Our JCW Roadster arrived just in time for Todd, DB and Axel to bask in the sun during MINI Takes the States earlier this year. But our real test wouldn’t begin until late August, starting with a call that the car was in Chicago and ready for it’s day-to-day duty.
2,000 miles later it’s safe to say the Roadster has been one of the best MINI experiences we’ve ever had. Until we literally hit some issues earlier this week.
Before we get to that, it’s worth reiterating that the Roadster has been a fantastic daily driver. Its ride is the best sport suspension equipped MINI I’ve ever driven. On broken Chicago roads anyone coming from a first generation MINI would likely consider it comfortable – not a word used with MINIs historically. But that doesn’t mean it’s not quick-witted and eager to please in the corners.
While it may not corner entirely flat, the Roadster is easy to modulate and control up to the limit. Lacking the lift-off oversteer it’s not quite as entertaining at the limit as the Coupe (or a properly specced hatch), but it’s plenty fun thanks to the surprisingly rigidity it offers over just about any other open-top car
The top has been down pretty much every minute it hasn’t been raining since getting it delivered to Chicago. And for those who have never experienced open-top motoring, it’s nothing less than a revelation coming from years of tin-top cars. It turns any commute, road-trip or errand into a visceral experience. And with the weather turning colder, the heat blasting and the seat warmers on full, it’s an exceptional way to see fall foliage as we did last weekend throughout the Midwest.
MPG has been steady in the high 20s despite commuting in the Roadster every day. Which begs the question – what other sporty convertible out there can offer the thrills of the MINI Roadster with such impressive MPG numbers? And this car isn’t a 2013 which should get at least 10-15% better numbers than our 2012 without the updated JCW Valvetronic engine.
And it all came to a thunderous end last week. Traveling home in the dark, driving rain it happened. I saw it but given the wall to the left, the cars to the right and the wet conditions, I couldn’t make a move either way. So I hit it. What exactly I’m still not sure, but it was massive and immediately blew the right front tire and bent both front wheels. In hindsight I suspect it was something metal and likely freshly deposited off the bed of an 18-wheeler. But whatever it was the Roadster’s run flats immediately became a blessing as I made my way home without missing a beat.
Seconds after the hit I used the MINI’s built-in system to call MINI Roadside assistance where a very helpful operator scheduled to flatbed the car the moment I got home. Minutes later I was helping load up our battle-scarred R58 onto the flatbed of the nicest towing driver I’ve ever met in my life. Maybe it was the Roadster because he couldn’t stop talking about how great it looked on his truck. I thought opposite.
It’s been three days and I’m still gutted. Any time you hit debris you can’t help but take the blame. Could I have seen it? Could I have swerved? In this case both are pretty unlikely but I can’t help but feeling awful for giving this happy little car its first battle scars.