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2009 Cabrio Debuts NAIS

2009 Cabriolet World Debut at NAIS Detroit 
MINI's newest ragtop puts fun back into top down motoring!

posted January 9, 2009

by Peter D. DuPre, Editor-In-Chief
photos courtesy BMW/MINI

       After what has seemed like an inordinately long time, MINI has finally introduced their new R57 Cabriolet, with the World Debut taking place at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.
The all-new design brings the convertible MINI more in line with the thematic stylings of the R56 coupe but, nonetheless, features a number of new and unique features.  Of particular interest are the motorized top and the addition of the “always open timer” gauge to the steering column, left of the tach.
      While the roof design hasn’t really changed, the electro-hydraulic top has a standard sliding, “sunroof” feature that allows the driver to raise/lower the top in just 15 seconds - while the car is moving at speeds up to 20 mph!  It’s a feature that will be appreciated by anyone who has encountered a sudden downpour while pulling away from a stoplight or has been traveling in heavy traffic next to a loud and smoky vehicle.
       As for the “always open timer,” or Openometer, as MINI calls it… well, let’s just say it is a fun piece of fluff that logs the amount of top-down motoring the driver accomplishes.  It’s a completely useless piece of equipment, but it ties in nicely with the corporate ad campaign and it adds a fun factor to top down motoring that was previously deficient from the sport.
     Also adding to open air enjoyment is the elimination of the chromed, hoop-type roll bars that ruined the otherwise attractive lines of the previous model.  Instead, the new R57 utilizes a “pop up” rollover  protection system similar to that found in the BMW 3-series. This not only cleans up the lines of the vehicle, it improves rearward visibility for the driver and adding a whole new dimension of enjoyment to the open air driving experience for back seat adventurers. Plus, an improved wind buffeting protection system keeps drafts away from front seat occupants. Bravo on both counts!
     Apart from the “pop up” rollover protection system, overall crash worthiness of the R57 is much improved, with a redesigned floorpan, stiffer body structure and reinforced A-pillars and side-sills. The result is that the car rides and handles better; torsioning is substantially reduced and the vehicle feels more “planted.” Best of all, these safety improvements are achieved with a reduction in vehicle weight by 22 lbs,  so more cargo can be carried. Other safety features include 3-point inertia-reel seat belts for all seating positions, front airbags, head/thorax airbags for rear seat passengers, rollover sensing monitor, and run-flat tires with tire pressure monitoring system.
     Another great new feature is the fold-flat rear seat that allows a pass through from the luggage area, expanding cargo capacity to 23 cu ft. Also featured is the new Easy-Load Cargo boot lid that opens almost and has a finished inside so you can slide packages into the cargo area.
     Like the coupe, the new ragtop comes with the standard, 118 hp, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine (Cooper) or the optional 172 hp, 1.6-liter 4-cylinder twin-scroll turbocharged engine (S models). Transmission choice is between the standard 6-speed manual and an optional 6-speed automatic available on both models.
Although the new convertible won’t be available until the end of March, orders can be placed through your local MINI dealer. MSRP for the Cooper Convertible is $24,550 and $27,450 for the Cooper S (prices include a $650 delivery fee).  If you’ve got a hankering for some quality top-down motoring this summer, place your order for the new ragtop soon. As it was with the Clubman, a backlog of orders is expected.

Our staff is going to Europe for early road test of the R57, and we will be printing a full review on the new cabrio in the March-April 2009 issue. You won't want to miss this first road test of the all new ragtop, but you have to be a subscriber to get in on the early info!
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To learn more about the new MINI Cabrio, click here.