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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mini Crossover headed into Production

PARIS — Mini's crossover concept will debut at the 2008 Paris Auto Show next month, presaging Mini's yet-unnamed new production model. BMW Chairman Norbert Reithofer has already confirmed that a Mini SUV will follow today's Cooper and Clubman as well as next year's second-generation convertible into showrooms in 2010.

The Crossover Concept's asymmetrical four-door body is totally unique, with a considerably higher beltline and taller doors. On the right are two short front-hinged doors, while the left has a longer front-hinged door and a second, short door that opens parallel to the body at the rear. A one-piece tailgate hinges from the right and has a retractable window, allowing long items to extend out beyond the rear of the car.

Mini has not confirmed the mechanical basis for the new car, although its dimensions suggest it sits on a modified version of the Mini Clubman's front-wheel-drive underpinnings. Modifications to the MacPherson-strut front and multilink rear suspension also cause its body to sit higher, although this is somewhat masked by the concept's tall 18-inch wheels.

Production versions are likely to receive a more modest wheel and tire combination, according to Mini insiders, although a comprehensive list of options should allow future customers to dress their car up in a fashion similar to that of the Paris showcar.

The crossover is considerably longer, wider and higher than the Clubman, with a 102.6-inch wheelbase that is up 2.4 inches on the Clubman. The extra length was necessitated by the need to house a new rear differential that will provide it with permanent four-wheel drive, according to engineers involved in the development of the new car.

Among the power plants the production version of the crossover is expected to offer is Mini's 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine developed in a joint venture between parent company BMW and France's PSA Peugeot Citroën.

Inside, the crossover receives a unique four-seat interior that combines various styling elements seen in existing Mini models with new high-tech display technology, including a Center Globe with laser projection.

Mini plans to assemble the SUV at a rate of up to 50,000 per year at production specialist Magna in Graz, Austria. It is expected to go on sale in North America in 2010.

What this means to you: The name "Mini" is becoming less and less descriptive of the product. — Andreas Stahl, Correspondent