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2011 Mini Cooper D Convertible Review First Drive


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2011 MINI Convertible

Mini gets facelift and new diesel engines

By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor
Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channnel

MUNICH, August 3, 2010. Since the market launch of the new Mini, the brand has set many records and is on its way to set a new one. Last month, when we drove the Mini Countryman for the first time, it became clear that Mini is heading towards the sale of 300,000 unites per year. May be not as early as next year, but at least soon after. In 2009 Mini sold 215,000 cars and in the first half of this year 109,000 Mini’s were sold worldwide, an increase of 7.7. per cent compared to the first half of last year.

Recently, the production capacity of the plant in Oxford, UK, has been raised to 260,000 units. Together with the production capacity of 40,000 units of the Magna Steyr plan in Graz, Austria, where the Countryman is built, the total capacity will be 300,000..

In the meantime, Mini has to work hard to maintain its top position in the premium mini -egment, with new comers on the brink, such as the CitroŽn DS3, a French Mini copy. Or the Audi A1, that may not provide the same fun, but will attract premium buyers.

Just in time, Mini comes up with a face lift of the three models that have been on the market so far, the One, the Cabrio and the Clubman. Yesterday, I was one of the first to get behind the wheel of one of the rejuvenated models, the Cooper D Convertible.

This engine variant is the new 4-cylinder BMW 1.6-liter diesel engine that replaces the one that has been developed together with PSA. It is a tweaked variant of the 2.0-liter self burners in the BMW 116d and 118 d, so it fits under the small Mini hood in east-west direction.

Fuel Sipping

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A first look at the specs of the current and new motor, shows that the power output is the same, 82 kW/112 hp at 4,000 rpm. But the new turbo engine produces 270 Nm (199 lb.-ft) of torque, 30 Nm (22 lb.-ft) more than the outgoing one. This improves the acceleration from 0-62 mph with 0.2 seconds to 9.7 s. For the Mini Cooper D that is. The 140 kg (308 lbs) heavier convertible needs only 10.3 seconds.

More important, though, is the fuel efficiency that improves to 3.8 l/km(74.3 mpg) in the combined European cycle. With a CO2-emission of only 99 g/km, you do not have to pay road tax in several European countries, like my own, the Netherlands. How fun can fuel sipping be..?

This diesel engine and the normally aspirated version with 66 kW/90 hp (and the same fuel efficiency and emission) will be available in the Mini One, the Cabrio and the Clubman.

True to its roots

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Even though the sun was hidden behind dark, threatening clouds, I took the Mini out on the road with the top down. It is not difficult to notice the changes compared to the current Cabrio Cooper diesel. There is nothing is wrong with the current PSA-diesel, but the new BMW power plant feels more lively and stronger, especially at lower revs. It delivers smooth performance and its noise level is very low. While driving, you hear no diesel sound. The times are long gone, that diesel engines could not provide a performance feel. In the case of this new variant, the Mini again remains true to its roots of a performance car.

The six speed manual transmission matches the engine well and shifting is easy and quick. With the rev band of 1750 to 2250 for maximum torque, you may also be enjoying the route and be a bit lazy, meaning keeping the transmission in fourth gear and still be able to step on the gas and go for a quick passage on a two lane road. I checked the acceleration from 80-120 km/h at the chronograph on my wrist, reading 7 seconds in third gear.


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Another improvement is the improved torque steering, you do not feel anything at all and steering is quick and precise. Even thought the convertible is a stiff car, there is enough comfort to really feel at ease. My test car stood on 16-inch wheels with run 195/55 R16 flat tyres, an option on all models, except in North America, where run flats are standard.

Mini first: Web radio
It is lovely to be able to drive in the open air, and a few sprinkles would not hurt the interior of the Mini Convertible, but when big rain drops started to come down, the top went up. Upon returning to Mini’s base for the event, the BMW facility at Garching, it is time to park the car and have electronics engineer JŁrgen Woryna explain the functionality of Mini Connected.


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It is a new feature, available for all 2011 models at a price of 250 euro (in Germany). The optimal way to be connected is to have the big 6.5-inch high resolution video screen in the center ‘globe’. In our test car, it comes with the Visual Boost radio and costs 1,450 euro, with navigation it is 1,800 euro and includes audio streaming via Bluetooth. Of course, you need your iPhone, that you plug in under the arm rest in the center console.

As prices for the US have not been announced yet, so we do not know about the options either.


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I can imagine this option will sell well, as Mini Connected is a feature that the extensive Mini Community will love. It provides telecommunication and entertainment, such as Web radio, a first in the industry. I could experience how the basic functions work, but shortly after the market launch, a full version of Mini Connected will be in operation, including possibilities to Twitter, and have messages read by voice output. Or connect to Facebook and receive and send sms messages about traffic jams, for instance..

Furthermore, the Dynamic Music function is implicated in the system. It is a selection of specially composed music that you can play on the audio and of which the rhythm and dynamics change according to your driving style. It allows a driver to use the accelerator and steering wheel to create a sound track matching the go-kart feeling of the car. In the near future, you should not be surprised to see Mini driver in normal traffic wearing a helmet…!

Recognizable

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At the front, the renewed Mini is not easy to recognize. It has a somewhat higher bonnet, necessary to meet the future European pedestrian safety regulations. But that is something you cannot see. Not so prominent either are the new cross-piece under the bumper and the more pronounced housing of the fog lamps, that give a wider impression. To see the differences you will have to put the old and new models next to each other.


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At the rear, it is quite obvious that you see the new Mini. Even when the lights are not switched on, the new LED rear lights and brake lights are the markers for the 2011 models. While in the dark, you really cannot miss them. The Mini and Mini Convertible have four rows of LEDs, two above and two beneath the center light. The units of the Clubman have two beams, because of the narrower housing and they have integrated reflectors, places vertically on the inside, showing only when the doors are open.

The refreshed 2011 models seem to be right in time, since the premium mini-segment gets some new players that will try to rival the iconic modern Mini. But those cars lack the support and loyalty of a huge group of super enthusiast followers world wide. Add to this the face lift, fuel efficient engines and Connected Drive possibilities, and you can see that Mini is three steps ahead of the competition.

On September 18, the renewed 2011 Mini will hit markets world wide. North-America will get it in January.