14 January 2005

BMW has hatched a shock for Mini fans – a new version of the iconic car with a longer body. These exclusive shots show an engineering prototype undergoing early road tests. The extent of the stretch can be seen for the first time from the modifications made to the bodywork behind the rear wheels.

It would have been too expensive and time consuming to stretch the Mini’s wheelbase (as well as requiring costly changes to the production line), so it appears that a little extra length has been grafted in behind the rear wheels in an attempt to improve on the car’s dire boot space.

The extended disguise around the rear lamps and the new bumper position seem to indicate that the rear section of the floorpan has been stretched by a crucial few centi-metres. Close observation of this prototype’s rear roof pillar shows that it too has been modified and disguised with black tape.

BMW’s engineers will probably design a new tailgate with more of a clamshell design than the current car’s. Its upper section will probably wrap around the corners of the glasshouse to dovetail with the modified C-pillar. The rear screen and rear panel will sit further out between the extended rear wing sections. It’s thought that the shaped plastic number plate surround riveted to the prototype’s rear in this picture shows how much further the tailgate will have to project outwards. Some observers think that the 2006 Mini will also get new rear light clusters which stand proud from the rear wings, much like the original Mini’s. Other changes include what appear to be modifications to the rear suspension; freshly fabricated locating arms are clearly visible under the car.

Judging by the deep air intake in the bumper of the car caught here and the centrally mounted exhaust, it appears to be the new Cooper S, with its brand-new turbocharged 170bhp 1.6-litre engine. Sources have told Autocar that the Works version of the blown Cooper engine should be good for 230bhp. Its ability to get that power down will be improved by the modifications to the front suspension.

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