2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible

Detroit - especially in snowy January - may seem like an odd venue to launch the new 2009 Mini Cooper Convertible - until you look at the facts...

First, Minis sell well - really well in America. U.S. Sales of the cheeky retro compact soared to over 58,000 units in 2008, which is approximately twenty-five percent of all Minis sold last year. The U.S. warrants some attention, then, but the (sunny) Los Angeles Auto Show - which would have been a logical place to launch the car - played host to the electric Mini E's unveiling. We suppose those at BMW/Mini could have waited until the Chicago or New York auto shows, but given Mini's history with the Detroit show (the brand was launched here in 2001), the Motor City venue seems to fit. Or not.

Those are a lot of technicalities, and so too is calling the debut of the Cooper Convertible a "world debut." Yes, this is the world's first look at the revised ragtop, but the bulk of the revisions appeared on the refreshed 2007 Cooper and Cooper S coupes, leaving the 2007 and 2008 convertibles riding on outdated mechanicals.

Though the 2009 revisions incorporate a host of physical changes, enthusiasts will perhaps focus on the new powertrain. The Cooper Convertible gains a 118-hp, 1.6-liter I-4, while a 172-hp, turbocharged 1.6-liter I-4 is fitted to the Cooper S Convertible. Both engines are more powerful than their predecessors, though enthusiasts may bemoan the demise of the Cooper S' supercharged 1.6-liter I-4 - especially when it comes down to turbo lag.

Once the top is dropped, you'll notice the revised rollover protection system - it's now flush with the rear seatback and extends only once the car detects unstable conditions. It's a bit of a cosmetic change, but it may inspire drivers to lower the top more frequently. That change will be noted on what Mini calls an "Openmeter," a dash-mounted gauge that records how long the car's driven in its open state.

Mini says such gimmickry is to inspire drivers to lower the top in all climates, but be forewarned: doing so in wintry Detroit may have you resembling this duo...

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