A Mini off-roader, you say? This looks like a Clubman on tip-toes!
This prototype is based on the Clubman, but if you look closely you'll spot a few telltale signs that this is the four-wheel drive version under development in Munich. The single biggest indication is the raised ride height, which lifts the 4x4 up to give the impression that it can head off road and foster a higher seating position. More importantly, and not wholly visible in these pictures, is the presence of rear driveshafts. People who've seen the car in the metal confirm that the Mini is indeed going four-wheel drive, and this shot does show a different rear suspension set-up to the front-wheel drive Clubman and Mini hatch. Engineering sources have told CAR that the front module is essentially the same as in current Minis, but the rear section is completely re-engineered to provide the 4x4 hardware. Don't expect to tackle muddy hillsides and mountain trails in the go-anywhere Mini, though. This is very much pitched at the lifestyle 4x4 end of the market.
What's it going to be called?
We're dipping into the rumour mill at this stage. Names under consideration are said to include Monte (after the original Mini's rallying successes at Monte Carlo at the hands of Paddy Hopkirk and others) and Colorado, but neither has a natural ring to it in our view. And the fourth Mini bodystyle means that BMW has a production headache on its hands. The Oxford plant in England will crank out 220,000 Minis this year and that will be pushed up to 260,000 in the next couple of years as the Clubman, refreshed Convertible and full range of 'new' new Minis comes on stream. But there's not room for the new 4x4, sales of which could hit 80,000 a year globally; it's likely that BMW will sign up Austrian contractor Magna Steyr to built it - instead of the X3 that's being taken back in house by BMW. BMW production chief Frank-Peter Arndt recently told interviewers that Plant Oxford could theoretically produce up to 300,000 cars a year. The Bavarians clearly have big plans for their smallest brand...
This thing still looks like the Clubman... how will the SUV differ?
Pointless acronym alert! Mini dubs its new 4x4 a SAV, or sports activity vehicle, not a sports utility vehicle. It's all a load of marketing codswallop, obviously. But to distinguish the soft-roader from lesser Minis, it will be slightly longer at a little over 4000mm and will be given a raft of butch 4x4 styling cues. Expect the original Mini's rallying heritage to be plundered mercilessly, then. Sales are slated for 2009, and you can safely expect the newcomer to be the priciest Mini yet with prices set to top £20,000. Is this Mini marketing gone mad? Some will say so, but the Mini 4x4 could be ideally positioned to appeal to those wanting the off-roader look in a smaller, more environmentally friendly package. And with its range of small-capacity 1.4 and 1.6 petrol and diesel engines all equipped with stop-start and fuel-supping cleverness, Mini is well positioned to take advantage of that demand.