Geneva 2011: Mini Models Its New Rocketman Concept

Everybody loves a new model introduction. Mini took the launch of the new Rocketman to literal levels at this year’s Geneva Auto Show with everything but the bubble wrap.

From the beginning, Mini has been about minimizing its footprint while maximizing its interior space. The Rocketman takes this design concept to new levels by using a modular interior set-up that allows the car to go from a two-seater to a four-seater while still maintaining a usable amount of storage space when needed. Mini’s new head of design, Anders Warming, demonstrated the usefulness of the expandable boot box at the rear of the mini by pulling out the drawer-like trunk and using it to hold a snowboard. Although we are sure most Mini drivers carry a snowboard with them 24/7, we are sure it would work equally well at holding cases of Mountain Dew in the off-season.

The Rocketman is packed full of new technology, most of which was glossed over in the press conference. The real focus was Mini bringing the Rocketman out in a cardboard box printed like a model car package, which was ripped open by people in suitably futuristic silver jump suits. Once the box was removed, the car had been encased in giant molded Styrofoam packing blocks. Finally the car was unwrapped from the foamy paper, anti-paint scuff material that all model car buyers know so well. It not only underscored the toy-like dimensions of the car, but more appropriately, the retro-futuristic feel to the design.

The fact that the car is built on a carbon fiber space frame was mentioned briefly as well. While this is an interesting exercise, the odds of making it into production on an entry-level car in the near future are very slim. More likely to arrive in showrooms is the infotainment system, which  integrates smart phone functionality with a traveling Wi-Fi hot spot. A new version of Mini’s ambient lighting system is also used, and incorporates fiber optics into the glass roof. Finally, the taillights (which look like they would be perfect for towing a hover-boarder) are designed as hoops mounted on the rear quarter of the car. The taillights are integrated into the hoops while the brake lights and turn signals are projected onto the car's body.

What will make it to production (though not likely for the US) is the new Cooper SD model, which was revealed alongside the Rocketman. A new, more powerful version of Mini’s 2.0-liter turbo diesel is nestled under hood, and produces 141 horsepower and 225 pound-feet of torque. The new engine will be available in all Mini bodystyles, and SD models will pair it with the suspension upgrades and interior typically found in Cooper S cars.

Mini closed with emphasizing what a great year 2010 was for the company, and all indicators point to 2011 being even better. Mini sold 234,000 vehicles last year, a new record for the brand. Mini's newest model, the Countryman, has already sold 23,000 units since its introduction in September of 2010. Very shortly, Mini will introduce a coupe and roadster of the Cooper, and officials hope both models witness the same levels of success.

For more on all the world debuts from Geneva, including more photos, videos and information, be sure to click over to our 2011 Geneva Motor Show coverage.

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