Mini’s long-held plans to take on the Mazda MX-5 with a uniquely styled roadster model has taken a decisive step towards production reality. A stunning two-seat concept, created in co-operation with legendary Italian design and coach building house Touring Superleggera, was recently unveiled, setting the stage for a MX-5 rival.
Called the Mini Superleggera Vision, the new one-off Mini is set to make its world premiere at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como in Italy alongside parent company BMW’s Vision Future Luxury and Rolls-Royce’s Phantom Drophead Coupé Waterspeed.
The Superleggera Vision, described as a blend of modern British design and traditional Italian design flair, the new car points heavily to a new open-top Mini model conceived as an indirect replacement for the company’s existing roadster and coupé models.
The new roadster is expected to crown a future range of Mini models – all are based on common underpinnings with the choice of either front- or 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 BMW’s innovative i3.
With the Superleggera Vision, Mini continues a long tradition linking parent company BMW with a long line of tradition steeped Italian design and coach building companies. In recent years, BMW 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.
In addition to hinting at a new dedicated roadster model in the mould of the Mazda MX-5, the Superleggera Vision also establishes themes that Mini design boss, Anders Warming, intends to use to develop the company's existing design language. This will 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 relaunched under BMW control in 2001.
Many classic Mini design cues have been carried over from the third-generation of the modern day hatchback, including the hexagonal shaped grille, oval shaped headlamps, bonnet stripes (as contours rather than mere decals) 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.
Longer and wider than the existing Mini roadster, the Superleggera Vision boasts of 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 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 flag, 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. Bars in the doors also pay homage to Mini’s British roots by joining the tail lamps in resembling the Union Jack.
Preferring to focus on the design and materials of its latest concept, Mini has revealed little about the SuperLeggera’s mechanical package, suggesting only that it is electrically powered.