Coupé Update: Get Ready For the Ultimate MINI

So the R60 has launched. We’ve reviewed it and will have a (very special) long term review coming. But we want to give you a break in the coverage and talk about another car that is probably near and dear to many of you: the R58 MINI Coupé.

Progress

The Coupé and Roadster projects have been executed at lightening speed for the automotive industry. Work started in early 2009 and culminated in what we saw at the Frankfurt and LA motor shows. Since that time MINI has gone into engineering and design mode putting the finishing touches on both cars. First up will of course be the coupe. It’s currently undergoing initial prototype work around Germany. While in the past we’d expect to see test mules in places such as death valley and the arctic, BMW now has their new Environmental Test Center (ETC) to simulate conditions ranging from -30c to +45c. Due to this we don’t expect much in the way of sneak peaks of the car outside of a random shot near Munich and at the Nurburgring early this spring.

Models

The R58 will launch next September in Cooper S and JCW form. MINI is still debating internally whether or not to offer the car in lower spec models given the price-point. Oh the price? We expect it to fall generally between the Clubman and the Convertible.

Ultimately we have a hunch MINI will offer a special edition (GP like) model that will bring the best of the JCW Challenge to the street. What that will be we don’t know. And speaking of the MINI Challenge don’t be surprised if this car becomes the new defacto MINI Challenge car (if there’s still a European series) in the years ahead.

MINI Coupe Concept

Design

The last time we saw the Coupé (and it’s twin the Roadster) was at the LA auto show in 2009. Since then much of what made the R58 a star of that show remains. According to sources the low-slung look and unique roof all carry over relatively unchanged. There was some concern about head-room and we heard last year MINI may have to slightly altered the shape of the roof but that is as yet unconfirmed. Also unconfirmed are any changes to the backwards baseball cap look of the roof – the unique design that divided opinions of many here on MF. We believe MINI has kept the look generally the same. However for those who aren’t a fan but love the idea of a lighter two seat MINI, the roof will come in black.

Like R56 the R58 will be a hatchback and will have more cargo room than you’d think. However make no mistake, this is the least versatile car in MINI’s line-up until the R59 Roadster debuts months later.

Despite some sources saying otherwise, we still believe that MINI will create a unique front and rear facia to better differentiate the car from the standard MINI range. Also new will be an electronically deployed spoiler that rises from the car at speeds around 50 mph. The spoiler is meant to be functional and create much needed downforce on the rear wheels.

Colors

The coupe will be available in most (if not all) of the colors the R56 currently offers with one or two exclusive choices. What will they be? We have no idea.

Inside the car will feature several new colors (aligned with those exclusive exterior colors) on the seats and in trim. Again it’s all a guessing game as to what to expect. However we know we’d love to see that gorgeous houndstooth cloth leather combo from the Roadster or even the dark brown leather from the Coupé concept car. We’re guessing the latter has a better chance to make it (despite my personal plea to MINI Design).

Performance

Here’s where things get interesting. The Coupé is expected to be around 150 lbs lighter while being even more rigid than the R56 so by default the ultimate MINI track car from the factory. And remember the R56 is already lighter than the R53 so we’re talking about a car that should be even lighter than the GP with less power but more torque (in JCW form). Put head to head we’d expect the R58 to easily beat out the current “ultimate” MINI. And that’s without any tweaks to the JCW engine which have been rumored as of late.

MINI WRC Countryman

Exclusivity

The R58 Coupé will likely be the most hardcore MIIN produced yet. With limited versatility and only two seats we expect it to sell in the lowest numbers of any MINI variant. It will also be one of the last MINIs to have an all four cylinder engine line-up meaning it will likely be MINI’s most performance focused product in the years ahead. Add to that a short life-cycle and you have the makings of a special car that will likely be the “one to get” for enthusiasts in the years ahead. In short MINI made this car for the type of people who read MotoringFile.