Superleggera reveals Mini two-seater concept

GREG KABLE
Last updated 06:15 27/05/2014
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Mini has sent the automotive rumour mill into high gear with suggestions it is planning the introduction of a uniquely styled roadster to rival the Mazda MX-5 by unveiling of a racy new concept created in co-operation with Italian design and coach building house Touring Superleggera.

Called the Mini Superleggera Vision, the new two-seat Mini concept made its world premiere at this weekend's Concorso d'Eleganza at Villa d'Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy alongside parent company BMW's Vision Future Luxury concept, as recently revealed at the Beijing auto show, and Rolls-Royce's new Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed.

Described as blending contemporary Britishness with traditional Italian design flair, the Superleggera Vision is heavily rumoured to point to a new open-top Mini model conceived as an indirect replacement for the company's existing roadster and coupe models.

The new roadster is expected to crown a future range of Mini models – all based on common underpinnings offering the choice of either front- and four-wheel drive and powered by a variety of three- or four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines and a secret new electric drivetrain that insiders suggest is a development of that used by the BMW i3.

In turning to Touring Superleggera for its latest concept, Mini continues a tradition linking parent company BMW with a long line of steeped Italian design and coach building companies. In recent years it has tapped the expertise of Zagato, Pininfarina and Bertone in the creation of various concepts for the Concorso d'Eleganza.

The new Mini was conceived, created and produced in a project between its Munich-based design department and Touring Superleggera's coach building works in Milan. The former led the styling of the low slung two seater, while the latter undertook its traditional hand shaped metal sheet construction.

"The Superleggera perpetuates what the classic Mini started 55 years ago: reduction to the essentials. Its minimalistic design embodies the dynamic essence of an automobile. It combines the past and future with traditional coachwork craftsmanship and modern styling," says Anders Warming, head of Mini design.

As well as hinting to a new dedicated roadster model in the mould of the Mazda MX-5, the Superleggera Vision also establishes themes  which Mini design boss, Anders Warming, intends to use to progress the company's existing design language to give future models a more contemporary appearance without abandoning the retro approach that has driven the company's styling since the British car maker was re-launched under BMW control in 2001.

Many classic Mini design cues have been carried over from the third-generation of the modern day hatchback, including a hexagonal shaped grille, oval shaped headlamps, bonnet stripes (as contours rather than mere decals as on today's production models) and multi-spoke wheels. They are combined with a series of traditional styling touches found on a long history of Touring Superleggera designed and produced models.

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Longer and wider than the existing Mini roadster, the Superleggera Vision boasts classic roadster proportions with a long (by Mini standards) probing nose, cabin set well back within the wheelbase and a rear end with minimal overhang.

Overall, the body of the new car is more heavily structured than that of existing Mini models. Prominent elements include a contoured bonnet, heavily flared wheel arches, defined shoulder, distinct swage line running the complete length of the flanks and an abrupt ending rear.

Among the more flamboyant touches are a carbon fibre splitter up front, frameless wrap around windscreen, tail fin attached to the boot deck and underside of the rear bumper as well as tail lamps designed to resemble the Union Jack, large wheel houses and 19-inch multi spoke wheels styled to resemble the original Minilite rims and shod with 225/45 R19 Pirelli P-Zero tyres.   

Eschewing the fussy styling treatment brought to production models, Mini has provided the Superleggera Vision with a relatively simple interior that aims to capture the essence of classic coachwork construction. It uses a single untreated sheet of aluminium for the rounded dashboard facia and large centrally mounted monitor that harks back to the instrument panel used on the original Mini.

Side impact protection bars in the doors also pay homage to Mini's roots by joining the tail lamps in resembling the British flag.

Preferring to focus on the design and materials of its latest concept, Mini has revealed little about the Superleggera Vision's mechanical package, suggesting only that it is electrically powered.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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