How the MINI Superleggera Concept Kick-Started a New Era At MINI

According to super-sleuth Georg Kacher (who usually gets things mostly correct) the BMW board approved the MINI Superleggera for production in 2018 three years ago. However instead of celebrating the impending release of the roadster today, were mourning the fact that the Superleggera is dead with no production plans on the horizon.

What happened? A business couldn’t be made for a Electric Convertible derivative within the business climate at BMW aim 2015. Never mind that the concept made people weak in the knees. BMW (a notoriously conservative company) decided to invest elsewhere within the MINI line-up prepare for a more traditional electric model in the F56 electric.

But it would seem the spirit of the Superleggera lives on. Judging from the spy photos and taking to our sources, MINI’s 2019 refresh (happening in March of 2018) will be influenced by the car in its lighting design. Specifically the front headlight design with the 360 degree DRLs and the Union Jack taillights. Perhaps even more important the less is more philosophy of the design language we saw on the superleggera is set to heavily influence MINI’s fourth generation of cars beginning in 2021.

Peter Schwarzenbauer, BMW’s board member in charge of Mini, has said the Superleggera would be a “great addition to the Mini range”

Reportedly Schwarzenbauer had been “pushing” to get the Superleggera into production since 2014 which is generally a good sign considering he is ultimately responsible for the brand.

Yet not even he could overcome the business challenges of bringing an electric roadster to the marketplace in a sea of crossovers.

The Superleggera was an incredibly important concept for MINI when it debuted as it previewed the brand’s evolution that officially began a year later with the Clubman. As we now know that was just the start. Since the Superleggera, MINI has moved away from the retro-futuristic (and at times cartoonish) design elements that we saw on the first few generations of cars to a more restrained and modern approach.

Taken as a whole the concept represented what MINI Design Head Anders Warming (Who since left the brand) had been prepping us for – a progression of MINI’s design language into something more modern yet with clear links to the past. In many ways this was the boldest change we’ve seen from MINI design since the R50 debuted in 2001. At the time of the debut we said “Look for subtle adoptions of this more refined yet retro design philosophy to find its way into future MINIs in the coming years.” We’ve now seen some of that restrained interior design approach show up in the Clubman and a Countryman. But we expect much more in the next generation MINI due out in 2021.

Read and see more in MF’s Superleggera section.

  • fishbert

    On the surface it seems odd to say that the Superleggera kick started a new era at MINI when shortly after the concept was debuted they killed off the Roadster.

    • The Superleggera had no relation to the R59 MINI Roadster nor was this intended to be a look at a second generation roadster. It was just a concept car that was meant to show off a new design direction.

      MINI Just happened to use a roadster shape to show that off.

  • AMS

    It would take a lot to get me to buy another MINI — too many small fit and finish issues with my R59 — but the Superlegerra is the one thing that could probably get me to pull the trigger.

      • AMS

        So far, in 4 1/2 years of ownership, I haven’t had what I would call “reliability” issues. Just lots and lots of squeaks and rattles and plastic bits falling off. If I knew it would actually solve the noises, I’d happily pay someone hundreds of dollars to disassemble the entire interior and line EVERYTHING with felt. The dealer was never willing to do much more than say “Well…they’re not quiet cars.”

        • The point our article earlier this week was that the new generation of cars that came after the R sieges (which the Roadster was from) have been proven to be better built and better engineered.

          Incidentally I put 20,000 miles on a JCW Roadster with zero issues so results certainly vary.

        • AMS

          I’ve driven the newer ones as loaners from the dealer. They’re nothing that would tempt me back onto the lot when it’s time to buy again. A production Superlegerra would.

  • ulrichd

    “Since the Superleggera, MINI has moved away from the retro-futuristic (and at times cartoonish) design elements…” I can’t think of anything more cartoonish than the current F-series hatch taillights.

  • EM1

    Superleggera could have been possible with the next gen BMW Z4.

    I had a 2017 Countryman S AWD for a few months, there were just too many compromises one had to make to love one. The price too costly, uncomfortable seats, cumbersome infotainment system, annoying motor sound coming from speakers under the seats and glitchy locking system that would open the trunk upon entry.

    They need to be more a practical brand and focus on customer advocacy; address the issues above and build the Superlaggera and I’m in again.

  • Mr Remi

    Heartbroken this car wasn’t built. IMO, it’s such a bold and innovative concept.

    Hopefully it comes to fruition within the next 10 years.