Oh blimey! The Mini Cooper S hits India

The Queen’s favourite runabout has just lost its top, so of course we would notice. Apparently, it’s lost none of its raunchiness!

Unless you’re Benjamin Button, it’s nature's law that everything must grow with age.

The Mini brand has received so much adulation over the decades from its fans that the brand is almost a breathing entity. So naturally, it kept growing with every new iteration and this time, it’s put on inches along its length, track width and wheelbase making it more practical than ever without sacrificing its ‘woof woof’ appeal.  This new convertible model has a soft-top that, for the first time is completely automated and can transform itself in 18 seconds with minimal input from your digits. There’s  more good news...

The India-bound Convertible will only come in the Cooper S guise, which is the real deal. Not the distilled diesel or the cocky Countryman nonsense. But like every well-behaved Mini, it comes in bare bones spec and relies on your bank balance and creativity to make it the genuine child of flower-power parents. 

Fire breathing, micro monster

In its native Cooper S form, the twin-scroll turbo 4 cylinder motor churns out a respectable 189bhp and is always eager to sprint forward and bite the back of that autorickshaw. If you want to ensure that errant driver gets treated for a Bulldog bite, pony up another couple of lacs for the John Cooper Works kit which amps up the power, noise and fun quotient. In fact, it comes with a quirky little Bluetooth remote that opens up the butterfly valves in the exhaust to cause a ruckus every time your right foot feels a little heavy.

And even during lift off, it sounds like fireworks and given the Mini’s amiable character, its so out of place that it’s worth the extra cash just to see the looks on people’s faces when you drive by. Anger, amusement and bewildered are emotions you’ll get used to coming your way. 

Road legal racing lines

Those go-faster bonnet stripes and the air duct isn’t just for show. The Mini Convertible has the go too. The butterfly valves on the exhaust open during a quick shift and scare off lesser puppies in the wake.

It’s typical go-kart like handling hasn’t changed, even with the 100kgs of added weight due to chassis stiffening of the open bodyshell. 

Wearing it proudly

A tasteful Union Jack pattern is embossed on to the special fabric soft-top if you’re a Yes Man to her highness. You can further opt for customised door locks, trim fittings, floor mats...virtually anything that can be made to look

Although not as elaborate on some luxury cars, the HUD on the Mini is a little pop-up screen right in the driver’s field of vision, behind the instrument cluster showing info like speed, maps etc. It’s actually quite distracting on our roads which require you to be on 110% alert at all times, and not just by looking ahead of you! An option that costs more than a lakh, this 12-speaker Harman Kardon system is worth it though. It keeps up with the pop and cackles from the exhaust and makes the drive even more engaging. It’s not the last word in bass definition or spaciousness but it does sound adequately detailed and goes loud without resorting to distortion

Not many automotive brands can pull off such cheekiness. But Mini can. The ‘Always Open’ meter calculates how much time you have spent driving with the top down. Worth getting a sunburn for! If you’ve checked the right options on the long list, you get a dial around the gear shift for Sport or Green. The ride is on the stiffer side but handles our roads well unless it’s a deeper rut. Green is well, just plain boring. 

Convertibles seldom retain the driving DNA of their hardtop siblings but the Mini engineering elves have done a stellar job in hiding the additional 100kgs of weight over the 3-door coupe. It’s as stiff, as rapid and even darts into corners like a go-kart inspired Mini should. But it is a very, very expensive toy.

Ultimately the new Mini Convertible is a brilliantly conceived small convertible that is so high on the fun quotient, it almost justifies its high price tag of ₹34.90 lacs. Almost.