2009 MINI Roadster Concept

2009 MINI Roadster Concept

A cute new family is forming at MINI, with the Coupe Concept joined by the 2009 MINI Roadster Concept today at the Frankfurt Auto Show. Ready to amp up the lineup, the two-seater twins promise an upgrade to MINI's already solid reputation for fun.

Like the Coupe, the Roadster Concept is essentially production-ready, and already a candidate for construction in the U.K., though for now it still officially wears the "concept" badge.

Reviving the purity of driving a MINI is the underlying theme behind the Roaster. Beyond the open top, the two-seat layout does away with the rear seats of the standard MINI Cooper and yet still manages to be instantly recognizable as a MINI. Extensive use of family design cues makes that possible, including the round headlights, short hood and circular interior theme.

The front air dam of the MINI Roadster Concept is undeniably performance-oriented. And it should be, considering the 175 horsepower turbocharged 1.6-liter powerplant will be even more willing to please in the smaller, nimbler Roadster. How is it nimbler? For starters, weight distribution is improved, shuffling a bit more heft over the rear axle for more neutral behavior. The slightly shorter layout and lower weight also helps handling, while power-to-weight ratio is improved, too.

When it's really time to get down to business, hit the "overboost" button and you'll get a few brief moments of extra torque from the engine.

Aesthetically, the concept's houndstooth-and-leather seating and gold striping show it won't be purely about go, either--there's an element of show to any roadster. Though slightly longer overall at 146.2 inches, the Roadster is identical to the standard Cooper from the windshield forward. From the windshield back, there are numerous differences, including a more steeply raked windshield, a more rounded rear end, and a short decklid--not to mention the convertible top.

The soft folding top hides away behind the seats under a tonneau cover, and when the top is up, it's said to be even sleeker than the standard MINI Cooper Convertible, though the Roadster does share door panels with its larger sibling. Unlike a lot of modern cars, however, the Roadster's soft top won't drop on its own--it's manual-operation only, not that it's likely to be a hassle.

Safety in a topless car is always a concern, but MINI has you covered with a pop-up rollbar that helps keep the car's passengers safe even if things go horribly wrong.

Cargo space, while not in the same league as the Cooper hatchback, is still better than you might think, with 8.8 cubic feet available, beating out the larger 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster. A trap door access to the passenger area gives the ability to carry long, thin objects, and a locking lid lets passengers access the trunk should the need arise.

Uniquely MINI features include the "openairometer", which will warm the hearts of Convertible fans, plus the NatureGuard function which informs the driver of the environmental impact of their driving. Not that this green machine isn't concerned with speed either: a "Highspeed Shifter" swaps cogs with ease and the "Gravity" indicator gives a readout on lateral acceleration. The Roadster Concept can even measure the driver's heartbeat--perhaps the gold standard of how exciting a car is to drive.

When other Roadster drivers are around, a "Buddy Radar" alerts you to their presence, bringing a new kind of social media to not only MINI, but cars in general--for better or worse.

Stay tuned for photos and even more details on the MINI Roadster Concept from High Gear Media, live on the floor of the Frankfurt Auto Show.