First there were the rumors and now the spy photos confirm that apparently the engineers over at BMW believe in all things all wheel drive. Car Magazine has snapped a spy photo of what appears to be a MINI 4x4 SUV which, knowing BMW’s hyper-active marketing department, would be termed a Sports Activity Vehicle if it ever got loose. This MINI SAV is certainly no Land Rover, but it’s taller than the Clubman, longer, at 13 feet, and features an all-wheel-drive train, probably borrowed from the BMW X3.
WHAT’S REALLY INTRIGUING HERE is the question of trend. This year’s teaser from Land Rover at the Frankfurt Auto Show was a Land Rover about the size of a MINI. So which is it? Are big, tough SUV’s succumbing to higher CAFÉ standards and lower Co2 emissions and significantly downsizing…or are small and nimble econo-sports boxes like the MINI succumbing to customer safety demands and significantly beefing up their drive trains and all-terrain capabilities?
"Land Rover can be lots of things. You should never stereotype Land Rover, Range Rover or us. There are lots of opportunities available to do other things with those products" says Geoff Polites, chief executive of Jaguar-Land Rover. "I don't see people attacking coal burning power stations with the enthusiasm they use to attack cars" says Geoff.
So is the market driving the engineer or the engineer driving the market? MINI-SUVs…Land Rover MINIs…where will all the madness end? Who knows? It could end up in your driveway when you discover a vehicle that gives you the best of both worlds and gets them both right.
You knew it was only a matter of time before MINI morphed itself into the popular Crossover SUV segment. And you probably even imagined it would look like this.
Actually, they’re calling it a Sports Activity Vehicle – a SAV – and BMW´s spokesman, Mathias Schmidt, has revealed that production will take place at the Magna Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik plant in Graz, Austria. This is the same factory that builds the BMW X3 and it was the obvious choice over Oxford, in that it allows the company to maintain current levels of production for the Mini Cooper, Cooper Convertible and its Cooper Clubman.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported that the factory will build around 40,000 of the four-wheel-drive MINI SAV´s each year, and you should start to see them showing up on sales floors beginning in 2010.
There haven’t been any official details or specifications for the new Sports Activity Vehicle but its working name is rumored to be the Colorado, although GM has a small truck by that name. We’ll certainly pass along more details as they become available.
A while back we reported that the MINI line would likely be extended (inevitably) into the SUV category. Now it looks like some details are starting to surface that support that idea...
It is looking very likely you will see something that looks a lot like the beefed up MINI you see in these photos at a car show near you next year.
While last time we surmised the company was going to call it a Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) – and they still might – the favored badge name at this point is rumored to The Crossman.
As you can see from these photos, the MINI SUV looks like the new extended Clubman on steroids. ( Or CGH - Chassis Growth Hormone - if you prefer.) It will necessarily feature extra body cladding for protection off-road and an elevated ride height to get you there and back again. There are two rear passenger doors, instead of the single “Clubdoor” on the Clubman, and a van-style rear hatch to maximize rear access.
The dashboard and all other interior detailing will most likely be carried over from the Clubman. But the question on the lips of all MINI fans is: will the latest MINI be a proper off-roader, like the Land Rover Freelander? The answer is: of course not. The engineers and designers at BMW are clearly not going to mess with the MINI’s agile, driver-pleasing handling for which MINI has become famous. Nor should they. If you really want to go off-road, go ahead and get the Land Rover. But, since the real off-road crowd represents only a fraction of 4x4 drivers, the raised ride height, beefier suspension and full-time four-wheel drive should translate to reasonable capability in reasonably forgiving terrain, whether on rutty dirt roads or worse, New York City’s legendary potholes.
BMW apparently is not letting the new MINI SUV go it alone, either, as talk is buzzing about the BMW X1, a MINI-style 4x4 that will likely share body-and-sole parts with the MINI.
Still, all this at a time when going Green seems to be topping every car buyer’s list? What SUV could be “greener” than a fuel-sipping MINI? And it may even be the way BMW will introduce some of its new fuel-efficiency technology. Who knows? But it will be fun to find out!
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