front seats, satellite radio, Harman/Kardon premium sound system, and ambient lighting.
MINI purists may view this car as imperfect, but the spirit of the original Cooper S lives on in this modern interpretation of MINI’s convertible. Everything from the propeller-style wheels to the still-round headlamps to the circular features inside the cockpit screams MINI.