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TopsandSeats.com :: Automotive News

Automotive News

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Chevrolet Resolves its Camaro Convertible Problem

My turn to weigh in on the new Camaro. Back in the January Motor Trend, I reported that while Chrysler killed plans for a Dodge Challenger convertible, the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro drop-top that General Motors had planned for midyear was on hold. Blame thin operating capital at both GM and Chrysler, I said. Last week, The Detroit Bureau reported that the Camaro convertible, more recently on line for a mid-2010 release as an '11 model, was put on indefinite hold. The latest is this: Camaro ragtop is back on. It won't be ready until the first quarter of 2011, which is probably a 2012 model.

Gene Stefanyshyn told The Detroit Bureau's Paul Eisenstein (who is a contributor to motortrend.com) that the collapse of the German convertible top supplier caused GM to put the car on hold. I've learned this week that the supplier is still in business, and that it has come to an agreement with GM. Clearly, this is related to GM's cashflow problems and its effect on suppliers. GM's relationship with its Tier 1, 2 and 3 suppliers has changed for the worse in the past half-year.

The official GM line is that Chevrolet had always planned to introduce the Camaro convertible about a year after the coupe's introduction. Of course, we originally expected the coupe to come out late last year or early this year, so that ragtop schedule slid to the first quarter of '10 as the coupe's intro slid to ... just now. A 2011 Camaro convertible launching about April '10 will be able to take advantage of the summer ragtop-buying season in the afterglow of the Camaro coupe's first year of production. And if the Ford Mustang convertible is any guide, the Camaro convertible should be more popular as a fairly CAFE-friendly V-6.

The bad news is that the Z/28's prospects (our April cover car) haven't changed. That car, with a version of the Corvette ZR1/Cadillac CTS-v supercharged 6.2L V-8, is necessary to compete with the Challenger SRT8 and various Mustang Shelbys. That's all image, not a great business argument these days. It remains on indefinite hold. It's a costly ($50-million to develop, according to Eisenstein's interview with Stefanyshyn) muscle car that sends out the wrong signal lately. Unless the new interim Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard due April 1 is more benign than I expect, the Z/28 is going to remain a tough sell on GM management.

SOURCE : http://blogs.motortrend.com/6494105/car-news/chevrolet-resolves-its-camaro-convertible-problem/index.html

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

BMW Mini Shows Off Cabrio Convertible

BMW Mini is launching a global advertising campaign this week for the new Cabrio convertible with an integrated initiative that celebrates driving with the top down.

Featuring the tag, "Always open," a line introduced in 2004, the U.S. campaign includes two TV commercials from German agency Plantage Berlin and print, outdoor and interactive from Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif.

In one spot, two drivers play chicken in a muddy parking lot. The other ad shows a man who is persistently smacked in the back of the head by his friend when he tries to shelter him from the elements. Pictured throughout time, from the days of ancient Rome to today, the two men are in a yellow Cabrio in the final scene. When the passenger tries to put the top up, the driver stops him with another smack in the head. The ad ends with onscreen copy announcing, "The new Mini Cabrio. Always open."

"[Always open] is much more than a communication claim. It is a set of values, the way we drive the vehicle [and] it's also a consumer mind-set," Trudy Hardy, Mini USA marketing manager, said in a Webcast last month. "Our consumers are open to new experiences and opportunities."

As part of the new push, Mini is inviting convertible owners to upload their "open" times -- how much time they spend driving the car with the top down -- to a microsite launched to encourage social networking among brand enthusiasts. The new model offers buyers the opportunity to order an "Openometer," a gauge that monitors drive time with the top down. "It's really neat to see a marketing claim reverse-engineer itself into the product," said Hardy.

Gatefold ads in periodicals such as Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly flip up to reveal a vertical ad that shows the convertible on the road with a blue sky extending up into outer space. "Unlimited Headroom" is the headline.

That same image is also being used in outdoor that takes over building sides. Headline-driven billboards picture the car with its windshield and top extending over the top of the board to add dimension and emphasize the open theme. Copy includes "Open sesame" and "Throw caution to the wind. Literally."

BMW Mini spent $21 million in measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The figure does not include online spending.

SOURCE : http://www.brandweek.com/bw/content_display/news-and-features/direct/e3ic4a58d9493b16774bc566cba0b95dfae

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

VW creates life-size pink Beetle convertible for Barbie's 50th birthday

Volkswagen of America has helped Mattel celebrate Barbie’s 50th birthday by transforming a New Beetle convertible into the ultimate Barbie dream car.

The life-size pink Malibu Barbie New Beetle convertible made its debut at Barbie doll’s Malibu Dream House exclusive birthday celebration this week in Malibu, Calif.

“We are extremely proud to partner with Mattel and create a customized New Beetle convertible to celebrate Barbie’s landmark birthday,” said Laura Soave, general manager of marketing for Volkswagen of America.

From top to bottom, Barbie’s New Beetle convertible left no detail unfinished. From the white custom leather interior and convertible top to the hand-stitched floor mats and pink quilted leather-lined door pockets and arm rests, even the dipstick was painted to resemble the doll’s favourite lipstick.

