NAIAS 2012: MINI builds stiffness into soft-top Roadster

  • 10-Jan-2012 09:14 EST
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The MINI Roadster will be available with a choice of three gasoline engines in the U.S. market, ranging from the 121-hp (90-kW) Roadster to the 181-hp (135-kW) Cooper S Roadster to the John Cooper Works Roadster with 208 hp (155 kW).

For the first open-top two-seater in the MINI model range—the MINI Roadster, which debuted at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit Jan. 9—special emphasis was placed on achieving a torsionally rigid body (complete with special strengthening elements) to attain the desired driving dynamics.

“All open cars have to be stiffer, therefore we built a lot of stiffness in,” said Kay Segler, MINI Brand Manager. “Nothing is better than to have a stiff body. Before, I was head of BMW’s M brand, so I know what to do to a car to make it unbelievably fun to drive—it’s suspension and stiffness.”

The aerodynamic balance of the MINI Roadster is optimized by an active rear spoiler, which extends automatically when the car reaches 80 km/h (50 mph).

“It’s roughly, depending on the way you measure it, 15 or 20 kg effect downforce,” Segler said.

According to Segler, the softtop will be offered in two versions—one a pure manual and the other semi-automatic. “We’ll start with a manual. Very soon the semi-automatic will come, but you still have to close it."

“Most convertibles are built in Germany," Segler continued, "not because we have the best weather whatsoever. But there’s a kind of tradition, so there are very good suppliers.”

Webasto supplies the Roadster’s convertible roof system.

The MINI Roadster will be available with a choice of three gasoline engines in the U.S. market, ranging from the 121-hp (90-kW) Roadster to the 181-hp (135-kW) Cooper S Roadster to the John Cooper Works Roadster with 208 hp (155 kW). A six-speed manual gearbox will be standard, with a six-speed automatic option available on the Roadster and Cooper S Roadster.

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