Is a Used 2009-2015 R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible Reliable?
Used 2009-2015 R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible reliability article highlights:
- The turbocharged 2009-2015 R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible retains its predecessor’s performance but adds some extra refinements
- In addition to general soft-top convertible problems, the R57 Convertible can develop some engine issues, including high oil consumption and carbon buildup; early cars are also more prone to high-pressure fuel pump and timing-chain tensioner failure, as well as VANOS issues
- A well-maintained R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible can be reliable, but the most reliable choices are the 2013-2015 models
If you’re looking for the automotive embodiment of ‘spunk,’ the Mini Cooper S Convertible is a solid contender. With its combination of cheerful styling, compact dimensions, and zippy handling, the latest model is great fun in the sun. And if you can’t quite afford a new one, a used R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible serves up similar smile levels for less cash. However, used Minis don’t always have the best reputation for reliability. So, if you want to step into a second-gen Cooper S Convertible, what are you in for?
It dropped the supercharger, but the 2009-2015 R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible didn’t lose its speedy fun
|2009-2015 ‘R57’ Mini Cooper S Convertible
|1.6-liter ‘N14/N18’ turbocharged four-cylinder
|172 hp (2009-2010)
181 hp (2011-2015)
|2855-2921 lbs (2010)
|0-60 mph time
|7.0 seconds (2009 manual)
7.2 seconds (2009 automatic)
Like the preceding R53 Mini Cooper S, the second-gen R56 hatchback and R57 Convertible use forced induction to make extra power. Unlike the R53, though, the R56 and R57 have turbochargers, rather than superchargers. However, the second-gen Cooper S is also more powerful and slightly lighter than the first-gen model. As a result, the R57 is slightly faster than the first-gen model.
But switching to turbo power isn’t the only thing that separates the R57 from its predecessor. Like the non-S version, the R57 is slightly larger and stiffer than the first-gen modern Mini. Furthermore, it has better rear visibility thanks to pop-up roll bars and larger rear windows. Also, the R57 has an upgraded interior and more standard features, especially after its 2011 facelift/refresh. The Openometer, a gauge that measures how long you’ve driven with the roof down, was standard from day one, though.
However, there’s something Mini didn’t change about the R57: how it drives. The steering is accurate, well-weighted, and communicative, for one, and the brakes are strong and easy to modulate. In addition, the standard manual is a pleasure to row. And while the sportier suspension is a bit stiff, the benefit is nimble handling. Plus, the standard sports seats hold you in place well.
In other words, the 2009-2015 R57 Cooper S Convertible has the same kinds of strengths as the 2022 Cooper S Convertible, but for less than half the price.
What are common problems with used R57 Mini Cooper S Convertibles?
As the 2009-2015 Mini Cooper S Convertible is based on the R56 Cooper S Hardtop, it has many of the same problem areas.
Firstly, used R57s, especially 2010-2013 models, often have higher-than-normal oil consumption rates. Secondly, their high-pressure fuel pumps can fail over time, though the N14-powered cars are more susceptible to this. Both the N14 and N18 also develop carbon buildup as the miles pile on, though again, it’s a more common sight in N14 engines. Furthermore, the N14’s VANOS system and timing-chain tensioner are more fragile than the N18’s versions.
However, plastic cooling and turbocharger part failure can strike both R57 engines. So can A/C condenser failure and stop-start gremlins. Fortunately, by now virtually all afflicted R57s have received their water pump recalls. And high-mileage oil leaks from old gaskets aren’t unique to the N14 or N18.
These are just the general second-gen Mini Cooper S problems, though. Because they’re convertibles, used R57 models have more chassis flex than the R56 Hardtops. As a result, they’re more prone to interior rattles and rattle-related speaker failure. In addition, because the R57 Convertible’s windshield is more upright, it picks up rock chips easier, WhatCar says. Also, as with any power-operated soft-top convertible, a used R57 Mini Cooper S will eventually need a new roof, weather seals, and opening mechanisms.
Are these drop-top hot hatches reliable or not?
Besides these problems, it’s worth noting that the 2006-2012 period is a low point in Mini reliability. So, does that mean a used R57 Mini Cooper S Convertible won’t be reliable? Well, not necessarily.
For one, at least some of the 2006-2012 Mini complaints stemmed from recalls, which should be addressed by now. Secondly, you can avoid a lot of the R56’s and R57’s mechanical issues with proper maintenance. And I don’t just mean regular oil changes—I mean things like removing carbon buildup and replacing the PCV valve on time. So, if you are shopping for a secondhand R57, look for one with plenty of service records. Also, get a pre-purchase inspection.
However, if you want to stack the odds in your favor, limit your search to used 2013-2015 Mini Cooper S Convertibles. Assuming they’re maintained correctly, these tend to be the most reliable turbocharged R57s.
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