MF Garage: Cold Weather in a JCW Roadster

The nights growing long and the weather is getting cold yet the JCW Roadster continues to soldier on. When we originally pitched the idea to MINI of running a Roadster on longterm, the idea was to see if it was plausible as a year round car. While the snow hasn’t hit the ground yet (in Chicago) we can report that our love affair with the soft top hasn’t slowed.

The rattles remain unabated but the severity isn’t as great as I had expected given the temps – anywhere from 30-45F. The cabin, while not nearly as insulated as a coupe or hatch, does warm up quickly. The combination of heated seats and a robust heating system make the Roadster quickly comfortable. That said a heated steering wheel wouldn’t be out of place on a $45K car. We expect the next MINI to offer this.

I’ve snuck a few open top days in with the temps hovering in the high 30’s and low 40’s. The key is to do it in town and keep the highway time down to a minimum. With that said the car creates a fairly strong warm zone between the seats and the heaters running close to or at full blast. We’ll see how far into winter we can go with this.

Low temps also means low traction on our summer runflats. That should be partially solved when the winters go which should be coming any day. Once in place, our Roadster should be fully ready for a Chicago winter.

On the reliability front all is well as the car just turned 8,000 miles. Beyond the rattles (not uncommon in a relatively simple soft-top convertible) there’s simply no issues to speak of.

  • Gary

    Not a hint of a rattle in my R59 (unless the passenger shoulder belt stop is left down). Perhaps you have a source that has been mitigated in the ’13 models?

    • This is a late 2012.

      • AMS

        What’s rattling? Just the top, while down, like you’ve mentioned before? Or something in the dash?

        • Town up coming from the back.

        • ad

          my march 2012 R59 has a little of that too.

        • AMS

          Has it been to the dealer for a fix? I can’t recall if you’ve mentioned that or not.

      • Gary

        Manual top in the MF test mule? I’m wondering if the linkage in the semi-automatic mechanism (now standard in the ’13s) holds the top securely enough in its stowed position that it prevents the top-down rattle. Or maybe not.

  • nick dawson

    Autocar’s sister publication ‘What Car?’ is running a long-term MINI JCW Coupe, and recently ran a comparison test with a JCW Roadster. This is what they said.

    “The Roadster really loses out to the Coupe. Shedding the roof has lost some structural rigidity, so there’s lots of flex in the Roadster’s body. Add softer suspension and it’s no surprise that it doesn’t handle as crisply as the Coupe, and it doesn’t ride as comfortably, either, despite the different suspension. The amount of wobble you feel through the body on all surfaces means the Roadster never feels totally settled, and motorway (Highway) refinement is poor”.

    I recently had an extended test drive in a Cooper S Coupe, and I have to admit I loved it. I didn’t try a Roadster, but the Sales Manager, a man who looks late thirty something, said that he rarely puts the roof down when driving a Roadster, because if he does it makes him look like a man in mid-life crisis. Enough said!

    • Interesting. They likely didn’t have the cars both equipped with the sport suspension. Both bits about the rigidity and stiffness of the suspension aren’t wrong. But neither is dramatic if both cars are identically equipped. The Roadster has much more reinforcement than the r57 convertible and in fact doesn’t feel like any convertible I’ve ever driven outside of an Elise. Using the term “wobble” feel a bit misguided.

      • AMS

        I’m all for sportiness and all, but given that ever MINI I’ve driven feels plenty sporty for everyday use, I’m hesitant to order the Sport suspension for fear of getting something too harsh for the real world.

        Was “What Car?” suggesting that the Soprt suspension was actually MORE comfortable?

        • I wouldn’t pay mind what they’re recommending given their conclusions. I would go for sport and then ditch the run flats adding a tire compressor kit.

    • Sound like a really insecure person, if you ask me. Drive what YOU want to drive.

      • AMS

        NOT driving something because people might think you’re uncool is every bit as douchey as driving something because you hope they’ll think you’re cool.

  • birddog2

    My MCS Roadster ( purchased in Mar 12) has NO rattles and handles flatter than my 09 R56 did. The top, when up, does creak and groan but the body is quieter than the 09 R56. At 73, I’m past worrying about a”mid-life” crisis, so the top goes down at any reasonable temperature.

  • Dr Obnxs

    I had a Fiat 124 Spider in Rochester, NY for a winter. The key to drop tops in winter is to have good gloves, a good hat, and a great heater. The 124s heater worked GREAT. If it was sunny out, the top would be down and I’d be fine, down to 12 deg. (Lower than that, the starter couldn’t crank the engine in the morning!) I’ve driven the Fiat through blizzards, ice storms, and snow that litterally shocked the local. Oh, and I needed 200 lbs of kitty litter in the trunk to get traction…. And it didn’t even have heated seats!

    Really, it’s possible and fun to run a ragtop in foul weather. If the top seals well, then rain isn’t even a problem. It really is more of a lifestyle choice than one of “can it be done?” Really, the soft tops and hard tops have very similar (to identical) suspensions and drivetrains, so there is little surprise that they will behave the same. All the difference is in the cabin.

    Older drop tops had huge problems with the weatherstripping being leak free. That’s what usually relegates the cars to fair weather driving. But the engineering for the tops is getting much better, and they are much tighter now, so that’s less and less of a problem.

    It’s a fun way to go, a convertible in winter, as long as it’s tight. And some of the looks that one gets when it’s 20 degrees out, and you’re tooling around with the top down on one of those beautiful clear, cold winter days, are priceless indeed! Have all the fun you can!

  • ad

    I agree the roadster cabin does warm up really quickly.. I’m looking forward to Chicago flurries with the top down!