The New Beetle convertible is equipped with a motorized vanity in the trunk and plenty of rhinestone accents and vanity mirrors. More than five shades of paint were mixed together to create the perfect pink colour.

The customized pink New Beetle convertible was prominently on display as the pink carpet was rolled out for the Barbie celebration at the real-life dream house, a 3,500-square-foot home in Malibu. The birthday festivities were complete with 1,800 pairs of Barbie sunglasses, 3,500 pairs of tiny shoes, 3,500 mini handbags and numerous Hollywood celebrity guests.

SOURCE: http://www.calgaryherald.com/business/creates+life+size+pink+Beetle+convertible+Barbie+50th+birthday/1373899/story.html

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

MINI Convertible R57 Road Test

The first BMW MINI was coded R50, followed by the R52 convertible, while the Cooper S was designated R53.

The second generation MINI hatchback is the R56. The Clubman version is the R55. And the new convertible is the R57.

Apart from the completely different range of engines and transmissions and new suspension, the main benefit of the R57 MINI Convertible over the R52 is a 10% stiffer structure.

This is very important in a convertible with no roof to stop it twisting over speed cushions. And, in the case of the R57 MINI convertible, completely eliminates the dreaded 'scuttle shake'.

The other benefit, of course, is enabling the suspension to do its job properly without being compromised by a writhing frame. And because the MINI engineers have done such a good job, they saw no reason not to offer a full 211PS John Cooper Works version of the new convertible.

The best place to test that, of course, was a race track. While the obvious place to test the 120PS MINI Cooper convertible was the road, happily during a pair of March days blessed with some sunshine and 20 degree plus temperatures.

It’s worth mentioning here that all MINIs now come with stop-start, a system that shuts off the engine when the car is stopped for more than 5 seconds, and automatically re-starts it as soon as the driver depresses the clutch. This pulls the CO2 emissions down quite a bit in the official EC tests, putting the R57 convertible in much more tax friendly VED and BIK bands than the R52.

You also get standard aircon in all versions of the convertible. So, though buyers spend an average of £3,000 accessorising their MINIs, you now get the basic essentials even in the base models.

The electric canvas roof of the new MINI Convertible can be fully retracted or closed using the upper switch pack mounted toggle in just 15 seconds. In the event of a driver being caught unexpectedly by a sudden downpour, the top will go back up while driving at speeds of up to 20 mph, though it’s obviously best not to try this in any strength of wind. As an alternative to taking the whole top down the front part of the roof can also be retracted to create the effect of a sunroof. This can be operated at speeds of up to 75 mph.

One of the more frivolous accessories is the 'openometer' a gauge beside the steering wheel that logs how long you have driven the car with the top down. I managed to clock up a creditable four hours over 250 kilometres in no discomfort at all.

The 120PS Cooper doesn’t have a lot of grunt, of course. It would be nicer with the 150PS turbocharged version of its engine, as used in Peugeots. There’s no real need to go to the more aggressive 175PS of the MINI Cooper S convertible, which I didn’t drive. Though it’s worth noting that you can have a 6-speed Aisin Warner automatic transmission with both the Cooper and the Cooper S, with optional paddleshifters if you wish.

If you want to go berserk, of course, then your obvious choice is the 211PS MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works convertible that pulls 60 in 6.6 seconds and will likely pull your hat off at its top speed of 146mph.

That car was huge fun on the Pau Arnos circuit and safe even with the Sport button pressed and the DSC turned off (though, as with the JCW hatchback, I don't advise turning DSC off on the road).

Even with everything off, its handling is obviously more sophisticated than an original Mini's. But it does the job in a similar way, gripping like mad, then eventually understeering in a completely controllable manner that allows you to back off and get back on line (providing, of course, you're not going far too quickly). You could run one as a fun daily driver and indulge in the occasional track day even in the convertible JCW. All the questionmarks we had over the steering of the original R56 MINI Cooper and Cooper S have been answered.

Apart from cute looks, its obvious advantage over the Mazda MX-5, is a pair of back seats. And, very usefully, you can fold the backrests down individually to increase bootspace from a fairly meagre 125 litres with the top down (or 170 litres with the top) up to a much more useful 660 litres. That also allows you to poke your golf clubs through. The drop down tailgate can also be used as a table when stationary and can take a load of up to 80 kg. To aid loading, you can lift the rear part of the hood frame up by 35 degrees. While, for security, not only is the glovebox key lockable, the back seats are too.

SOURCE : http://www.honestjohn.co.uk/road_tests/?id=378

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Review: 2009 Mini Cooper S Convertible

Klagenfurt, Austria
The principal appeal of convertibles has always been the prospect of swanning along the seaside with the top down to catch the sun - and the eye of bystanders. No vehicle available today performs that function as well as the new Mini Cooper convertible, but to demonstrate the polyvalence of the car, the world press launch was organized in the dead of winter in the snowbound Austrian Alps. True to the brand's contrarian, fun-and-funky marketing spirit, the motto for the car and the launch was "Always Open." Journalists were exhorted to drive with the top down, and all of the test cars were fitted with a new standard feature, the Openmeter, which serves as a life-of-the-car recorder of hours spent driving with the top fully retracted.

That unique device is only one of more than 200 options and accessories, enough to assure that tens of thousands of one-off cars can be made on the Oxford, England, Mini production line. The Munich-based Mini design team, forty-some strong, has done excellent work on the convertible project, particularly with respect to color and trim. There are at least a dozen standard interior/exterior color combinations ranging from the conservative and traditional (British racing green exterior, tan leather inside) to the expressive, intended solely for the convertible (interchange yellow with yellow-stitched carbon black cosmos cloth). To go along with the usual black, there are two new colors for the folding top: hot chocolate (a warm dark brown) and denim blue (see Levi Strauss & Co. for a reliable reference, even including the orange stitching). There are more than a dozen interior trim choices; two seat designs, standard and sport; and even the choice of two- or three-spoke steering wheels.

Flexibility is a key word for the Mini Cooper S convertible. The engine is extremely (and agreeably) flexible, with its infinitely variable valve timing and twin-scroll turbocharger. Unfortunately, the body structure is flexible, too, although to so slight a degree that there can be no question that the engineers who created the car were guided by the German, not British, automotive engineering tradition. The dreaded cowl shake present in several generations of small British roadsters is gone - only a constantly vibrating center rearview mirror and an occasional clank from the side windows on severe bumps give away the game. And the ride comfort level is far beyond anything ever experienced in MGs, Triumphs, or Singers of old, despite the Mini's firmer than necessary suspension settings, which make for a bit of a wild ride on lumpy, bumpy, snow-covered Austrian byways.

The Mini brand, too, has had a wild ride under BMW ownership. The fifty-year-old British icon has been transformed from a 37-hp, 850-cc economy car conceived for austerity in fuel-short hard times into a luxury lifestyle object much coveted by trend leaders in many nations. There is still talk of fuel shortages and coming hard times, but a direct-injected, sixteen-valve, 172-hp, 1598-cc turbocharged engine is not a typical economy-car solution. Not many economy cars can boast a 138-mph top speed and a 7.0-second 0-to-60-mph acceleration time, either, but those are the figures that Mini claims. Thanks to its aluminum engine and a careful redesign of its body structure, the new Cooper S convertible weighs about 20 pounds less than the previous model. Although it's not exactly porky, a car that weighs 2712 pounds clearly does not meet any common definition of the word "mini."

As though the Mini PR staff had a direct line to the weather gods, a substantial amount of snow fell the night before our first day's drive and continued to fall as we drove on some quite difficult roads, constantly gaining altitude as temperatures fell to 26 degrees. On one particularly sharp and slippery climb, we were getting wheel spin even in third gear at low revs as the stability control kicked in and out. It was during these tough conditions that we most suffered from the Mini's ridiculously overblown torque steer, a problem we also noted with our recently departed Four Seasons Mini Cooper S hardtop. Such a well-made, well-designed, and utterly amusing car really ought to be better in this regard.

A bright, sunny, 30-degree day greeted us for our next drive, with a mix of clear, dry main roads and patchy snow on wooded mountain lanes. The Mini's top went down with no more effort than a push-and-hold gesture on the header-mounted toggle switch. The top first rolls back about sixteen inches over the front seats, with its upper side rails firmly latched to the top of the windshield. Release the toggle any time, and the process, which can be engaged at speeds of up to about 20 mph, stops. The whole sequence, including dropping and raising the side glass, takes only fifteen seconds. With the mesh wind blocker in place, the cockpit is really comfortable for two, although rear-seat passengers would likely suffer. There are seat heaters, but they were too efficient to leave on for more than three or four minutes, even on their lowest setting. Drive to the Arctic Circle with the top down? Why not?

If it ain't broke . . .

Head of exterior design Marcus Syring says that Mini designers have the same problem as Porsche's design team: advancing an iconic, decades-old shape cherished by owners. It's especially tough in light of legislation and fresh expectations. The first BMW-designed Mini in 2001 was a major break, with huge jumps in size and weight, but what comes next? "The current car has many elements from our first version, but if we do not make major changes, why do new tooling?" Syring says. "It's like a stew. You can't boil the same ingredients too many times."
Justify Full

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Special Mini makes soft-top debut

A special-edition high-performance version of the Oxford-built Mini Convertible made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show today.

The John Cooper Works model of the car, which will be sold in limited numbers, took centre stage on the Mini stand at the event in Switzerland, along with the Cooper and Cooper S versions of the new Convertible.

Also making its debut was the Mini One Clubman, the base-level version of the estate model of the Mini, which until now has only been available in the higher-specification Cooper and Cooper S versions.

All the new models will go on sale in the UK at the end of this month.

A basic level "stripped-down" Mini, which will not be sold in the UK, was also launched at the Geneva show.

Meanwhile, there are no plans for the Mini plant in Cowley to operate this weekend, BMW spokesman Rebecca Baxter said.

Last weekend, a number workers were called into work specially to prepare dealer demonstrator versions of the Convertible models.


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Copyright © 2007-2008 TopsandSeats.com Copyright © 2005-2010 TopsandSeats.com