Mini Superleggera Vision Concept Hints at Future Plans for the Brand
- There are lots of clues about Mini's future direction in the Mini Superleggera Vision Concept, including the desire to widen the design palette and launch an electric Mini.
- Mini's continued reliance on a retro look has the possibility of becoming a "parody," Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group Design, told Edmunds.
- Among the future-product considerations: A version of this car with a hybrid four-wheel-drive system, presumably derived from the BMW i cars.
LONDON — There are lots of clues about Mini's future direction in the Mini Superleggera Vision Concept, including the desire to widen the design palette and launch an electric Mini.
Mini's continued reliance on a retro look has the possibility of becoming a "parody," Adrian van Hooydonk, senior vice president of BMW Group Design, told Edmunds.
Among the future-product considerations: A version of this car with a hybrid four-wheel-drive system, presumably derived from the BMW i cars.
At the very least, the concept hints at a future drop-top Mini.
The Mini Superleggera Vision was co-developed by Mini and Carrozeria Touring of Milan, an Italian car design specialist.
A two-seater, the Superleggera is powered by an electric motor driving the rear wheels.
It features the signature wheel-at-each-corner Mini stance, the familiar grille and headlight designs, along with an instrument pack that echoes the design of the very earliest 1960s Minis. Beyond that, however, the style of this car is new in the context of Minis.
Mini design boss Anders Warming set out to build "a very modern, beautiful roadster" in collaboration with Touring's chief designer Louis de Fabribeckers, featuring "simple form language, combining beauty with modern features like the Union Jack taillights," this a reference to the United Kingdom's national flag.
The interior is designed for simplicity, too, with the instrument cluster reduced to a central display and a single column-mounted gauge. Most of the car's switchgear is handled by a touchscreen.
The door's side-impact protection is exposed as a series of metal tubes, these also referencing the Union Jack. These humorous features also include a trunk-mounted tailfin, which the car's designers admit has no functional purpose at all beyond providing a housing for the central stoplight.
Superleggera means "superlight," a term much used in the '50s and '60s to describe space-frame chassis, aluminum-bodied coachbuilt high-end cars of the '60s, such as Ferraris and Aston Martins. In this Mini's case, the lightness is derived from a carbon-fiber chassis and its hand-beaten, aluminum exterior panels. BMW will not reveal the origin of the carbon-fiber chassis, but it may well be sourced from the company's i car hardware.
The company is revealing nothing official about the car's electric motor either, but van Hooydonk said that he "would like to see a hybrid drivetrain — it's the modern way to make an open car go fast."
Regular gasoline-engine options would also be offered with a new Mini roadster, which brand head Peter Schwarzenbauer has suggested could cost around $48,000, although he did not specify which powertrain a model at this price would use.
Van Hooydonk also commented on the need to further develop Mini's design options.
"It's time to open it up," he said of the marque's design palette. "A brand has to be fed, otherwise it becomes a parody."
All of the BMW Minis have relied heavily on the retro design theme established in 2001 with the first modern Mini hatchback.
Edmunds says: From many angles this elegant roadster is unfamiliar as a Mini, but the brand needs to widen its design options to maintain its appeal. A more classically designed Mini roadster compared to today's model is a strong future possibility, as is an electrically powered version, which could be a hybrid.