The unplanned extended stay of GPMINI at MINI of Orlando has left me, thanks to Bryan, with the chance to drive a brand new MINI Cooper S convertible for the weekend! I must say, it’s much nicer than driving around in some no-name rental … This convertible is quite nicely equipped with “punch leather” (perforated) seats, Harman Kardon stereo, and automatic transmission with paddle shifters; the top is interesting too, in “denim blue” (though I wonder if the texture helps hide roof creases!):
Sadly, I would not be “MINI thrilled” to own this car – though I’m not sure if the experience is this specific car or the newer R56 MINIs in general.
First, the engine is quite noisy (it sounded terrible inside the garage), but the car solves this about one start in three by just stalling at start! A bit annoying. Also, the car seems to always run it’s cooling fan after even short drives – it’s funny that GPMINI is staying at MINI of Orlando for this same reason, while this brand new car does it as habit.
I tried out the new Harman Kardon stereo system, playing all my standard “demo CD” reference tracks. Of course I first tried just plugging the iPhone in to the equipped USB jack, but that had no effect at all. I had to copy all the music over to a USB memory stick which then did play (though it took about a minute first to load in the directories – or maybe search through all the photos on the stick, to find just the music!)
The Harman Kardon sound is MUCH better than my previous R56, I’d say it is as good as the original R50/R53 system, except it seems to be missing the “modes” (Spatial, Festival, etc). However, the sound is nowhere close to my GP, or my Q5.
There’s a general lack of mid-clarity in the sound, so that vocals are not as focused as I am used to. There’s some bass but not what I’m used to – and turning up the bass adjustment past +3 just muddies the low end.
But I had most trouble with the treble. Listening to radio on the drive from the dealership, there was too much treble coming from the windshield speaker directly in front of me, detracting from any stereo effect – but then on some of my well known test tracks, I found that I had to turn up the treble to pull the female vocals out of the music.
I settled with bass +3 and treble +2, but I know that for different tracks I’d constantly have to turn the bass or treble down; it’s as if the bass/treble adjustments aren’t at the correct frequencies to best enhance the car.
Of course the big problem with MINI now is that you have no choice; there’s no simple way to install an aftermarket stereo. This would be a HUGE concern for me, if I was to consider replacing my Q5 with a Countryman, if that sound system is as poor as this car.
All said, the car is nice to drive – it corners well, looks good, and drops/raises it’s top fast and sweet. There’s just one thing that would stop me ever considering owning this car: