Less sensible, more sensory than the hatch
YOU WON’T SEE many Mini Cooper S Convertibles getting around.
And that isn’ necessarily a surprise. But if you really like having the wind in your hair, or you love the Cooper S’ frankly delightful turbo flutter, you might not care. While the interior has the same premium feel and the exterior isn’ too far removed (if you spec it correctly, all black works well), aside from a somewhat tacky silver chrome’ strip around the join between body and soft-top, the convertible doesn’ feel as well-put-together as the hatch. It makes small but regular noticeable plastic creaking’ noises as the roof components settle and shift against each other when closed, even on a straight highway. The same excellent turbo-four gains a seven-speed dualclutch, but the convertible’ chassis feels noticeably less composed and can’ keep up with hard driving like its roofed counterpart. Due to that extra weight and lower body rigidity, it becomes harder to trust the car through sharp bends as its movements are less predictable. You’ buy the Convertible Cooper S only if you really can’ stomach having a solid roof. Otherwise, it might even be worth spending an extra $10K and opting for the JCW Convertible. – Chris Thompson
Swoopy SUV gains performance edge
WHY? THAT’S the first thing that came to mind when BMW unveiled the X4, an SUV-cum-coupe. Strong sales justify its existence, and now, in its second generation, the X4 gains a hot version. Enter the $109,900 X4 M40i. Longer, lower and wider than before, the new X4 is more than just a gigantic kidney grille. Sitting behind it, though, is the gem of the M Performance transformation – the 265kW/500Nm B58 inline-six. With a slick ZF eight-speed box and the twinscroll turbo six, it’ no wonder the 1825kg M40i reaches 100km/h in 4.8sec. With AWD and the torque vectoring M Differential, you can really drive the nose to the apex on the outside back wheel (30mm wider rear track over X3). With the slackened ESC setting, exciting the X4’ bum on corner entry is even possible… which seems uncouth for an SUV that can’ totally escape its kerb weight. It sounds brilliant, too. The interior receives a makeover, upping the opulence and adding a digital instrument cluster. As far as an entree to the X4M main, this coupe-esque SUV leaves us salivating for the next course. It’ unquestionably fast and surprisingly capable – almost even playful. Maybe the X4 M40i isn’ a question of why, but why not? – SPECS: 3.0-litre I6T; 265kW @ 6500rpm; 500Nm @ 1550rpm; AWD; 1825kg; $109,900
E-Hybrid a great car – and just quick enough
BY PORSCHE STANDARDS this is about as dull as cars come – a 2.3-tonne, hybrid SUV with a V6. However, to write the Cayenne E-Hybrid off as a car to be purchased only by people who don’ know what a GT2 RS is, would be incorrect. One is first delighted by the latest-gen Cayenne’ thoughtfully designed, beautifully appointed interior with excellent visibility, control feels and seating position. Then there’ the lovely ride from the air suspension; and top-notch NVH. This is an extraordinarily nice’ and easy vehicle to drive at regular speeds – particularly in electric-only mode (with a realistic plug-in range of about 30km). However, boot it and the turbo V6 can motivate the E-Hybrid to 100km/h in a pleasing 5.0sec – quicker than the more expensive petrol-only S, thanks to 100kW/400Nm of electric boost – all while forgetting its sound deadening and making quite a racket. Find yourself on a twisty road and the handling is tidy and enjoyable, with accurate steering and impressive grip, keeping true to the badge on the front. Of course, this is not really a car you take for a drive for the sake of it, with its tremendous weight soon becoming a drain. But overall, you’ almost have the cheaper E-Hybrid over the S, if only for the novelty of electric-only motoring. – SPECS: 3.0 V6T(E); 340kW @ 5250rpm; 700Nm @ 1000rpm; AWD; 2295kg; $135,600