Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: Mini’s Latest Cooper S Convertible

Luxury Living Tampa Bay

I’m feeling a little Union Jacked right now. Which is the warm, fuzzy, Cool Britannia sensation you get from driving a Mini.

Maybe I should immediately pop out for a spot of tea with a plate of soggy cucumber sandwiches. Add in a few rock-hard scones with clotted cream. Finish it off with a pint of warm beer.

Yes, I agree; sounds totally disgusting.

Mini, of late, has been embracing its Britishness more than ever. A result, methinks, of someone at the company binge-watching way too many episodes of Downton Abbey on the telly.

Take the jolly old Mini Cooper S Convertible I’ve been piloting. This thing is bedecked with more fluttering Union Jack flags than Buckingham Palace on the Queen’s birthday.

The entire cloth roof is one niftily embroidered Union Jack. Those oversized taillights? You guessed it; elements of the beloved flag.

And the “crowning” glory — excuse the pun; a section of the dashboard rendered in illuminating elements of the royal drapeau.

All pretty cool for a Brit like myself. Potentially less appealing if you hail from Wesley Chapel.

But whether you’re from Birmingham, Alabama, or Birmingham, England, it’s hard not to fall for the charms of this fun-loving drop-top, motorized rollerskate.

For starters, it’s so darned cute. Cuter than Kiera Knightley in Pride & Prejudice. Cuter than Paul McCartney in the Beatles’ floppy hair-do days.

I still love those big, round saucer-like headlights, enhanced for 2019 with a ring of bright-white LEDs. Love that short stubby nose that was surely styled from Twiggy’s.

As a convertible, it’s just brilliant, as we say in the Olde Country. It zooms open in around 14 seconds and at speeds up to 30mph. Perfect when you’re in the mood to go topless just when the red light goes to green.

And it has a party piece, in that you don’t need to power back the entire top to get some rays. The section over the front seats whirrs back independently, just like a sunroof.

With the side windows raised and the optional wind-blocker in place, cruising, at least for those in the front seats, is surprisingly turbulence-free. Not like some droptops where 75mph feels like standing behind Concorde on takeoff.

And you’ll love the cabin with its retro flight-deck feel. There’s that big, pizza-sized round display for the nav and infotainment system, and those old-school chrome switches. Very groovy.

While you could never call the cabin big, there are four seats, though anyone sitting in the back won’t last more than 10 minutes without complaining. Perfect, however, for a quick trip to dinner, or a run to the beach.

Best to fold the back seats flat and open up the space to the teeny trunk.

Power for this feisty Cooper S comes from a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 189-hp and 207 lb-ft of torque.

A six-speed stick shift comes standard, but for Florida driving the optional ($1,500) six-speed automatic is a better choice.

Combined, they give the super-Cooper the kind of zippy, lively, playful performance that’s guaranteed to put a Ricky Gervais-style grin on your face.

Keep it in the “sport” driving mode, and the steering feels even more precise, the engine even more eager, and the handling even more go-kart-like.

You can get into a base Mini Convertible for around $27,000, though that’s with the smaller three-cylinder engine.

The bigger-engined Cooper S kicks off at around $31,000, though our well-equipped tester, with navigation, automatic transmission, and fancy Harman Kardon audio topped out at a lofty $41,450.

As a fun convertible for releasing your inner Austin Powers? Yeah baby!

Test drive the new Mini Cooper S Convertible at Ferman Mini of Tampa Bay in Clearwater, and Mini of Wesley Chapel.

Photos by Howard Walker

 

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