One of our intrepid readers saw this last week on the Pacific California Highway and thought we should have a look. It would appear that MINI is testing some new Countryman variety in California. But with the R60 freshly dropped on dealer lots, what could MINI already be testing behind a BMW X1? The only apparent clue is the fact it has one small tailpipe.

We’ve have a couple theories but the one that seems by far most plausible is that this is one of the first looks at the forthcoming Countryman hybrid destined for a 2013-2014 introduction. The new hybrid has been hinted at before and our sources have dropped some pretty straightforward references to it. Based on our information it will be a plugin hybrid that will pack lithium ion batteries and the naturally aspirated MINI engine. Power figures are pretty foggy at this time but we’d guess it’ll be between the Cooper and Cooper S with an all electric propulsion below certain speeds.

(Full gallery after the break)

Another option could be that we’re the mythical MINI Countryman diesel being tested in the US. It doesn’t seem as likely as the hybrid theory for a couple of reasons. For one we know that MINI will be focusing on the hybrid drivetrain sooner than the diesel in the US. Secondly we all know the long a sorted history of the MINI diesel in the US and we’re not entirely sure MINI USA has solved the various issues with bringing it to market.

Finally could this be MINI testing the new three cylinder engine in the Countryman? With the engine range having less weight, much higher MPG and even more power than the current range it would make sense for the R60 and it’s derivatives to ultimately get a transplant.

One thing we do know is that this is not an early look at the Countryman facelift which isn’t scheduled to hit the market until 2015.

So the question to our MotoringFile reader is simple. Not what do you think it is but what to you hope it is?