Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins
Welcome to LA boys and girls where the social elite come out to play 24/7 sporting some of the “flyest” rides the city has to offer. Overcrowded, yes! But the nonstop fun in the sun is more than enough to make up for it. Especially when you’re visiting from cold, icy East Coast conditions like myself to experience the all-new 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible, a vehicle that will continue to defy labels for the sporty, little auto brand.
Fresh off the heels of the larger Clubman launch in December, MINI is following up with another example of their growing lineup for the multitude of diverse personas across the globe. You did see their Super Bowl 50 commercial spot correct? If not give it a view to understand the marketing path they are treading down for 2016. This is one of the reasons they chose Los Angeles for the launch of the MINI Convertible. The character of the city is super “MINI” friendly and the beautiful weather allows for “sunny side up” MINI motoring. Since the temperature was magnificent in California best believe I received my fair amount of Vitamin D after dropping the cloth top in 18 seconds (can react when driving up to speeds of 18 mph.)
Backed by BMW since they took offer the company in 2001, the premium drop-top will be offered in two models when it goes on sale in March, the 2016 MINI Cooper Convertible starting at $25,950 and the 2016 MINI Cooper S Convertible commencing at $29,600. A high-energy rendition will hit the scene in April in the form of the peppy 2017 MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) Convertible (228 horsepower 2-liter, 4-cylinder) at $35,600. The JCW is uplifted with Brembo brakes, an emotional exhaust system, sports suspension, 17” alloy rims and a 6.6-second 0 to 60 mph time. In LA, MINI provided the Cooper S models for media groups to drive. Power comes from a 4-cylinder, 2-liter engine with TwinPower Turbo Technology and 189-horsepower which is paired with either the 6-speed Steptronic transmission with large paddle shifters on the thick, performance-oriented steering wheel or the 6-speed manual with rev-matching. The base Cooper Convertible gets down with a 3-cylinder, 1.5-liter TwinPower Turbo Technology engine with 134-horsepower.
“The new Convertible has all of the legendary driving performance you expect in a MINI yet with interior materials and finishes which set a new benchmark for the segment,” said Patrick McKenna, Department Head, Product Planning, MINI USA. “Now with the addition of the John Cooper Works variant we have once again set the bar high for the rest of the premium convertible market by offering a high performance open-top driving experience.”
From the chic Line Hotel in Korea Town we headed out in a fleet of Caribbean Aqua and Melting Silver Cooper S Convertibles. MINI optimized all features specific to the convertible aspect of the vehicle and paid special attention to the black soft top and its hardware which mimics the lines of the coupe. A “Union Jack” top is possible from the MINI Yours catalogue to pay homage to the British marque. With dual, center pipes (S), black body cladding, an entourage of unique 15” to 18” rims, “thick, stitched, mechanical, sporty, leather seats (with manual thigh extenders) and overall increased dimensions from the prior generation (longer, wider and taller), this new MINI is the truth. Its amplified proportions deliver more interior space to both the passengers and the luggage compartment, which has been augmented by a whopping 25%. FYI, the trunk door opens from the top down and lays flat like the tailgate on a pickup truck.
At cruising speeds the “small wonder” feels light and peppy, not heavy and numb. However, it’s very unyielding at lower speeds but becomes loose and sways at higher speeds. The cockpit is busy with loads of buttons and switches like a plane cockpit. Steering and power felt good and the MINI Head-Up Display helped keep my eyes dead ahead. The convertible’s center stack is dominated by either the “Cyclops” themed 6.5” circular MINI Connected infotainment system or the optional 8.8” XL version. It includes your music, navigation, Convertible Rain Warner feature, rear-view camera, etc and is operated by the MINI Controller (similar to BMW’s iDrive). A 410-watt harmon-kardon audio system and WiFi add a bit more cool to the convertible as does the logo lighting onto the ground next to the door when you approach the vehicle with key in hand.
You can ride with the top down, up or partially up. Yep, MINI actually designed a fabric sunroof within the framework. It’s pretty neat. The only downside to this insulated and acoustically designed top is that it has a serious blind spot over your right shoulder when the top is up and rear visibility is decreased when the top is down since it sits stacked and not fully embedded inside the vehicle. I really felt uncomfortable switching to the right lane in heavy traffic. But the fully integrated roll-over protection system is embedded and hidden from view.
Various optional packages include the Technology Package, Sport Package for the Cooper S, Sport Package for the Cooper and the Premium Package. Technologies such as Pedestrian Collision and Forward Collision Warning, Active Cruise Control and Park Distance Control make you feel like you’re in a BMW Series!
My drive partner and I road around LA from Woodland Hills, through Malibu and Santa Monica and down to the Airport area. Easy parking, go-kart agility, first-rate amenities, comfort seating and open-air motoring summed up the drive experience. It was a true sunny side up delight!