For the past year or two there has been much speculation about what MINI will do after it releases the R55 Clubman and R57 Convertible. MINI is reportedly looking to expand sales and insure long term profitability with the next addition to the line-up and the pressure is immense to get it right yet stay true to the brand. Rumors have circulated both about a MINI speedster and of course the often discussed and debated cross-over. Over the past year we’ve been told by sources that the cross-over had the inside track to production and in fact the initial design process had already begun. We can now report that these same sources have confirmed much of what we had previously reported and that forth MINI model is now in development.

Sources are telling us that the cross-over will be based off of the R55 chassis but may be both larger and have more doors. In fact it has been called a “beefier Clubman” by one source who is familiar with the product. However the R60 (or R59 – strangely both code-names have been used by sources) will be different from the Clubman in another significant way as it will also debut a new (and very efficient) four wheel drive system.

Inside we’re told to expect a different interior with new features and an updated (yet still very MINI) look and feel. Expect a ruggedness not found in any MINI product currently offered.

While MINI is still in planning stages, we’re told executives at the BMW Group are looking at production locations outside the Oxford plant – possibly Spartanburg South Carolina or even the newly opened India BMW plant. One thing is certain, Oxford won’t have the capacity (in it’s current configuration) to take on yet another model after the Convertible starts production in late 2008.

The MINI cross-over is slated for release sometime during the 2010 model year.

Note: We’ve reported previously, that the internal code name for the cross-over (or “Colorado” project as it’s called by some internally) was to be the R58. However BMW will be using either the R59 or R60 numerical code name for the vehicle as it gets closer to production. Why is it not he R58? We’re not entirely sure. However we can guess that R58 was used for another concept that either didn’t come to fruition yet or has been scrapped altogether.