Mini Roadster: Stability wizardry

By Paul Charman

Paul Charman recalls a near-miss on the road

The Mini Roadster stops at Butchers Gully Lake, near Alexandra, in Otago, during the Pork Pie charity ride, over Easter 2013. Picture / Paul Charman
The Mini Roadster stops at Butchers Gully Lake, near Alexandra, in Otago, during the Pork Pie charity ride, over Easter 2013. Picture / Paul Charman

It seems you can't beat the modern driving technology.

That's what my wife Debra-Rose and I concluded after a near-collision in a borrowed 2013 Mini Roadster.

It took place on the main highway near Franz Josef, during that epic length-of-the-country Pork Pie charity run held over Easter.

With its many digressions, the almost 2500km Kaitaia-to-Invercargill journey would have been continuous driving pleasure, but for the following.

A line of Minis old and new were travelling south on that windy road between Whataroa and Haast, when one crossed the centre line and came to a sudden stop in a small driveway on the right side of the road.

This led to an unfortunate chain reaction, as the next two Minis sought to pull over to the left, but instead (both of them) slid along the road for a couple of hundred metres.

Next in line was Debra-Rose, who steered round these two but then the third loomed for a T-bone collision.

Possibly recalling teenage grass tracking days, Debra-Rose swung down hard on the right side of the wheel, putting the nimble little roadster into a broadside on the metal berm. That was all the excuse the Roadster needed to show what it could do.

The wizardry of the Mini's many driving stability systems took over and it came to rest parallel with - and about 1.8m from - the car it had looked like bisecting a tiny fraction of a second previously. Result: Some shaken drivers but not even a scratch to people or vehicles.

The outcome was, of course, the product of experienced driver plus the impressive package of modern technology packed inside the Roadster: complex electronic driving and braking systems, which include an anti-locking system (ABS), cornering brake control (CBC) and dynamic stability control (DSC).

Old technology might have seen the car gain traction at the last minute and launch back on to the road, possibly into oncoming traffic. Moral: Modern car engineering really delivers when it comes to averting disaster.

But as to the rest of the journey in that little car, it's hard not to gush.

Considering it was just a two-seater, the Mini had plenty of luggage room for the six-day journey, which included a black tie dinner finale in Invercargill (so that annoying situation where you have fancy clothes on hangers laid across suitcases). But with a decent-sized boot and generous luggage shelf behind the seats, stowing stuff was no problem. The comfort was actually excellent, with good leg room up front, and the heated seats made driving with the roof down quite enjoyable, even in crisp autumn weather.

Of course with so many mountains to gape at, the roof down was handy but I found all round and especially upward visibility only average when it was back in place.

The famous super-stable go-kart handling of the Roadster was amazing on the windy roads, us drivers being aware that we were in no way plumbing the depths of what this performance six-speed turbo could achieve on the track.

- NZ Herald

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