With a new Coupe Concept already revealed, and a BMW X1-based crossover in the works, MINI needs another follow for its unique cult of speed. The next convert--actually, a convertible--arrives today at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show in the form of the 2009 MINI Roadster Concept.
All but production-ready, the concept's been mentioned by BMW's chairman as one of the next new models to come from the company's junior brand. Officially, though, it's a concept for now, one with a purpose for "pure" driving.
Like the companion MINI Coupe Concept revealed last week, the new Roadster derives all its basic goodness from the current Cooper line of hatchbacks and convertibles. Minus a set of rear seats--and minus the hard roof of the Coupe--the new Roadster concept's unmistakably a MINI, from its round headlamps to the circular theme that organizes the cockpit. Dolled up for its first photos, the gold striping and houndstooth-and-leather seats could easily be configured on a new MINI today in a showroom--though the deep front air dam is something more likely to come from the John Cooper Works catalog.
If possible, the Roadster's designed for even better handling. Weight distribution is improved, thanks to the loss of seats, MINI suggests. And power-to-weight will play an important role in the Roadster and Coupe, when they reach an assembly line in the next 18 months. In concept form, they share the MINI Cooper S's 175-horsepower, direct-injected 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder--down to the overboost function that gives brief moments of added torque.
It's slightly changed in outward dimensions, with an overall length of 146.2 inches, but from the windshield forward the Roadster is identical to the MINI Cooper Convertible. The windshield has more rake, and the rear of the body more contouring, allowed by the smaller convertible top folded beneath a sliver of a tonneau cover behind the seats. With the top up, MINI says the profile is distinctly different, thanks to a short decklid. The door panels are shared with the Cooper Convertible as well, but the convertible top sits lower and covers much less area--a snug fit's almost guaranteed. And if you're lazy, the Roadster's manually operated top will seem out of character--unless you remember the Mazda Miata's easily flipped lid. As with the MINI Cooper Convertible, a pop-up rollbar gives the Roadster added protection for rollover accidents.
Usefully, the reshaped rear end also gives up more cargo space than you might think. The 8.8 cubic feet of cargo space is more than you'll find in, say, a 2010 Nissan 370Z Roadster, and there will be ways to carry longer objects, MINI promises, via a trap door into the cockpit. The locking lid will also allow passengers to access the trunk to reach for--wait, what's this?--a bag of CDs. (What's a CD?)
And yes, Convertiblers: the "openairometer" from the Cooper ragtop's returned for the Roadster. This time it's been joined by a NatureGuard function, which sounds like a personal hygiene thing, but really tells drivers if they're motoring in an environmentally responsible way. And to counter that Gore-like downer, it also has a "Highspeed Shifter" indicator and a "Gravity" indicator, to point out how far you're from max lat. There's also a "Heart Beat"indicator that gauges driving brio in human heart beats, and "Buddy Radar" to let you know when other Roadster drivers are nearby, in the inevitable spread of social media tools to...cars.
There's more to come on the MINI Roadster Concept--stay tuned for live photography and more details from High Gear Media.