MINI goes topless

Observer writer

Friday, August 03, 2018

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THE 2018 MINI Cooper Cabrio is big on excitement. With its top down, it opens up a new world of motoring adventure.

From the outside, the MINI Cooper has evolved from its original look, but tweaked to pay homage with design cues to its past and ensure brand recognition. In Cabrio form, the MINI loses its hardtop roof for an electronically adjustable canvas top. Of all the new models, it's the cabriolet that bears the closest appearance to the classic, especially with the roof down. Regardless, the real important factor is not how the MINI looks, but how one looks driving it: the car elicits nothing but attention.

Truth be told, those driving a convertible tend to be more concerned with what's going on inside. Slide into the MINI and the interior ranks way above the $4.7-million asking price. Premium it is, from the supportive seats to the soft-touch materials that cover the various contact elements, to the piano-gloss trimmings. Cabin space ultimately is determined by the size of all four occupants or the compromises all are willing to make with seating position. The rear seats can be used, but the best option is two up, allowing driver and front passenger to spread out in comfort and cover the rear seats with the noise-cancelling cover for when the roof is down.

All the switchgear operates with reassurance, especially the cool toggle switch for start-up. All major functions are powered and automatic, like lights and wipers. They can all just be set and forgotten or operated by physical buttons easily within reach, or through the wonderful MINI infotainment system. Lowering the roof is a one- button, two-stage job. The first press opens just the front half, giving the vehicle a sunroof. Hold it longer while the MINI is stationary or going 18mph or slower and the magic happens — the roof slides effortlessly, bringing the world inside.

Once underway, drivers can relaxingly cruise, soaking up the pleasures of open-air motoring. It doesn't stop there. It's a MINI Cooper, of course, and that means those who enjoy spirited driving can do so while the lowered roof increases the drama exponentially. The 1.5-litre turbocharged engine pulls beyond its 134bhp rating, mostly because it's also blessed with 162lb/ft of torque at 1250rpm. Fortunately, the rest of the car is up to the task. It brakes with assurance and turns with the as advertised go-kart feel. The six-speed automatic gets in on the fast driving game, never getting lost, and is even more spectacular in tiptronic mode, allowing one to indulge his or her inner rally driver.

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