For its fiftieth birthday, Mini threw itself a party at the Frankfurt auto show and unwrapped two shiny new concepts: the Coupé and the Roadster. These aren't just party decorations - both cars are headed for showrooms in 2011.
The two-seaters are twins below the beltline, and Mini design chief Gert Hildebrand credits Marcus Syring with the shape. (Syring also did the BMW Z3 coupe.) Unlike other Minis, the Coupé and the Roadster have a notchback trunk - which holds 8.8 cubic feet of luggage - yet their overall length is the same as that of a standard Cooper S.
The big dimensional difference is in height, where the new cars are two inches lower; they also have more steeply raked windshields. The Roadster has a manual soft top and a pop-up rollover bar. The Coupé's fixed roof is aluminum. Together with the elimination of the back seats, that helps the Coupé shed an estimated 175 to 200 pounds versus the standard Mini.
The Coupé concept is fitted with a John Cooper Works powertrain, while the Roadster concept has Cooper S running gear. We expect the two new Minis to offer a choice of engines, however, when they go on sale.
The Coupé and Roadster concepts were the party headliners, but no one likes to wait for their presents, so Mini also brought out two special fiftieth-birthday models that can be purchased right now: the Mayfair and Camden special editions. For $4500 more than a regular Cooper or Cooper S hardtop, they add a package of options along with special colors and trim. The Camden has one unique feature that Mini calls Mission Control. Kind of like a Tickle Me Elmo or a talking Barbie, the Mission Control talks at the driver (in three different voices), offering advice, encouragement, and camaraderie. You don't even have to pull a string. And, yes, it can be shut off.