BMW surprised the Villa d’Este glitz-fest at the weekend with the Mini Superleggera Vision concept car. Produced in association with la famosa carrozzeria Touring, it’s like Mini’s found Doc Brown’s time machine and headed back to the Swinging Sixties.
But fast forward a year or two and CAR can reveal that BMW is seriously considering launching a cute little roadster in line with what you see here. Top brass in Munich told CAR that up to five Mini variants are in the pipeline to rev up the new third-generation Mini’s sales fortunes and showroom appeal.
Peter Schwarzenbauer, board member in charge of Mini, Rolls-Royce and motorcycles, is a fan of the Como blue eye-catcher, but revealed that Mini will have a more strictly policed product policy this time around, with less overlap than with the second-gen family that had too many niche models. ‘I don’t think it should be our goal to keep adding new bodystyles, to create even more variety,’ he said. ‘Instead, I would rather focus on a relatively small batch of edgy core models.
‘I like to call them superheroes because every model has its special character. What are these superheroes? For sure the Mini hatch and Countryman, at least one open-top model and perhaps one or two more variants. Does the Superleggera have potential? Absolutely. It could sharpen the brand. It’s still early days, but this car and the underlying engineering concept are significant in more ways than one.’
Mini Superleggera Vision concept car (2014): in detail
The Mini Superleggera was designed by Mini design chief Anders Warming in cooperation with Louis de Fabribeckers from Touring. It’s a pretty pan-European fusion design, then, mixing German, English and Italian styling cues.
The topless two-seater Superleggera sits on a 2520mm wheelbase, compared to the hatch’s 2495mm wheelbase. Its aluminium and carbonfibre body stretches to 4162mm long, 1964mm wide (1825mm without mirrors) and 1209mm low. At this point, a roof has yet to be devised, but there is talk of an easy-to-operate manual bikini top with a Perspex rear window.
Providing silent, electric propulsion is a zero-emissions e-drivetrain last seen in the Mini E a couple of years ago.
Design chief Warming reveals his inspiration for the Superleggera: ‘The idea was to conceive a modern Riva power boat for the road, a proper Italian barchetta with a British soul. While Minis typically have short stubby noses, the Superleggera musters a relaxed cab backward design with a self-conscious and relatively long front end.
‘We did not want to end up with a retro-look car, but tapping the tradition of the great English roadster was perfectly okay – think MGA, Triumph TR2, Austin Healey.’
BMW’s track record at Villa d’Este
BMW has a history of disappointing us with mothballed concepts shown at the lakeside Italian concorso d’eleganza. The beautiful Hommage M1 remained a one-off, as did the striking Z4 Zagato and the awesome Pininfarina Gran Lusso, to name only three recent show cars.
But judging by Schwarzenbauer’s comments to CAR, it seems that the Mini Superleggera Vision could be one Villa d’Este concept which may see the light of day.
‘First of all, we would like to gauge the reception here at the show,’ he told CAR. ‘If it is positive, we might shift up a gear.’ Other sources high up in Munich suggest that group R&D chief Dr Herbert Diess has already put the controlling accountants on the case.