Day Three with the MCS Convertible

Yes, the convertible MINI is not as rigid as the hardtop. Yes, the integrity of the chassis is compromised by cutting off the roof. No, it's not going to bother most in typical road use. However putting the MCSc through the daily rigors that are Chicago roads I've found the car will shake and shudder in ways that you never thought a MINI would. Granted this shouldn't really come unexpected… with any car that you cut the roof off of you'll get body flex where there once was none. However it's important to fully understand that this will rear it's head in daily driving. Especially if you live where the roads aren't glass smooth.

For those wondering about the ride. I've found it to be much more compliant and comfortable than in my '02 Cooper with optional Sports Suspension Plus. In fact I'm really amazed at the recent LA Times review that just railed on the car for being too rough. First off it's a MINI, it should be biased towards ultimate handling, not comfort. Secondly the MINI Cooper S convertible only comes with the Sport Suspension and not the SS+ that is standard on the hardtop MCS and optional on the MC. This gives the car a much more relaxed and comfortable feel on some of Chicago's worst roads. Bumps that would typically make me cringe and grip the wheel tight are non-events in this car. Perhaps the writer had just gotten back from testing a Beetle Convertible…

But that brings up a good question regarding the suspension. I recently asked a friend at MINI why SS+ isn't at least an option on the MCSc. It seems that the Sports Suspension quells much more abuse from the road and in turn transmits less into the body structure. And since the rigidity of body structure on the convertible isn't near what the coupe is, engineers had to compromise somewhere. So the simple answer is yes, it's more compliant than the standard MCS. However I would assume our friendly auto journalist that reviewed the car for the LA Times mistook cowl shake and body shudder for a harsh ride. Granted these things would amplify poor roads but they wouldn't make the ride any harsher. I'll have more on that cowl shake and rigidity later…

  • Verb

    Gabe,

    How does the difference between the Mini Cooper S coupe and convertible compare to the differences between other sport-oriented cars that are offered both ways (Audi TT/A4, BMW 3 Series, Corvette, Mustang)? I'm going out on a limb and assuming you don't exclusively drive Minis.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    It's similar to the BMW 3 Series or TT but I think there's more of a pronounced difference because of the MINIs stiff ride and ultra rigid structure. So the difference may be amplified just a bit.

  • Damon

    I have owned several convertibles, 62 corvair (great car), 91 Miata (great car), 94 Chrysler Lebaron (ok car at the time) and 2001 S2000 (terrible car). They tend to loosen up and develop rattles as the years go by and milage racks up. Just the nature of a ragtop. I wonder how the MINI will fair. The tailgate and releasable rear portion of the top and the sunroof areas are all potential problems for squeaks and rattles and groans.

    No way to tell until some get some milage. My 2002 Cooper with 39000 miles has numerous little noises and in general feels much looser and older than our 2004 MCS. The difference between age, milage and continuous refinement by MINI.

  • TJKonarski

    Damon: The S2000 a “terrible car”? I drove a year 2000 S2000 for 3 years. I loved it and every minute of driving it. (And I drove it as my full-time car, year 'round.) I never had a squeek, rattle or any compromising problem that derived from the fit and finish. (I never had any problem of any kind, for that matter. It was one of the best built cars I've owned — Then again, it was a Honda.) And I'm in SE Michigan which is known for having some of the worst roads and highways in the country. But then again, I'm a fanatic about my cars and kept it in pristine tip-top condition at all times.

    I wish your experience with your S2000 was as wonderful as mine. You somehow missed out on the pure joy of a great car.

  • SuperCharged

    Gabe, I know this is a bit off the topic, but if you add a sunroof to a hardtop does it compromise handling/rigidy at all?

    SC

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    Not really in everyday use.

  • http://homepage.mac.com/michael_e_maddox Mike Maddox

    I have to second Gabe's observation about the more compliant suspension in the MCSC. I had an 03 MCS, and the difference in my 05 MCSC is quite stark. I must say, however, that I enjoy the more compilant suspension in every day driving.

    I also have to comment on the tires. My MCSC came shot with Dunlop's, and they're much better than the Pirelli's on the 03. MINI recommends 38 psi, but I find 36 psi yields a much more agreeable ride.

  • scooblymonchee

    Ooh… sounds like Gabe is winding up to slam the MCSC pretty hard. Actually, I think he already has. Can't wait to hear more about the terrible cowl shake and the overall lack of rigidity.

    Good to know Motoringfile is not just an extension of the Mini marketing machine. I was starting to get worried…

  • Little Bastard

    Gabe, Had a 61 vette that I drove topless, unless it was raining or snowing too hard to see. Just finished four days with an MC w/SS and 16's as loaner. Loved evey f*ing minute! Ride was considerably better than my 2002 MCS with 17's, as expected. Were it not for the recent JCW kit, Hurst/BM shifter and other “karmic” attachments, I would be swayed to purchase a 2005 MCSC/JCW. And the 17's. And I would just accept the fact that ragtops are going rattle a bit more than coupes. Period. But, I do like em' a little quieter nowadays and the sunroof is comparable, so I'll just stay were I'm at, grinnig all the while.

  • http://www.motoringfile.com/ Gabe

    scooblymonchee – I'm not planning on trashing it… it's just that I want people to be aware of the inherent qualities of a convertible and how they differ from the hardtop. I don't think I'm going to say anything that aren't some of the downsides to every convertible.

    And no… MotoringFile isn't some extension of MINI's marketing machine. I can promise you that. Just take a look at the hood rubbing story we had two years ago. That cost them plenty :)

  • Benjamin

    What about that cowl shake followup? I tested a MSCS from Universal City MINI and test drove it in the pothole laden, steel plate covered streets of Cahuenga Blvd in North Hollywood. The interior rearview mirrow was shimmying and rattling like you wouldn't believe. Forget about crossing any railroad tracks that is not leveled with the road!