Friday, January 11, 2008

Tintop or Ragtop?

We can’t really help you much with your decision if you’re trying to decide whether to buy the MINI Cooper coupe or the MINI Cooper convertible, often referred to as tintops and ragtops by motoring enthusiasts. BMW has done an excellent job of engineering body stiffness into the MINI Cooper convertible so it won’t rattle and shake over rough roads and railroad crossings, so the convertible will be just as good as the hardtop on backroad tours. Also, there’s a lot to be said about being able to look up at the mountains or redwoods when you’re driving that scenic byway, instead of craning your neck to peak at them through the windshield.
However, the convertible does have some blindspots when the soft top is up that you wouldn’t have with the hardtop. That can make it a bit less safe in heavy traffic, or when backing up. More important, most track day activities and some autocross events won’t allow a ragtop to run because it offers less protection in the unlikely event of a roll-over. So if you’re thinking seriously about high-speed and timed events in your MINI future, the hardtop might be the better choice.
The real question is where you’re going to be driving. If your home base is blessed with temperate weather all year around, you’ll be able to get a lot of driving time with the top down. On the other hand, if your driveway looks like Ice Station Zebra six months of the year, the hard top may be easier to live with.

Premium, Sport, and Cold Weather Packages
After you’ve clicked the button marked MINI Cooper S, decided on coupe or convertible, and taken a first shot at picking a color scheme (don’t worry, you can come back and play with this again later), you’ll have to decide whether you want to take any of the three combination accessory packages—Premium, Sport, or Cold Weather—that the MINI dealer will offer you. The simple answers, we think, are “no,” “maybe,” and “it depends.”
We would say no to the Premium package because the primary component in it is the sunroof. It’s very nice if you want to cruise down the highway with the sun fighting the sun block you just applied, but when you’re going fast and concentrating on your driving, it’s just a noisy distraction. And it adds weight, something the person seeking performance isn’t going to want. Besides, if you envision your perfect car with a checkered flag, Union Jack, or custom graphics on the roof, you won’t want the sunroof.
The other components in the premium package, including cruise control, multifunction steering wheel, automatic air conditioning, and on-board computer, can each be bought separately for a total of $1200, so even if you want all of these convenience items, you can still save $100 by buying them separately. On the other hand, if you have your heart set on the sun roof—and it certainly is the closest you can come to a convertible without buying the cabriolet—and think you want any one of the other convenience items and can live with the rest, then at $1300, the premium package would be a bargain.
The Sport package is a definite maybe. It includes one thing you will want, the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) system, and some things you might want, including the Xenon headlamps with power washer, fog lamps, and bonnet stripes. The package also includes 7x17-inch MINI S-Lite alloy wheels and tires.
If bought separately, these options would cost a total of $1890 but the complete package is available for $1300. This price difference makes the choice seem obvious, but it really depends on whether you want all the individual upgrades in the package.
We definitely advise you to buy the DSC, whether or not you buy the rest of the package. Selected separately, this option costs $500. That’s a small price for the peace of mind you will have in knowing that if you hit a patch of wet pavement or black ice on a dark night while cruising down the road, sensors in the system will tell your throttle to ease back and apply the brake on the spinning wheel to keep you from skidding, all in the fraction of a second it will take you to realize you are in danger of spinning into oncoming traffic.
Sure, you’ll switch off the DSC before your turn in the next drifting competition, but the rest of the time, you’ll want it on. And yes, the standard traction control system will keep your wheels from spinning under most circumstances, but it won’t help you much in the turns.
But the main issue with the sport package is the wheels and tires. We’re going to recommend you buy performance wheels and tires from aftermarket sources, since there are better choices out there. Unless you definitely want the Xenon headlights ($550), fog lights ($140), and bonnet stripes ($100), you’ll save money by not buying the Sport Package that you can use to get the high-performance wheels and tires you want.
If you have decided that you do want to get the lights and stripes, as well as the DSC, then you might as well get the whole Sport combo. There’s nothing wrong with the bigger wheels and tires offered in the Sport package, and by the time you’ve paid for the other parts of the package, the wheels and tires are effectively free when you buy the whole deal (you can do the arithmetic). Then you can wait until you’ve worn out your first set of tires before ordering your own set of wheels and tires from your favorite aftermarket supplier.
As for the Cold Weather package, that depends on where you live and drive. If you live where winter lasts four months of every year or more, with colder-than-whatever mornings, accompanied by slush on the road and the sun not even over the horizon yet, then the warmers for the seats, mirrors, and windshield washers will be very good things to have, indeed. And they won’t slow you down during the fast season. Those warm seats are also a nice option in other parts of the country if you’re buying a convertible and like to drive with the top down even on chilly morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally I prefer the coupe with the sunroof over the convertible. I don't have to worry about anyone vandalizing my soft top had I owned a convertible. At first when I owned my coupe equipt with the dual factory sunroofs, it was extremely unbearable in the summertime in the Las Vegas 120 deg. heat. When it gets up up to 120 deg, those factory mesh sun screens don't work worth a darn. I completely fell in love with my Cooper again after my husband bought me some sunroof shades made by Zippeeshade, which he purchased from

(link to shopping cart:

I highly recommend the Zippee Shade for your sunroof, if you currently own a Mini Cooper Coupe. I have to say, this is one item I couldn't live without.

Sharon M.