Schwarzenbauer recently revealed an example of how BMW’s plans for its front-drive vehicles are still changing. He said the next-generation1 Series might not be built on the UKL architecture and could remain rear-wheel drive after all. A decision will be made towards the end of this year.
As for the Mini brand, four of the superhero models will be on sale by late next year.
The hatchback twins are one family, followed by the Clubman, Cabriolet and Countryman as stand-alone models. While it now looks like a production version of the Superleggera concept will be a spin-off from the Cabriolet, that leaves one more model line to be announced.
Two different models are rumoured. Firstly, it’s thought Toyota and BMW engineers have been working on a joint city car platform that would potentially allow the tiny Mini Rocketman concept to be brought to life.
Secondly, it’s thought a Mini Traveller MPV (essentially a sister car to the BMW 2 Series) has also been developed as a possible new model line.
On the downside, the Rocketman could be difficult to justify if Mini wants to head upmarket, selling larger and more expensive models.
However the plans for the fifth model line pan out, there will be a number of highly appealing Mini variants over the next 24 to 36 months.
It’s thought Mini has drawn up plans for a coupé-like SUV based on the new Countryman. It would still have five doors and be, in effect, a sister car to the planned BMW X2.
Meanwhile, a plug-in hybrid Clubman is in the works, using the same transmission as the 2 Series Active Tourer eDrive. A small electric motor is mounted on the rear axle, which is used to provide acceleration assistance and occasional pure electric drive.
Also expected is a high-performance Clubman aimed at the Volkswagen Golf R estate. This is rumoured to have a highly tuned turbocharged four-cylinder engine with as much as 300bhp and four-wheel drive. The same powertrain is expected to be used for a high-performance version of the new BMW X1.
A version of the new Countryman with genuine off-road ability is thought to be in development, too.
Mini's five 'superheroes' explained
Mini hatch - The Mini hatchback is now available with either three or five doors. The five-door version may grow in the future but the three-door is unlikely to differ much from today’s car.
Mini Clubman - The new Clubman is drastically different from the previous one and is the largest Mini you can buy. It is now pitched as an alternative to hatches like the VW Golf and Ford Focus.
Mini Countryman - The next Countryman looks likely to grow again, taking it back to being the biggest Mini available. A more rugged, off-road version is also likely, as is an SUV coupé.
Mini Cabriolet - The all-new Cabriolet will not be notably different from the old version, retain the four-seat layout and a fabric roof. The two-seat Superleggera could be spun off this platform.
To be decided - Mystery surrounds the identity of the fifth pillar in the future Mini family. Two possibilities are a production version of the small Mini Rocketman concept from 2011 and a possible Traveller-badged MPV.