Monday, August 31, 2009

MINI Cooper Coupe:50th anniversary edition

Mini is likely to add a sportier, two-seat hatchback to its lineup, based on a concept car to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in Germany next month.

The British-based Mini brand is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. German parent BMW revived the Mini brand in the United States in 2002.

Assuming it goes into mass production, the two-seater Mini Coupe would be the fourth body style of Mini’s basic model, the Mini Cooper. The other three, all with four seats, are a two-door hardtop, a two-door convertible, and a three-door hatchback, the Mini Clubman. Mini has also shown what it calls a crossover concept car, with SUV-like styling.

The Mini Coupe Concept does away with the back seats. A lower roof for the coupe replaces the high, squared-off roofline of the four-seater models, especially at the trailing edge. With no rear seats, rear-seat headroom is not an issue for the coupe concept. Nevertheless, the coupe has a decent amount of space for cargo.

The main cause for concern with the Mini Coupe is the exterior styling. The rear roof spoiler seems a bit over the top, and a small spoiler mounted at the bottom of the rear window would probably look a lot more innocuous. Perhaps as a result of this spoiler, the roof itself just looks out of place. The downswell of the roofline after the front door stops your eye from sweeping back, which reinforces the short length of this car. The big plus side on the Coupe’s styling is the windshield, which is swept back and is a welcome change from the vertical windshield of the Cooper. Everything below the windshield and roof is essentially the same as a Mini Cooper.

In addition, the roof in the concept car is made of aluminum, which saves weight and lowers the car’s center of gravity. That’s an advantage for sportier handling.Mini stuffed its most powerful engine under the hood, er, bonnet — a 1.6-liter turbocharged mill. It’s the same engine you’ll find in the John Cooper Works model. It puts down 211 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, although Mini says that can rise to 206 pound-feet if you hit the “overboost function,” whatever that is. No word on what the car weighs, but Mini says it will offer “perfect axle load distribution and low center of gravity.” In other words, it oughtta handle nicely.

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