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Report From The Street!

Why should the Rich Guys get all of The Fun?     

    If you have a budget of $80,000 for a car there are cars available that will give sports car speed and handling, 4 passenger seating and a roof that disappears with the push of a button. Mercedes makes several models that will fill this prescription, but they all come with that gentleman’s price tag. For about the same price as the AMG engine upgrade on a new Mercedes you can pick up a 2005 Mini cooper S convertible. A fully loaded Cooper S convertible with premium paint stereo and leather seating will set you back about $27,000. For this you get a car that might appear a little toy like sitting next to a Lincoln navigator, but that’s exactly the point, the Mini is a complete hoot to drive while driving a Navigator is like trying to shop in Wal-Mart while pushing a double wide baby stroller, it’s doable, but unless you absolutely have to, why try?

     Couple of years ago when the Mini first hit the U.S. car scene I liked its looks but there wasn’t quite enough of a total mind bending product experience to put the Mini into the category of really desirable car. There was nothing wrong with the initial Mini but if you are only going to own one car is it going to be a Mini? What makes the Mini convertible a completely different animal is that the Mini always got lots of intention, but you sit so close to the ground that pedestrians only see the roof of your car. What the convertible does is it puts you in the middle of the action, the Mini’s overall dimensions are 661/2 inches wide and 1433/4 inches long, that makes it 21 inches shorter then a VW Golf and 2 inches narrower. With a curb weight of 2848 lbs it is 80 lbs heaver then the Golf so it has a very rock solid feel. Unlike those Chevy Metros this car gets out of its own way with a 0 to 60 time of 6.5 seconds. The brakes aren’t lightening quick but maybe that a good thing not to stop short if an Alpha Hummer or Winnebago is right behind you.

   What makes the Mini different from other convertibles is you sit more upright and the windshield is rather forward, much more then other convertibles, and this leads to an unequalled open air effect. This is one car you really could blow dry your hair by taking it up to 65 mph on the freeway.

   BMW was able to give this car a scaled down M3 feeling by putting the tires literally at the corners. They supercharged the 1.6 liter in line four engine to produce 168 horsepower and equipped the car with195/55R-16 tires. 16 inch tires don’t sound big; now imagine them on a Mini. There are optional 17 inch wheels for a well spent $600. The ride is firm and you sit lower to the ground then anything other then a sports car, this does lead to a driver engaged effect that is only heightened even more, when the roof is down.

There are three really neat features associated with the Mini convertible; first the roof comes with a sunroof feature where it peels back like a shower curtain about a foot, an operation the roof will perform at speeds up to 75 mph. Second when the roof is down the backseat becomes amazingly easy to get into. This is no small feature; many two door cars that are this spacious have virtually no way to get to the backseats because it’s just too hard to access them through the front doors. Thirdly owning a convertible is really cool. According to Forbes magazine only 2 % of the cars sold in 2004 world wide were convertible.

   If you are wondering about real competition for the Mini the only cars that come to mind are the BMW M3 convertible at $56k and the Mercedes CLK 350 convertible which is a little cheaper at $54k. If you are wondering about the new Beetle convertible, it’s just not quite there yet. I won’t argue that the Bug is not as cute; in fact at the auto show they displayed The VW Beetle Ragster that was way too cool. But on the performance level it just isn’t there, the beetle 0-60 time is 9.1 seconds which is 2 and 1/2 seconds slower then the Mini. In fact of all the examples of the retro era no other car more closely captures the spirit of the original, the original Beetle felt small, was rear engine and was cheap. The original Mini was the car that you could put three across in a two car garage and with a 2005 Mini you still can.

  There are a couple of drawbacks to the Mini convertible, visibility suffers towards the rear, and with the roof down, you only have a hand bag sized 4 cubic foot trunk. You do gain two cubic feet when the roof is up, so either way you have to learn to travel light, but besides these two, maybe unavoidable blemishes, this car rocks.

<< Return to Pro Auto Transport .com's Report from the Street articles on cars.
Other articles on BMW Cars:
° Bavarian Dream Machine BMW M5
° BMW’s New Math, M3 Times Two Equals M6

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