Track Tested: 2009 BMW 128i Convertible vs. 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible


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Same company, two very different convertibles. OK, not exactly the same company, but close enough. At $32,700, the 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible is the cheaper of the two by a wide margin, even with more than $5,000 worth of options. Although the 2009 BMW 128i is the company's entry-level convertible, it topped $37,000 with a sport package and not much else.

On the track, their personalities were about as close as their prices, although the performance gap was surprisingly small. The more powerful BMW pulled slightly ahead in the straight-line performance categories, while the Mini excelled on the skid pad and in the slalom. Braking was the only test in which both cars turned in strong performances.

So in other words, picking a favorite between these two is about your performance priorities and the size of your wallet. We'll let you judge the styling on your own. Full track numbers and video after the jump.

Vehicle: 2009 BMW 128i Convertible
Odometer: 961
Date: 05/19/09
Driver: Chris Walton

Price: $37.575

Specifications:
Drive Type: Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed Manual
Engine Type: Inline-6
Displacement (cc / cu-in): 2,996cc (183 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 7,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 230 @ 6,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 200 @ 2,750
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Ventilated disc
Steering System:   Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): MacPherson strut
Suspension Type (rear): Multilink
Tire Size (front): 205/50R17
Tire Size (rear): 225/45R17
Tire Brand: Goodyear
Tire Model: NCT 5
Tire Type: performance
Wheel Size: 17 inches front and rear
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,509

Test Results:

0 - 30 (sec): 2.4
0 - 45 (sec): 4.5
0 - 60 (sec): 6.7
0 - 75 (sec): 10.1
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.0 @ 93.4
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.5
30 - 0 (ft): 30
60 - 0 (ft): 115
Braking Rating: Very Good
Slalom (mph): 65.8
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g): 0.87
Handling Rating: Good
Db @ Idle: 48.1
Db @ Full Throttle: 77.7
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 71.1

Acceleration Comments: Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) kills any sort of aggressive launch and the 1-2 shift. Shutting off the nanny does wonders as it then exhibits easily manageable wheelspin, which seems like the best technique. It's not, and feathering the clutch worked better. Shift throws feel long and there seems to be some sort of damper going on between upshifts. Still, the linear power delivery and tall gearing get the job done in typical BMW fashion.

Braking Comments: Stops started out short, then went long, then short again. It didn't feel like a mechanical issue (fade), but rather some sort of ABS manipulation. Always straight and confident, just not consistent.

Handling Comments:  (Skid pad) The front tires take the brunt of the abuse and heat up quickly, producing additional understeer with each lap. Stability control merely breathes off the throttle to avoid the understeer. (Slalom) Very tricky to slalom this car. Entering at a pace that works thorough the first 2-3 cones results in increasing oversteer by the end of the run. Best result was to enter slow and progressively add throttle to get more weight on the rear. Stability control was effective and almost imperceptible when engaged, but the speeds were much slower.

Vehicle: 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible
Odometer: 3970
Date: 05/19/09
Driver: Chris Walton

Price: $32,700

Specifications:
Drive Type: Front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: 6-speed Manual
Engine Type: Inline-4
Displacement (cc / cu-in): 1,598cc (98 cu-in)
Redline (rpm): 6,500
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 172 @ 5,500
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 177 @ 1,600
Brake Type (front): Ventilated disc
Brake Type (rear): Disc
Steering System:   Electric speed-proportional power steering
Suspension Type (front): MacPherson strut
Suspension Type (rear): Multilink
Tire Size (front): 205/40R17
Tire Size (rear): 205/40R17
Tire Brand: Continental
Tire Model: ContiProContact 3
Tire Type: Performance
Wheel Size: 17 inches front and rear
Wheel Material (front/rear): Alloy
As tested Curb Weight (lb): 2,826

Test Results:
0 - 30 (sec): 2.8
0 - 45 (sec): 4.8
0 - 60 (sec): 7.2
0 - 75 (sec): 10.5
1/4 Mile (sec @ mph): 15.3 @ 90.4
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 6.9
30 - 0 (ft): 29
60 - 0 (ft): 112
Braking Rating: Very Good
Slalom (mph): 68.5
Skid Pad Lateral acceleration (g):   0.90
Handling Rating: Excellent
Db @ Idle: 47.8
Db @ Full Throttle: 71.9
Db @ 70 mph Cruise: 79.5

Acceleration Comments:   Tricky to launch effectively with so much tire grip and so little torque. Easy to either bog it or spin the tires. Best technique abuses the clutch. Shift throws feel long, but gearbox doesn't mind being hurried. Shift knob came off in my hand on hard 1-2 shift.

Braking Comments:    Short, straight, confident. Lots of brake-induced suspension wind-up where the rear of the car "sinks" when the brake pedal is released after a hard stop. 

Handling Comments:    (Skid pad) Exemplary balance (nearly the same in either direction) and crazy levels of grip. Steering loads up, but it doesn't feel natural. Stability control breathes on the throttle to maintain smooth arc. (Slalom) Amazing and trustworthy grip. Aggressive, but not spooky turn-in. Adjustable rotation/attitude with throttle. Neither understeers or oversteers unless it's driver-induced. Plenty of power at exit to pull it out of a four-wheel drift. Way more athletic than expected.

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