by Lem Bingley
Mini brought a surprising one-off along to the Villa d’Este concourse event in Italy last week. Working with Milanese coachbuilder Touring Superleggera, the company created a very elegantly styled two-seat roadster especially for the show. Reminiscent of some 1950s racecar, complete with bootlid fin, the Mini Superleggera Vision’s smoothly flowing bodywork was painstakingly hand-formed from aluminium sheets through the deft application of hammers.
Unlike actual racers from the 50s, the Superleggera Vision includes carbon fibre in its construction and is electrically propelled, although Mini hasn’t revealed details of the motor or batteries. Presumably the firm has borrowed bits and pieces from the carbon-aluminium, battery-electric i3 made by parent company BMW. Superleggera, by the way, is Italian for super-light, so the i3 motor ought to be enough to make it move with immediacy.
Even the latest new Mini has throwback styling, making it no surprise to see the brand’s key cues sit very happily in their new, laid-back context. Oval headlamps and a curvy grille work well with the flowing body, thought the Union Jack theme applied to tail lamps and elements of the interior is a little iffy.
The overall look is certainly attractive, and a lot more persuasive than the current Mini Roadster, not to mention the brown-bag Mini Coupé. Both are effectively hatchbacks with replacement roofs, giving them slab sides, odd proportions and very little of glamour as a result. Apparently sales have been on the slow side, which is a shame as the Roadster at least feels like a lovely car from the inside.
Perhaps the Superleggera Vision has been served up as a taster for an upcoming replacement Mini Roadster, which might be more persuasive than a sawn-off hatchback. The proportions of today’s Italian one-off would be perfect, but at the very least a new Roadster needs to be longer or lower or leaner than the current hatch. Preferably all three. But if we could have a new Roadster built BMWi-fashion, replete with aluminium, carbon and batteries, that would be better still.
The yellow car pictured shows how the next Mini Roadster could be styled, although the image is guesswork twice over. Not only do we not know how a future Roadster might look, we don’t even know if it’s likely to be built at all.
Is the Superleggera Vision a preview of the next Mini Roadster?
29 May 2014
by Lem Bingley