BMW’s top product development specialists are burning the midnight oil in Munich and California, putting together plans for a ‘soft-roader’ version of the third-generation Mini. The new car could be fitted with a highly advanced all-wheel-drive system developed by specialist Getrag. Sources say BMW’s engineering boss has already driven, and been impressed by, Getrag’s own four-wheel-drive Mini Cooper prototype.The US market is important for Mini and there’s said to be considerable pressure for BMW to enter the booming crossover market. The biggest problem BMW faces is the inherently compact nature of the Mini’s platform, despite the rumoured upcoming wheelbase stretch. The company is also balancing the problems of investing in a brand new body style for an uncertain market segment.
Earlier this year BMW unveiled building work to increase capacity at its Oxford factory. Sources say that today’s 190,000 annual output could be boosted to at least 250,000 when the new facility comes on stream in 2007.
BMW board member Norbert Reithofer said the expansion would allow BMW to increase flexibility ‘with regards to various Mini model variants’. BMW sources insisted that no decisions had been made regarding an expansion of the Mini line-up beyond a hatchback and cabriolet. However this rendering (right), released by BMW’s Californian Designworks division, shows a slightly longer, taller Mini with distinctive off-roader styling cues. The concept also clearly shows the addition of rear-hinged back doors in the style of the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
Autocar’s computer renderings, also above, show how BMW could realise a modern take on the Mini Moke based on the rumoured four-door Mini estate.
In any case, Getrag’s Twinster all-wheel-drive system could well find its way onto a Works version of the next-generation 1.6-litre turbocharged Cooper models. BMW had planned to build a 4x4 rally version of the Mini, but canned the project after the Rover Group sell-off. A Mini ‘Monte Carlo’ – and even a works WRC team – looks a dead cert if the Getrag transmission gets the green light from BMW.