Mini's new crossover SUV makes its first official appearance in 2009, part of a BMW crossover offensive that begins with the X6 due this year. The Mini is second, and in 2010, BMW will launch the X1, based on the new-to-the U.S. 1 Series. An all-new X3 is due in 2011. The X3 will grow in size and will be built in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This doesn't count the 2010 5 Series-based Progressive Activity Sedan, a kind of X6 with low aspect-ratio body.
The Mini will be about 158 inches in overall length, smaller than current microcrossovers like the Suzuki SX4. A designer tells Motor Trend his team worked up a proposal three years ago for a 165-inch-long Mini SUV, but BMW management says no Mini should be more than about four meters (157.5 inches) long. The smallest BMW, the not-for-USA 1 Series hatchback, is 167 inches.
So the crossover will be slightly longer than the new Clubman. It'll be higher for ground clearance and to further improve interior space. It won't get those clap-hands doors: "They're just a Clubman thing," our source says. They also compromise body rigidity too much for a sport/utility.
This will be very much an on-road crossover. Our man insists it'll be really fun to drive. "That's vital with Mini." It uses a heavily adapted version of the current Mini platform, with Getrag all-wheel drive from the maker of Mini's six-speed-manual transmission. With a transverse engine, it can retain familiar Mini short-hood proportions, but also rules out any platform sharing with the BMW X1.
Power comes from the new R56 Mini's 1.6-liter engine, which in turbocharged form makes up to 210 horsepower. Styling will be predictable. Mini design chief Gert Hildebrand has criticized designers "who build a monument to themselves." Staying true to Mini heritage and evolving the lineup's styling, like a Porsche 911, is the right tack, he says. He arrived at Mini after the 2001 model was finished and had freedom to change pretty much everything for the new car, but chose not to.
The crossover will get a version of the familiar Mini nose with the "hexagonal'" grille and softly shaped lights. It also will have Mini's defiantly non-wedged outline, and the horizontal separation of roof, glasshouse, and body. Mini's black protective body moldings are well suited to a crossover. Lights, door-handles, mirrors, and other external details will conform to Mini's "island" style; they're set in to a single panel rather than being aligned with other cut-lines.