Feast your eyes on the fastest and most desirable MINI ever! This is the Speedster – a head-turning two-seater drop-top that will combine dramatic looks with sizzling performance. Arriving hot on the heels of the Crossman – the firm’s first 4x4 – the stunning roadster will take the famous brand further into uncharted territory.
Rumours have been circulating for a number of years about the Speedster, which will rival the next-generation Mazda MX-5, as well as Honda’s upcoming CRZ. But it appears bosses at MINI’s parent company BMW have finally plucked up the courage to make the firm’s first genuine sports car a reality. And our exclusive images show how the flagship will look.
Unlike the Crossman, which borrows its underpinnings from the forthcoming BMW X1, the Speedster will use the same platform as the MINI Convertible. This allows maximum flexibility for component sharing with the current range, and will help to minimise development costs.
But to give the Speedster its own unique identity and sports car looks, the standard Convertible’s impractical rear seats have been ditched. By making it a strict two-seater, engineers have created more boot space, too.
Distinctive roll hoops, a lower and wider stance and oversized wheelarches make up the car’s classic roadster proportions. But the split front grille, familiar bonnet scoop and chrome-rimmed tail-lights, as well as the twin central exhausts, ensure it’s unmistakably a MINI.
An electric folding soft-top – similar to that on the standard Convertible – stows away in the boot when the driver wants to be exposed to the elements.
The fabric hood isn’t as complex as a folding hard-top design, and doesn’t weigh as much, either. Plus, it gives designers more scope to create a sportier silhouette to match the steeply raked windscreen.
A removable hard-top that fits snugly over the canvas hood will also be offered.
Not only will it provide better protection from the elements and reduce wind noise on long journeys, but by arcing smoothly from the top of the windscreen to the vehicle’s rear – behind the roll hoop extensions – it will create a coupé-like profile. So, buyers effectively get two cars in one.
The MINI’s unique styling will be developed in-house, but Auto Express believes there is a chance that the finished bodyshell will be built by a third party.
The shells will be cut down, modified and stiffened before they are then returned to MINI to have their running gear fitted.
A premium of £2,000 over the Convertible is likely, so prices should start at around £18,000 for the Cooper S version when it goes on sale here in 2011. There will also be a John Cooper Works model.
Given British buyers’ fondness for convertibles and the success of the brand, the Speedster seems a surefire hit for the expanding MINI empire.
The Speedster will be the sportiest, most thrilling model in the range – so only the highest-powered turbocharged engines from the current line-up will make the grade.
Customers will be able to choose between the 175bhp 1.6-litre Cooper S powerplant or, for even more pace, a John Cooper Works version offering 208bhp. The latter is set to cover 0-60mph in six seconds dead, on the way to a 150mph top speed. Both models will feature EfficientDynamics to boost economy and cut emissions.
As with the current hatch, Convertible and Clubman, power will be channelled to the front wheels via a six-speed manual box – delivering MINI’s trademark go-kart feel. And thanks to a lighter kerbweight, plus lowered suspension and a wider front and rear track, the Speedster promises to be the best-handling version of the MINI to date.